Alison Kooistra


Over the past thirty years, identity-rather than labour or political party affiliations-has become the rallying point of most social mobilizations. Most discussions of identity politics evaluate its revolutionary potential and condemn its emphasis on image representation as easily co-opted. What is missing from this debate is a nuanced analysis of the ways in which appeals to identity are grounded within a particular historical moment. I argue that this emphasis on identity emerges out of the late capitalist shift from a Fordist to a post-Fordist paradigm of production. In North America's "post-industrial" information-based society, image production is as much a part of the economy as factory production, and redefining and essentializing an identity is a way to reclaim control of the relations of production. As the manufacturing base is being outsourced to the developing world and as governments increasingly cut social spending and deregulate industries, identity becomes one of the most effective tools for claiming state resources, capturing public attention, finding jobs, and accessing corporate sponsorships. Why identity? Because it works.