Identity Politics

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at
Wed Aug 9 00:19:43 MDT 1995

Thanks to Leo for his response.

A couple of quick points (I do need to be quicker in my own responses,
but I scarcely have the time to write anything of any thoughtfulness

First, on "postmodernism/postmodernity."  I have consistently maintained
that the ways these terms are used, on the left in particular, are simply
unhelpful.  I think there are uses for these terms, but that more often
than not it's simply not worth figuring these out.  But for a start, I
wouldn't even on a dark night in a coal cellar confuse Leo for what I
think of as postmodernism, nor at any other time think that attaching
such a label signified any particular accomplishment.

Second, as I recently have been trying to suggest, comments based on
reading internet addresses or .sig files are worse than useless.   Less
of this "how can you, from the Duke University Literature Program, revile
Barthes, Lacan or Freud."  In all such cases of misreading
computer-generated identity, a little knowledge proves dangerous.  For
what it's worth, however, a) Barthes doesn't seem to figure on many
syllabi here, let alone Lacan, though Toril Moi did teach a course on
Freud a year or so before I arrived and b) no, I don't regard what I was
trying to argue as having anything much to do with Barthes--though you
could persuade me I am wrong--and I would willingly separate Lacan and
Freud, looking at the early/late period of the latter, especially
"Project for a Scientific Psychology" and "Beyond the Pleasure Principle."

For what it's worth, that is.

I see that I continue to have a hard time explaining what I mean by
affect, and the primacy of the affective.  Let's put that on hold once more.

In brief I agree with you that relations between class and identity have
been muddled.  What I dispute is "articulation" as the mode of working
through such relations.  In this, I feel close to Adam Bandt's criticisms.
I am looking to understand a similar problem to the one you raise along
the lines of what I like to think of as materialism and immancence.  This
goes beyond but comprehends the materialism of political economy, and as
such is close to what Chris earlier described as an attempt to understand
a more encompassing definition and analysis of value.

I think Bourdieu is very relevant to all this--more perhaps on this later.

Finally, I would repeat that the issue seems to be not identity at all,
but *relations*--which are expressed unequally, though apparently
comparatively, through the logic of identity, but actuated in other means
through the workings of affective connectivity.

And if that still sounds like poetry for the time being, then so be it.

Take care


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at

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