This special issue responds to ongoing debates around what has been termed ‘identity politics’. We aim to intervene in what are make-or-break questions for the Left today. Specifically, we wish to provoke further interrogative but comradely conversation that works towards breaking-down the wedge between vulgar economism and vulgar culturalism. Critically, we maintain that just as all identity categories are spatially and temporally contingent – socially constructed, yet naturalised – so too is this current bifurcation between ‘class politics’ and ‘identity politics’. Ultimately, we call for an intellectual and organisational embracing of the complexity of identity as it figures in contemporary conditions; being a core organising-principle of capitalism as it functions today, a paradigm that Leftist struggle can be organised through and around – and yet all with a recognition of the necessity of historicising, and ultimately abolishing, these categories along with capitalism itself.
The last several decades have produced a slew of important studies by Marxists of the logic of capital, as well as numerous explorations by postcolonial theorists of the narratives that structure racial and ethnic discrimination. Far too often, however, these two currents have assumed different or even opposed trajectories, making it all the harder to transcend one-sided class-reductionist analyses and equally one-sided affirmations of identity that bypass or ignore class. In light of the new reality produced by the deepening crisis of neoliberalism and the looming disintegration of the political order that has defined global capitalism since the end of the Cold War, the time has come to revisit theoretical approaches that can help delineate the integrality of race, class and capitalism.