Identity Politics as Ersatz Religion: a review of American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time By Joshua Mitchell ( Jeffrey Folks, 12/24/23, University Bookman)

As Mitchell sees it, there is only one path back from the “debilitating pathology” of identity politics. It is for a community of thoughtful individuals to build, or rebuild, a society of honest “face-to-face” relationships and a “politics of competence,” and thereby restore a society in which individuals are judged on virtue, merit, and conduct rather than affiliation with one or more distinct identity groups. In this view, the rehabilitation of society depends on the actions of well-intentioned individuals to oppose identity politics in the public space…

The author probes deeply into the pseudo-religious origins of identity politics, and he demonstrates convincingly how widely this new ideology has spread across American society and Western society in general. An important point in Mitchell’s argument is that identity politics exists only in those societies that were once Christian but where Christian belief has lapsed, thus demonstrating that identity politics is in fact an ersatz form of religious scapegoating. Also important is the insight that, unlike Christianity, in which believers achieve forgiveness of sin through the intercession of the scapegoat figure, in identity politics the grievances of self-proclaimed victims can never be resolved. The model of Civil Rights protest has been hijacked and applied to a seemingly endless series of complaints, all of which obtain relief at the expense of some other group, only in time to be scapegoated by some other complainant. It goes without saying that the endgame of identity politics is an authoritarian society in which each identity group competes for recognition and relief, and in which the social cohesion that Tocqueville once highlighted as a crucial element of American democracy is replaced by distrust, isolation, and competition.

It is precisely the failure of personal “virtue, merit, and conduct” that drives such folk to submerge themselves in group Identity and victimization.