The Prepolitical Core of Identity Politics

Juicy Ecumenism | 9/9/2019 | Rick Plasterer
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Social commentator and author Mary Eberstadt discussed her most recent book, Primal Scream: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics, at the Catholic Information Center on September 4. She began by noting that her earlier book, Adam and Eve after the Pill, examined from empirical evidence “the paradoxical outcomes” of the sexual revolution. It considered the condition of “a humanity thrown into radical new forms of living.” Her subsequent How the West Really Lost God examined family breakdown as a source of secularization. This breakdown “interrupted the transmission of religious learning.”

In the current book, she examines identity politics as the central feature of today’s political life, claiming a “new code of conduct” has been mandated by “our radical new way of living.” She identified “abortion, fatherlessness, divorce, single parenthood, childlessness, the shrinking family, and the shrinking extended family” as part of this new way of living. These now common phenomena have greatly increased the individual’s power of choice in life, but also result in “reducing the number of people we can call our own.” And the result of that, it would seem, is a greatly diminished culture, in which people live without much of the warmth of human fellowship known in the past. Additionally a strong culture provides security from external threats, and an explanation of “your place in the world.” Eberstadt noted the claim of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that there can be no private languages, and observed that the loss of common culture has resulted in a loss of personal identity. People no longer identify (at least as much) as father, brother, aunt, or wife. People can identify with political groupings, greatly increasing the importance of politics in giving life meaning. In support of this, Eberstadt observed that identity politics has grown “in tandem with the sexual revolution.”

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