Cover image for Identity : the demand for dignity and the politics of resentment
Identity : the demand for dignity and the politics of resentment
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.

Physical Description:
xvii, 218 pages : 1 illustration ; 22 cm
Preface -- The politics of dignity -- The third part of the soul -- Inside and outside -- From dignity to democracy -- Revolutions of dignity -- Expressive individualism -- Nationalism and religion -- The wrong address -- Invisible man -- The democratization of dignity -- From identity to identities -- We the people -- Stories of peoplehood -- What is to be done?
Demand for recognition of one's identity is a master concept that unifies much of what is going on in world politics today. Fukuyama offers a provocative examination of modern identity politics: its origins, its effects, and what it means for domestic and international affairs of state. He shows that we must begin to shape identity in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy. Unless we forge a universal understanding of human dignity, we will doom ourselves to continuing conflict. -- adapted from jacket


Material Type
Call Number
Book 320.019 Fukuy
Book 320.019 Fukuy
Book 320.019 Fukuy
Book 320.019 Fukuy

On Order



The New York Times bestselling author of The Origins of Political Order offers a provocative examination of modern identity politics: its origins, its effects, and what it means for domestic and international affairs of state

In 2014, Francis Fukuyama wrote that American institutions were in decay, as the state was progressively captured by powerful interest groups. Two years later, his predictions were borne out by the rise to power of a series of political outsiders whose economic nationalism and authoritarian tendencies threatened to destabilize the entire international order. These populist nationalists seek direct charismatic connection to "the people," who are usually defined in narrow identity terms that offer an irresistible call to an in-group and exclude large parts of the population as a whole.

Demand for recognition of one's identity is a master concept that unifies much of what is going on in world politics today. The universal recognition on which liberal democracy is based has been increasingly challenged by narrower forms of recognition based on nation, religion, sect, race, ethnicity, or gender, which have resulted in anti-immigrant populism, the upsurge of politicized Islam, the fractious "identity liberalism" of college campuses, and the emergence of white nationalism.Populist nationalism, said to be rooted in economic motivation, actually springs from the demand for recognition and therefore cannot simply be satisfied by economic means. The demand for identity cannot be transcended; we must begin to shape identity in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy.

Identity is an urgent and necessary book--a sharp warning that unless we forge a universal understanding of human dignity, we will doom ourselves to continuing conflict.

Author Notes

Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama was born October 27, 1952 in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Fukuyama received his Bachelor of Arts degree in classics from Cornell University, where he studied political philosophy under Allan Bloom. He initially pursued graduate studies in comparative literature at Yale University, going to Paris for six months to study under Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida, but became disillusioned and switched to political science at Harvard University. There, he studied with Samuel P. Huntington and Harvey Mansfield, among others. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard for his thesis on Soviet threats to intervene in the Middle East. In 1979, he joined the global policy think tank RAND Corporation. Fukuyama was the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University from 1996 to 2000. Until July 10, 2010, he was the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the International Development Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, located in Washington, D.C. He is now Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow and resident in the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Fukuyama is best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies is largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal democracy after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Fukuyama predicted the eventual global triumph of political and economic liberalism. He has written a number of other books, among them Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity and Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. His latest work The Origins of Political Order: From Prehistoric Times to the French Revolution made Publisher's Weekly Best Seller's List for 2011.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Political scientist Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man) makes an ambitious and provocative critique of identity politics, which he locates in both the leftist crusade for equality for marginalized people and right-wing ethnonationalism and "economic anxieties," which he says are "actually rooted in the demand for recognition." He organizes his analysis around the concept of thymos, "the part of the soul that craves recognition of dignity," which results in either "a desire to be respected on an equal basis with other people" (which, thwarted by marginalization, spurs leftist identity politics), or a "desire to be recognized as superior" (which he connects to dictatorial leaders). He draws from philosophers such as Hegel and Marx; traces the ascendancy of modern liberal democracies, specifically the French Revolution; and turns a critical lens on the Arab Spring, Europe's immigrant crisis, and Donald Trump to argue that identity politics has morphed into a "politics of resentment." The analysis ends with proposals for promoting broader conceptions of identity that bring people together to support liberal democracy's functioning. This erudite work is likely to spark debate. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Leading political theorist Fukuyama (Political Order and Political Decay, 2014) suggests that liberal democracy is in global crisis because of knotty, interrelated problems having to do with thymos, the human desire for dignity and respect. An ancient concept, thymos is described by Plato as the source of both anger and pride, a permanent part of human nature and the foundation of social hierarchy. But modern concepts of personhood have universalized notions of dignity and allowed the private quest for self to become a political project. So now, economic inequality and rapid, disruptive change have intensified identity confusion and exacerbated age-old tensions between the isothymic, who demand to be respected equally with others, and the megalothymic, who insist upon being respected as superior. Thus, democratic institutions strained by tribalism and the politics of resentment. The solution, suggests Fukuyama, is not rejection of identity politics, but rather a reinvigorated creedal identity in which national identity is tied to shared values as opposed to race, ethnicity, or religion so that thymos is channeled into constructive ends, like civic engagement. Keenly thought-provoking and timely.--Brendan Driscoll Copyright 2018 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

A JAPANESE-AMERICAN political scientist and a Ghanaian-British-American philosopher walk into a bar where a brawl over identity is underway. "Stop fighting!" the philosopher cries. "The identities you're fighting for are lies." The political scientist steps forward. "They're not lies," he says. "They're just the wrong identities to be fighting for!" The scholars succeed in ending the conflict, because the brawlers leave for a less contentious bar. The political scientist in my meh joke is Francis Fukuyama, who famously declared "the end of history," and then, when history continued, said it depends on what the meaning of the word "end" is. The philosopher is Kwame Anthony Appiah, a cosmopolitan by background and choice who argues that we are all citizens of the world. The bar, sadly, is our brawling country - and others like it. Here are a couple of sage Ph.D.s seeing if they might intervene in the identity wars now plaguing so many nations. Both books belong to one of today's most important genres: the Not-About-Trump-But-AlsoSort-Of-About-Trump, or N.A.T.B.A?S.O.A.T., book. There is a hunger to understand this moment, but from a remove. And both books help explain so much more than Trump. #MeToo. White nationalism. Hindu nationalism. Black Lives Matter. Campus debates about privilege and appropriation. Syria. Islamism. The spread of populism and retreat of democracy worldwide. The rise of the far right in Europe. The rise of the far left in the United States. All these phenomena throb with questions of identity, of "Who am I?" and "To what do I belong?" Appiah and Fukuyama seek out answers. Appiah believes we're in wars of identity because we keep making the same mistake: exaggerating our differences with others and our similarities with our own kind. We think of ourselves as part of monolithic tribes up against other tribes, whereas we each contain multitudes. Fukuyama, less a cosmopolitan and more a nation-state guy, has greater sympathy for people clinging to differences. He thinks it a natural response to our age - but also seems to believe that if we don't find a way to subsume narrow identities into national ones, we're all going to die. Appiah begins "The Lies That Bind" by observing that he, a man of ambiguous identity, is constantly asked, "What are you?" His book is an exploration of why people feel a need to pin identities down - to essentialize - and how to escape the pinning. Appiah's project is to point out our most common errors in thinking about five types of identity, all conveniently beginning with the letter "c": creed, country, color, class and culture. (This gimmick lends proof to his cosmopolitan idea: A British-born philosopher can also be an American salesman.) Among the errors we make: On "c" No. 1, creed, we tend to think of religions as "sets of immutable beliefs" instead of as "mutable practices and communities." We make religion a noun when it should really be a verb, which gives rise to fundamentalism. When religion is "revealed as an activity, not a thing," it is easier to accept that "it's the nature of activities to bring change." On country, we create "a forced choice between globalism and patriotism." We prefer people with simple answers to the question "What are you?"; we disparage and deport those Appiah calls "the confessors of ambivalence." We often forget that a modern, pluralist, liberal democracy like America is "not a fate but a project." On culture, he argues that we should "give up the very idea of Western civilization," because the notion of a distinct Western essence - "individualistic and democratic and liberty-minded and tolerant and progressive and rational and scientific" - ignores basic facts about the West and everywhere else. But just as people on the left finish clapping at that, he decries the left's complaints about "cultural appropriation," because culture is too complex to have a clear chain of title and, he says, because "those who parse these transgressions in terms of ownership have accepted a commercial system that's alien to the traditions they aim to protect." Appiah's writing is often fresh, even beautiful: 19th-century scientists who tried to make the non-thing of race a thing were being "recruited to give content to color." Fair warning, however: This book also traffics in a disconcerting amount of philosopher-speak - both the signposting tics of "I aim to persuade you that..." and substantive sentences like "Scholarly exegesis can also run athwart older ecclesiastic interpretations," which risk turning away many who need this book. If Appiah has a blind spot, it is in assuming that everyone can be as comfortably cosmopolitan as he. He quotes the Roman playwright Terence: "I am human, I think nothing human alien to me." "Now there's an identity that should bind us all," he writes. But this vision is afflicted by the same misappraisal of others that Barack Obama's father made when he returned to Kenya and dismissed its tribalisms as parochial and ended up a failure, according to Obama's aunt. "If everyone is family, no one is family," she told the future president. People like to belong to things small enough to feel. Fukuyama is more sympathetic to that need in "Identity." The assertion of particular identities, and the insistence that respect be paid to them, is a hallmark of our age. And it is, in his telling, not because people are bad at reasoning or narrow, but because of how discombobulating our age has been. GLOBALIZATION, THE INTERNET, automation, mass migration, the emergence of India and China, the financial crisis of 2008, the rise of women and their displacing of men in more service-oriented economies, the civil rights movement and the emancipation of other groups and the loss of status for white people - these are just some of what we have lived through of late. Yes, the world has gotten better for hundreds of millions. But Fukuyama reminds us that across much of the West, people have suffered dislocation and elites have captured the fruits. Amid these changes, Fukuyama writes, identity politics has come to the fore, and it has become our common culture, no longer the province of a party or side. In American politics, for example, the left used to focus on economic equality, he argues, and the right on limited government. Today, the left concentrates on "promoting the interests of a wide variety of groups perceived as being marginalized," whereas the right "is redefining itself as patriots who seek to protect traditional national identity, an identity that is often explicitly connected to race, ethnicity or religion." Fukuyama suggests that we are living in an era in which the sense of being dismissed, rather than material interest, is the locomotive of human affairs. The rulers of Russia, Hungary and China are driven by past national humiliations. Osama bin Laden was driven by the treatment of Palestinians. Black Lives Matter has been driven by the fatal disrespect of the police. And a large swath of the American right, which claims to loathe identity politics, is driven by its own perception of being dissed. Unlike many avuncular critics of identity politics, Fukuyama is sympathetic to the good such politics does - above all, making the privileged aware of their effect on marginalized groups. "Outsiders to those groups often fail to perceive the harm they are doing by their actions," he writes. Fukuyama does have his criticisms, however. He fears identity politics "has become a cheap substitute for serious thinking about how to reverse the 30-year trend in most liberal democracies toward greater socioeconomic inequality." Fukuyama worries that the "woker" the left gets on identity issues, the weaker it gets on offering a critique of capitalism. Unlike Appiah, Fukuyama doesn't seem to think it's possible or desirable for humans to see themselves as human before all else. He is a believer in the nation-state as a healthy unit of human affairs, and he spends the final part of his smart, crisp book exploring how countries can cultivate "integrative national identities" that are rooted in liberal and democratic values - identities large enough to be inclusive, but small enough to give people a real sense of agency over their society. A low-key shortcoming of Fukuyama's book is that, like Appiah's, it is a book about books about books. On the one hand, theorists gotta theorize. On the other, with an issue so fraught and a world so full of rage, each author could have made good use of a rental car and the Voice Memos app. For all their strengths, both books lack the earth and funk and complexity of dreaming, hurting human beings. We need more thinkers as wise as Appiah and Fukuyama digging their fingers into the soil of our predicament. And we need more readers reading what they harvest. ANAND GlRlDHARADAS is the author of "Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World."

Choice Review

In Identity, Fukuyama (Hoover) attempts to explain the emergence of nationalist movements in the US, Great Britain, and elsewhere, as well as the attraction of jihadist movements among second-generation European Muslims. He suggests that the liberal world did not benefit everyone. Rising inequality within nations has led to feelings of invisibility and resentment. The white working classes have seen their earning potential decline with little attention paid to that reality by those who had previously championed the working class. With the Left seeking policy reform for those most marginalized, the needs of the working class have been forgotten. Similarly, young Muslims living in the West feel caught between two worlds, not accepted by the countries in which they live nor feeling close to the culture of their parents. Nationalist and religious movements based in identity politics have allowed both to reclaim their dignity and pride, and to be visible again. In order to move beyond such rigid views of nationalism, Fukuyama suggests the need for policies encouraging nationalism based on democratic ideals as opposed to ones based on race, religion, or even multiculturalism. Highly recommended. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. --Marie Olson Lounsbery, East Carolina University