Quantifying identity politics

It would appear that the Turkish economist Dani Rodrik, famous for his book Has Globalization Gone Too Far? (1997), has discovered an equation that will allow manic, model-building systematists and other schemers to quantify identity politics. He first unveiled the formula in the context of a larger paper entitled “When Ideas Trump Interests,” seemingly an attempt to provide a crude numerical account of ideology and its influence. Rodrik even mentions “false consciousness” at one point.

To be honest, I’m not sure whether he’s deliberately trolling or just horribly misguided. Either way, it’s lulzy in the extreme.

Of course, this isn’t to say that finding a metric to approximate different forms of cultural or gender identity based on buying habits (perhaps based on brand “identification”) wouldn’t be valuable to some. As I’ve pointed out in a past post, professional marketing consultants like Flavia Dzodan have already used theory buzzwords like “intersectionality” as a means of branding themselves as online political personae. Conceivably, data on how different groups or individuals identify could help companies target consumers more effectively, useful in advertising strategies. Facebook’s customizable gender options, introduced recently, could prove to be a goldmine of exploitable demographic information, for example.

Here’s the equation, in any case, along with a photo from a lecture he recently gave on the subject. It makes sense that emphasis would be placed on patterns of consumption:


Maybe this could serve as a coda on the whole hullabaloo surrounding Amber A’Lee Frost’s article “Bro Bash,” published a few days ago by Jacobin. Not because it’s really relevant to the tendencies she describes, the calculated bro bashing by self-described “male feminists” who want to impress or ingratiate themselves with vaguely left-liberal women, but rather because of the whole idiotic backlash that followed its publication.

She’s right, in any case, about the antics of New Inquiry editor Aaron Bady, who immediately began backpedaling and insisting his remarks about “broconomists” like Piketty and Henwood were in jest, and Twitter feminists like Sarah Kendzior, whose only response to Frost’s piece seems to be accusations or insinuation that Jacobin‘s editorial decision to hyperlink a public tweet somehow made Kendzior a victim of further rape threats.

Though equations such as Rodrik’s, shown above, are in all likelihood little more empty abstractions bearing little relation to reality, the cynic in me hopes that a discourse as prone to hyperbole, self-righteousness, and vituperation as identity politics might eventually be quantifiable according to cold, impersonal equations devoid of human feeling or emotion. It’s the only way the tedious back-and-forth of accusation and counteraccusation, the never-ending list of unverifiable grievances, can be put to rest.

For now, can we at least agree that — should a reliable formula ever be found — women would be at least as competent as men at crunching the numbers?

One thought on “Quantifying identity politics

  1. Maybe it’s like the Sokal hoax, but looking at the paper I think it’s probably not. On the other hand much of the contemporary social sciences and the humanities are FUBAR anyway, and this would fit right in. Anything goes really, especially when assuming the mantle of scientism (as Rational Choice Theory does).

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