Volume 16, 2000
Race, Social Identity, and Human Dignity
The Politics of Characteristics
This paper examines identity politics from a pragmatic stand point. Setting aside the contentious philosophic issues of constructivism and naturalism, it argues
that individuals are already fragmented by the bureaucratic in stitutions of contemporary life. A politics that conceives of individuals as collections of characteristics, rather than as bearers of inherent natures, is necessary to confront and overcome the multiple forms of discrimination we face. I argue that the traditional forms of identity politics that have been deployed to overcome racism, patriarchalism, and homophobia have outlived their usefulness and must be replaced by a politics of characteristics.