Identity and Capitalism
- Marie Moran - University College Dublin, Ireland
Cultural Theory | Social Theory
- Professor Jim McGuigan, Loughborough University
'Identity’, particularly as it is elaborated in the associated categories of ‘personal’ and ‘social’ identity, is a relatively novel concept in western thought, politics and culture. The explosion of interest in the notion of identity across popular, political and academic domains of practice since the 1960s does not represent the simple popularisation of an older term, as is widely assumed, but rather, the invention of an idea.
Identity and Capitalism explores the emergence and evolution of the idea of identity in the cultural, political and social contexts of contemporary capitalist societies. Against the common supposition that identity always mattered, this book shows that what we now think of routinely as ‘personal identity’ actually only emerged with the explosion of consumption in the late-twentieth century. It also makes the case that what we now think of as different social and political ‘identities’ only came to be framed as such with the emergence of identity politics and new social movements in the political landscapes of capitalist societies in the 60s and 70s.
Marie Moran provides an important new exploration of the articulation of the idea of identity to the social logic of capitalism, from the ‘organised capitalism’ of the mid-twentieth century, up to and including the neoliberal capitalism that prevails today. Drawing on the work of Raymond Williams, the cultural materialist approach developed here provides an original means of addressing the political debates about the value of identity in contemporary capitalist societies.
In developing her highly original analysis of the concept of identity, and its contemporary deployments in political and everyday life, her purpose is neither to reject nor defend usage of the term... Identity and Capitalism wrestles with the tensions inherent in crafting and claiming identity in an era when so many of our desires, encounters and expectations, or what we might regard as the raw materials of self and collective expression, are being processed within the commodifying logic of capitalism.
The concept of identity is not apolitical. Through its individualistic focus on difference and its obscuring of social relations, class-based analysis and, potentially, other structural issues, identity risks distorting our understanding of society and ourselves. Moran compellingly raises these issues, relating her arguments to existing interdisciplinary debates not only on the history of identity but its implications for consumption, group-based politics and class.... Moran’s book valuably suggests that the concept of identity continues to require questioning and critique.
Marie Moran puts forth a critical investigation that is at once thought provoking and deeply relevant for our field... For those concerned with understanding how key words like leisure and tourism can be used to reinforce as well as to challenge social inequality, this book is essential reading.
Sample Materials & Chapters
Identity and Capitalism - Ch1.: Historicising 'Identity'