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Identity Reviews

Identity by Francis Fukuyama


Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition

Francis Fukuyama

3.13 out of 5

8 reviews

Imprint: Profile Books Ltd
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Publication date: 1 Oct 2018
ISBN: 9781781259801

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 continual conflict.

  • The Sunday TimesBooks of the Year
3 stars out of 5
Daniel Finkelstein
30 Sep 2018

"Francis Fukuyama is right about the destructiveness of identity politics, says Daniel Finkelstein."

An alternative, possibly more convincing, route would have taken him through the work of evolutionary psychologists. This might also have allowed him to question whether the search for dignity isn’t, in fact, separate from the drive for economic success, but merely part of it. Nonetheless, the book is convincing in the link it makes between dignity and identity politics and provides a clear account of the appeal of such politics... Identity is a short book, and at the beginning it is slightly ponderous. Yet once it gets going, after 30 pages or so, it is as wise as it is compact, travelling at great speed through difficult terrain to a sensible conclusion.


4 stars out of 5
12 Feb 2019

"animated by the urgency of our times"

 ...a necessary response to a shifting landscape... a call for compassion and empathy...  He advances a fluent and compelling notion of identity that brings together three interlocking strand... Francis Fukuyama is more prescriptive than Kwame Appiah but both are equally animated by the urgency of our times, arguing that, despite our differences, we are more connected than ever before...

3 stars out of 5
Tim Smith-Laing
16 Jan 2019

"a handy guide to a writer who, like him or not, ranks as one of the most influential political scientists of our time"

There are good reasons to be sceptical about our assumptions here, as Francis Fukuyama makes clear in this thought-provoking book. Is identity abnormally visible in current political discourse?... Fukuyama, always interested in the long view, gives his take on why identity is politically central. It stems, in his reading, from an eternal element of human nature, which he calls thymos, a term from Plato’s Republic.... For new readers, though, Identity will be a handy guide to a writer who, like him or not, ranks as one of the most influential political scientists of our time.

3 stars out of 5
24 Nov 2018

"Fukuyama not quite as sanguine about the future as he once was"

In terms of policy prescriptions, Fukuyama does not have much to offer beyond, for example, the (re)introduction of national service, whether civil or military, and the provision of meaningful pathways to citizenship for immigrant populations. He lauds assimilation over multiculturalism, and calls for stronger control of the EU’s external borders.

Fukuyama is as erudite as ever, but manages here also to make his writing accessible and digestible.

One is left, however, with the feeling that this comes at the price of being less intellectually nutritious than some of his earlier work. He is not afraid to ask big questions or to try to provide big answers. Identity addresses one of the most salient political questions of our times, but ultimately falls short in providing coherent, actionable answers.

3 stars out of 5
Andrew Marr
11 Nov 2018

"as a primer on the big political shift of our times, and an explainer of how we got here, this is not a book to pass by"

The single biggest flaw in this book is Fukuyama’s too-relaxed attitude to it. Indeed it has been argued that because the term “identity politics” embraces both minority campus revolt and a majoritarian white voter assertion, it is becoming too capacious to be any longer useful...Unfortunately, but probably inevitably, the final “what is to be done?” section of this short book is the weakest. Fukuyama wants a single citizenship for the EU and reform of US immigration law as well as more successful assimilation of minorities. It is a bit apple-pie. But as a primer on the big political shift of our times, and an explainer of how we got here, this is not a book to pass by.

3 stars out of 5
David Goodhart
1 Oct 2018

"Fukuyama is in his element"

Fukuyama is in his element as a populariser of complex ideas and the real strength of Identity is in providing a sweeping overview of the historical, religious and philosophical (though not psychological) origins of identity politics and the desire for recognition... Like all of us who write about these themes, Fukuyama is better at diagnoses than answers. The book, understandably, has a US bias, and Fukuyama’s generalisations about Europe and the EU are often rather shaky (and Ireland did not become independent in 1919). He seems to think that European countries still have a mainly ethnic conception of citizenship, an idea that is at least thirty years out of date. Moreover, while his main answer to the splintering effect of modern identity politics is not wrong, it is disappointingly unoriginal: establish broad and inclusive civic national identities reinforced by national service for young people and national curriculums in schools (most European countries already have the latter). If only it were so simple... Aside from these reservations, this is a useful primer on an important subject.

4 stars out of 5
Arjun Neil Alim
28 Sep 2018

"While The End of History celebrated the triumph of liberal democracy over the alternatives, Fukuyama’s new book focuses on the threat to the system today"

While The End of History celebrated the triumph of liberal democracy over the alternatives, Fukuyama’s new book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, focuses on the threat to the system today.

The book is centred on an inherent contradiction within our need for self-worth, for which Fukuyama uses the Greek thymos. We crave to be seen as both equal and superior to others. While the modern era, through democracy and international law, has brought about universal dignity for individuals, this achievement is a poisoned chalice.

3 stars out of 5
John Gray
26 Sep 2018

"As the far right rises across Europe, how can liberal democracies confront populist nationalism? New books by Francis Fukuyama and Kwame Anthony Appiah examine the perils of identity politics – but their solutions do not go far enough."

Though there is nothing novel in this story it contains some useful insights... Where Fukuyama falls down is in having no credible account of the rise of identity politics. “After 1989”, he tells us, countries from the former Soviet bloc “threw off communism and rushed into the EU, but many of their citizens did not embrace the positive liberal values embodied in the new Europe."... In the book’s final sentences he summarises his argument: “Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has also been used to integrate. That in the end will be the remedy for the populist politics of the present.” The politics of identity, then, can be good or bad. “In the end”, however, it will prove to be good. It is not a terribly illuminating conclusion. Why is the politics of identity so strong at the present time? Fukuyama says very little on this question.