‘Identity and Its Vicissitudes Hegel’s ‘Logic of Essence’ as a Theory of Ideology’ by Slavoj Žižek

…When dealing with the theme ‘Hegel and identity’, one should never forget that identity emerges only in the logic of essence, as a ‘determination-of-reflection’: what Hegel calls ‘identity’ is not a simple self-equality of any notional determination (red is red, winter is winter . . .); it is the identity of an essence which ‘stays the same’ beyond the ever-changing flow of appearances. But how are we to determine this identity? If we try to seize the thing as it is ‘in itself, irrespective of its relation to other things, its specific identity eludes us and we cannot say anything about it; the thing coincides with all other things. Rather, we must say that identity hinges upon what makes a difference. But the moment we grasp that the ‘identity’ of an entity consists of the cluster of its differential features, we pass from identity to difference. The social identity of a person X, for example, is composed of the cluster of its social mandates which are all by definition differential: a person is ‘father’ only in relation to ‘mother’ and ‘son’; in another relation, he is himself ‘son’, and so on…

(Paper as published in Ernesto Laclau’s The Making of Political Identities.)

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