The debate over the role of identity politics within the American Left surfaced after the Democrat’s defeat during the 2016 presidential election. In this project, I establish theoretical frameworks using the works of Émile Durkheim and Jean-Jacques Rousseau that explain the rise of identity politics within the American Left and the subsequent critiques of the practice. First, through a comparative analysis of the works of Durkheim and Rousseau’s writings on the relationship between the individual and the state in contemporary society, I demonstrate how the rise of identity politics is explained by the existence of a non-inclusive collective force. This comparison will also show how a disagreement between the theorists over the function of government as a regulator of the cohesion in society is critical to understanding the contemporary critiques on the role of identity-based political groups in American politics. Lastly, I argue for Durkheim's side on this disagreement and show how a Durkheimian approach to identity politics can bridge the gaps between identity groups and their critics, ultimately leading to more successful political outcomes. This project will allow for a way out of this contentious debate.
Fitz Gibbon, Heather
Political Science; Sociology and Anthropology
Maffei, Austin, "A Rumination on Identity Politics with Durkheim and Rousseau" (2018). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 7992.
Identity Politics, Durkheim, Rousseau, Political Sociology, US politics, Pragmatism
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
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