The Social Justice and Progressive Politics Divide

Cross-posted at Future Majority.  This is a rough articulation of a problem I'm grappling with, and its quickly shaping up to be its own chapter in my book (though it wasn't part of my original outline).  I need a lot of help teasing this out, so comments are very much appreciated.

As I've been considering the place of - or more frequently total lack of - organizations whose mission it is to reach out to, engage, and elevate young people of color in our politics, I've started to think a lot lately about the divide between two major progressive constituencies: those who understand political activity through the vocabulary and history of social justice movements, vs. those who consider themselves to be part of a new progressive movement.  

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Dignity's Apostle: My Interview With Author Robert W. Fuller

The diary below was originally posted earlier today on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Progressives are struggling to synthesize a movement that can rise above identity politics and mobilize people under a unified theme. Robert W. Fuller, Ph.D. argues in his newly published book, All Rise (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.), that simple dignity is an elusive need that cuts across demographics of race, gender, age, and class. Fuller attributes this void to a culture of "rankism" which he defines as "abuses of power associated with rank." In his writings Fuller advocates for a grassroots effort to establish a "dignitarian society."

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How Racism Changes Form--Conservatism As Identity Politics, Pt5

Cross-posted from Patterns That Connect

It's my main thesis in this series that conservatism is not fundamentally about ideology, but about the preservation of elite power, maintained as a form of identity politics.  Elites then claim "natural" leadership, in the name of protecting, defending and exemplifying the group identity against evil, enemy "others." Ideology matters to the conservative project solely as a means for justification, including identity formation.  It supports the forms of policies, practices and institutions that preserve group identity and power--and, thereby, elite rule. Consistency matters to this ideology only insofar as it proves necessary.  Therefore, "the abandonment of conservative principles" is to be expected when those principles no longer serve those in power.

America's history of racism provides examples of how conservatism adapts, responding to repeated movements for social justice, which profoundly alter the relationships of radical, liberal and conservative forces.  Inconsistencies are generated at multiple levels whenever this happens.

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Social Dominance Orientation And Conservative Identity Politics (Pt4 in the Series)

While RWA is associated with group prejudice in various ways, that was not its specific focus.  It is the conformity with authority that is its core focus.  The willingness to discriminate against or attack members of a stigmatized group is one dimension in which this is expressed.

We now turn to a second factor that is also strongly associated with group prejudice.  However, unlike RWA, it has group prejudice as its central focus.  That factor is known as Social Dominance Orientation (SDO).  Because it, too, is correlated with political conservatism, it provides further evidence that conservatism functions as a form of identity politics, and gives further evidence of how this works.  SDO is also part of a more comprehensive theory which focuses attention on how hierarchical structures and values endure, while rationales may change--or even directly contradict what people actually believe.  This last is a crucial point when addressing the persistent fictions that "real conservatives" support balanced budgets, states rights, "judicial restraint," etc., despite repeated evidence to the contrary.

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Rightwing Authoritarianism and Conservative Identity Politics (Pt 3 in the series)

Cross-posted from Patterns That Connect.

Rightwing authoritarianism (RWA) is one of two attitudinal constructs (along with social dominance orientation--SDO) that combine to account for a majority of group prejudice, which in turn is a major aspect of group identity politics.  Both also correlate significantly with political conservatism.  RWA is defined as the convergence of three attitudinal clusters:

  • Authoritarian submission: A high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
  • Authoritarian aggression: A general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, that is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities.
  • Conventionalism: A high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities.
As might be guessed, RWA is associated with a high degree of hostility toward outgroups, a key characteristic that correlates with findings discussed in the previous post in this series, indicating that hard core conservatism correlates with a strong resistance to power-sharing with various outgroups--blacks, Jews, Catholics, unions and women.

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