Academic journal article Capital & Class

Reading the (Identity Politics) Market: Articulating the Forest Past the Trees Post-Trump

Academic journal article Capital & Class

Reading the (Identity Politics) Market: Articulating the Forest Past the Trees Post-Trump

Article excerpt

Introduction

On the evening of the 2016 US election, as it became increasingly clear to those along the Western Coast that Donald Trump would soon be declared President-elect, Alain Badiou (2016) delivered the following at the University of California, Los Angeles:

   ... for me, but I think for many people, it has been, in some
   sense, a sort of surprise. And we are often, in that sort of
   surprise, under the law of affects: fear, depression, anger, panic,
   and so on. But we know that philosophically, all these affects are
   not really a good reaction, because in some sense, it's too much
   affect in front of the enemy. And so, I think it's a necessity to
   think really beyond the affect, beyond fear, depression, and so
   on--to think the situation of today, the situation of the world
   today, where something like that is possible, that somebody like
   Trump becomes the president of the United States. And so, my goal
   this evening is to present, not exactly an explanation, but
   something like a clarification of the possibility of something like
   that, and also some indications, submitted to discussion,
   concerning what we must do after that; what we must do, which is
   not precisely to be under the law of affect, of negative affect,
   but at the level of thinking, action, political determination, and
   so on.

During events of significant duress, there can be a kneejerk tendency to encourage a bombardment of mantras propagating, 'there is no time to reflect: we have to act now (Zizek 2008: 6). Amidst these reactionary moments, such expressions--all be they well-intentioned --can be superficial in their potential for substantive change. While cathartic in their spontaneous upshot, the substantive impact can be, as witnessed during the post-2016 US election protests, marginal at best and counterproductive at worst. Introspective claims are rather encouraged, which suggest a delay from subscribing to these 'fake sense[s] of urgency' or even 'hypocritical sentiment[s] of moral outrage' (Zizek 2008: 6-7; see also Butler 2015). (1) Now that a chance to breathe has transpired, a new moment has emerged to move beyond thinking about the President and around what has taken place, extending the dialogue of 'how did we get here' to a cognizant direction pointed at 'what is to be done'. It could be suggested that it is within this negation or movement beyond affect--and embrace of strategic analysis--that a process to better engineer and navigate an essential response may materialize, first through informed thought followed by collective articulation.

There are a variety of ways in which this discussion can (and should) be posed, one of which includes the sociological. Within this discipline lies a long tradition devoted to teasing-out the manner in which persons uniquely shelter and express their identity depending on the social location(s) they find themselves. Mannerisms, tastes, language, opinions, and so on can be impacted by, and possibly deviate from, those with whom a person is in company or even within a given physical environment. For example, an individual may speak, behave, or interact differently with colleagues at a workplace or adjust their demeanor when among acquaintances during a social function than they will with a personal friend, intimate partner, warm relative, or child. It is within such contexts that various theorists have acknowledged differing expressions or manifestations through which individuals socially test the waters of interaction and practice amidst select societal engagement(s). Over the past century, analyses related to this thematic have enthralled sociologists and theorists across the social sciences and humanities seeking to bracket how individuals or even blocs of people will take on certain scripts and behave on the outside' in ways that may not be fully authentic to their internal character, as might be expressed in relation to those closest to them or even one's self. …

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