There are two kinds of identity politics. One is good. The other, very bad. | Jonathan Haidt


In the United States right now, as many people
have noticed, we are seeing a huge escalation of our long running culture war, unfortunately
universities are all right in the heart of that. So, the right and especially right wing media
love to show video clips of students saying outrageous things. They love to say that universities are bastions
of political correctness – they’ve lost their minds. The left is motivated to say no there’s not
a problem, there’s nothing going on it’s just that the right hates ideas, they hate universities. What Greg and I do in the book is we say,
“No we’re going to cut through the culture war. Let’s just look at what’s going on, let’s
look at what a university should do.” And so when we talk about identity politics,
which is a controversial topic, we start by saying of course you need identity politics. Identity politics is not a bad thing automatically. Politics can be based on any distinction. It can be based on any group interest. So for gay students or black students or women
to organize that’s identity politics, that’s perfectly legitimate. The question is how are they organizing? What’s the over arching framework? And we’ve seen two versions of it in American
history. You can do it the way most of the civil rights
leaders did it, Martin Luther King in particular, where you draw a larger circle around the
group, you emphasize what we have in common and then you say some of our brothers and
sisters are being denied equal access, equal opportunity or equal dignity. That works. That has worked historically in much tougher
times and zones and that works and will work on college campuses. The other way you do it, which is growing
on college campuses, is common enemy identity politics. It’s based on the Bedouin notion: “Me against
my brother, me and my brother against our cousin, me my brother and cousin against the
stranger.” It’s a very general principle of social psychology. If you try to unite people: “Let’s all unite
against them. They’re the bad people. They’re the cause of the problems. Let’s all stick together.” That’s a really dangerous thing to do in a
multiethnic society, especially in a university where we’re actually all trying to work together
to solve the problem. We have to work on our speech climate. In the business world it’s called speak up
culture. In the academic world it’s called just basic
openness to ideas. When you put people together and you want
them to talk, of course people have a lot of different goals and fears. Nobody wants to say something stupid, nobody
wants to say something that will get them into trouble. If you can create a really trusting environment
in which we’re all in this together, contribute your ideas. If someone says something you think it’s wrong,
say so. That’s going to lead to more innovation. That’s going to lead to more progress. But what if you have an environment in which
if I say something that offends anyone they can report me anonymously to HR or some other
entity. I’m going to think three times before I speak
up. That’s what we have on campus. In the bathrooms at my university there are
signs telling students how to report me anonymously if I say anything that offends them so I don’t
feel free to speak up when I’m on campus. I can speak more openly off-campus, but on
campus I have to watch myself. As one student said to a friend of mine, “My
motto is silence is safer. Just shut up and you won’t get in trouble.” Now this is a terrible speech climate. A university cannot function if people are
defensive in this way. So in universities, in organizations that
value innovation we have to not just encourage people to speak, we have to assure them that
they’re not going to be shamed, humiliated or punished for sharing an opinion in good
faith. We have a culture war raging all around us. It’s very easy to take offense. People are understandably angry. Here within these walls we have to put that
aside. We have to trust each other. We have to give each other the benefit of
the doubt and it’s going to be good for all of us to do that.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. [Enemy identity politics is] “a really dangerous thing to do in a multiethnic society.” Notice how he said MULTIETHNIC and not MULTICULTURAL. there’s a big difference, and it’s one that gets glossed over…

  2. It would seem that identity politics (as opposed simply to people with similar interests bonding over the shared interests) is divisive insofar as the definition of a group by identity will at the same time define another group or groups.  If we join together and form an in-group just because we are people of type X, then we have defined the non-X people as the out-group.  Further, the political activism will pick out one or more sub-groups of the out-group as the anti-X group, and target them.  People placed in that group by the in-group will tend to react, and in doing so will often give the X-group something to complain about.  In that way, identity politics can manufacture sets of group oppositions where there had been none and create an apparent need for action, which in turn can escalate the ill-will.

  3. Funny how in order to make his dumb point it was necessary to bring out the usual Disneyfied and sanitized narrative on what MLK supposedly said or did. He was actually seen as "unnecessarily divisive" or "radical" by centrist milquetoast liberals who are this dumbass' direct political forebears.

  4. cant they make students sign a document that says they cannot take offence for something discussed within the four walls of the university, a disclaimer if you will . . . what a time to be alive

  5. It "went haywire" because its premise is invalid. The correct level of analysis is the individual, not the group.

  6. This is the most sensible opinion about the topic I ever heard. The damage those snowflakes, NPCs and SJWs are making to a just cause is horrible and immoral. They are destroying freedom of speech.

  7. I don't even need to watch this. Identity politics is fucking poison and you're chasing people away from the left is DROVES.

    Identity politics turn this two time Obama voter into a Trump voter. And if the left doesn't come back from the cliffs edge that is identity politics, the 'bad orange man' WILL get elected in 2020.

  8. Identity politics is stupid in the sense that nobody cares what you call yourself. The only reason I'd insult someone for something is if they blow it out of proportion.

    Yes gays and things were looked down upon for centuries, but tell me how many of those centuries did we actually experience? And now that you're free to do whatever now you wanna be angry?

    If you're gonna create a ruckus and attack people based on what you think they should say and think just because you think you can then you shouldn't have the right to speak out.

    Rights come with responsibilities. If you cannot be responsible you shouldn't have the right.

  9. I saw another video where they connected this tribal mentality to parental protection. The longer parent protect their children from the outside world the more likely they are to demand that people who they find offensive be silenced. Many parents are isolating their children from other children until they are much older. This makes children less tolerant towards others with different views.

  10. “Speech climate” …. Orwellian. ‘1984’ is definitely looking more like an Instruction Manual, than a novel. Truly baffling how so much progress has gone hand-in-hand with so much regression. We’ve never been so literate globally. We really, really, do know better. So we should really, really, should do better.

  11. You just don't get it, Mr. WASP Patriarchy. These are the VERY real, very EXTREME problems students face on campus today: https://nypost.com/2018/11/06/harvard-student-says-cutting-down-century-old-tree-is-akin-to-murder/; https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/12/03/princeton-cappella-group-discontinues-singing-disney-song-over-complaints-misogyny

  12. Let's be honest here, individualism for the most part is (although I'm aware not exclusively) a white ideology. Good luck trying to convince large amounts of black people to vote against their group identity and to fight for individualism. The reality is yes individualism is in certain cases good however the key is realising that humans are tribal by nature and so to completely disregard group dynamics and take this this approach of radical individualism is simply not going to work, it goes against history and human nature. Yes, individualism is important and it is important to work on yourself but you have to realise that you are a unique individual WITHIN a bigger group dynamic.

    You could say to a black person. Oh well I don't see race, I see people as individuals and on some level that's a noble trait to have but the reality is that likely that black person will still see you as part of a separate tribe to them and will understand that you are one part of something much bigger which is your race.

  13. The cat is out of the bag, identity politics will be used as long as multiple identities are forced to share the same geo-political space.

  14. One group is White people. They share a culture, the vote the same way, they marry each other, they create children together, they are neighbors, they are descendant from the same continent, the have a shared history, and they mostly share a religion.

    The other group is Black, Asian, Hispanic, Jew, LGBT+, Arab, Indian, Native, etc. people. They have many different cultures, when they share an environment they fight, they have many different religions, they don't create mixed-raced progeny, their genetic ancestry comes from all over the world, and they are segregated by location to a degree.

    Now pick: which one of these groups is unified by commonality and which group is unified by common enemy? It should be an easy choice.

    That's how stupid you look when you say "the Right does identity politics too!".

  15. Identity politics is key for divide & conquer, which is why the Jewish banks keep Mexico poor, and then demand we let them live in USA.

  16. 1:00
    Why didn't you mention white students? Don't whites have a right to organize for their collective interests like these other groups are?

  17. Both kinds of identity politics Haidt talks about are wrong: They base identity on the primitive, precivilized idea that a my identity is fixed at birth by "accidents of birth". I reject that entirely. Post enlightenment we can create our own identity by the choices and actions we take AFTER birth. Those who fail to do so and fall back on their "birth" identity are dooming themselves to helplessness and eternal strife. They then group all other people by birth identity. This is the definition of racism. ONLY each and every unique individual matters.

  18. If Jonathan Haidt doesn't like a university where he can be anonymously reported for offending bourgeois snowflakes, then why doesn't he stand up to the clown administration that put that policy in place? Identity Nazism only exists because the administration allows it. Fifty years ago they were shooting students and reporting them to the CIA. The administration has all the power, because gutless professors gave it to them.

  19. Identity politics is the most basic visceral type of bias. As such it breeds mob mentality, which quickly leads to hysteria and witch hunt type behaviour. (As seen time after time over the last few years.)

    Group identity based on skin colour, religion, sexuality or nationality should not be primary factor or focus. They need to be considered, sure, but individuals rights and shared cultural values come first.

    Shared group identity does not equate to shared values.
    This is where intersectionality is massively flawed.

    Treat individuals as individuals.
    Freedom of speech trumps hurt feelings every time.
    To conflate words with actions is the beginning of the end when it comes to individual human rights.

    If commonly held perceptions move too far to the left. Then tyranny and thought police follow soon after.
    The right isn’t your enemy, the right brings order, prosperous societies and personal freedom and equality of opportunity.
    The left brings big government, less freedom and the massively flawed ideology of equality of outcome.

  20. Have I ever heard good identity politics? Must be a loooooooooong time ago. 2 nd wave feminism and desegregation. That was the sixties. Gay mariagge later. Atlfter that it turned to shit.

  21. You say it's 'perfectly legitimate for women to organize based on their sex and for black students" to organize based on their skin color. But then you HAVE to add "white students" to that mix too Jonathan. If you say "This has historically worked", you are overlooking the hugely important fact that women now have the same rights as everyone else plus additional rights (longer exam times in some cases, in an attempt to reach equal outcome). Blacks again have the same rights in western societies as whites PLUS more rights (affirmative action).
    That means at the very least you should add "White students" to that mix when you talk about legitimacy of identity politics, or "white males" for that matter, and on top it would be the only group getting discriminated against systemically via quotas, mainstream media rhetoric, affirmative action and so on.

    And obviously, even you, are far too politically correct to utter those words, which is why you happened to leave that group out.
    it would likely send a shiver down your spine if you attempted to include it, even though intellectually and objectively that sentence should absolutely be included for you to stay intellectually honest.

    So that at the least should make you stop for a second, and realize that no, identity politics based on arbitrary tribal characteristics is NEVER a 'good thing' in a society that treats people the same under the law, especially not by groups that currently have full rights in society plus more.
    Because then it inevitably becomes a hate movement, it inevitably ends up in your second category of 'identity politics', the bad kind, where you have BLM, using a video to stir up emotion and division and hatred against whites instead of looking at the relevant actual numbers detailing what is actually going on.

    The point is, in a society that does not discriminate via laws / rights, there IS no good identity politics, there is no 'first category', which is why your argument for good identity politics is very flawed.

  22. Theres a culture war thats threatening to reshape are lives for the worst with out our say or consent by a selective few and its coming from academia. That's why we should treat this with kid gloves and take the long way of solving this problem.

  23. It's very clear why they have gone with common foe… Remember occupy wall street? Yeah, the establishment had to do something to turn those young people against each other. Solution – Tell the young women who are now more likely to get college degrees than young men, who have nice computers, expensive phones, and enjoy 6 dollar coffees that they are horribly oppressed by a tyrannical patriarchy and a member of the 1 percent who gets six figures for giving hour long talks at banks is going to make everything better for them. It worked flawlessly. Now on the left, we no longer had the unity we had, and we have a large number of completely clueless 1st world princes and princesses who think they have it so bad and many of them don't have the first clue about what the real poverty numbers are and what the biggest single racial group living in poverty is. They think it's just black people, who aren't even the second largest group, that would be hispanics, with whites in the top spot. These clueless little "social justice warriors" go around spreading memes that mock the notion that white people have any real problem, then they, like head-up-the-ass idiots post stupid question that are obvious to anyone looking at things honestly "why do people vote against their own interest". What they should be asking is "why would anyone think I know what their interest is, when I talk out my privileged 1st world ass about them?"

  24. The best kind of identity politics is cosmopolitanism since more people can feel common identification globally while one is also a local citizen

  25. I wish there was kind of civil rights movement in Europe at the moment. That will work on inclusion of refugees, homeless individuals, Muslims

  26. The problem with trigger warning behaviour is not trying to defeat ideas through arguments. You can shut down a person but one's idea will live on

  27. Identity politics is not bad or good- it is just politics. How it is used determines that- you cannot keep telling white people that campaigning for white based policies is evil while letting other non white groups get together and vote collectively- this is suicide for white people.

    White people must begin to see themselves as a collective union- but as big brainy individualists or they will keep coming for us

  28. Man, I feel bad for you. This is great and all but you're throwing one gallon buckets of water on the California wild fires here. The momentum is too great to stop now, the ideas have too vastly infected culture. It's time to pick a side, whether we like it or not.

  29. I've often said this using Lenin's definitions of nationalism against imperialism. Nationalistic chauvinism is bad but for colonized peoples it's right and necessary to throw of colonization.
    After they gain freedom and independence, however, in part because privilege is invisible to the bearer of it, they may easily slide into a chauvinism of their own without even noticing the change.

  30. this has already such a lefty frame. 0.50 of course you need identity politics…based on what? than he doesn't mention contradicting groups, like black students and white students, gay students and christians…but only says its ok for left leaning groups…black minority, lgbtq, women….

  31. I love Jonathan Hait, but the mistake both him and Jordan Peterson make is that their ideas are predicated on the notion that we start with a multi-ethic nation platform. That may be the case in America but Europe and elsewhere is much more ethno-centric. And we are still very much homogenous ethnic states. Japan being the most obvious example but still to a degree the ancient European states like Britain, France and Italy.

    The intelligent and reasonable argument made in this video does not work for us when we want to maintain our heritage, culture, birthright and identity.

  32. There is a ruling elite in modern society comprised of an alliance between politicians, the wealthy and the media, and life is easy for them if identity groups all think the same thing and behave the same way. All three groups would then know exactly how to appeal to every identity group in order to get votes, sell their products, or get viewers.

    That was fine, when it was simply reactive, but then the three groups began to try and get the identity groups to behave the same way proactively. So, for example, politicians started to tell black people in America, you know, there is institutionalized racism. You need to be upset about it. or white people, you have privilege, you need to be worried that you are not a white supremacist. Or women, you have been oppressed for centuries, you need to be free from the yoke of men. So now they use propaganda to try and manipulate the identity groups to vote for them, to buy their products, or to consume their media. The real problem being that they don't care about the consequences of those identity groups thinking the specific thing, all that is important to them is that the identity group all think it, making them easier to manipulate.

    Of course the truth is that we are all individuals, and fit into many identity groups. There are women that quite like men, want to be wives and don't want to work 60 hour weeks, to make someone else rich, be they a man or a woman. And there are black people that are quite successful and don't feel that racism has impacted their life any more than the Asian guy next to them. And there are plenty of white people opposed to immigration that are self-confident enough to know that they are not white-supremacists.

    Hopefully the younger generations are more media savvy and can reject this rather blatant and cynical manipulation by the rich, the media and the politicians. If they can, then there is some hope for us all. This video is a rather pathetic attempt by one of the elite to cling to power. I dislike the video.

  33. The bad side of identity politics is that in some cases they don't 'correct' the problem, they 'euphemize' the actual offense.

  34. The problem is mainly that the crazy Left is targeting the white man and his pesky Western Civilization. They don't actually care about women or minorities, they're just opposed to white men because they built this world they hate. That's where they get their common enemy.

  35. The speech climate described here is true of all public speech in the UK. Since freedom of speech is not enshrined in law the UK is on the brink of 1984 style censorship and self censorship.

  36. I think he makes very cogent points. It's all very depressing . A friend recently had 'unconscious bias' training – basically it doesn't matter what you do or don't do – it's how the offended person feels . Now that it's a 'thing' , it's only a matter of [a short] time before it has to have it's existence justified – and that means finding 'offenders' (no pun intended) . You can't avoid being an offender because of the very nature this proposition , there is nothing you can do . Absolute madness.

  37. Stupid… Politics is an extension of religion. All we are seeing is Atheism vrs Christianity values. There is no compromise

  38. At Rutgers University there was a big campaign against sexual assault. Of course, sexual assault is horrible, but what I noticed is that all the rhetoric was aimed against men and how they should respect women, but there was nothing said towards women on how they should start respecting themselves and stop dressing in an overtly sexual way. They don’t want to be objectified, and they want to be respected for what’s inside of them, but every Spring when the weather gets warm, it looks as though there’s a campus-wide competition to see who can look like the biggest slut. What these girls are wearing around campus and to class are outfits that make them look more like strippers than students. And it’s a huge percentage that dresses like this. And what’s funny about this is that this is that no male is forcing them to dress this way. This is all coming from the women themselves.

  39. He barely touched the surface. The two forms of identity politics are those that unite, and those that divide.

    1. Nationalism and patriotism with respect to civic, cultural, and ethnic unity make a nation stronger, powerful, prosperous, and peaceful.

    2. Globalist and Marxist identity politics aim to disrupt and destabilize a nation by flooding diversity into a nation state to cause civil unrest and conflict.

  40. You know, there's a 19 year old here on YouTube that sounds just like you. Fawning Girl! She's so young, and sounds amazing when she talks about Identity Politics and all the different types. She even mentioned why the "victim" mentality is so popular! Maybe she should be on Big Think, cause she SURE thinks big for a teenager!

  41. Im not sure the argument supporting positive identity politics is very strong. Im not sure its genuine to suggest Martin Luther King practiced Identity politics as his message was that we needed to look past our identities.
    Anyway. nice vid.

  42. So all you've done is shared your personal liberal opinion. You didnt' share any real thought or opinion from any real independent thinker. You've simply repeated your own opinion, nothing more.

  43. Big words and big think Jonathan Haidt. I double dog dare you to say what you said on campus. See how fast you get fired!

  44. First, what goddam opportunities are being “denied” wymyn and POC anywhere in North America, Haidt? Either you’re yet another academic whose whole life’s been spent in the University sandbox, or you’re being deliberately dense.

    In either case I would never trust you to lead, if that’s what you’re after.

  45. if i were in a college campus id still speak my mind and say what i want cause its my rights and if they dont like it they can just go whine in a corner cause im blunt about how i feel about certain people

  46. “The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English- Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian- Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality than with the other citizens of the American Republic.” Teddy Roosevelt

  47. UNIVERSITIES NEED TO BE DEFUNDED & THE HUMANITIES & WOMEN'S STUDIES SHUT DOWN & SO- CALLED PROFESSORS TOSSED TO THE CURB & UNEMPLOYMENT LINE!

  48. THE SPEECH PROBLEM IS A MASK THAT HIDES THE TOTAL CENSORSHIP ACROSS THE BOARD! THE CALLS FOR SHARIA IN THE WEST CANNOT BE TALKED ABOUT BECAUSE IT IS BEING PROTECTED BY BLASPHEMY LAWS & FEW UNDERSTAND THAT SHARIA THREATENS FREEDOM OF CHOICE & DEMOCRACY ITSELF!

  49. John Stuart Mill is rolling over in his grave at the idea that universities, the original purpose of which was to freely exchange and test ideas in order to gain knowledge, are beginning to restrict ideas that offend or challenge others.

  50. A generation of very spoiled, entitled people trying to play victim. A generation of tantrum throwing narcissists about to take over the world.

  51. I blame the political institutions in the U.S. Right now you have a two party system where both parties are heavily entrenched in the influence of Wall Street and big corporations. As a result you have two corporate parties that are very similar and struggle to differentiate themselves, leading to common enemy identity politics being the only avenue to express themselves rather than having differing economic visions as in times past.

  52. First, you put people in tight identity categories, then you can really do some powerful DIVIDE AND CONQUER!! Wake up people!!!

  53. Of course a video financed by the Charles Koch Foundation would blame universities for "bad" identity politics. If you want to say there are two kinds of identity politics, how about the identity politics of multiculturalism and the identity politics of a culture that fears multiculturalism? That's what's going on in the RED v BLUE culture war.

  54. America was founded on identity politics. It has never included everyone. That was the point of the civil rights movement. Which ultimately failed.

  55. Corporations use their underlings to enforce unconstitutional policies onto the general public, these folks either don't understand what civil liberty is, or they don't care, either way we have to stand our ground.

  56. Civil rights was about getting rid of identity politics and intersectionality. Where did so many people get lost…

  57. Looks like free speech in some universities is dying when guys like this don't feel free to speak freely on campus.

  58. Totally agreed. When I went to college (mid-1980s), I learned skills which enabled my successful career. Politics didn't factor in at all.

    Today? Between partying and protesting, WHEN ARE YOU ACTUALLY STUDYING??

    You know, to be a DOCTOR or an ACCOUNTANT or a LAWYER?

    You're not going to be 20 and on campus forever.

  59. Free speech has been not just been chilled it has been frozen, nobody wants to talk now for fear of complete and utter ruin for saying something that might offend their perception of the collective. There is also a vicious cycle of censorship were people will pounce on anything they think will offend the collective and drive the offender to ruin with complete and utter ruthlessness in the hope of gaining some 'brownie points' and diverting attention away from themselves. Breaking this culture of fear will be very difficult, if not impossible.

  60. I don't think climate change, public science funding, health and education should be considered 'identity politics'.

  61. Civil rights only worked because the White population was at it's peak in the 60s. When the majority is so large, the minority isn't a threat and there will be a large number of liberals among the majority.

    Now the situation has changed. As the White population inches closer to 50%, Whites will only get more inclined to their race and what they perceive as their own culture. There won't be so many White liberals in the future, contrary to what's happening in college campuses.

  62. Bullsh*t. MLK encouraged both the commonality and the common enemy strategies throughout the civil rights era and people hated him more and more with each passing year irrespective of what he did. It was race riots that eventually compelled the state to recognize substantive equality.

  63. LAWYERS! are entitled to sue – the LAWYER always wins and enriches himself. In 1936 LAWYERS in Nürnberg created the "Race Laws". Those LAWYERS are still active. They now can sue anybody for no reason. In my youth we called it : Spanish Inquisition. All Socialist Governments need Secret Police to fill up secrete prisons and keept he Gulags running….USA self destroys. Thank God!

  64. We are in the 6th Mass Extinction. Identity Politics or any other "issue" won't matter when we're all dead from planetary eco-collapse.

  65. Y not men join together to fight against FAMILY COURT MALE RAPE 96:4 alimony & support payments against them…10:1 male suicides post family court decision – 5 times more than in rape victums..100:1 free lunches offer by spouses..Severer punishments for same offences against men causing 100:1 male jail population…Women have right to their bodies then y men not allowed to flaunt boner in malls

  66. Both forms of identify politics suck. They all divide people on the wrong bases. We need class politics, not identity politics.

  67. Just admit that liberalism and multiculturalism doesn't work. Americans never wanted this and when you go against the will of the people and ignore what the founding documents was all about, posterity, you come up with all sorts of problems and unrest. Reinstate freedom of association, abolish affirmative action, respect the st and 2nd amendment and don't treat white identity politics as "extreme". It isn't!
    This marxist bullshit will not last. Marxism never worjs because of it's inherent contradictions. No matter how hard you try.

  68. You enabled this entitled snowflake mentality. You did it 3 times during this video, but you don't know how to deal with the bullshit situation you betas have created. People like you have converted more people to the ALT RIGHT than any other single element.

  69. Too simplistic. And what you call identity politics, others term gender politics. And BTW, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. does not represent "good identity politics." He's about destroying identity politics! Read his "I have a dream" speech carefully.

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