Identity Politics as a Transposition of Fraser’s Needs Politics

International Journal of Applied Philosophy 11 (1):23-28 (1996)
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By transposing Nancy Fraser's theory of needs politics to identity politics, I hope to broaden our understanding of identity claims. Fraser argues that the politics of needs is comprised of three distinct but interrelated moments: (1) the struggle to establish or deny the political status of a given need, that is, the struggle to validate the need as a matter of legitimate political concern; (2) the struggle over the interpretation of the need, the struggle for the power to define it and, so, to determine what would satisfy it; and (3) the struggle over the satisfaction of the need. Transposed, these become a definition of identity politics, each aspect of which is explored: (1) the struggle to legitimate the identity; (2) the struggle to define the identity; and (3) the struggle to satisfy the identity. Remarking on the juxtaposition of a discourse about needs with discourses about rights and interests, Fraser formulates several important questions, three of which here simplified and transposed to identity: (1) Why has identity-talk become so prominent? (2) What are the major varieties of identity-talk? (3) What opportunities and/or obstacles does the identity idiom pose for movements interested in social transformation? I consider these questions with respect to identity politics and present answers to each, thus furthering a philosophical analysis of identity politics.



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