Ram Madhav
May 4, 2020

Identity – Contemporary Identity Politics and the struggle for recognition

Author: Francis Fukuyama

Fukuyama doesn’t generally disappoint. But not with this book.

‘Identity’, his latest book published in 2018, is his critique of the identity politics in the world. It is a known fact that the phrase ‘identity politics’ was a Liberal invention to decry growing nationalist sentiments in different parts of the world. In this book Fukuyama offers a not-so-convincing analysis about the question of identity in politics of the world today.

Interestingly, Fukuyama starts the book by trying to justify his much criticised 1992 book ‘End of History and the Last Man’. That book was authored by Fukuyama at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union to argue that the only way left for the world to follow was the American Liberal Democratic way. Contesting criticisms of his thesis Fukuyama gives different meanings to the words End and History in the title of that book. Word History meant long term evolution of institutions and the word End meant target, he tries to explain away.

This book ‘Identity’ is a continuation of the 1992 argument of Fukuyama that in a world driven by identity politics the only identity that everything else should converge in is the Liberal Democratic identity. Elsewhere, Fukuyama argued that Liberal Democracy is the only secular idea generated in the world in last three centuries.

Fukuyama equates nationalism with Islamism and portrays both as narrow and rigid. Sounding neutral, he also questions the so-called political correctness of the Left in not objecting to the identity politics of smaller groups like the minorities and immigrants.

The book traces the history of man’s quest for identity in Greek literature and concedes that identity and dignity have always played a role in politics. The last two chapters’ standout somewhat, in which Fukuyama discusses about immigration and integration.

One interestingly conspicuous omission in the book is references to India. Except for two minor mentions, the book doesn’t discuss India at all. Even when he mentions about the diverse cuisine in Washington DC, Fukuyama talks about the Chinese cuisine and also ‘Ethiopian, Peruvian, Cambodian and Pakistani’ but doesn’t mention Indian cuisine. It is obvious that no discussion on the issues of nationalism and identity can be meaningful without discussing Indian politics. On that count too the book disappoints.

However, an important addition in the political science discourse

Published by Ram Madhav

Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation

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