Responding to identity based IR K’s

This could include a lot of country specific arguments (from China threat to certain brands of orientalism) or your garden variety security K. The concept of where identity comes from is often not really debated, or debated crudely in the form of “you make china a threat”. This card imo is one of the best I have seen for the aff vs such args.

BILL McSWEENEY Lectured in Sociology at the Univ of York, Head of International Peace Studies Program @ Irish School of economics,  Ph.D. Trinity College Dublin B.Phil. University of York B.A. University of Essex RIS 1996 (22)

An analogy between identity and individual freedom will serve to illustrate the point. The test of freedom cannot be reduced to a test of the absence of obstacles to the fulfilment of desires. By that criterion, a happy slave might be judged free and a frustrated professor enslaved. Neither can it be reduced to perception. The slave may perceive himself more free than the professor, but it is obvious that the concept of personal freedom loses the meaning we invest in it, if we limit it to the perception of either. We need a test to judge the needs which are relevant to personal freedom if we are to rescue the concept from being merely an expression of taste. The test of freedom must begin from a positive judgment about human needs and rights, not from a negative assessment of obstacles. The philosophical starting-point must be some ideal of human nature.31 The fact that we have no authoritative, epistemological basis for constructing such an ideal is no argument against its necessity. We can, and we routinely do, make judgments about personal freedom. But they are not judgments which can be validated by empirical observation alone. If we want a test allowing us to transcend individual perception and to judge personal freedom in the light of the human competence to which the concept refers, then we are in the business of making a moral decision. We stand some chance of making a more reasoned judgment if we address its normative character explicitly than if we hide it from view behind a veil of false respect for the authenticity of the person. The implication for personal and collective identity should be clear. The basis of judgment about personal identity overlaps closely with the judgment about personal freedom. The answer to the question ‘Who am I?’ clearly does not rest simply on empirical evidence, though the factual, historical data collected in our passport, our diary and our past experiences are very relevant. Neither can it be decided exclusively in terms of subjective perception. We routinely ‘correct’ the identity claims not only of others but of ourselves. It rests also on the contrast and balance between a normative view of human nature and the facts of personal biography. It entails an element of decision as well as self-observation. Similarly, the collective question, ‘Who are we?’ cannot be answered simply by reference to opinion polls, ancient myths, folk music or other measures of collective history. It too entails a decision based on a theory which relates some of the countless biographical facts of our collective past and present to a view of who we want to be. ‘We are who we choose to be’ overstates our freedom in the matter but makes the point forcefully that collective identity is a choice made by people, not a property of society which transcends their agency. We choose from an array of possible identities, so to speak. (Clearly, this is to analyze identity formation in the abstract. No society exists where we could observe this process from the starting-point of a tabula rasa without an already-existing identity and the consequent pressures of socialization to adopt and to affirm it.) The question is how these diverse individual choices come to cohere in a clear or vague collective image, and how disputes about identity, with security implications, are settled. If we reify the notion of societal identity, in the manner of Waever et al., the answer is that it just happens. If sub-societal groups see things differently from the majority, Waever et al. offer no criteria by which to judge and resolve the dispute. For them, society has an identity by definition. People do not choose it; they recognize it, they belong to it.32 This is sociologically untenable. It is blind to the moral choices which go into the melting-pot of the process of identity formation. To answer the question raised above: individual and group choices come to cohere in a societal identity—when they do—only by virtue of higher-level moral decisions about what counts and what does not in the image we want to have of ourselves. Whether it is the state, the Supreme Court or simply the most powerful hidden interests which settle the matter is less important than that we recognize the inescapable ethical judgment in the process of choosing the components of a collective identity. These agencies are political instruments, made necessary by the fact that social order requires a referee with the mandate to speak for society. In Buzan (1991), as noted, the state was not only given the political mandate in relation to security, it was also ontologically identified with the needs and rights of the people whose security was at stake. The moral judgment involved in Buzan’s account is hidden within the function of the state. In the new focus on societal identity, there is no referee and there are no criteria for legitimizing decisions about identity. In effect, the construction of identity and the resolution of identity disputes are left to emerge, incorrigible and beyond assessment, from the mysterious workings of society. The element of normative judgment in the negotiations which constitute the permanent process of identity formation is lost. Collective identity is not ‘out there’, waiting to be discovered. What is ‘out there’ is identity discourse on the part of political leaders, intellectuals and countless others, who engage in the process of constructing, negotiating and affirming a response to the demand—at times urgent, mostly absent—for a collective image. Even in times of crisis, this is never more than a provisional and fluid image of ourselves as we want to be, limited by the facts of history. The relevance of this argument to the concept of societal security should be clear.