The Underside of Difference and the Limits of Particularism

Benjamin Arditi

in Politics on the Edges of Liberalism

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625116
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652778 | DOI:
The Underside of Difference and the Limits of Particularism

Show Summary Details


This chapter discusses some problems associated with identity politics, a politics conceived from the standpoint of one's belonging to a particular group. Unlike liberal universalism, which emphasizes the sovereignty of the individual and proclaims equal rights for equal individuals, identity politics asserts the collective nature of contemporary politics and vindicates special rights for special groups. One defining trait of contemporary progressive thought is its support for the right to be different and its opposition to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and class bias. The affirmation of otherness is linked with a more tolerant society, and the proliferation of differences is seen as an opening towards emancipation. However, political reasoning should also be sensitive to the possible underside of radical particularity. The advocacy of difference can foster a more cosmopolitan world, but also greater disorientation, which may offset diversity by reinforcing demands for simpler and more rigid models of identity.

Keywords: liberalism; identity politics; liberal universalism; otherness; radical particularity

Chapter.  13017 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.