Cap Against Race Affs—UMich 2013



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AT: Race-First FW


Your focus to narrow the discussion to solely race and failure to discuss capitalism inflates every other sources of exploitation, including race discussions - this turns the case

Brown, Ph.D. in Political Philosophy from Princeton, Professor of Political Theory & Philosophy @ UC Berkeley, 1993

[Wendy, “Wounded Attachments,” Political Theory, Vol. 21.3, August 1993, pp. 393-395, JSTOR]//SGarg



In addition to the formations of identity that may be the complex effects of disciplinary and liberal modalities of power, I want to suggest one other historical strand relevanto the production of politicized identity, this one hewn more specifically to recent developments in political culture. Although sanguine to varying degrees about the phenomenon they are describing, many on the European and North American Left have argued that identity politics emerges from the demise of class politics consequent to post-Fordism or pursuant to May 1968. Without adjudicating the precise relationship between the breakup of class politics and the proliferation of other sites of political identification, I want to refigure this claim by suggesting that what we have come to call identity politics is partly dependent on the demise of a critique of capitalism and of bourgeois cultural and economic values. In a reading that links the new identity claims to a certain relegitimation of capitalism, identity politics concerned with race, sexuality, and gender will appear not as a supplement to class politics, not as an expansion of Left categories of oppression and emancipation, not as an enriching complexification of pro- gressive formulations of power and persons-all of which they also are-but as tethered to a formulation of justice which, ironically, reinscribes a bour- geois ideal as its measure. If it is this ideal that signifies educational and vocational opportunity, upward mobility, relative protection against arbitrary violence, and reward in proportion to effort, and if it is this ideal against which many of the exclusions and privations of people of color, gays and lesbians, and women are articulated, then the political purchase of contemporary American identity politics would seem to be achieved in part through a certain discursive renaturalization of capitalism that can be said to have marked progressive discourse since the 1970s.What this suggests is that identity politics may be partly configured by a peculiarly shaped and peculiarly disguised form of resentment-class resent- ment without class consciousness or class analysis. This resentment is displaced onto discourses of injustice other than class but, like all resent- ments, retains the real or imagined holdings of its reviled subject-in this case, bourgeois male privileges-as objects of desire. From this perspective, it would appear that the articulation of politicized identities through race, gender, and sexuality require, rather than incidentally produce, a relatively limited identification through class. They necessarily rather than incidentally abjure a critique of class power and class norms precisely because the injuries suffered by these identities are measured by bourgeois norms of social acceptance, legal protection, relative material comfort, and social indepen- dence. The problem is that when not only economic stratification but other injuries to body and psyche enacted by capitalism (alienation, commodifica- tion, exploitation, displacement, disintegration of sustaining, albeit contra- dictory, social forms such as families and neighborhoods) are discursively normalized and thus depoliticized, other markers of social difference may come to bear an inordinate weight. Absent an articulation of capitalism in the political discourse of identity, the marked identity bears all the weight of the sufferings produced by capitalism in addition to that bound to the explicitly politicized marking. If there is one class that is politically articulated in late modem U.S. life, it is that which gives itself the name of the "middle class." This is the "class" that represents the normalization rather than the politicization of capitalism, the denial of capitalism's power effects in ordering social life, the represen- tation of the ideal of capitalism to provide the good life for all. Poised between the rich and the poor, feeling itself to be protected from the encroachments of neither, the phantasmatic middle class signifies the natural and the good between the decadent or the corrupt, on the one side, and the aberrant or the decaying, on the other. Middle class identity is a conservative identity in the sense that it semiotically recurs to a phantasmatic past, an idyllic and uncorrupted historical moment (implicitly located around 1955) when life was good-housing was affordable, men supported families on single in- comes, and drugs were confined to urban ghettos. But it is not a reactionary identity in the sense of reacting to an insurgent politicized identity from below. Rather, it embodies the ideal to which nonclass identities refer for proof of their exclusion or injury: homosexuals who lack the protection of marriage, guarantees of child custody or job security, and freedom from harassment; single women who are strained and impoverished by trying to raise children and hold paid jobs simultaneously; people of color dispropor- tionately affected by unemployment, punishing urban housing costs, inade- quate health care programs, and disproportionately subjected to unwarranted harassment and violence, figured as criminals, ignored by cab drivers. The point is not that these privations are trivial but that without recourse to a white masculine middle class ideal, politicized identities would forfeit a good deal of their claims to injury and exclusion, their claims to the political signifi- cance of their difference. If they thus require this ideal for the potency and poignancy of their political claims, we might ask to what extent a critique of capitalism is foreclosed by the current configuration of oppositional politics and not simply by the "loss of the socialist alternative" or the ostensible "triumph of liberalism" in the global order. To what extent do identity politics require a standard internal to existing society against which to pitch their claims, a standard that not only preserves capitalism from critique but sustains the invisibility and inarticulateness of class, not accidentally, but endemically? Could we have stumbled on one reason why class is invariably named but rarely theorized or developed in the multiculturalist mantra, "race, class, gender, sexuality


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