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Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition –Book Review

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The triumph of liberal democracy was celebrated by Francis Fukuyama (1991) and his patrons as the only available alternative left before the world but now building over his previous narrative and midwifing the post-honeymoon course of liberal democracy Fukuyama observes that a new precarious state is in view and that the conservatism has reincarnated in a newer garb through new identity zealots or tribes of different collectivities articulating on traditional lines. Against liberal democracy an anti-thesis has emerged with the spate of retributive stringent assertions under collective identities violent, dominant, exclusive and subjugating intimidating its very existence and leading towards chaos. Fukuyama elaborates how identity is rooted in inner self which has transformed from the Luther’s perception, Rousseau’s view to the Hegelian idea and acquired its current content. In his latest volume Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition (2018) Fukuyama brings into discussion some serious issues in the aftermath of these developments and attempts at resolving the crisis by creating a ‘civilian order’ against the identity politics and multiculturalism. He suggests for controlling the malaise by impressing upon the use of identity for the sake of integration.

Identity Politics and the Human Nature

The term ‘identity politics’, which according to Francis Fukuyama undermines democracy, was first used in the middle of the twentieth century by psychologist Erik Erikson (1968). However, after the third wave1 when democracy was supposed to mature in value and practice the retrogression of world politics towards conservatism or what Larry Diamond (2015) calls ‘global recession’ brought the term into serious discussions. The political movements like Arab Spring, student’s protests in South Africa, Brexit, black lives matter, populist nationalism of different states like Turkey, Japan, India and United States, anti-immigrant movements of Europe and white supremascism etc. are the reflection of identity politics.

Politics is rooted in human nature and Fukuyama too begins with the probing of human nature, the root behind the extension of man’s desires and moral responsibilities. While defining identity Fukuyama takes the Platonic route to describe the human psyche in terms of soul that comprises of three parts: reason, spiritedness or emotion and desire. Thymos which he discussed in The End of History and the Last Man (1992) too regarding democracy and recognition, is spiritedness causative of isothymia, an urge to earn recognition on account of dignity as equal to others. Then he introduces the counter-idea of Megalothymia which means the need to be recognized as superior to others. Both the ideas of desire to be equal or superior to others present a neo-liberal dialectics based on which move the forces of identity. ‘Thymos or “spiritedness,” including the demand for recognition and indignation at injustice, are fundamental to politics and this human quality has often proved to be destructive’ (Callaway, 2019:64).

Identity is defined as an inner self by Fukuyama against the outer self or world of social rules and norms that doesn’t acknowledge its worth and dignity. ‘Only in modern times has the view  taken hold that the authentic inner self is intrinsically valuable, and the outer society systematically wrong and unfair in its valuation of the former. It is not the inner self that has to be made to conform to the society’s rules, but society itself that needs to change’ (Fukuyama 2018:10). This is a kind of reverse situation taken into cognizance the Hobbesian man who is wicked, greedy and an evil to be controlled by law. Fukuyama follows the Marxian schema of social reconstruction that considers human nature a social construct resultant of the work of material forces of production and ownership of property that requires an overhauling so that the human nature could be altered accordingly.

The Inner and the Outer self

The foundations of identity were laid with the perception of the disjunction between one’s inside and one’s outside and Luther was the first to valorize the inner self over the external. But Luther is distant from the modern understandings of identity as his innerself is unidimensional (based on the faith that either accepts or rejects god) and didn’t seek recognition. J.J. Rosseau liberates Luther of this drawback as he reverses the Christian moral evaluation of man by declaring him secular, the freedom of whom lies in the natural and universal ability to experience the sentiment de l’existence, free of the layers of accumulated social convention. While Rousseau expands the moral choice from the binary of good and bad declaring man a sinless innocent creature Hegel’s intervention connects human dignity with moral choice when he declares that human beings are morally free agents who are not simply rational machines seeking to maximize satisfaction of their desires. Hegel puts recognition of this moral agency at the centre-stage of human condition when he argues that human history was driven by a struggle for recognition. But since recognition fails to be satisfying without dignity of labour the democratic setups guarantee individual rights and equal dignity, where the dignity of few of traditional societies gives way to the dignity of all (Chap.3&4).

The synchronization of the outer self in conformity with the inner self that is dignity conscious is Fukuyama’s major concern for which he sees a ray of hope in developing a modern impersonal state he referred to as ‘getting to Denmark’ (Fukuyama, 2011). The decay of the modern liberal democratic set up is another concern, especially after the regressive policies of the democratic regimes of Europe like Brexit, anti-immigration stances and the rise of populist nationalism in US and other parts of the world.

The systems which discriminate or deny recognition are megalothymia based and they require a reshuffle and replacement by isothymia. The crisis here is essentially of liberal democratic order, though earlier, Fukuyama had explained how Thymos was related to history with the visible angst against the communist states of Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. “We cannot understand the totality of the revolutionary phenomenon unless we appreciate the working of thymotic anger and the demand for recognition that accompanied communism’s economic crisis’ (Fukuyama 1992). However, the financial constraints of welfarism depleted the social democracies. Recognition struggles targeted newer groups and their rights as groups, rather than the economic inequality of individuals. In the process the old working class was left behind (2018:112-113). Now amidst the identity politics that overwhelms the world with staunch assertions Fukuyama has registered a significant shift from his previous standpoint which was pro-liberal and anti-left.

The Proposal

Since Identity politics threatens liberal democracy by eroding the democratic values, principles and inclusive social order portending chaos Fukuyama proposes some measures by developing a space for thymos and human dignity. He suggests the creation of a ‘civil identity’ by evolving the common civil values against the given ethno-cultural or religious identities. The creedal national identities built around the foundational ideas of modern liberal democracy have to be promoted and public policy to deliberately assimilate new comers to those identities followed. His proposal at state-building includes introduction of national services, state symbols, cross-community values and effective state that helps to evolve an inclusive system repudiating the diverging identities. Fukuyama draws a parallel to Gellnerian model of evolving the national consciousness along the territorial existence of state as he speaks of evolution of a ‘uniform civilian order’ along the multiple identities in the hope of subjugating the latter. He, in fact, over expects from the identity voices to merge with this civilian order, though it may be a long term project but not impossible too. Identity can be used to divide but it can also be used to integrate and herein lies the remedy. No one contends that human beings are capable of rational behaviour or that they are self-interested individuals who seek greater wealth and resources but then to understand identity politics we need a better theory of human soul. While Fukuyama bears silence about the left his chords have turned more critical of the right.  

Notes and References

Notes

1The term ‘third wave’ was used for the first time by Samuel P. Huntington who associates it with the democratization process to describe the global trend that has seen more than 60 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa undergo some sort of democratic transition since Portugal’s ‘Carnation Revolution’ in 1974. 

References

Callaway H G (2019)Identity, the demand for dignity and the politics of resentment.Law and Politics Book Review29 (6).

Diamond, Larry (2015)Facing up the democratic recession. Journal of Democracy 26 (1).

Erikson, Erik H (1968) Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.

Fukuyama, Francis (1992) The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press.

—           (2011) The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

—           (2018) Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition. New Delhi: Hachette India.

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New Social Compact

Women Rights in China and Challenges

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Women rights and gender discrimination have been a problem for many years in china. Various restrictions were imposed on women to suppress them in society. Income discrepancy and traditional gender roles in country aim to place women inferior as compared with their male counterparts.

There are diverse sectors where women face discrimination. Women of the past and present in china have dealt with unfair employment practices. They have had to jump over the unnecessary hurdles just to keep up with their male counterparts in the society. The Chinese government claims to better prioritize the promotion of gender equality but in reality it does not seem appropriate to say that there is not a single department of life where women are not being suppressed. In jobs, mostly men are preferred over women at high positions. There are a number of contextual examples which demonstrates this discrepancy in the status of women throughout china, and whilst there has been a great deal of the popular sphere, others have been brutally repressed by a government dominated by male families. For example, women who have children do not always receive support from their pay when maternity leave.

China’s history has seen a higher focus on men being the core of not just their families but also they play crucial role in in overall country’s growth and development. Post Confucius era, society labeled men as the yang and women as the yin. In this same vein, society views Yang as active, smart and the dominant half. This compared with Yin, which is soft, passive and submissive. These ideologies are not as prominent today but persist enough that there is a problem.

The tradition begins at birth with boys being the preferred children compared to girls in China. A consensus opinion in the country is that if one has a male child versus a female child, they believe the son will grow into a more successful member of the family. The sons are more likely favored because the issue of pregnancy is a non-factor and they can choose almost any job they desire. Of course, this is something that does not support efforts for gender equality nor women’s rights in China.

A survey done just last year found that 80% of generation Z mothers did not have jobs outside of the home. Importantly, most of those surveyed were from poorer cities. The same survey found that 45% of these stay-at-home mothers had no intention of going back to work. They simply accepted their role of caring for the house. Gender equality and women’s rights in China have shifted toward cutting into the history of patriarchal dominance within the country.

Women’s Rights Movement in China

Since the Chinese government is not completely behind gender equality in China for women, the feminist movement is still active and stronger than ever. In 2015, the day before International Women’s Day, five feminist activists were arrested and jailed for 37 days. They were just five of an even larger movement of activists fighting against the traditional gender role ideology that has placed females below males. These movements have begun to make great progress towards gender inequality within the country. From 2011 to 2015, a “12th Five Year Plan” had goals of reducing gender inequality in education and healthcare.

The plan also was to increase the senior and management positions and make them accessible for women to apply for said positions. Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China, has proclaimed that the country will donate $10 million to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During the next five years and beyond, this support will help the women of China and other countries build 100 health projects for women and children. March 1, 2016, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect. This law resulted in the improvement in legislation for gender equality in China. In June of that year, ¥279.453 billion was put forth toward loans to help women, overall.

‘’There are a number of contextual examples which demonstrate this discrepancy in the status of women throughout China, and whilst there has been a great deal of progress made in some elements of the popular sphere, others have been brutally repressed by a government dominated by male influence.

Mao Zedong’s famously published collection of speeches entitled ‘the little red book’ offers a glimpse into the People’s Republic’s public policy in relation to women, as Mao himself is quoted as saying ‘Women hold up half the sky’ and more overtly.’’

In order to build a great socialist society, it is of the utmost importance to arouse the broad masses of women to join in productive activity. Men and women must receive equal pay for equal work in production. Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.

The china has been widening the gender discrimination gap in the society through legalized way and there is desperate need to raise the voices in gender equality.

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New Social Compact

Gender Pay Gaps during Pandemic: A Reflection on International Workers’ Day 2021

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Men, rather than women, have been disproportionately affected by job losses over time. Nonetheless, the harsh reality of this pandemic recession has shown that women are more likely to be unemployed. As a matter of fact, women have lost substantial jobs as a result of increased childcare needs caused by school and daycare closures, which prohibit many women from working, and as a result of their employment being concentrated in heavily affected sectors such as the services sector (hospitality business, restaurant, retail outlets and so on). According to a study by Alon et al, women’s unemployment increased by 12.8 percent during the first period of Covid-19 (from March 2020), while men’s unemployment increased by just 9.9 percent. Changes in job rates (which include transfers into and out of the labor force) follow the same trend, with women experiencing a much greater drop in employment than men during the recession. Similar trends have been seen in other pandemic-affected countries.

In Southeast Asia, where informal workers account for 78 percent of the workforce, women make up the majority of blue-collar employees. In Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, women make up a substantial portion of the domestic workers, despite having a low contractual working status in informal settings. They are underpaid as a result of the pandemic, and the Covid-19 recession has reduced their importance in the workplace. Indonesia as one of the countries which affected by pandemic also experienced similar thing, with two-thirds of the female population in the active age group (between 15 and 64 years old), Indonesia is supposed to have tremendous potential for accelerating its economic development, but the truth is the opposite due to the never-ending pandemic. Since the pandemic began, many employees, mostly women, have lost their jobs or had their working hours shortened. Of course, their daily wages are affected by this situation. Besides, the wage gap between men and women also widens from March 2020 to March 2021, with women in the informal sector receiving up to 50% less than men, clearly resulting in discriminatory practices.Despite the fact that Indonesia ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 100 on Equal Remuneration in 1958, fair and equal salaries have remained unchanged until now, and the legislation seems to have been overlooked and inapplicable in a pandemic situation.

Furthermore, the issue is not resolved at that stage. Apart from the pandemic, both formal and informal workers are exposed to various work systems and regulations. Women may have similar experiences with low wages and unequal payment positions in both environments, but women who work in the formal sector have the capacity, experience, and communication skills to negotiate their salaries with their employers, while women who work in the informal sector do not. Women in informal work face a number of challenges, including a lack of negotiation skills and a voice in fighting for their rights, particularly if they lack support structures (labor unions). Furthermore, when it comes to employees’ salaries, the corporate system is notoriously secretive. Another issue that continues to upset women is the lack of transparency in employee wages. Despite the fact that the national minimum wage policy is regulated by the government, only a small number of female workers are aware of it.

Overcoming Gender Pay Gaps within Pandemic Condition

In the spirit of International Workers’ Day 2021, there should be an organized and systematic solution to (at the very least) close the wage gap between men and women in this pandemic situation. International organizations and agencies also attempted to convince national governments to abolish gender roles and prejudices, however this is insufficient. As a decision-maker, the government must ‘knock on the door’ of companies and businesses to support and appreciate work done disproportionately by women. Furthermore, implementing transparent and equitable wage schemes is an important aspect of significantly changing this phenomenon. Real action must come not only from the structural level (government and corporations), but also from society, which must acknowledge the existence of women’s workers and not undervalue what they have accomplished, because in this Covid-19 condition, women must bear the “triple burden” of action, whether in productive work (as a worker or labor), reproductive work (as a wife and mother), and also as a member of society. Last but not least, women must actively engage in labor unions in order to persuade gender equality in the workplace and have the courage to speak out for their rights, as this is the key to securing fair wages. And when women are paid equally, their family’s income rises, and they contribute more to the family’s well-being.

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New Social Compact

Latvian human rights activists condemn homophobia in China, Latvia and the world

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The issue of human rights of LGBT persons is like a hot potato – hard to spit it out, but also hard to swallow. Despite majority of the public having nothing against the LGBT community, people are afraid to allow them to have the same human rights everyone else has.

Governments and politicians also clash when it comes to fully recognizing the human rights of LGBT persons – and communist China is no exception. Interestingly, the Chinese Communist Party maintains a stance of double morals on this issue. On the one hand, during UN meetings China always reproaches other nations about homophobia and violations of LGBT rights. On the other hand, China has never been able to eradicate homophobia in the Chinese community, but instead has furthered it, for instance, by banning Eurovision broadcasts in China and by trying to ignore the existence of an LGBT community in China.

The Chinese Communist Party has become seriously entangled in its own ideology – as I already wrote, Chinese representatives have no shame in criticizing other countries’ discrimination of people with a non-traditional sexual orientation, stressing that China doesn’t consider homosexuality to be a mental illness. Moreover, the Chinese government has publicly stated that China supports the activities of LGBT organization. But this is simply not true! Although on the international stage Beijing acts as a protector of the human rights of LGBT communities and agitates for the equality of gays and lesbians, in China itself LGBT and women’s rights activists are being repressed, detained and held in labor camps. Thus, Beijing is doing everything in its power to suppress women’s rights and human rights in general.

The most pathetic thing in all this is that Beijing has always voted against all UN initiatives and resolutions that concern the recognition and establishment of human rights for LGBT persons, as this would draw even more attention to the violations of human rights in China itself.

In this regard, in solidarity with Chinese LGBT representatives the leading protector of LGBT human rights from the party Latvian Russian Union (LKS) Aleksandrs Kuzmins and one of the LKS’s leaders and MEP Tatjana Ždanoka have expressed concerns over the recent homophobic attacks in Latvia and are urging citizens from Latvia and around the world to attach a rainbow flag next to the ribbon of St. George during the upcoming 9 May Victory Day celebrations, thus commemorating members of the LGBT community that died during World War II.

Kuzmins stressed that during WWII members of the LGBT community also fought against Nazi Germany, adding that it’s no secret that in the Soviet army there were hundreds and thousands of gays and lesbians who fought shoulder to shoulder for the freedom of their motherland. These people were, however, repressed and exiled to Siberia after the war by the Stalin regime. Most of them were tortured to death in gulags, which is confirmed by information recently acquired from Moscow’s archives.

Human rights activists from the LKS believe that it’s time for people to change and openly talk about the mistakes that were made in the past – we don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore and we should get rid of ancient dogmas and stereotypes about the LGBT community, lest more people fall victim to the intolerance and hate.

On the eve of the Victory Day, the LKS urges global leaders to admit the severe mistakes that have been made and to end the repressions against their own LGBT communities.

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