Sunday, November 11, 2018

Francis Fukuyama: 'Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment' (2018)

Francis Fukuyama: Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.

On this centenary of the end of the First World War, Identity is relevant to an understanding of that conflict and today's world.

"The great struggles in American political history -- over slavery and segregation, workers' rights, women's equality -- were ultimately demands that the political system expand the circle of individuals it recognized as having equal rights." (p. 22)

With identity politics in the 21st century, however, "desire for equal recognition can easily slide . . . into a demand for recognition of the group's superiority" -- for example, among nations, tribes, religious sects and ethnic groups. (p. 22)  

"Individuals come to believe that they have a true or authentic identity hiding within themselves that is somehow at odds with the role they are assigned by their surrounding society. The modern concept of identity places a supreme value on authenticity . . . (p. [25])

The "Arab Spring" begins in Tunisia on December 17, 2010. (p. [42])

Various uprisings sparked by desire for dignity. (pp. 44-48). Scapegoating used by rulers to divide opposition. 

"The desire for the state to recognize one's basic dignity has been at the core of democratic movements since the French Revolution." (p. 49)

Gemeinschaft (village) to Gesellschaft (urban) demographic shift over time, especially since 1900. "The dislocation . . . laid the basis for an ideology of nationalism based on an intense nostalgia for an imagined past of strong community in which the divisions and confusions of a pluralist society did not exist." (p. 65)

Deterioration of "middle-class status may then explain the rise of populist nationalism in many parts of the world in the second decade of the twenty-first century." In the USA, "the working class, defined as people with a high school education and less, has not been doing well over the past generation." (p. 87)

". . . resentful citizens fearing loss of middle-class status point an accusatory finger upward to the elites . . . but also downward to the poor, whom they feel are undeserving and . . . unfairly favored." (p. 88).

"White nationalism has a long history in Europe, where it is called fascism." (p. 121) Ethno-nationalism, ethnic cleansing. Anti-immigrant sentiment is back on the rise due to refugee crises, especially since the Arab Spring, blaming the refugees rather than the causes. 

"National identity begins with a shared belief in the legitimacy of the country's political system, whether that system is democratic or not . . . [It] also extends into the realm of culture and values. . . what it takes to become a genuine member of the community." (p. 126). Diversity. Resilience. Resistance to complete homogenization. (p. 127) 

"National identities can be built around liberal and democratic political values, and the common experiences that provide connective tissue around which diverse communities can thrive." (p. 128)

"Citizenship is a two-way street: it endows citizens with rights that are protected by the state, but it also enjoins duties on them, above all, the duty of loyalty to the country's principles and laws." (p. 148)

Results of the American Civil War. XIII, XIV and XV Amendments. "Identity has to be related to substantive ideas such as constitutionalism, rule of law, and human equality." (p. 171)

A thoughtful book.

Today's Rune: Strength. 

No comments: