Saturday 7 January 2017

Gender, the Big Indo-European Problem

The past years have seen a steady rise in the global appeal of identity politics. Following its victories in academic and political discourse, it is now on its way to conquer the corporate world. Firms are increasingly expected to implement policies promoting the elevation of members of "minority" or historically "oppressed" groups into leadership positions. As a result, identifying with certain groups has become much more important than it was in the golden days of liberal individualism.

The question is which group identities count in this new paradigm - and which don't.

The Texture of the Other

Female figurine from Neolithic "Old Europe", which
archeologist Marija Gimbutas argued was a matriarchal
culture destroyed by the invasion of Indo-European
 warriors (credit:

Liberal individualism was a fairly straightforward concept: Every individual had equal intrinsic value. Political and economic structures were simply meant to provide the same opportunities and protection to each individual irrespective of any external feature – such as skin colour, ethnicity, sex or social background – which accidentally differentiated them. 

Proponents of identity politics argue – similarly to Marxism – that this principal equality failed to bring about a more meaningful levelling of social opportunities because deeper structures continued to favour those belonging to certain dominant groups.  Marxism pointed to the unequal distribution of wealth as such a deeper structure. It saw the dominant group in the bourgeoisie, which controlled the means of production. Identity politics has devised a more sophisticated theory. It argues that it is certain cultural codes – or discourses – disseminated in society that serve to establish a dominance hierarchy favouring certain groups over others.