November 18, 2019

The Problem with "Class Reductionism"

“Ever since Bernie Sanders’s insurgent run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, a specter has haunted left-liberal debate: the specter of “class reductionism.” Left-identitarians and centrist liberals have used this oversimplified charge not merely to dismiss Sanders but also to cast suspicion on the broad array of universally redistributive policies associated with him and the left flank of the Democratic Party—such as Medicare for All, free public higher education, a living wage, and the right to collective bargaining.

Politics often makes strange bedfellows, but this is no mere marriage of convenience. Centrist Democrats and left-identitarians are bound in shared embrace of a particularist, elite-driven politics. This top-down political vision—long focused on capturing the presidency at the expense of long-term, movement-driven, majoritarian strategies at all levels of government—threatens to preempt hopes of restoring the public-good model of governance that was at the heart of postwar prosperity and foundational to the civil rights movement.

Class reductionism is the supposed view that inequalities apparently attributable to race, gender, or other categories of group identification are either secondary in importance or reducible to generic economic inequality. It thus follows, according to those who hurl the charge, that specifically anti-racist, feminist, or LGBTQ concerns, for example, should be dissolved within demands for economic redistribution.”

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