cover image Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment

Francis Fukuyama. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-12929-3

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.)