Two Workshop on Identity Politics with David Peritz

When: March 28, 2019 - 10:00am to March 29, 2019 - 12:30pm

The Long History of the Age of Fracture: On the Origins and Evolution of Our Divisive Politics

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This is the first of two closely related but independent workshops focused on issues of identity, difference and commonality in current American civic and political culture. In this session the focus will be on the history of identity politics in the US over the last half century. Over that time, America has become a truly multi -racial and -cultural society, as a result of immigration and demographic shifts, as well as normative change, with diverse citizens less willing to ‘forget’ their many differences to melt into a dominant national culture.

At the same time, norms surrounding gender and sexuality have become less rigid and more contested and fluid. Perhaps at the start of this ‘age of fracture’, it seemed credible to believe that the “moral arc of the universe bends toward justice,” i.e. that the long-term trend of modern democratic political life moved in the direction of treating all members with equal concern and respect while repairing historical injustices like those rooted in race, gender, sexuality and class. Since the beginning of the current century, however, this claim has appeared far less credible, and instead politics has become increasingly less equal, inclusive, just and democratic, while culture has fractured along lines of identity and difference.

In this workshop, we take a mainly historical perspective, tracing the trajectory of a variety of movements for greater diversity, recognition and inclusion over their contentious, messy and transformative paths, including developments among dominant groups that vary from reparation through reconciliation to backlash.

Diversity and Its Discontents: Identity Politics, Democratic Justice and The Battle to Achieve Inclusive Commonality in Contemporary American Politics

From ancient times through the major modern democratic revolutions, democracy’s advocates as well as its critics believed that democracy only works in fairly homogeneous societies. Only in such societies, they thought, can a people be sufficiently similar and equal to form shared political understandings and projects. Absent considerable commonality—religious, linguistic, ethnic, racial, and cultural—it is feared that democracy deteriorates into the tyranny of the majority or a war of all against all or a shallow contest of competing interests or populist disfigurement.

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In this workshop we will examine these questions in a number of ways, exploring the recent history of the United States, starting with the new social movements of the middle of the twentieth century and moving forward and focusing especially on political and ethical questions surrounding the nature of individual and social identity.

David Peritz has a Doctor of Philosophy in Politics from Oxford University, where his studies were supported by a Marshall Scholarship. He is Co-Chair of the Politics Department at Sarah Lawrence College, and a regular visiting faculty member in the Master of Arts of Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth. He has also taught at UC Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell and Deep Springs, and was a visiting scholar at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the London School of Economics. His research specialization is modern and contemporary political philosophy, especially contemporary theories of democracy and justice and their relations to issues of diversity and inequality.

SF State's Downtown Campus, 835 Market St., Room 677