Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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

The current rise of nationalism and identity politics has driven a heated and contentious debate in both Europe and America over what it means to be a citizen of a country or a part of a larger community of nations (as is the case of individuals in Europe). Francis Fukuyama’s Identity attempts to parse through the rise of identity politics in democracies and discusses what the effects of this current realm of politics is having on the democracy and on self-value.

Fukuyama spends a fair bit of time tying in psychological and personal connections to the landscape by weaving politics with personal dignity and value, arguing that the current state of political affairs is driven by grievances that are herded in smaller and smaller tents than by greater socioeconomic issues. He ties into historical context by sharing the ebb and flow of nationalism through the centuries and how the definition of identity of one’s self has largely remained centered around language, culture, and shared values (and in history’s darker episodes, used for evil and not good). He props up the idea that increasing fragmentation, political polarization, and social media have driven a large chunk of today’s political landscape and that sensible reforms are needed from political leadership. More important, the courage to make those reforms is necessary given what the author argues that vetocracy (lobbyists and special interest groups) has prevented many needed reforms from taking place, specifically in America.

For 183 pages, Identity provides an effective short-form read into Fukuyama’s thoughts on nationalism and the political landscape in the West. It is a bit simplistic in some respects, such as painting this debate in a mostly left-right context when some of the issues about immigration and economics find similar strains in both left and right politics. But it is effective in shaping the argument that reforms and political courage are needed to address the problems facing the West before things get more heated and arguably worse.