Identity in Democracy

Identity in Democracy

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Identity in Democracy
    Book Description:

    Written by one of America's leading political thinkers, this is a book about the good, the bad, and the ugly of identity politics.Amy Gutmann rises above the raging polemics that often characterize discussions of identity groups and offers a fair-minded assessment of the role they play in democracies. She addresses fundamental questions of timeless urgency while keeping in focus their relevance to contemporary debates: Do some identity groups undermine the greater democratic good and thus their own legitimacy in a democratic society? Even if so, how is a democracy to fairly distinguish between groups such as the KKK on the one hand and the NAACP on the other? Should democracies exempt members of some minorities from certain legitimate or widely accepted rules, such as Canada's allowing Sikh members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to wear turbans instead of Stetsons? Do voluntary groups like the Boy Scouts have a right to discriminate on grounds of sexual preference, gender, or race?

    Identity-group politics, Gutmann shows, is not aberrant but inescapable in democracies because identity groups represent who people are, not only what they want--and who people are shapes what they demand from democratic politics. Rather than trying to abolish identity politics, Gutmann calls upon us to distinguish between those demands of identity groups that aid and those that impede justice. Her book does justice to identity groups, while recognizing that they cannot be counted upon to do likewise to others.

    Clear, engaging, and forcefully argued, Amy Gutmann'sIdentity in Democracyprovides the fractious world of multicultural and identity-group scholarship with a unifying work that will sustain it for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2552-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Identity Politics
    (pp. 1-37)

    Identity groups occupy an uneasy place in democracy. Critics emphasize how much group identities constrain rather than liberate individuals. When people are identified as black or white, male or female, Irish or Arabic, Catholic or Jew, deaf or mute, they are stereotyped by race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and disability and denied a certain individuality that comes of their own distinctive character and freedom to affiliate as they see fit. When individuals themselves identify racially, ethnically, or religiously as a consequence of being identified with groups, they often develop hostilities toward other groups and a sense of superiority over them. Groups...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Claims of Cultural Identity Groups
    (pp. 38-85)

    The most common kind of identity group around which controversy stirs is the cultural identity group. When the term culture is loosely used, cultural identity subsumes the entire universe of identity groups, and every social marker around which people identify with one another is called cultural.¹ Culture, so considered, is the universal social glue that unites people into identity groups, and the category becomes so broad as to be rather useless for understanding differences among identity groups.²

    Some political theorists of culture such as Avishai Margalit, Moshe Halbertal, Joseph Raz, and Will Kymlicka are much more careful in specifying what...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Value of Voluntary Groups
    (pp. 86-116)

    In order to express our many different identities as individuals, we must be free to associate with one another. Referring to voluntary associations, de Tocqueville wrote that “Nothing deserves more attention.”¹ A short list of voluntary groups in the United States illustrates a small portion of their diversity and influence on democracy: Amnesty International and the American Legion, B’nai B’rith and the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Grange, Hadassah and the Jaycees, Knights of Columbus and the Ku Klux Klan, the League of Women Voters and the Lions, the Free-Masons and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Identification by Ascription
    (pp. 117-150)

    What distinguishes ascriptive identity groups is that they organize around characteristics that are largely beyond people’s ability to choose, such as race, gender, class, physical handicap, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and nationality. The nominal basis of an organized ascriptive group is an involuntary characteristic such as gender or race, but the organized group itself may be voluntary for those who join it. The ascriptive group may also have its own culture, as does the signing deaf community in the United States, which they signify by using the capital “D” to indicate that they are not only deaf by birth but...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Is Religious Identity Special?
    (pp. 151-191)

    Long before anyone coined the term identity politics, groups organized around religious identities were powerful political forces, so powerful in the West as to give rise in the sixteenth century to the Wars of Religion, which serve as historical backdrop to democrats who defend the separation of church and state. With or without church-state separation, a range of religious identity groups are politically active in the politics of all contemporary democracies, and the legitimacy of their involvement remains a matter of considerable controversy. In response to the liberal call for a strict separation of religion and politics, many contemporary conservatives...

  9. CONCLUSION Integrating Identity in Democracy
    (pp. 192-212)

    Identity groups abound in democratic politics, but their claims cannot be taken at face value as compatible with, let alone as conducive to, democratic justice. Democratic justice entails treating all individuals as civic equals with equal liberty and opportunity. Granting identity groups sovereignty or other significant political powers regardless of the way they treat individuals would mean subordinating individuals to their cause. Subordinating individuals to groups is another name for tyranny. One reason to be skeptical about identity groups in democracy is that they often enhance their own power at the expense of justice. So, too, do interest groups.


  10. NOTES
    (pp. 213-234)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 235-246)