This week’s reading discussed social movements and their various attempts at establishing a definitive and encompassing identity. Mary Bernstein’s article discussed not only the identity within the burgeoning gay rights movement, but how various factions of the movement have pushed for considerably different identities. Bernstein argues that many social movements often operate under various ideologies about what their social identity should encompass. Two of her main points are the difference between Identity for Education and Identity for Critique. Her article attempts to lay an applicable groundwork for analyzing various other social movements, but it fails to take into account the fact that social movement identities are not as easily categorized into definitive identity markers. Amendment 64 in Colorado proves that successful actions for social movements can often be a fusion of the disparate identities to which Bernstein references.
Colorado’s legalization of marijuana was an unprecedented political action that simultaneously represented the legalization of marijuana’s Identity for Critique as well as its Identity for Education. At first glance, Colorado’s amendment 64 appears to be a clear case of what Bernstein would call Identity for Education. As opposed to a policy enacted by people in positions of power, the state’s law was a referendum that gave the citizens the ability to pass the amendment. It was a law that would grant the marijuana movement governmental legitimacy and act as an educational tool for the rest of the country to see its formalized, legitimate presence as a social movement. My criticism of Bernstein’s identity binary is that amendment 64 was equally an example of Identity for Critique. I would argue that social movements in America do not gain traction without approval from political elites. The referendum in Colorado was not a purely citizen-sponsored amendment; it was first approved by the secretary of state and then ratified by the governor. This implementation of social policy through powerful political figures is what Bernstein refers to as Identity for Critique. As opposed to her writing which provides almost a reductive ideal of binary identities within social movements, Amendment 64 represented the harmony that is often necessary for social progress to occur.
While Bernstein would probably acknowledge the multiple identities often working together in a movement, her argument is that one form of identity can characterize an entire facet of a social movement. I believe that while many instances have resulted in a definitive example of either Identity for Critique or Identity for Education, it cannot be used as a framework for social movements because often actions for a movement can be an equal combination of the two.