The first in a series of podcasts seeking to bring out social science issues related to the US presidential election contest, the episode takes up the theme of identity politics, at the moment when it first surfaced in the democratic primaries. Calhoun argues that there are good reasons to be troubled when people say that voters’ predetermined identities dictate political outcomes. For a start, this viewpoint contradicts the very possibilities of the political process to reshape identities as well as the way issues are framed. Calhoun also parts company with the critics of identity politics who imagine that there is some sort of pure world of rational interests where identities don’t matter. He argues, rather, that politics always includes establishing which of people’s many possible identities will shape their participation and their understanding of their interests. So there’s an identity politics in trying to convince wage-earners to identify with the working class rather than with racial or ethnic groupings; there’s an identity politics to nationalism as well as to cosmopolitanism.
BBC academic listening
- useful markers - semantic markers; see the wall
How to start a movement
Ways of knowing