Thursday, March 7, 2019

IDENTITY: A NEW FORCE IN MODERN POLITICS

Originally this book was to be reviewed shortly after reading, but work bogged me down and I ended up reading two other books before finding time for another blog.  Ironically I learned more about the the author Francis Fukuyama.  He is famous for "The End of History" which I had not read.  In it he apparently proclaimed that all history had led to our modern status quo which Francis thought was destined to boost democracy and progressiveness indefinitely  This was made necessary because Trump set history backwards.

Politicians have been trying to figure out how best to attract enough voters to get elected.  Francis Fukuyama explores the issue of identity which is a critical factor that some politicians understand better than others.

Economic motivation is rooted in the demand for recognition and therefore cannot be satisfied by economic means.  For many leaders it is felt that if the incentives are right a worker, citizen will be motivated.  Francis goes beyond that implying that people have come to recognize money is one important tool to be recognized.  Money is one marker of status. 

Back in 1974 the proportion of national output going to the 1% was only 9%, but in 2008 it had risen to 24%.  That was at the expense of the rest of the population and the victims were looking for someone to blame.

Fukuyama credits Martin Luther as one of the first Western thinkers to extol the inner self or the external social being.  Humiliation drove many movements with one of the best examples the French Revolution.  The growth of liberalism led to the free movement of labor.  Two of the most liberal nations, Britain and the United States were drivers of industrialization.  Ironically (?) inequality in developed world is most pronounced in the same two countries.

Simone de Beauvoir wrote that the experiences of women not the same as for men and helped promote idea to boost the status of women.  Over time other aggrieved groups, racial minorities, gays, transgenders who developed a conscience of being treated unfairly.  Fukuyama contends that nations need to develop national identities. 

United States was mostly settled by the British, but Irish Catholics starting immigrating around the 1840's.  Southern and eastern Europeans followed and were also resented.  In World War I many Germans tried to hide their identity.  in the 20th century and more so in the 21st, Mexicans and Muslims are becoming more noticeable and causing politicians like Sarah Palin to comment on the "real America" and Donald Trump wants to "make America great again."

Fukuyama advocates that minority abuses have to be corrected.  Assimilation has to be encouraged.  Economic stress needs to be mitigated as resentment starts with loss of status.  Social media facilities the formation of groups and also misinformation to spread.

Identity has been used to divide people, but it also can and has been used to integrate.  My little review necessarily skims over much of Fukuyama's arguments which are well worth reading.

After reading it was brought to my attention that Stacey Abrams rebutted some Fukuyama's arguments during her response to the State of the Union speech.

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