Identity politics: a new culture war?

Saturday 4 November, 17:0018:30, Texture, 67 Lever Street, Manchester, M1 1FLUK satellites

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This debate is part of Battle of Ideas Manchester.

Loved and loathed, it seems Identity Politics are inescapable in contemporary political discourse. To some, identarian politics represent the antithesis of liberal ideals and a divisive force in society. To others, the political embrace of the personal is a vital tool in the struggle against oppressive institutions and practices. On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, some fear his dream that his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” is betrayed by focusing on the differences we are born with, be that race, gender or sexuality. In his book, Humanism Betrayed, Professor Graham Good calls it ‘The New Sectarianism’. Conversely, identities are often embraced and championed as a political tactic to take on privilege and power, and to help make discrimination visible. Meanwhile Identity Politics is closely associated with intensifying free speech disputes, especially on university campuses. Various high profile de-platformings and campus controversies that have permeated the national news are justified by invoking the need to protect any given identity groups from harmful speech and opinions.

With the embrace, and rejection, of Identity politics increasingly at the centre of new cultural and political movements, is a new dividing line in contemporary politics emerging? And if so, is this a progressive development or a grave mistake?