11 November 2017
A book is on the way
I have just finished writing a book. The title is ‘The Tribe: the liberal-left and the system of diversity’ and it will be published between August and November 2018 by Imprint Academic.
The Tribe picks up on many of the themes I have been exploring on this blog about the politics of identity. However, it reaches towards a wider understanding of what is going on: of how and why the politics of gender, skin colour and other forms of ‘fixed’ and quasi-fixed identity have come to dominate our public sphere in recent years.
This is where the idea of ‘the system of diversity’ comes in. With this idea, I am not talking about the sort of social system which covers the whole of society like some accounts of capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism do. Rather, the system of diversity appears as a system of relations, which offers possibilities – for involvement, inclusion, social approval and also material reward.
The system exists where and when these relations exist and where those possibilities are grasped and offered out again; its limits can be found where those relations do not exist and/or the possibilities not grasped. As I have been writing it, a lot of the political activity happening within the system is dedicated to attacking those who appear outside it, which helps draw us towards the system by making being outside it appear unattractive and unpleasant, in contrast to the ease of acceptance to be found inside.
The progressive ‘liberal-left’, as 'the tribe’ of the title, appears in the book as an identity group in its own right which presides over this system, not least through its dominating presence in many of our major institutions. One marker of this tribe is that it politicises other forms of identity than its own, fixing us to forms of apparently fixed identity, distinguishing favoured groups from unfavoured on the basis of skin colour, gender and other things.
All of this hasn’t been easy to write about. There are many subtleties and complexities to the system that I have discovered while working on it. Also, lashings of new evidence appear daily in our public sphere which is difficult to keep up with, as with the recent #MeToo phenomenon and the ‘Pestminster’ scandals. While writing, I have been constantly interrogating my ideas against what has been going on. I am sure those ideas stand up. But there will be plenty of debates and arguments to be had, that is for sure.
The book has ten chapters, including an introduction that explains the basic ideas and shows the system at work through examples from our politics and wider society. Then Part I considers how identity works in the system, looking at the liberal-left as an identity group and the situations of the favoured and unfavoured groups that it politicises. Part II addresses the capturing of our major institutions and the controlling of speech and language which helps the system to consolidate its power, including over what can appear as true. Lastly, there is a chapter offering some thoughts on how we might respond to the system.
I hope the book offers readers plenty of food for thought. I think it will. I also hope it stimulates others to build on its ideas and take them off in additional, interesting directions. We shall see . . .
I owe some thanks to this man Shostakovich and also Vaughan Williams and others for helping me to get through the writing of The Tribe in one piece, just. I guess, in difficult situations and in thinking about difficult subjects, sometimes more difficult forms of music can speak loudest.