It is now clearer than ever that reasonable people on the left need to stand up and fight back against the identity synthesis.
Thank you for this review! What role does Mounk give to critical pedagogy? I ask because my grad school education covered many of the theorists Mounk argues by the 2010s helped social justice became popular on campuses. I would add that the driving vehicle of teacher training degrees like my two MAs at UMASS Boston (2012-15) and CSUSB (18-20) was seminars on Freirean critical pedagogy. Freire references these theorists yet made it all sound enobling and liberating. Students believe identity synthesis and oppression narratives second because professors and teachers do first, especially English professors. I’m not for required trainings, because I endured multiple, but this book should be as promoted as Kendi and DiAngelo have been. Erec Smith’s controversial (welcomed by me) Critique of Antiracism in Composition Studies details how disempowering identity synthesis/antiracism is to our writing students. Most in my discipline DO recite DiAngelo/Kendi and volumes of obscure theory that convince them they’re on the ‘right side’ of this identity synthesis history. Remaining in an echo chamber is close-mindedness. And it pervades most liberal and progressive professors in my 3 graduate degrees. It’s why I write about it on my Substack Project Luminas. It’s a suffocating scholarly silo. Sure, appeal to their noblest desires, and I do, but I won’t coddle professors out of their professional peer pressure. If we accept the premise they are reason-driven, then why didn’t they lead the rational charge against these harmful ideas all along?
What we're seeing on the left today, is the end result of identity politics, pure Tribalism. The validity and acceptance of grievances are determined not by an ethical code, but by your group's ranking on progressive's victim matrix.
Palestinians rank higher than Jews, therefore Palestinians aren't required to meet the same ethical standards for their actions. Thr slaughter of thousands, rape, pillaging, the beheading of infants, burning people alive, and kidnapping hundreds are all excusable simply because the people committing those atrocities are Palestinians.
Do we really want to return to a tribal world, without equality, and where ethics are entirely relative?
Set Foucault aside. Start your study of 'identity' with Ted Allen's 'The Invention of the White Race' (Verso), the 'white race' ranking number one among many others here in the USA. If you think there is such a thing as 'the white race' and you're in it, the enemy has a little cop in your head designed to keep you down and under control. There's more, of course, but start here.
I hope this book does convince some of the illiberal left to come back to sanity but I read a review in The New Republic this weekend (I'm not going to dignify it with a link) that could be summarized as a little kid on a playground yelling "nunh-uh!" while arguing over who cheated at tag. I'm not hopeful.
Just finished this book last week and agree it was one of the best on the subject.
All you need to do is look at what is being taught in ethnic studies about the Israel/Palestinian History to understand the disturbing reaction to October 7th.
'highlights the deep divisions in our society.'
no it highlights divisions in culture! culture is different from race. (seeing people that laugh and celebrate suffering is a different culture) - the diversity we didn't want.
You think left-wing people support Palestine because of the "identity synthesis"? That's a historically untenable claim imo, which should be clear just from how recent the ID synthesis is, compared to longstanding left-wing pro-Palestine position. I think its good that people like Mounk are writing books like this (Appiah's book is better), but don't fall into trap of blaming everything on identity politics, where that in turn is taken as just like some irrational complex of ideas. A lot of people have, in addition, political and humanitarian views!
The "zealous irrationality" is stunning. Perhaps (some) students, used to being over protected and rewarded for participation, identify with the oppressed when they find themselves unable to compete in a complex, rapidly changing world. They are like baby birds being fed by their radical professors.
"Some readers might find it tedious for Mounk to reiterate every few pages the noble motivations of the proponents of the identity synthesis, the real problems of racism and intolerance that were widespread in the United States for most of our history and still exist today, or his criticisms of Republican political figures like Donald Trump or Ron Desantis."
Mr. Slover understands that Mr. Mounk's conspicuously objective stance is intended to make his message palatable to Democrats and perhaps even progressives. Only time will tell whether Mr. Mounk's strategy succeeded.
There's another reason for Mr. Mounk's tempered approach that has little to do with reaching skeptical audiences and everything to do with protecting his reputation. While he has given a new name to the "ideology that seeks to place group identities like race, ethnicity, sex, and gender 'at the center of social, cultural, and political life', ” he is not entirely a pioneer in this field. Mr. Mounk was preceded here by such notorious figures as the sex-obsessed Commie hunter James Lindsay and the academic arriviste and Ron DeSantis hatchet man Christopher Rufo. Who wouldn't go to great lengths to distance themselves from such dodgy company?
I hope they read it and it persuades some. While choosing the topics that seem most readily agreed-upon by both sides and reaching out respectfully to school board members, they sadly double down. I have 2 school board members and 1 principal that have defended highlighting sex workers to our kids (as young as 6th grade) during school. Because a sex worker is Latina or someone who fought for transgender rights and who has had a difficult life and overcome some adversity does not justify highlighting them to students. There are so many others with these qualities or identities who are not sex workers! But no, they do not see it. "We need students to know ALL our history," they say.
No. No we don't. They can learn about sex work as adults, not from their teachers as sympathetic heroes.