Republican meritocracy, identity politics and the idea of reverse reparation: commentary

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this commentary I take issue with Torpey's claim that political developments at the dawn of the new millennium caused liberal democracies to tilt away from those visions that have the potential of promoting an inclusive and just society. I argue that the politics of identity and its modes of repair do not necessarily undermine these visions but rather render them often possible and even infuse them with their true meaning. I present my argument against Israel's recent policies to privatize state-owned lands and of the various strategies employed by different social groups to influence these policies in their favor. These policies, I claim, involve all the ingredients that figure in Torpey's lamentation against the politics of identity and its modes of repair. In a way, they buttress Torpey's disdain for the politics of difference, for they show how the category of culture or cultural affiliation figure detrimentally in the articulation of social groups' demands for reparation based on their past. But nonetheless, and in contrast to his condemnation of identity politics, I present this account with the aim of underscoring its significance and of stressing the importance of reparation as a means to promote equal and full citizenship. My claim is that social and political arrangements in the nation-state are so ordered - either formally or informally - that they promote the interests of the dominant groups, based on their alleged past contribution to the res public, i.e., the common good of the nation. Put differently, the promotion of these interests is grounded in what we may label republican meritocracy. Republican meritocracy amounts to a reward system allocating benefits to dominant groups for the efforts they allegedly exerted in the past in promoting the 'vital interests' of the nation. Thus, this system takes on board the notion of compensation but incorporates it within a meritocratic system. It does not grant these groups with a compensation for past injustices inflicted upon them but a compensation for their alleged past contribution to the nation. Hence, when marginalized and oppressed groups embark upon identity politics they do not actually depart from a political system that looks askance at the idea of reparation and compensation, but rather they employ moral vocabulary which is already embedded in that system.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitical Power and Social Theory
EditorsDiane Davis
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2007

Publication series

NamePolitical Power and Social Theory
ISSN (Print)0198-8719

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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