The Identity Myth
Why We Need to Embrace Our Differences to Beat Inequality

David Swift

Published by Constable, 2022
ISBN 9780349135366

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In conversations about polarised political issues, phrases like ‘it’s not about race, it’s about class’ have become the perfect way to induce a stalemate. It seems as though the traditional, materialist critique of inequality has been supplanted by a fast-evolving set of reflections on group identity. Mainstream politics makes fast and loose assumptions about the relationship between class and identity, and economic conditions and culture. These assumptions are fodder for the culture wars.

In The Identity Myth, David Swift covers the four different kinds of identity most susceptible to rhetorical and cultural manipulation – class, race, sex, and age. He considers how the boundaries of identities are policed and how diverse versions of the same identity can be deployed to different ends. Ultimately, it is not that identities are simply more ‘complex’ than they appear. Rather, there are commonalities more important to the creation of solidarity.

David Swift speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the crisis of class and the deceptive allure of identity politics. We talk about the divisive nature of the contested claims of identity and about strategies for regaining control of the narrative. In a powerful call to arms, Swift argues that we must unite against these identity myths and embrace our differences to beat inequality.

David Swift is a historian and writer who specialises in the history and contemporary politics of the British Left. He has written on the state of the Left for The Times, Fabian Review, Progress OnlineJewish Chronicle, and The Critic. He is the author of A Left for Itself, 2019.