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Diversity & Its Discontents: Identity Politics & Democratic Justice in American Politics  

David Peritz Diversity and Its Discontents: Identity Politics, Democratic Justice and The Battle to Achieve Inclusive Commonality in Contemporary American Politics Modern democracy, as defended by its most progressive advocates, promised to resurrect an ancient form of popular self-rule on a newly inclusive and egalitarian foundation. Since the beginning of the current century, however, this claim has appeared far less credible, and instead modern politics appears increasingly less equal, inclusive, just and democratic. Nationalists of various stripes seek to exclude immigrants and reassert the privileged membership and belonging of long-dominant racial, ethnic and national identities. The apparent fracturing of civic culture, and the increased attention to core questions of civic membership, belonging and standing often presage the breakdown of civil society. Around the democratic world we see the rise of candidates and parties that reject the intrinsic value of liberal democracy, especially its protection of the civil rights of minorities. , Inseparable from these developments is a trend of increasing inequality as a result of globalization, changes in the nature and remuneration of work, and new policies and technology. These two trends are far from unrelated: the failure to preserve fair distributions of income, wealth and opportunity contribute to the rise of nationalism and reactionary populism, while the fracturing of common civic identities undermines the resources of commonality and solidarity needed to resist the concentration of wealth and power in ever-smaller elite circles. These developments raise some basic questions. Has identity politics, albeit unwittingly, stripped society of the solidarity it needs to resist inequality while at the same time encouraging white nationalist reactionary politics? Are there ways to re-conceive identity politics so that the just claims of marginalized groups are recognized while also leaving sufficient room for both individual autonomy in identity formation and the social solidarity required to combat inequality and achieve fair equality of opportunity? These questions will be addressed in this workshop, the second of two focused on issues of identity, difference and commonality in current American civic and political culture. While we will build on the history surveyed in the first session, no prior understanding of this material is necessary to engage with the themes raised in this session. 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.

 

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