Book Reviews

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama – Book Review

In this day and age, identity is a hot topic issue. It even sprouted a new name for politics: identity politics. Identity politics as the name suggests is politics based on identity, which is mostly characterized in groups, being race, gender, religion, etc. Fukuyama presents this rise in identity politics in a sort of search for dignity and a rise in resentment for not acknowledging their groups. People who place themselves into groups, feel like they aren’t dignified and that they don’t get any recognition or representation in politics. Hence, they use identarian politics to make their voices heard. They disregard the individual in contribution to the group.

            Fukuyama is against this groupthink. According to him, it is something populist nationalists like Trump use to acquire votes. This does not only happen on the right; it happens in the left just as much. Instead of focusing on identities, which just results in tribalism, we should focus on values. Many countries are beginning to become more and more nationalistic on the right and the left. Nationalism will not solve the big problems the world will have to face. Instead it will probably only increase them. Take climate change for example, this is a world problem and we need a world solution so the countries who are contributing the most to climate change and who are economically capable should contribute more to the solutions. If we go the nationalistic route, we won’t be able to do this.

            Identity politics is just the first step into tribalism. And it begins with the feeling of not being represented or not seen as someone with dignity, which is then extrapolated to the whole group. This way we can talk about group rights without talking about group responsibilities. This is problematic because having rights means that you have an intrinsic responsibility towards society. This is the reason we prosecute criminals. Because they don’t take their responsibilities, we don’t need to give them rights. We take away their right to freedom by putting them in jail because they have broken the social contract.

            This book is a great introduction into identity politics and the problems surrounding it. It gives a clear overview and an answer which will put the mind to work. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to know where the identity politics of this day and age came from. I believe it is a must read to really understand the politics that’s being played at the moment. It’s a dangerous game and only by understanding it can we make it harmless.

By elenchusphilosophy

Philosophy student from Ghent, Belgium. I write about what I find interesting which is about nearly anything. Though my guiding question in life is how to be a good person.

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