Solidarity Without Similarity (Judith Butler Remix)

My point in the recent book is to suggest that we rethink equality in terms of interdependency. We tend to say that one person should be treated the same as another, and we measure whether or not equality has been achieved by comparing individual cases. But what if the individual — and individualism — is part of the problem? It makes a difference to understand ourselves as living in a world in which we are fundamentally dependent on others, on institutions, on the Earth, and to see that this life depends on a sustaining organisation for various forms of life. If no one escapes that interdependency, then we are equal in a different sense. We are equally dependent, that is, equally social and ecological, and that means we cease to understand ourselves only as demarcated individuals. If trans-exclusionary radical feminists understood themselves as sharing a world with trans people, in a common struggle for equality, freedom from violence, and for social recognition, there would be no more trans-exclusionary radical feminists. But feminism would surely survive as a coalitional practice and vision of solidarity. 

I’m sure everyone has seen this Judith Butler interview by now but I want to pin it here too regardless. For all the interviewer’s harping on about JK Rowling and the culture wars, Butler cuts through to what matters so effortlessly.

“If no one escapes that interdependency, then we are equal in a different sense.” That’s the vibe — almost Lyotardian. There is no uncorrupted space for us to escape into. Better to acknowledge that and act accordingly than draw up lines in a paranoid and distracting panic.

Last time this was discuss here, it was around the pathetic fallacy of a “principle of charity”. Anyone reading this will see how Butler perfectly demonstrates that principle as it should be embraced. She is exceedingly charitable to the questions being asked — in terms of her tone and the time taken to respond — but that does not mean she has to entertain the questions as having any foothold within social reality. She demonstrates perfectly how to be charitable without betraying a truth, and how to retain a certain intellectual tenderness in the face of her interviewer’s hardened ideological delusions.

It is a masterclass.

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