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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Conservatism As Identity Politics--Pt2: Hard Core Data

Cross-posted from Patterns That Connect

"Identity politics" is a term generally associated with the politics that came out of social liberation movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as black power/black liberation, women's liberation, and gay liberation. In all these movements, there was a concern with analyzing how people as a group had been oppressed, not just politically, but socially, culturally, psychologically... at all levels.  Yet, all these movements-despite being politically progressive-were necessarily a reaction to already-existing forms of identity politics that were not nearly so analytical-the identity politics of privileged groups: white identity politics, male identity politics, straight identity politics, etc.

In future posts, I will examine two attitudinal constructs-rightwing authoritarianism (RWA) and social dominance orientation (SDO)-that strongly correlate with political conservatism, and that help us understand how all these forms of identity politics reflect common underlying mechanisms.  But first, I want to present some direct evidence that conservatism involves the basic rudiments of privileged identity politics.  That is the purpose of this post.

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Conservatism As Identity Politics--Intro

Cross-posted from my new blog, "Patterns That Connect."

Backstory

Last week, Glenn Greenwald wrote an influential post, "Do Bush followers have a political ideology?", in which he argued that Bush supporters are cultists who do not possess a political ideology, but instead use the terms "conservative" and "liberal" to identify members of the cult and those outside the cult, respectively. While I agree with the vast majority of Glenn's analysis, I believed he was mistaken in one respect--the cultism is the ideology.  What's more, it is also a form of conservatism, as I argued in an initial response, "It's The Ideology, Smarty!" at My Left Wing. Here I want to expand on those remarks in a series of posts, and place them in a larger framework that draws on a variety of different disciplines and perspectives.  At the core of this endeavor is a definition of conservatism, as follows.

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Diaries

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