When I'm asked what I believe is the birthplace of contemporary "left-wing" identity politics (idpol for short), I invariably answer the following: the decaying New Left of the '70s, militant groups who gradually abandoned socialist rhetoric when world revolution didn't materialize and moved their focus away from the proletariat and towards "oppressed people", "discriminated minorities" or "subaltern classes" as potential revolutionary subjects. That was the beginning of the post-Marxist "radical" left — radical in name only, of course.
The thing is, that doesn't tell the whole story. The New Left and what came out of it were mostly fringe groups who had all but vanished by the late '80s with the triumph of neo-liberalism. How exactly did idpol become mainstream? It's definitely true some ex-New Leftists found their way into bourgeois institutions, carved in a place for themselves and became moderate politicians (like Cohn-Bendit, a radical student leader during the May 68 events in France turned milquetoast pro-EU green-liberal)… but you can't really pin a paradigm shift on their existence alone.
I was born in 1991. By the time I was interested in politics, we were in the mid-2000s. And the fact is: I don't remember idpol being an actual force in progressive political discourse back then — neither in Europe nor the US. To me, the prototypical rank-and-file liberal of the turn of the millennium was some guy or gal who liked Michael Moore — who isn't exactly a subtle commentator, sure, but at the very least willing to deal with economics, even to name and question capitalism if superficially.
When you think about it, the election of Barrack Obama had a lot to do with his (promised and unsurprisingly unfulfilled) progressive economic policies — even when race entered the debate. But what did we get last year? Candidates who defined themselves as the first woman president and as an angry white male, who were supported by #BLM slacktivists and Kekistani trolls, respectively. If anything, I feel like Bernie Sanders wouldn't have been considered all that radical by a '90s liberal.
I think it would be in our theoretic interest to establish a genealogy of idpol.