IDENTITY, AGREEMENT AND “OTHERING”:
SPINOZA’S POLITICS OF RECOGNITION
I argue in this paper that Spinoza’s philosophy gives us a useful perspective on identity politics. His political works reveal cultural imaginaries as essentially contrary. On the one hand, they enact elements of genuine recognition of agreement in nature and reinforce this by providing a basis for reinforcing likeness among people within a society or community. On the other, in enacting and delineating partial recognitions of agreement in nature, such imaginaries necessarily also generate division and potential conflict, in that they construct likeness within a community relative to, and by contrast with, outsiders. Thus realising the genuine advantages of likeness, through cultivating some specific identity or agreement in nature, entails a process of ‘othering’ towards those who are not recognised as ‘like’. Spinoza’s analysis of affect and identification of epistemic and political virtues indicates how the advantages of identity may be realised without incurring the adverse effects of conflict.