He was a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows — Kaddish, a National Book Award finalist in , and a National Jewish Book Award winner in the Nonfiction category in ,  is a genre-blending meditation on the Jewish prayers of mourning. Against Identity is a collection of thoughts about the modern notion of identity. Wieseltier served on the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and was a prominent advocate of the Iraq War. After it was revealed on October 24, that several former employees had accused Wieseltier of sexual harassment and inappropriate advances,   Wieseltier apologized to the women and admitted to "offenses against some of my colleagues in the past.
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Subscribe An idea whose time has gone. Every culture has its preferred description of the human distinction. These descriptions are analytical and homiletical. We call ourselves not only what we are, but also what we seek to be. This is stirring, but it is also corrupting. It allows us to see the one in the other, to mistake what we aspire to be for what we are. In America, but not only in America, we are choking on identity. And not only on the identity of others; we are choking also on the identity of our own.
What if the disgruntlement of America is owed to something deeper than reading lists and admissions policies and schemes of preferment? What if we are presenting ourselves to each other, and to ourselves, in a manner that simplifies, and distorts, and provokes?
What if we are preferring a coarse and troublesome description? You hear it over and over again. Identity, according to Erik Erikson, writing in the s, is "vague," "ambiguous," "unfathomable," "colloquial," "naive," "all-pervasive. But what was it? For many intellectuals in post-war America, identity was what alienation was not. For Erikson, it was a slogan for the end of childhood, for the crucible of adolescence, for the success of socialization.
Identity smelled like teen spirit. He made identity into a romance. The idea of identity originates, of course, in logic. This is an assertion of sameness and an assertion of difference.
An object is the same as all the objects that are like itself, and it is different from all the objects that are not like itself. Now consider an analogy between the logical relation and the social relation. The question, What is your identity? Identity, in other words, is a euphemism for conformity.
It announces a desire to be subsumed, an eagerness to be known primarily by a common characteristic. I say primarily, since identity need not be perfect to be strong. Logicians talk of "identity in difference.
And it is never the case, even with simple objects, that there is a single criterion of identity. The ascription of identity, then, is the consequence of a choice among the criteria of identity. We have many likenesses, but we do not reward them all with significance. This is also a way of saying that A does not equal B. Which might bruise B. There is solace, to be sure.
But this is also a way of saying that B does not equal A. Which might bruise A. Identity is very social, but it is not very sociable.
For the definition of the individual that it provides is not least a negative definition, a definition not only in terms of what one is, but also in terms of what one is not; and such a definition of the same will often be experienced by the other as a rejection.
Identity is an insulation; a doctrine of aversion; an exaltation of impassability. The bad news and for democrats, the good news is that the insulation is never adequate. The borders are permeable, and strange gods slip across.
Identity is not to be mistaken for individuality. Individuality is ancient, identity is modern. It is never long before identity is reduced to loyalty. An affiliation is not an experience. It is, in fact, a surrogate for experience.
Where the faith in God is wanting, there is still religious identity. Where the bed is cold and empty, there is still sexual identity. Where the words of the fathers are forgotten, there is still ethnic identity. The thinner the identity, the louder. The hardest thing in America is to be what one is softly. Private identity is an oxymoron.
Identity is public; it is how one is known. Secret identity, by contrast, is entirely possible. It is not a reflection of inward realities, but of outward realities.
Secret identity is a stratagem for survival, the characteristic improvisation of a minority in danger. It has a long, bleak past. The history of the Jews is replete with instances of desperate and dignified self-concealment, most dramatically in fifteenth-century Spain, and so is the history of homosexuality.
For all the African American anxiety about "passing," it is one of the defining hardships of this minority that its identity cannot be hidden.
Identity in bad times is not like identity in good times. The vigorous expression of identity in the face of oppression is not an exercise of narcissism, it is an exercise of heroism.
And those qualities of identity that seem vexing in good times -- the soldierliness and the obsession with solidarity, the renunciation of individual development in the name of collective development, the reliance on symbolic action, the belief in the cruelty of the world and the eternity of struggle -- are precisely the qualities that provide the social and psychological foundations for resistance.
For this reason, it is impertinent to address the criticism of identity to those whose existence is threatened. Still, justice sometimes comes. And when it comes, it is sometimes bewildering, because it proposes peace to selves that have been arranged for war.
The identity that altered history yesterday is redundant today. The outer discontinuity demands an inner discontinuity, which is wrenching. Unless a rupture of identity is accomplished, there will be justice, but there will not be peace. Identity is too eager to commemorate itself. Or is this just Jewish identity? Who are you? Even when you know the answer, it is not an easy question. The spell of identity is not difficult to comprehend.
With his pained discussion of personal identity, Hume ended his quest for "the uninterrupted and invariable object. He found instead that "the mind is a kind of theatre Our eyes cannot turn in their sockets without varying our perceptions. Our thought is still more variable than our sight; and all our other senses and faculties contribute to this change; nor is there any single power of the soul, which remains unalterably the same, perhaps for one moment.
And this was two centuries before our bacchanal of associations! The stimulations have never been faster or fiercer than they are today.
We are unprecedentedly dispersed and unprecedentedly distracted. Hume took some comfort from the operation of memory, which confers a sense of continuity; but memory in the modern world is disappearing beneath the assault of associations. We are carrying too much. We are falling out of our hands.
We need a basket. The name of the basket is identity. We have a craving for specificity, but we love also to sneak away from specificity. We want to be one thing, but not any longer this one thing or again that one thing. We have a fear of being nothing and a fantasy of being everything, but we do not see that everything is a busy version of nothing. It is the enemy of "the protean self. The protean self need not be just here or there but can be here and there Lifton is right that the self is resilient; but surely resilience is the antithesis of malleability.
To change is to survive, but it is not to resist. And "here and there" is not an easy trick. There is a difference between living doubly and living promiscuously. The "protean self" is the promiscuous self, the suave and shallow self, the self that adopts the standpoint of the consumer as an ideal of life, the self that views tragedy as a variety of stress, the self that stands in dread of silence. Lifton has provided the psychology of post-modernism.
And Clintonism. Proteus, remember, was not resilient, he was slippery. He had an objective in transforming himself into a lion and a serpent and a boar and a tree, but it was not the cultivation of his personality. Identity, at least, is prepared to take questions.
As those allegations came to light, Laurene Powell Jobs, a leading philanthropist whose for-profit organization, Emerson Collective, was backing Mr. But stories about Mr. Over the past week, a group of women who once worked at The New Republic had been exchanging emails about their own accounts of Mr. Several women on the chain said they were humiliated when Mr. Wieseltier sloppily kissed them on the mouth, sometimes in front of other staff members. Others said he discussed his sex life, once describing the breasts of a former girlfriend in detail. Wieseltier made passes at female staffers, they said, and pressed them for details about their own sexual encounters.
Leon Wieseltier Admits ‘Offenses’ Against Female Colleagues as New Magazine Is Killed
Nijas This is also a discussion of tradition, contingency and authenticity. The New York Times Magazine. No trivia or quizzes yet. Kaddish, a National Book Award finalist inis a genre-blending meditation on the Jewish prayers of mourning. Alexis rated it really liked it Aug 29, Emerson Collective executive Laurene Powell Jobs withdrew funding for a journal Wieseltier was working on and later fired him. This page was last edited on 20 Novemberat Brooks Mcsmith marked it as to-read Jan 03, Yasmin marked it as to-read Jan 07, Chad Hall marked it as to-read Apr 21, Brookings iweseltier him with pay, then later announced he was no longer employed there.
Subscribe An idea whose time has gone. Every culture has its preferred description of the human distinction. These descriptions are analytical and homiletical. We call ourselves not only what we are, but also what we seek to be. This is stirring, but it is also corrupting. It allows us to see the one in the other, to mistake what we aspire to be for what we are. In America, but not only in America, we are choking on identity.