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On Class and Identity Politics

I was asked by Inference Review to write a response to an article by the German Marxist economist, Wolfgang Streeck, ‘Trump and the Trumpists‘. I thank Inference for the opportunity to write this response which I learnt a lot from. I am also very grateful that so many people have liked and shared the article when it was published.

Wolfgang Streeck’s article, “Trump and the Trumpists,” explains Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency as a cry for help by a dishonored white working class. In this, Streeck echoes the well-worn claims on the White Left in Europe and North America that disproportionate attention by neoliberal elites and middle classes in the 1980s and 1990s to the concerns of marginalized minority groups laid the ground for a new right-wing populism. The weakness of the arguments put forward by Streeck is evident in his reliance on unsubstantiated claims that dangerously echo those made by the far right and the so-called alt-right about migrants, refugees and racialized minorities; fake news is lent an acceptable veneer when repeated by venerable academics. More broadly, the poverty of the conclusions reached by Streeck is the result of a failure to place a critical analysis of race at the heart of mainstream scholarship. While, as the extensive writings of W. E. B. Du Bois make clear, this is by no means a new problem, it is increasingly urgent in a world more rapidly polarizing around issues of race, class, and the return of nationalist chauvinism.

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Alana Lentin