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Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment Hardcover – 4 Oct 2018
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As wise as it is compact, travelling at great speed through difficult terrain to a sensible conclusion. (Daniel Finkelstein Times)
As a primer on the big political shift of our times, and an explainer of how we got here, this is not a book to pass by (Andrew Marr Sunday Times)
Sweeping and ambitious (Nesrine Malik Prospect)
A useful primer on an important subject (David Goodhart Literary Review)
Praise for Origins of Political Order:
'Fukuyama remains as prominent as ever'(Financial Times)
Praise for The Origins of Political Order:
It should be read by every democrat - and every dictator.
Fukuyama writes clear prose and is a pleasure to read. (The Times)
The divisive impacts of identity politics laid bare by the bestselling author of The Origins of Political Order and The End of HistorySee all Product description
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Apart from its wide perspective and very-readable writing, what sets this book apart for me is the author's ability to provide perspectives from across the political spectrum on the core issues discussed, resulting in this rare phenomenon at our current times: a balanced discussion, rather than a one-sided 'left' or 'right' polemic.
I found this book excellent, educational, and thought-provoking.
He draws on Plato, Luther, Hegel, Kant, and Rousseau, among others, to show how philosophers of the antiquity and the enlightenment conceptualized dignity and identity but it is really from the 1960s that Fukuyama sees the development of identity politics as we know it today, pointing to the emergence of ever smaller marginalized groups calling for recognition of their dignity.
Fukuyama sees identity politics as both constructive and destructive. Constructively, demands on the part of individuals or groups to have their dignity recognized - whether these groups are ethnic or religious minorities, womens' rights advocates or LGBT activists - is inherently a positive process. But sometimes these demands can morph into something else, take on violent, intolerant overtones, and ultimately lead to the erosion of common, broader identities that Fukuyama deems indispensable for the preservation of the modern democratic state.
Towards the end of the book, in a chapter titled in a Leninist fashion "What is to be done," the author offers a number of ideas that would mitigate against the destructive effects of identity politics, such as: the creation of national identity narratives through education and mandatory service; assimilation programmes for immigrants; addressing income inequality, etc. This part of the book reads more like a political pamphlet, and it's the part I liked the least.
Early on in the book Fukuyama highlights how isothymia and megalothymia operates at the international level. Thus, on a few occasions he refers to Putin as an interesting example of someone striving to have his (or his country's) dignity recognized, or at least drawing on the people's craving for recognition to maintain his hold on power. Fukuyama does not explore this subject at greater length. He also does not touch on the idea of American exceptionalism, although, using his own terminology, it's one of the clearest examples of megalothymia yet. Fukuyama suggests that megalothymia cannot be eradicated altogether; it can only be properly channeled but he stops short of offering solutions for channeling American exceptionalism. Indeed, the only exceptionalism that comes up in the book is "English exceptionalism" (???).
Another tantalizing question merely raised but never explored is this: Fukuyama suggests that isothymia (or megalothymia) is omnipresent but he also notes that there is natural inequality in things. Some people (societies?) are clearly more worthy of our recognition than others. He drops it there, though, and it's too bad, for this can of worms could've led to a very interesting debate.
I see Fukuyama's book as a useful starting point for further discussion. It's remarkable for what it says and for what it does not say, and tells us as much about Fukuyama's personal views and agendas as it does about the world he seeks to describe. My recommendation: everyone should read.
Only got the audiobook to take advantage of its earlier release - the voicing is perfectly good though it is not broken down track by track into chapters. This is a disappointment, minor though it is as you can just note up the chapter times as you go.
Book itself overviews Trump (given as a primary motivation of the book, though given the depth of research and thinking I find this hard to believe), Brexit, Grexit, 2008 Fin. crisis, Chinese growth, Russian antagonism, Ancient Greek thought etc. - lots in there and all tied together well to provide a meaningful theory of just what is motivating our increasingly partisan, polarised and emotional politics.
Give it a read, listen, and if you have not thought on these matters before, you will likely see politics in a new (less emotional!) light.