Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

I is someone else

with one comment

By Wiz

Paul Rosenberg writes about one of the hot new trends in semi-hetrodox economics: Identity Economics. The idea seems to be to try to understand, using behavioral psychology models, how things like race, gender, and other forms of “identity” might impact your economic behavior.

All nice and good. I’m a big fan of anything disrupts the reductive flatness of normal econ-thought.

That said, they had to pick “identity?” Rosenberg quotes one of these budding identity-economists: “Because of its explanatory power, numerous scholars in psychology, sociology, political science, anthropology, and history have adopted identity as a central concept.”

She forgot the words “40 years ago” at the end of that sentence. Anyways… all an excuse, for those of you with Jstor subscriptions to go over and re-read Fred Cooper’s article on this: Beyond “Identity.”

A couple of key points:

Identity, we argue, tends to mean too much (when understood in a strong sense), too little when understood in a weak sense), or nothing at all (because of its sheer ambiguity)….
Conceptualizing all affinities and affiliations, all forms of belonging, all experiences of commonality, connectedness, and cohesion, all self-understandings and self-identifications in the idiom of “identity” saddles us with a blunt, flat, undifferentiated vocabulary….
We should avoid unintentionally reproducing or reinforcing such reification by uncritically adopting categories of practice as categories of analysis.

As if to prove Cooper’s fears correct, the identity-economist writes this: “Our identity model of behavior begins with social difference. Gender, a universally familiar aspect of identity, illustrates. There are two abstract social categories, ‘man’ and ‘woman.”’

Hmm… someone needs some Foucault or Judith Butler as a birthday present.


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

June 5, 2010 at 14:24

One Response

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  1. Yikes! as though econ as a discipline was not destructive enough.


    June 7, 2010 at 09:32

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