Identity, Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox

Identity, Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox

Identity, Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox

Identity, Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox

Synopsis

"In this foundational work in contemporary political theory, William Connolly makes a distinctive contribution to our understanding of the relationship between personal identity and democratic politics, particularly in the domains of religion, ethics, sexuality, and ethnicity. Every identity, Connolly argues, whether individual or social, presents us with a fundamental and troubling paradox: an identity establishes itself in relation to a set of differences, and it operates under powerful pressures to fix, regulate, or exclude some of these differences as otherness. The dignity of a people or political regime, and the quality of democratic culture, depends on the acknowledgment and ethos cultivated in response to these pressures." "In a substantial new essay, Connolly responds to the heated controversy surrounding his ideas when IdentityDifference was first published in 1991, while augmenting his discussion of the virtues of critical responsiveness. The issues of identity and difference cannot be ignored, he contends, and are ubiquitous in modern life." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This book explores the politics of identity. Hence it also probes the politics of difference. If difference requires identity and identity requires difference, then politics, in some sense of that protean word, pervades social life. But does this mean that politics is (and therefore must be) always the same? Must the element of power in the relation of identity to difference perpetually reinstate itself in the same way? This work pursues the conviction that politics pervades the relation of identity to difference and that affirmation of the relational and constructed character of identity can nevertheless make a difference to the ethical quality of political life.

Let me call the relation of identity to difference the site of two problems of evil. the first problem of evil, residing in the theological determination of divine identity, turns upon human efforts to save the benevolence of an omnipotent god by exempting that god from responsibility for evil. Human definitions of the theological problem provide blowups, as it were, of issues woven into the solidification of human identities. On the political level, the first problem of evil issues in a series of attempts to protect the purity and certainty of a hegemonic identity by defining as independent sites of evil (or one of its many surrogates) those differences that pose the greatest threat to the integrity and certainty of that identity. the second problem of evil emerges out of solutions to the first one. It flows from diverse political tactics through which doubts about self-identity are posed and resolved by the constitution of an . . .

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