A Note on "Identity Politics"

A Note on “Identity Politics”

In order to come out of the political stalemate and mess in which the Ethiopian “opposition” is stuck, a bold discussion characterized by a resolute tone of academic nature (see just a few points below) could have been introduced; primarily to settle the accounts and the currents, in a very broader sense within “The Ethiopian Political Left”. Instead of an over-all assault on “Identity Politics” in general (cf. http://addisvoice.com/2010/08/10/identity-politics-and-the-struggle-for-liberty/).

The contemporary Ethiopian polity, irrespective of its status, position, be it in the vicinity of state-power (like EPRDF) or the whole opposition in a nutshell, is a legacy of the political movement of the “Left”. And all the problems and state of minds prevailing at the moment are simply a legacy of the movement of the “Left”. Whatever you call it: “Identity politics” “Nationalism”, “chauvinism” or whatever in-between etc.; what has taken effect in the last three decades after and shortly prior to the fall of the feudal regime is all a political movement of “the Left”; with all its “spiritual”/psychological, socio-cultural connotations. Of course under all the “international”, global and regional political coordinates of the period.

And it is strictly speaking even not a genuine “identity politics”, the so-called “identity politics”. Once the Left, with all its different ideological perception and engineering, has dominated the political highlands of Ethiopia, the “nationalist” movements have seized to be nationalist in their true nature (cf. true as the paper; here at this point, rightly noticed, through the “utilitarianism ” of the left), and therefore, the problem in my opinion is not “identity politics” or anything of that sort. It is simply a problem of the Ethiopian political LEFT.

The Left, which has to clear all the turmoil and the mess of its past ideological infantilism, to dare and make a political RENAISSANCE to go forward into post-modernity, where a healthy and peaceful political interaction with the rest of the political spectrum in the Ethiopian state would be inaugurated.

And in this passion and sovereignty, it would have been a big step forward, a new beginning and a process of a political catharsis towards a modern political culture etc. if the discussion were of the following nature like:-

1. The Left as a whole made this and that mistake.

2. This or that section made this or that perceptual and conceptual errors.

3. The nationalists (ethno) are in this or that aspect by proxy counter to their own national interest.

4. The left was and is this sort of a social category historically incapable of this and that.

5. Politically conscious or not, as a matter of fact instrumentalized by these or those international social and political forces.

5. This and that pragmatic position was immature and full of insufficient reflection.

6. The military was this and that kind of social force unable to resolve this or that problem.

7. The left and the right could have been allied in this and that common interest of national caliber. etc…

8. The right political sector was and is parasitic and was doomed not to be sovereign in this and that aspect.

9. This or that social, psychological, cultural and economic foundations of these and those forces are products of this or that social evolution and …and…..

10. Specially the evolution of the “Ethiopian State” supported by facts and actors, how these mosaic of cultures and peoples could build a vibrating future under this or that form of state;;

what failed and not etc…………………….

11. Whither Ethiopia, suffering and coming out of the fake “internationalism” of a defunct Leninist dogma and its contemporary agency; with Ethiopia, as a victim of the globalization of the new form of colonialism; with the new one party system inaugurated after the “2010” election farce.

etc. etc..


Otherwise concerning the tenor of the discussion on “identity politics” I have the following note to make in general. :


Our difference is our identity. It is not our similarity which forms the ground corners of our identity and thus strictly speaking there is as such no identity but difference …A difference, which is and can only be interpreted to be positive. Interpreting difference as negative is power-politics. The critical anlysis of difference in a catagorically positive interpretaion is the empowerment of the whole, since difference is common to the whole as opposed to the so-called ” identity”, which is in reality fake and non-authentic, to the effect of sectional empowerment, power-politics for the few. This positivity of difference is the key point, which has to be appraised in a discussion of identity politics, since it is this difference which brings us into all sorts of human relations (social, economic, cultural) in the formation-process of a solid society and common-wealth. Putting difference in the light of a problem solution and contradiction to a democratic discourse is a source of prejudice in any political discourse, specially in the clarification of an identity-crisis mal-influenced by “identity politics”. Moreover the negative interpretation of difference is also counter to the notion of enlightenment. The central theme of enlightenment is “Difference”; differing ….from the rest but not to exclude oneself but to come into an authentic and autonomous social, cultural and economic relations with one another.

Therefore the whole discourse of “identity politics” has to be reversed, has to be put upside down in the sense of highlighting the positivity and the multidimensionality of difference in order to combat the non-authentic nature of “identity politics” which has been so far only interpreted in its exclusive nature. ( In this context, in order to understand the shortcomings of a legacy “identity politics”, Deleuze’s discourse on “Difference”(1) is I think very helpful, significant and relevant. “Identity Politics” as the politics of polarization, dangerous dialectics strangled in the hands of none-philosopher-infantile politicians and instrumentalized for “power-politics” vs. the empowerment of the community and the re-appropriation of power to the source- the people; this is the other side of the coin in the ideology of a non-indigenous “liberalism”. A blunder Ethiopian politicians are being tempted to make, with an illusion of introducing change primarily through external agency ; a legacy of “imperialism” – today marketed under the name of “globalization” – the old notion of “internationalism” from the defunct socialist block is not much different, instead even more crude from the latter).

Identity 😥 😥 😥 😥 😥 😥 😥 😥 😥 is boring (not sexy as one young man noted in Gaddaa.com). Difference is beautiful. 😛 😉 😦 :-! 😎 O:-) :-X :-* =-O


*DELEUZE ON Differenc*


3. The Philosophy of Difference

3.1 Difference and Repetition

Deleuze’s historical monographs were, in a sense, preliminary sketches for the great canvas of Difference and Repetition (1968), which marshaled these resources from the history of philosophy in an ambitious project to construct a metaphysics of difference. (As we have mentioned, Deleuze never shied away from the term “metaphysics.” In an interview, he once offered this self-assessment: “I feel myself to be a pure metaphysician. . . . Bergson says that modern science hasn’t found its metaphysics, the metaphysics it would need. It is this metaphysics that interests me.” [Villani 1999: 130.])

Deleuze’s target in Difference and Repetition is the subordination of difference to identity. Normally, difference is conceived of as an empirical relation between two terms each of which have a prior identity of their own (“x is different from y”). In Deleuze, this primacy is inverted: identity persists, but it is now a secondary principle produced by a prior relation between differentials (dx rather than not-x). Difference is no longer an empirical relation but becomes a transcendental principle that constitutes the sufficient reason of empirical diversity as such (for example, it is the electric potential difference in a cloud that constitutes the sufficient reason of the phenomenon of lightning). In Deleuze’s ontology, the different is related to the different through difference itself, without any mediation by an identity. Although he was indebted to metaphysical thinkers such as Spinoza, Leibniz, and Bergson, Deleuze appropriated their respective systems of thought only by pushing them to their “differential” limit, purging them of the three great terminal points of traditional metaphysics that subordinate difference to identity (God, World, Self).


Tying together the themes of difference, multiplicity, virtuality and intensity, at the heart of Difference and Repetitionwe find a theory of Ideas (dialectics) based neither on an essential model of identity (Plato), nor a regulative model of unity (Kant), nor a dialectical model of contradiction (Hegel), but rather on a problematic and genetic model of difference. Ideas define the being of a thing, but one cannot attain an Idea through the Socratic question “What is … ?” (which posits Ideas as transcendent and eternal), but rather through “minor” questions such as “Which one?” “Where?” “When?” “How?” “How many?” “In which case?” “From which viewpoint?”—all of which allow one to define the differential Ideas immanent in the intensive processes they structure.


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