Books, Politics

A Better Theory of the Human Soul

An extract from Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 11, 2018)

Sometime in the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century, world politics changed dramatically.

The period from the early 1970s through the mid-2000s witnessed what Samuel Huntington labeled the “third wave” of democratization as the number of countries that could be classified as electoral democracies increased from about 35 to more than 110. In this period, liberal democracy became the default form of government for much of the world, at least in aspiration if not in practice.

In parallel to this shift in political institutions was a corresponding growth of economic interdependence among nations, or what we call globalization. The latter was underpinned by liberal economic institutions such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its successor, the World Trade Organization. These were supplemented by regional trade agreements such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Throughout this period, the rate of growth in international trade and investment outpaced global GDP growth and was widely seen as the major driver of prosperity. Between 1970 and 2008, the world’s output of goods and services quadrupled and growth extended to virtually all regions of the world, while the number of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries dropped from 42 percent of the total population in 1993 to 17 percent in 2011. The percentage of children dying before their fifth birthdays declined from 22 percent in 1960 to less than five percent by 2016.

This liberal world order did not, however, benefit everyone. In many countries around the world, and particularly in developed democracies, inequality increased dramatically, such that many of the benefits of growth flowed primarily to an elite defined primarily by education. Since growth was related to the increasing volume of goods, money, and people moving from one place to another, there was a huge amount of disruptive social change. In developing countries, villagers who previously had no access to electricity suddenly found themselves living in large cities, watching TV or connected to the internet via ubiquitous cell phones. Labor markets adjusted to new conditions by driving tens of millions of people across international borders in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families, or else seeking to escape intolerable conditions at home. Huge new middle classes arose in countries such as China and India, but the work they did replaced work that had been done by older middle classes in the developed world. Manufacturing moved steadily from Europe and the United States to East Asia and other low-labor-cost regions. At the same time, women were displacing men in an increasingly service-dominated new economy, and low-skilled workers were being replaced by smart machines.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, the momentum toward an increasingly open and liberal world order began to falter, then went into reverse. This shift coincided with two financial crises, the first originating in the U.S. subprime market in 2008 that led to the subsequent Great Recession, and the second emerging over the threat to the euro and the European Union posed by Greece’s insolvency. In both cases, elite policies produced huge recessions, high levels of unemployment, and falling incomes for millions of ordinary workers around the world. Since the United States and the EU were the leading exemplars, these crises damaged the reputation of liberal democracy as a whole.

The democracy scholar Larry Diamond has characterized the years after the crises as ones of a “democratic recession,” in which the aggregate number of democracies fell from their peak in virtually all regions of the world. A number of authoritarian countries, led by China and Russia, became much more self-confident and assertive: China began promoting its “China model” as a path to development and wealth that was distinctly undemocratic, while Russia attacked the liberal decadence of the European Union and the United States. A number of countries that had seemed to be successful liberal democracies during the 1990s slid backward toward more authoritarian government, including Hungary, Turkey, Thailand, and Poland. The Arab Spring of 2011 disrupted dictatorships throughout the Middle East, but then profoundly disappointed hopes for greater democracy in the region as Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria descended into civil war. The terrorist upsurge that produced the September 11 attacks was not defeated by the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Rather, it mutated into the Islamic State, which emerged as a beacon for profoundly illiberal and violent Islamists around the world. What was as remarkable as ISIS’s resilience was that so many young Muslims left lives of comparative safety elsewhere in the Middle East and Europe to travel to Syria to fight on its behalf.

More surprising and perhaps even more significant were the two big electoral surprises of 2016, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States. In both cases, voters were concerned with economic issues, particularly those in the working class who had been exposed to job loss and deindustrialization. But just as important was opposition to continued large-scale immigration, which was seen as taking jobs from native-born workers and eroding long-established cultural identities. Anti-immigrant and anti-EU parties gained strength in many other developed countries, most notably the National Front in France, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, the Alternative for Germany, and the Freedom Party in Austria. Across the Continent there were both fears of Islamist terrorism and controversies over bans on expressions of Muslim identity such as the burka, niqab, and burkini.

Twentieth century politics had been organized along a left–right spectrum defined by economic issues, the Left wanting more equality and the Right demanding greater freedom. Progressive politics centered around workers, their trade unions, and social democratic parties that sought better social protections and economic redistribution. The Right by contrast was primarily interested in reducing the size of government and promoting the private sector. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, that spectrum appears to be giving way in many regions to one defined by identity. The Left has focused less on broad economic equality and more on promoting the interests of a wide variety of groups perceived as being marginalized—blacks, immigrants, women, Hispanics, the LGBT community, refugees, and the like. The Right, meanwhile, is redefining itself as patriots who seek to protect traditional national identity, an identity that is often explicitly connected to race, ethnicity, or religion.

A long tradition dating back at least as far as Karl Marx sees political struggles as a reflection of economic conflicts, essentially as fights over shares of the pie. Indeed, this is part of the story of the 2010s, with globalization producing significant populations of people left behind by the overall growth that occurred around the world. Between 2000 and 2016, half of Americans saw no gains to their real incomes; the proportion of national output going to the top one percent went from 9 percent of GDP in 1974 to 24 percent in 2008.

But as important as material self-interest is, human beings are motivated by other things as well, motives that better explain the disparate events of the present. This might be called the politics of resentment. In a wide variety of cases, a political leader has mobilized followers around the perception that the group’s dignity had been affronted, disparaged, or otherwise disregarded. This resentment engenders demands for public recognition of the dignity of the group in question. A humiliated group seeking restitution of its dignity carries far more emotional weight than people simply pursuing their economic advantage.

Thus, Russian president Vladimir Putin has talked about the tragedy of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, and how Europe and the United States had taken advantage of Russia’s weakness during the 1990s to drive NATO up to its borders. He despises the attitude of moral superiority of Western politicians and wants to see Russia treated not, as President Obama once said, as a weak regional player, but as a great power. Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, stated in 2017 that his return to power in 2010 marked the point when “we Hungarians also decided that we wanted to regain our country, we wanted to regain our self-esteem, and we wanted to regain our future.” The Chinese government of Xi Jinping has talked at length about China’s “one hundred years of humiliation,” and how the United States, Japan, and other countries were trying to prevent its return to the great power status it had enjoyed through the past millennia of history. When the founder of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was fourteen, his mother found him fixated on Palestine, “tears streaming down his face as he watched TV from their home in Saudi Arabia.” His anger at the humiliation of Muslims was later echoed by his young co-religionists volunteering to fight in Syria on behalf of a faith they believed had been attacked and oppressed around the world. They hoped to re-create the glories of an earlier Islamic civilization in the Islamic State.

Resentment at indignities was a powerful force in democratic countries as well. The Black Lives Matter movement sprang from a series of well-publicized police killings of African-Americans in Ferguson (Missouri), Baltimore, New York, and other cities and sought to force the outside world to pay attention to the experience of the victims of seemingly casual police violence. On college campuses and in offices around the country, sexual assault and sexual harassment were seen as evidence of men not taking women seriously as equals. Sudden attention was paid to transgender people, who had previously not been recognized as a distinct target of discrimination. And many of those who voted for Donald Trump remembered a better time in the past when their place in their own societies was more secure and hoped through their actions to “make America great again.” While distant in time and place, the feelings among Putin’s supporters over the arrogance and contempt of Western elites were similar to those experienced by rural voters in the United States who felt that the urban bicoastal elites and their media allies were similarly ignoring them and their problems.

The practitioners of the politics of resentment recognize one another. The sympathy that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have for each other is not just personal, but rooted in their common nationalism. Viktor Orbán explained, “Certain theories describe the changes now taking place in the Western world and the emergence on the stage of a U.S. president as a struggle in the world political arena between the transnational elite—referred to as ‘global’—and patriotic national elites,” of which he was an early exemplar.

In all cases a group, whether a great power such as Russia or China or voters in the United States or Britain, believes that it has an identity that is not being given adequate recognition—either by the outside world, in the case of a nation, or by other members of the same society. Those identities can be and are incredibly varied, based on nation, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. They are all manifestations of a common phenomenon, that of identity politics.

The terms identity and identity politics are of fairly recent provenance, the former having been popularized by the psychologist Erik Erikson during the 1950s, and the latter coming into view only in the cultural politics of the 1980s and ’90s. Identity has a wide number of meanings today, in some cases referring simply to social categories or roles, in others to basic information about oneself (as in “my identity was stolen”). Used in this fashion, identities have always existed.

In this book, I will be using identity in a specific sense that helps us understand why it is so important to contemporary politics. Identity grows, in the first place, out of a distinction between one’s true inner self and an outer world of social rules and norms that does not adequately recognize that inner self’s worth or dignity. Individuals throughout human history have found themselves at odds with their societies. But only in modern times has the view taken hold that the authentic inner self is intrinsically valuable, and the outer society systematically wrong and unfair in its valuation of the former. It is not the inner self that has to be made to conform to society’s rules, but society itself that needs to change.

The inner self is the basis of human dignity, but the nature of that dignity is variable and has changed over time. In many early cultures, dignity is attributed only to a few people, often warriors who are willing to risk their lives in battle. In other societies, dignity is an attribute of all human beings, based on their intrinsic worth as people with agency. And in other cases, dignity is due to one’s membership in a larger group of shared memory and experience.

Finally, the inner sense of dignity seeks recognition. It is not enough that I have a sense of my own worth if other people do not publicly acknowledge it or, worse yet, if they denigrate me or don’t acknowledge my existence. Self-esteem arises out of esteem by others. Because human beings naturally crave recognition, the modern sense of identity evolves quickly into identity politics, in which individuals demand public recognition of their worth. Identity politics thus encompasses a large part of the political struggles of the contemporary world, from democratic revolutions to new social movements, from nationalism and Islamism to the politics on contemporary American university campuses. Indeed, the philosopher Hegel argued that the struggle for recognition was the ultimate driver of human history, a force that was key to understanding the emergence of the modern world.

While the economic inequalities arising from the last 50 or so years of globalization are a major factor explaining contemporary politics, economic grievances become much more acute when they are attached to feelings of indignity and disrespect. Indeed, much of what we understand to be economic motivation actually reflects not a straightforward desire for wealth and resources, but the fact that money is perceived to be a marker of status and buys respect. Modern economic theory is built around the assumption that human beings are rational individuals who all want to maximize their “utility”—that is, their material well-being—and that politics is simply an extension of that maximizing behavior. However, if we are ever to properly interpret the behavior of real human beings in the contemporary world, we have to expand our understanding of human motivation beyond this simple economic model that so dominates much of our discourse. No one contests that human beings are capable of rational behavior, or that they are self-interested individuals who seek greater wealth and resources. But human psychology is much more complex than the rather simpleminded economic model suggests. Before we can understand contemporary identity politics, we need to step back and develop a deeper and richer understanding of human motivation and behavior. We need, in other words, a better theory of the human soul.

This extract appears courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2018 by Francis Fukuyama. Featured pic courtesy of Fronteiras do Pensamento


Francis Fukuyama is a political scientist, author, and Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @FukuyamaFrancis


  1. Ciaran Dudley says

    “Individuality is awareness of one’s existence as a unit in sharp distinction from others. It manifests itself here in the state as a relation to other states, each of which is autonomous vis-à-vis the others. This autonomy embodies mind’s actual awareness of itself as a unit and hence it is the most fundamental freedom which a people possesses as well as its highest dignity.”
    Hegel, Philosophy of Right (1821)

    • “Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.”
      E. O. Wilson

      Wilson is correct. Most of our emotions are driven by parts of our brains that have not changed much in hundreds of thousands of year. Most of our reactions to perceived threats are instinctive and lightning fast. Similarily people often react to ideas requiring thoughtful analysis in a way that seems instinctive rather than thoughtful. We don’t even know how or why we think as we do. We’ve been bumbling through crisis after crisis, forming and then dismantling tribes, alliances and ideologies. We have about 6,000 religions each claiming to have the answer.

      A lot of the work done by philosophers and theologians is of historical interest only. We need to start thinking more deeply and more accurately about reality and we may not have much time left if we are to avoid tragedy.

  2. Jordan says

    The religious identity is harder to manipulate and control. The religious identity forms a remarkable theory of the human soul, yet we’ve seemed to discredit that identity and are searching for it elsewhere, skin group, gender group, etc etc. Break people down to skin groups or gender groups and it’s easier to pull strings. Religious identity usually involves looking beyond the differences in skin to see the inside of the person, then to assist them if they need it.

    • You’re kidding right? History is absolutely rife with examples of religious identities being created, manipulated and pitted against one another. Religious identities underly many of the divisions mentioned in the article and have done much to reinforce social segregation of other identities, be they sexual, gender, caste, race etc. More than any other group, religious identities insist on their own importance, while at the same time being more arbitrary or artificial than other divisions.

      • augustine says

        And more transcendent than other divisions, which is why religious identities are of lasting importance. All other identities are formed around the self or some type of tribe. A tribe that adopts a particular religion may be more dangerous for having done so, but here we are back to human nature. Religion offers an alternative to purely ego-driven existence.

        • augustine, you just demonstrated my point, claiming that religion is particularly important and “lasting”, in flat contradiction to history. The world has forgotten about more religions than wikipedia could name, and yes, tribes that adopt a religious identity are particularly dangerous. That is indeed human nature, which is why I found it ludicrous for Jordan to pretend otherwise. All tribal identities offer an alternative to ego-driven existence, as they subordinate the self to participation in a larger cause. Religions are particularly authoritarian versions of this.

          • augustine says


            I would say the world has forgotten about more *tribes* than Wikipedia could name. Various religions have transcended many of those tribes, and religion in general has flourished to this day. Communal spiritual beliefs of one type or another, not logic and reasoning, are the foundation of all societies. History sensu lato is in many ways the story of shared belief.

            Contrary to your claim, the “larger cause” of tribalism is something that satisfies the ego and some of our worst, most selfish tendencies. That is hardly an alternative to egocentrism. It is more like a group ego trip. Granted, religious groups can exhibit tribal symptoms when the focus is corrupt but if that is all you see in the history of religiosity then you are not looking carefully.

            The transcendence of Christianity points us away from the ego and promotes “dying to the self”. When people share this view together, as a group, there is reason and method to more easily dispense with petty differences and prejudice that are the hallmark of the ego.

      • Daniel says

        josh, you’re missing Jordan’s point. Jordan was identifying a system of understanding the human soul; you are identifying acts of evil that religious persons have done. That doesn’t address the fact that a religion describes the inner being so much more carefully than skin color (or the myriad intersectional identities that he Left is pushing).

        I suspect that readers here would be more open to considering your statements if you painted with a less-wide brush: are you trying to convince someone, or are you stating an opinion and expecting everyone to jump on board? People who don’t already agree with you have spent a long time considering the complexities of religion, and how it describes and shapes the human soul. It’s going to take more than a furious comment and a comical strawman to convince them.

        This article is about how political theory needs to recognize that a number of factors are more important to humans than mere economics. Did you have something to contribute to that?

        • @Daniel,
          I am not identifying individual acts of evil, I am pointing out that religion is a stark example of tribal identity politics and it is simply historically ignorant to say otherwise. Religion does not describe “inner being” carefully, rather the largest religions reduce the human experience to a simple loyalty test to this or that creed. Just as religion can, in principle, reach across racial lines, so can race reach across religious lines. Thus, it’s a wash if you want to make that kind of lame argument. If you want a vision that tries to unite all humanity without the arbitrary divisions, authoritarianism and superstition, it’s called humanism.

          Now I would love to convince people, but I’m under no illusions that a few comments on the internet are going to bring everyone “on board.” I would hope though, that you had the honesty to admit that Jordan’s comment was both a ridiculous generalization and hopelessly naive. (If I’m being generous.) You seem to discount the possibility that I have spent a long time considering the complexities of religion and of human psychology in general. However, if you’re going to accuse me of a strawman, let’s hope you can articulate it.

          It’s hard to imagine there are many people who don’t recognize that concerns besides crude economics also drive human behavior. That’s literally the basis of every liberal analysis I’ve seen of Trump’s or the Brexiteer’s victory. My contribution was to point out, contra Jordan, that religion, far from being a unifying force free of manipulation, is among the most divisive and corruptible phenomena in society. It’s also, unlike race, sex, sexuality, etc. an entirely artificial division.

          • Daniel says

            As with any human enterprise, we can notice two different things when viewing religion: one is people getting together in unity; the other is different unified peoples in conflict with other unified peoples. Loosely speaking, it seemed to me that Jordan was referring to the first, you to the second. If that’s an unfair characterization, let me know.

            You mentioned that religions often reduce the human experience to a loyalty test. There’s an aspect of this that is true. The most glaringly obvious that come to mind are honor killings, I suppose. But those are far removed from my own experience, so I oughtn’t to focus on them. A little closer to home are the experiences of friends of mine who have left cults. And from their stories, by golly, you couldn’t be more right, because loyalty is a pathological focus for some cults! Cults are not a fair representation of religion, though. From my own religious experience — Christianity — your loyalty test comment brings to mind things like tradition (and religions sure are big on tradition.) There are traditions concerning belief, and these are upheld with songs, liturgies, and well-known verses of Scripture — what could by cynically referred to as maxims. There are also traditions concerning community-related actions, which would include regular observances of ceremonies (church on Sunday, Christmas, Easter, etc.). And then of course Christianity has the sacraments, which due to their importance really belong in their own category, and a discussion of which is beyond the scope of a comment on an internet post.

            Are these loyalty tests? No question they are. But that’s not the main function. For each of them, there is something unique to the human soul that is reaffirmed when we participate in those traditions. With the traditions concerning belief, they are helpful (frequently difficult) reminders of purpose and identity. With those concerning community-related actions, it’s a way of enjoying and celebrating relationships with other people. So I can see how these would be sort of loyalty tests, because it would be similar to a situation where a family member refuses to participate in Thanksgiving, or perhaps he is purposefully excluded. No question that would be making a strong loyalty statement, and an ugly one at that. But it really wouldn’t be fair to call Thanksgiving a loyalty test.

            I understand the difference between what your point was and this example. This isn’t an attempt to disprove anything, merely to distinguish between the reasons people participate in religion and the loyalty tests that you mentioned (and that I agree happen). I’m noticing some boundaries on at least one side of a broad statement. Thoughts?

            One interesting thought your point has raised for me is, broadening the scope of view beyond mere religion, loyalty tests are everywhere. Any time people get together and agree on something fundamental and important — the negative impact of alcoholism, for instance, or the importance of free speech (that’s a big one with Quillette readers!) there’s a de facto loyalty test. If someone disagrees, we notice that this person is not part of the community that recognizes this truth.

            By way of example, some comments on previous Quillette articles have gone off on what one might consider an extremist tangent — racist or Leftist or whatever. It’s immediately apparent that those commenters do not have something in common with the group, something important. This is also a loyalty test, is it not? But when I fire up Quillette on my browser, I’m not out to establish my free speech bona fides, or prove how much I belong to Quillette. I go here to learn, because it’s interesting, and because locking horns in comments is a challenge.

          • @Daniel

            Your characterization is inaccurate. Both the first and second aspects of religious identity you mention were included in my reply to Jordan, because they are both (an In group and an Out group) entailed by any identity. Again, my point was that religion unites the co-religious exactly as racial identity unites people of the same race, and the flip side of both is that it divides out everyone else.

            I’m also afraid you missed the most prominent loyalty tests of mainline religion. The fundamental dogma of Christianity is that salvation comes through loyalty to Christ. The central requirement of Islam is a declaration of loyalty to Allah and the teachings of Muhammad. The key aspect of Judaism is demonstration of loyalty to the Jewish Law, which is itself held to be a loyalty covenant with YHWH. (Buddhism is arguably different in theory but in practice has functioned similarly.) What elevates a religion above mere superstition is the authoritarian sense of self-importance and moral obligation to follow the ‘correct’ teachings. I.e. loyalty to the right side.

            Just to be clear, I’m not under the impression that this means most Christians, or anyone else, are currently out killing apostates. But it does mean that religions are inherently divisive and always potentially dangerous. It’s not a coincidence that so much of history and the present does involve religious conflict.

            About your other thoughts: simply noticing a difference is not a loyalty test per se. Differences exist and are certainly important in many cases, but they need to be examined and critically evaluated for lazy, tribalist thinking. Even then lines of communication need to be open to those with whom we differ, in order to minimize conflict. If Quillette becomes another echo-chamber of like-minded people complacently nodding along with one another I think it will have failed in its purpose. I won’t say it has, but there is a depressing predictability to most of the articles. (I found this one to be pretty unobjectionable, although not illuminating much.)

          • Daniel says

            Interesting. Thanks for the response; it helped clarify things, and I have a bit better handle of the nature of the debate here. It appears the heart of the discussion comes down to a disagreement of the validity of loyalties. We would both say that race is not a valid criterion for loyalty. We would probably both say that Truth is. Where religions differ is on the exact nature of that Truth. I would characterize religions as being an investigation of that Truth. Dogma — which I’m using in the traditional sense, as meaning standard, accepted teaching, not in the modern sense, where it is confused with dogmatic — is an important feature of religions, because it is the acknowledgement of what we have learned up to this point. Church dogma allows people today to stand on the shoulders of the thinkers and theologians who have sorted out thorny issues in the past. All religions have them.

            But religion is a more valid form of loyalty than race, sex, football team, or nationality simply because it is based on something deeper and more foundational than any of them — our identity as human beings. I think you did a fair job of characterizing what the religions you mentioned rely upon for that definition. You also mentioned humanism, which itself shares many salient characteristics of religions — definitely including the fact that it takes a stab at articulating the human condition. Many people also think that humanism is the only possible uniter of humanity, and I acknowledge the existence of that belief, as well as some of it’s validity.

            But Christians in the West will identify humanism as the number one enemy. Humanists, too, have their loyalty tests, with which they exclude the Other, and celebrate their tribe. Having been on the receiving end of that, I can assert it to be a fact. Your point of how religions can be corrupted and divisive is a fair one — but in moderation. Nobody is celebrating the Crusades, for instance. My point is humanism is not free from corruption or dividing. The insanity of today’s Left can only be laid at the feet of the Enlightenment. It’s a corruption, to be sure; a corruption that would be unrecognizable to Voltaire. But your assertion that religions are among the most divisive forces in history is not an attempt to be fair, balanced, or true. As if, absent any religions, there would suddenly be less divisiveness. Look at the 20th century: the places that suppressed religion, and successfully ended up with almost zero religion participation, did not experience happy-happy-joy-joy utopias. The problem is sin, which is all-pervasive, not the existence of institutions that attempt to articulate the human condition.

          • @Daniel,

            I don’t think this is the place for an extended debate on religion. I have simply made the point that it is divisive and tribal. While it wouldn’t change this point, I also can’t agree that it is founded on “identity as human beings”. Religions vary considerably, but the unifying aspect is not human universalism, rather it is traditional authority and self-declared importance. Note that dogma does not mean “accepted truth” it means “incontrovertible/unquestionable truth”. (Incidentally, I am not loyal to Truth, I am interested in truth, because I think it is useful.)

            Yes, absent religions there would be less divisiveness. This is not saying there would be no divisions. I don’t want the irrationality of religion replaced with the irrationality of Stalinism, for example. Note however, that the least religious countries in the world are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Japan, the Czech Republic… not exactly all hell holes.

            I’ll just quote Jesus here, he makes my point pretty well: “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

          • Richard Monsurington says

            “the largest religions reduce the human experience to a simple loyalty test to this or that creed”


  3. This is a very good piece. What many broadly “neoliberal” thinkers miss, which Fukyama gets precisely right here, is that the modern world has produced something I like to call the “everywhere that is nowhere”. The entire world is more open than it has ever been, and yet there seems to be no place for the majority of people to actually feel a stable, healthy sense of self in it. Stability of place, career and self is almost entirely gone, and while tech elites parade this as an opportunity, for the vast majority of people it is mostly a degradation of their capacity to earn a living in a particular community and obtain a sense of worth and real relationships with other people for doing so. In lieu of that, the curation of online hive minds replaces the self for young people, who never have to be alone again with themselves in their entire lives if they choose to replace their inner monologue entirely with the global digital social media noosphere that constitutes the new phantom world.

    The unforeseen transition from globalization into a loss of coherent selfhood suggests that we based the growth of the 20th century on partial truths at best about human nature. In a time of maximal opportunity and abundance, only a small elite (based largely on IQ and/or inherited generational wealth) stand to replace the current order, benefiting from new technology which continues to distort the environment for everybody else, leading many (including myself) to feel that their feet are no longer on firm ground in any sense of self, place, community, work and belonging. This cannot end well, but we know of no means to solve this crisis because almost the entirety of human intellectual organization revolves around technological innovation and growth, which tend to make the environment less stable and worsen this problem of social and spiritual cohesion.

    More and more, the character of AJ Soprano, the “kid who never cared” suddenly becoming the “kid who cares too much”, with nothing to show for either polarity, is the reigning myth of our age.

    • Üli R. says

      It’s open to movements of capital, companies and wealthy, influential people (like academics) but strong barriers block people from traveling and border control is increasing.

      There is a safe way to have opportunities: many schools and career path and the ability to choose one’s favorite.
      And an unsafe way: no clear career path and demands that oscillate with companies’ ideas and needs. An isolation of each individual into individual paths that prevent comparison and companionship.

  4. E. Olson says

    Most of the world’s complaints today are based on lies and exaggerations. Black Lives Matter is based on the lie that black Americans are poorly treated by the police, while actual statistics conclusively demonstrate blacks receive preferential treatment relative to the proportion of crime they commit. Lack of income growth among the poorer segments is based on a lie about how income and standard of living are calculated and reported, as even the poorest have better housing, medical care, transportation, entertainment, etc. than the upper-middle class of only a couple generations ago, as perhaps best illustrated by the obesity epidemic among the Western poor. On the other hand, widespread beliefs that the 1% have unfairly accumulated excess wealth are undermined by the fact that there has never been a more meritocratic elite in world history, where so many have earned their wealth via intelligence, education, and hard-work in providing high quality products and services eagerly and voluntarily purchased by millions/billions of people around the world. All the world’s “victims”, whether women, homosexuals, blacks, Hispanics, transgenders, Muslims, Chinese, Russians, etc. who complain about ill treatment and lack of respect have never been treated better by wider society, have never had more rights and resources available to them, and never had so many parties (NGOs, UN, private charity, etc.) devoted to helping them. Furthermore, the widespread adoption of relatively free markets and relatively democratic governance have reduced global poverty at the fastest rate in human history, and the remaining sufferers are mostly located in the few remaining pockets that cling to Communism/Kleptocracy and heavily regulated/centrally planned economies. Are things perfect? Far from it, be we are closer to utopia than at any point in human history. The only sad thing is the seeming lack of widespread awareness of how good we have it.

    • @E. Olson: “while actual statistics conclusively demonstrate blacks receive preferential treatment relative to the proportion of crime they commit.” Do you have a source for that? I’ve never seen that data point.

    • @ E. Olson
      I follow what you’re saying – the lie that the major media is, encapsulates all your various points. Trump is mostly right, in general, the media is the enemy. It is the media that promulgates divisiveness, discord and resentment where often there is none.

      FTA “The Right, meanwhile, is redefining itself as patriots who seek to protect traditional national identity, an identity that is often explicitly connected to race, ethnicity, or religion.” Good Lord I wish this small-minded narrative would fade away to be replaced by reality. I lean center/right and strongly dispute this statement. We seek to protect the sovereign individual and individual merit regardless of color, race or religion.

      • E. Olson says

        I agree Craig – it seems that anyone calling for existing immigration laws to be enforced and border security enhanced is an uncaring, racist, xenophobe. If the Right is about prioritizing the protection and economic security of its own citizens, I don’t want to be Left.

      • Trump is mostly a lying, narcissistic sociopath in general. His entire political appeal is based on divisiveness, discord and resentment. Please pull your head out of your own small-minded narrative.

        • E. Olson says

          Josh, who was talking about Trump? But since you bring up Trump’s supposed faults, I suspect that you think Hillary would have been better? The Hillary that called half the country deplorable? The Hillary that thought all women should vote for her only because she was a woman – and then blamed Trump voting women for being brainwashed by their husbands? The Hillary that called Trump a misogynist for saying bad things on tape, but defended her rapist husband? The Hillary that colluded with Russia to get unsubstantiated dirt on Trump, and then blamed Trump’s fictional collusion with Russia for her loss? The Hillary that lied to Kenneth Starr about Whitewater, lied to Congress about Benghazi, and lied to the FBI about her private server and missing e-mails?

          • @E. Olson,
            Craig Willms brought up Trump. Since you replied directly to him by name I would think this was obvious. And yes, Hillary would have been infinitely better, because while hardly my ideal candidate, she isn’t obviously a narcissistic sociopath.

            Your litany of supposed offenses reads like a scrawl on the bathroom wall at Fox News. Briefly:

            Hillary didn’t call half the country deplorable, she said figuratively you could divide Trump supporters into racists/misogynists whom she could never reach, and those who weren’t that but who needed a voice and had (wrongly) looked to him because they were desperate for change.

            She never said one should vote for her purely on sex. Nor did she say Trump-voting women were “brainwashed.”

            Hillary quite understandably called Trump a misogynist after his behavior was revealed by his own words and multiple sources. I doubt though that she believes her husband is a rapist. Even if he was though, that would make him and Trump guilty of mistreating women and her ‘guilty’ of not wanting to believe an unconfirmed story about the father of her child.

            Hillary didn’t “collude” with Russia, that’s a laughable stretch. The Trump Dossier was compiled by a British private investigator using Russian sources, originally at the behest of anti-Trump conservatives. This is like claiming that the CIA colludes with Russia when they try to gather information on Putin. And while not everything is confirmed, so far many claims in the dossier have turned out to be true.

            Despite multiple investigations, including by a Congressional Independent Counsel, no sufficient evidence linking the Clintons to wrongdoing in the Whitewater scandal was ever brought forth. Nor has any lie about Benghazi ever been detailed.

            Clinton did mishandle her e-mail, which is bad protocol but about as scandalous as forgetting to change your password. However, in the words of the director of the FBI, to congress, “We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.”

            This is what I mean about getting away from the silly narrative you’ve acquired somewhere.

          • E. Olson says

            Josh – clearly you only get your news from CNN, MSNBC, or NYT, and your response also makes it clear that you are willing to give Hillary the benefit of any doubt with regards to all the controversial elements of her life that have consistently been downplayed, ignored, or “justified” by the mainstream media. On the other hand, you do not give any slack to Trump who has been relentlessly attacked by the media and the Obama era FBI, CIA, DOJ, etc. since it became clear he had a legitimate shot at the Republican nomination.

            Trump certainly has his faults, but he hasn’t locked up any journalists or shut-down any news media, he hasn’t defied any court orders, he hasn’t locked up or killed any political opponents, and by and large most of his “lies” about Fake News, Obama Wiretapping, and FBI witchhunts have proven true. In fact the only fascist behavior has been displayed by the “resistance”, whether it is the masked cowardly ANTIFA attacking unarmed MAGA hat wearing citizens with bike locks and knives, or pre-dawn armed raids on the home and offices of cooperating witnesses Manafort and Cohen, or the obviously unconstitutional court orders thwarting legitimate executive orders. Given all the crap Trump has had to endure, it is remarkable how restrained he has been.

    • Alex Russell says

      In the USA Blacks are about 12.5% of the population. In 2017 Police killed 457 whites and 211 blacks. 3.8 times more blacks were shot compared to their population. In 2018 the Police killed about half as many whites and blacks, but once again about 3.8 times as many blacks.

      Given this information I wouldn’t call it a lie that there is room for improvement.

      Yes, the poor live better than ever. From 1970 to now the percentage of the world population living in extreme poverty improved from 45% to 17% – yay. But at the same time the top 1%’s wealth increased much faster. Right now the top 42 richest people in the world have a combined wealth greater than the combined wealth of the poorest 3.7 billion people. Even in the USA, the middle class and poor’s income has been almost flat since the 80’s while the wealthy’s income has risen substantially.

      The wealthy mainly inherit their wealth, or at least start in top 25%.

      It is not a lie that the wealthy are getting richer much faster than the poor or middle class.

      If you don’t live in a “western” country then many minorities are harshly treated. Atheists, the wrong religion, gays, and other minorities face jail, beatings, and death in many countries. The gnashing of the SJW’s in western countries is making mountains out of mole hills, but in many parts of the world human rights are not firmly established.

      I’d agree that it is a lie that human rights are huge problem in western countries, but it is still a problem in many places in the world.

      • E. Olson says

        Alex – you can’t look at shooting in proportion of the population, you have to look at shooting in proportion to the crime committed. Blacks are about 15% of the US population, but commit about 50% of the serious crimes. See my links above for more details.

        It sounds like you don’t think going from 42% to 17% poverty is a big deal, but there has never been such a rapid drop in human history, and 100 years ago over 80% of the global population was living in extreme poverty. As for the 1%, the vast majority of US billionaires are self-made or mostly self-made, while only 20% are rich entirely due to inheritance (see link). And as I stated before, supposedly flat incomes hide a lot of improvements in the life of the “stagnant” middle class ranging from larger homes with air-conditioning; big screen TVs; larger better appliances; safer, more luxurious and durable cars; smart phones; Internet; more frequent and distant flying, more college degrees, more restaurant meals, more cosmetic surgery, etc.

        Human rights are certainly a problem in much of the world, but compared to what? Do you think a homosexual or woman or “wrong religion” in Saudi Arabia or Russia or Nigeria would be treated better if they could use a time machine to go back 50 or 100 years? Most places are making progress, and the exceptions are those still enamored with Communism/Socialism/Kleptocracy.

        • Daniel says

          E. Olson,

          Since the only reason it’s acceptable for a policeman to shoot anyone is protection — their own, or the protection of an innocent third party — the statistics we should look at is the number of unwarranted police shootings. We should also look at the percentage of unwarranted police shootings of blacks and whites.

          I suspect that those numbers would reinforce your point, though I haven’t seen any data on that.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @ Alex Russell

        Yes, the poor live better than ever. From 1970 to now the percentage of the world population living in extreme poverty improved from 45% to 17% – yay. But at the same time the top 1%’s wealth increased much faster.

        I have, from time-to-time – and to be sure, more regularly than I would like – come across some deftly parried variant of the statistical disparities mentioned above, and I’m always left a little addled about the argument being made. It’s almost always clear what argument the author thinks he/she is making, but as is often the case in life, there can be – and usually is – some distance between what one thinks they are doing and what one actually is in fact doing.

        Of course, this is not to suggest that that is the case in this particular instance as it has been my experience that the majority of Quillette readers have, what I would call, a consequential excess of sensibility; and yet, the question still remains:

        Why does it matter that the top 1%’s wealth increased much faster?

        It’s not obvious to me that inequality is in and of itself ‘bad’ at any given level, and yet, it seems to me that you are implying just as much. Inequality is relativistic, in that, it is simply the wealth differential of any two (or more) cohorts. It has nothing to say about absolute levels of wealth. For example, if I had $1 million and you had Jeff Bezos money, then there would quite literally be a great deal of inequality between us, but you wouldn’t say (at least I hope you wouldn’t) that this level of inequality is problematic. I don’t dispute that there’s considerable wealth inequality in America, but so what? Take a country like Pakistan (a lovely place to go on holiday, I understand), it has far less inequality than the U.S., but all else being equal (controlling for their Jihadiness, among other things) you wouldn’t take their economic landscape over America’s… I don’t think.

        If the current level of inequality is ‘intolerable’ – morally, economically, or otherwise – then, surely, there must be a level that is tolerable. What level of inequality to you think is acceptable, and why?

        I can imagine reasons for why we should care about high levels of inequality (Gini coefficient, for example), but Leftists’ give no indication of having legitimate and well-reasoned concepts that underpin their arguments against inequality. Rather, Leftists arguments are almost uniformly grounded on appeals to emotion or zero-sum fallacies. At best their arguments are an emergent moral behavior, such as an inequity aversion.

        Whether it be because of guilt or compassion or a bit both, it seems likely that the Left’s overdeveloped sense of fairness would bolster a natural aversion to inequality (the monkey video is all the confirmation you need); but, as is often the case, the truth is hard to find once you become emotionally involved with it. Simply stating the fact that there’s high levels of inequality in America, while briefly mentioning or outright ignoring just how wealthy even the bottom quintile is in absolute standards, makes one suspect that the entire discussion is predicated on little more than jealousy.

        We know that any system with sufficient degrees of freedom will tend towards an unequal distribution of rewards. In that sense, inequality is inevitable in a free society. That’s not to suggest a tyrannical society with extreme concentrations of wealth is preferable, but it is to say that only by eliminating or severely constraining personal/economic freedoms can we hope to fully address an issue like wealth inequality, and it may be worse, in fact. According to the Stanford professor, Walter Scheidel, save warfare, revolution, state collapse and plague (that’s right ‘plague’), widening inequality is as close to being an intractable problem as it gets.

        • “Leftists arguments are almost uniformly grounded on appeals to emotion or zero-sum fallacies. At best their arguments are an emergent moral behavior, such as an inequity aversion.”

          “Inequity Aversion” = Envy. Read “Darwinian Politics: the Evolutionary Origins of Freedom” by Paul Ruben. Anyone who wants to think, and then to talk, about the moral implications of of inequality desperately needs to read and understand that book. Envy is an evolved instinct, and it is a, probably the, core moral intuition of the Left. Correspondingly, Jealousy, as in the kind of possessiveness of what one regards as one’s own, as in “Thou shalt have no other gods before me; for the Lord thy God is a Jealous God”, is a fundamental moral intuition of the Right.

          When our Author writes, “Finally, the inner sense of dignity seeks recognition. It is not enough that I have a sense of my own worth if other people do not publicly acknowledge it or, worse yet, if they denigrate me or don’t acknowledge my existence. Self-esteem arises out of esteem by others. Because human beings naturally crave recognition, the modern sense of identity evolves quickly into identity politics, in which individuals demand public recognition of their worth”, he hits the nail on the head, but fails to mention that resentment of a lack of public recognition of ones worth only arises in the hearts and minds of those who are envious of the public recognition being enjoyed by others; a “fair share” of which the resentful one regards himself/herself/aerself as being entitled to enjoy too, simply because it exists and is being enjoyed by another.

    • Joseph Yau says

      What you say is not mutually exclusive from the main point of the article – community and tribe is important but largely ignored in neoliberalism.

  5. ga gamba says

    I think this extract would have been better if we were given more than this:

    Before we can understand contemporary identity politics, we need to step back and develop a deeper and richer understanding of human motivation and behavior. We need, in other words, a better theory of the human soul.

    At least a few sentences, a paragraph, to flesh out this theory better. As it is, we’re left wondering what’s behind curtains one, two, and three. (One of them has gotta be the donkey, yeah?) I recognise Dr Fukuyama wants to sell books, so there’s an interest to not give away the whole kit and caboodle for free here, but let’s not ignore that his book End of History and the Last Man started as an essay published about three years earlier. Same too for Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations. A lot of substance was presented prior to both books being published yet, amazingly, both books were bestsellers. You gotta give the junky a taste.

    Earlier today I was stopped for speeding. Yes, completely unremarkable. But everyone else was speeding too – the speed limit is too low, you know? Here I am, a visible minority (gasp!), a carer of a rescue dog, which makes me more moral than most other dog owners, having my progress interrupted by the institutions and systems whilst others were not. Imagine the shame I felt as the spectacle of my humiliation was played out at the side of road in front of dozens who there thinking: “Ah yeah, another visible minority breaking the laws. Typical.” But I didn’t feel humiliated. I was speeding. I understand that policing is imperfect and most of the time I get away with moving violations. Whoppers too! No matter how hard I try I can’t read the cop’s mind, so rather than protest the injustice of it all and make absurd accusations such as “You never pull over the _____” , I choose the option to end the event then and there. I bribed the cop, paying more than what the local invisible majority would pay (gasp!), the matter was settled, and off I sped. To offend again.

    Now think about the shit show that is the Serena Williams debacle. Her coach was caught. Angered, her dignity attacked, Williams protested her innocence at length. Her coach admitted he coaches every point. Why he would do so when Williams claims she doesn’t need it is mind boggling. I guess he’s fidgety. I’m sure many of you know the rest of the story. Diva’s gonna diva. What’s more fascinating is the contortions of many others to rationalise her tantrum in the aftermath. “I’ve never seen a man penalised,” says the person who doesn’t bother to check. Let the unfounded assertions rip, deluded public. This is the dark shadow of identity and its politics: the denial of reality and personal accountability by replacing it with group experience and its victimhood. If people simply said: “Serena, you were caught and then you allowed it to get the best of you,” she might take away a lesson. “Hide your coaching better, coach” might be one of these, though there are better ones. I suspect she feels vindicated by the wrong-headed support.

    In case you’re wondering, in this year’s US Open men committed 86 violations whilst the ladies were about quarter of that. That gap, eh? How many of these men are mums is unknown. I suppose we didn’t hear of these because the athletes didn’t allow it to shatter their minds and respond with public meltdowns.

    Victim seekers, don’t fret yet; there is a bona fide victim here: Naomi Osaka. You only win your first Grand Slam title once. And if the identity angle is important to you, Osaka is the Japan’s first Grand Slam singles champion.

    Those of you intending to reply that Ramos, or tennis, is sexist in its application of the rules, be advised:
    – In 2017 at the French Open, Novak Djokovic was given a fault on his serve by Carlos Ramos for time violations. He then received a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct after yelling.
    – In 2018 at Wimbledon, Ramos gave Djokovic a code violation for slamming his racquet into the ground. Djokovic later complained about a double standard from Ramos, who did not penalize Kei Nishikori for something similar.
    – In 2017 at the French Open, Ramos called a time violation on Rafael Nadal. Nadal thought the call was selectively enforced and said he was not satisfied with it.
    – In 2016 at the French Open, Ramos called Nick Kyrgios for a code violation for yelling at a towel boy. Kyrgios accused Ramos of having a double standard and was described as “mystified” by the penalty.
    – In August 2016 at the Olympics, Ramos called Andy Murray for a code violation for saying “stupid umpiring.”
    – In July 2017, Ramos called Andy Murray for a time violation for playing too slowly. Murray acknowledged he had been warned before receiving the violation but was still bothered by it.

    • Gordon Smith says

      Quote from “The Gulag Archipelago “ by Solzhenitsyn from the newspaper “Red Terror” in 1918.
      “We are not fighting against single individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. It is not necessary during the interrogation to look for evidence proving that the accused opposed the Soviets by words or actions. The first question that you should ask him is what class does he belong to, what is his origin, his education and his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused.”
      This is where it all ends. Replace “Bourgeoisie” with whoever you hate.

      • Hannah Arendt uses the term “objective enemy” which is simply an individual human being predefined by class, race, ethnicity etc. Such is the thinking of the totalitarian mind.

      • listdervernunft says

        Good point. I think the basic logical error alluded to above stems from the fact that somehow erasing the individual members of a given class or set, does not thereby erase the category itself. Even if you empty a category of its given contents, you are still left with the empty box, ready to be filled by the next historically contingent content. If nature abhors a vacuum we might then say that “categories abhor emptiness.”
        The question then becomes whether or not we can somehow come up with a system in which category inclusion/exclusion is based solely on an individual’s self-determination and not on any external factors such as ethnicity, gender, social status etc. The only catch here would be that self-determination for any “one” particular individual immediately entails self-determination for “all” particular individuals as well, since individuality is negative universality and particulars are in themselves relational. Thus, individual self-determination could only work if every individual were to somehow determine themselves transparently and simultaneously in a kind of Leibnizian moment of “pre-established harmony.” — Fine, except that this “pre-establishedness” would preclude any possibility for genuine self-determination as the suffix “pre” specifies that which has already been determined in the past and would be thus antithetical to what we mean by self-determination; namely, that which postulates active agency and the ability to choose between real alternatives in the present.
        Therefore, since individual self-determination implies universal self-determination, this must not be grounded upon a pre-established harmony limited to one or some individuals in the past thereby excluding individuals in the present and future, but rather upon an eternally self-establishing harmony which includes all individuals past, present and future who have determined themselves, are still determining themselves, and will continue to determine themselves freely for all time in absolute equilibrium.
        In other words, the individuals would have to determine themselves as reciprocal powers of one another, where each would be the period or interval of the other so as not to impinge on the other’s determinacy but rather to constitute one and the same universal determinacy. For insofar as it is universal it is simple, but insofar as it is determinate it is complex. The self-establishing harmony therefore entails in one and the same respect a simple complexity and/or a complex simplicity; i.e. a unity of opposites which is also an opposition of units. This latter is nothing other than history itself. It’s something like that.

      • Great quote and thanks for reminding me of Solzhenitsyn. His book needs to be reprinted. Americans, as well as the rest of the Western world, needs a stark reminder of history and the dangers inherent in forgetting lessons learned.

    • “I bribed the cop”

      This is quite incomprehensible to Canadians, Australians, most British and most Americans.

      For which we must be eternally grateful.

      • ga gamba says

        Indeed. Presently. Go back several decades and it’s a different story. Nonetheless, it’s one of your many, many blessings. So too is having an accurate record of land ownership, potable water, reliable electricity, indoor toilets, first responders who don’t abandon their duties in crises, etc. What are considered basics of life are quality multipliers on their own, and in aggregate it’s astounding. You’re cooking with grease. That said, within a few months of losing them, say to solar flares striking the unshielded grid… so many of you will die.

        Shitholistans have their moments, and even within them are pockets of excellent services and amenities, but they are enjoyed by the few and not the many. That’s not true for the developed world.

      • Daniel says

        As is: “We went to the police, but naturally the guy that groped my kid was an off-duty cop. So they didn’t do anything.”
        It’s staggering how little crime police stop in the developing world, and how much they perpetuate themselves. In many countries they would be indistinguishable from mafia themselves, if they didn’t have so much paperwork.

  6. It is very hard to treat this text seriously when my country, Poland, is listed amongst “A number of countries that had seemed to be successful liberal democracies during the 1990s [that have] slid backward toward more authoritarian government”, when this couldn’t be further from truth. Not a single Polish government during ’90s lasted full term and generally polish ’90s are very turbulent times that opened Poland to all sorts of abuses, both internal and foreign and only since 2007 we actually have stable governments with strong electorate foundations, with current so called “authoritarian” having unprecedented democratic support that allowed rule without requiring coalition for the first time in our history. How exactly what has been the norm in the US for decades, to have a single party rule, is suddenly called “authoritarian” because it happened in Central Europe?

    And the last paragraph is already outdated by a year, see Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize for irrational economic behaviour.

    This extract is as “insightful” as “The End of History” was…

    • Greatgutter says

      While it’s of course a good thing that we left the electoral madness of the ’90s behind, that has very little bearing on whether Poland’s government is authoritarian or not. No one is arguing that PiS is authoritarian because it isn’t a coalition government (especially since – reminder – it is, it’s part of the ZP bloc). It’s authoritarian because it ignores constitutional safeguards for no other reason than to replace key state and judicial functionaries with their own people. While even a Orban-style lawful takover of several branches of government would be troublesome (for reasons eg. of preference falsification), Orban at least has the decency to respect established institutions. Electoral majorities authorise reform, not anarchy.

      While comparing Poland with Turkey is at this point a bit hyperbolic – we are still undoubtedly a democratic country – we are markedly less so than before the PiS government, even considering the authoritarian moves of the previous PO government. Just to underscore that point, a comparison of pre/post-PiS values for a couple of indices:
      World Press Freedom Index: 18th in 2015, 54th in 2017 (rank)
      Freedom House Freedom of the Press: 26 in 2015, 34 in 2017 (lower is better)
      Freedom in th World: 93/100 in 2015, 85/100 in 2017 (higher is better)
      The Economist’s Democracy Index: 7.09 in 2015, 6.67 in 2017 (higher is better)
      Corruption Perception Index: 63 in 2015, 60 in 2017 (higher is better)
      WJP Rule of Law Index: 0.71 in 2015, 0.67 in 2017-18 (higher is better) – one of the biggest declines in the world in that period.

    • Sarah Allsop says

      nou, I thought the same thing. The author seems to think democratically elected leaders who are popular, are “authoritarian”. He lost me at this point and I didn’t bother with the rest of the article.

      • Haven’t you got the message: Democracy is about government for the benefit of a minority.

        A democratically elected leader who is popular is obviously governing the country for the benefit of the majority, not the minority like they are supposed to govern in favor of. [We are always hearing countless accounts of trampling the rights of the minority, but never seemingly can a politician trample the rights of the majority.]

        Obviously, governments like Poland and Hungary aren’t doing as good a job pleasing the right minority as the US and the UK and France, so they are “undemocratic”.

        • That is something that bothers me for some years now: at the very core, democracy is a very simple mathematical system of electing representation through popular vote. No built in or emergent mechanism exists within this core system that could ensure “rights of minority” to be respected if large enough majority can be reached, not even constitutions. Entirety of “liberal superstructure” built upon democracies, including media control and legal safeguards utilised to create and sustain “modern liberal democracies” are therefore artificial and essentially undemocratic. But for some strange reason we perpetuate this facade blindly enough to be surprised when those artificial mechanics are not enough to restrain the raw power of core mathematics of democratic system.

          @Greatgutter – I’m no PiS supporter, I’m perfectly impartial observer of our internal politics. I simply oppose the notion that PiS is somehow fundamentally undemocratic (see above). I would actually be delighted if constructive opposition arose strong enough to ensure healthy coalition rules in the next term. But for that to happen people in the right places must forget their wishful thinking and actually remember how democracy really works and start to act accordingly, because as it is now, PiS has no competition at all.

  7. Farris says

    Excellent article.
    “Self-esteem arises out of esteem by others.”
    This sentence alone defines the entire problem. Seeking self-esteem from others will always result in failure or disappointment and hence resentment.
    In order to achieve contentment there must be something higher than one’s self.
    For the religious self esteem is best acquired by living according to the dictates of God.
    For the non religious self esteem is best acquired by living according to the dictates of higher ideals.
    Only then can one look in the mirror and say I am the man or woman I had hoped to become.

    • Good advice, so long as you never have to go out and seek gainful employment or get a date, in which case esteem in the eyes of others is necessary to success.

      For those who seek to lead a productive and fruitful life, perhaps the esteem of others merits further consideration.

      • Farris says

        Respectfully, You have the cart before the horse.
        As a rule people seek out and wish to be around or employ those with a high sense of self worth.
        Regarding dating the one who seeks the approval of others often appears desperate. It is the one who is self assured that wins the day.

        • Conan the Agrarian says

          Fascinating. We have an emergent recursive dilemma:

          Conforming strictly to the esteem of others over time makes one dependent, average, and soulless.

          Dismissing the esteem of others entirely over time ends in a one-room cabin in the Idaho wilderness mailing manifestos and letter bombs.

          I suggest for consideration that this is not a cart/horse problem but a chicken/egg problem in which all inputs are also outputs, i.e., self-esteem influence other-esteem, and visa versa.

          So the only way forward may be to consider the problem WITHOUT time as a variable.

          • Conan:

            Its actually pretty simple object relations. An infant comes understand its individuality, its separateness only through coming to understand it is not its mother.

            There can be no identity without difference, and all identity is fundamentally relational. This is not to say self regard is impossible, only that self regard is derivative from and parasitic on the regard of others (just as the sense of individuality is derivative and parasitic on the existence of other individuals).

            A shame based culture is the simplest culture. A guilt based culture is more complex, and there cannot be much in the way of “self esteem” unless one is standing downstream from a guilt based culture based on Christian metaphysics.

          • Farris says


            Esteem or respect is something to be earned. Seeking esteem or respect is a fruitless pursuit. It is the “seeking” that is a problem. Living for the approval of others is not living. Living for the approval of others is why we have so many fragile people today. Disciplined living according to a moral code will give self esteem and draw in others. If I wait for my kids to tell me I’m a good dad, I will have a long wait. I know I’m a good dad because I parent according to strict dictates. My kids will tell me I’m a good dad when they grow into fine adults (as they have) and parent the same way.

        • No, esteem is for those who establish their excellence, whether they know it or not. In fact, its generally better when they don’t know it. (A beautiful woman is always more beautiful when she doubts her beauty.)

          Those who lack arete, no matter what they tell themselves in the mirror, lack honor and will not find esteem among others, except perhaps as first among losers.

          • Farris says


            Excellence will never be achieved by those meekly sitting back waiting for the approval of others. It is the bold hard chargers with no regard for the opinions of others that persevere. It is the weak kneed approval seekers that lack the spine to prevail.

        • Going back to Nietzsche, you have the master morality which is based on acknowledgement of the strong and virtuous (that is “vir” not the Victorian bluestocking “virtue”). The master morality functions on the basis of honor and demonstrated merit.

          The slave morality, that is, the morality of the losers who lack merit and honor, invent something magical about themselves (salvation through Christ or “self esteem” or “good personalities” or some other baloney) to tell themselves a story/fantasy about how they really are/should be the masters, all fueled by their deep abiding hatred and ressentiment of the masters. This burning hatred is often described as “love” in the Christian inversion of values, or in Marxism, this is that desire for “social justice” that makes socially parasitic SJW criminal’s better than deplorables with real jobs and without criminal records.

          Its pretty obvious that there must be masters acting in accordance with the code of vir before you can have slaves festering in ressentiment and hatred and fantasizing the comeuppance of the masters, in a cosmic social justice warrior morality play.

          • Daniel says

            ” This burning hatred is often described as “love” in the Christian inversion of values”

            Quite a claim there. Care to expound?

          • Daniel:

            I would just read Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. But one quote:

            “Not their love of humanity, but the impotence of their love, prevents the Christians of today–from burning us”.

            I don’t know that Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity (as a system or as a historical phenomenon) is accurate, but certainly a strand of Christianity which subsequently metastasized into Marxism and Progressivism is pure slave morality.

          • Daniel says


            I haven’t read Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. In it I assume he explains himself. When I asked you to expound, I suppose I was wondering if Nietzsche explains it well enough to justify a statement like that.

            Your response raised another question: a strand of Christianity that metastasized into Marxism and Progressivism? Is there a denomination — or several — that you had in mind?

          • Daniel:

            Turning Christianity into Marxism–you start with Paul’s statement regarding “neither Greek nor Jew” in Christ–which in the Ancient world really expresses a notion of the integration of the individuals into a corporate body (the Church). You find similar notions in ancient mystery cults, where social status is eliminated while initiates participate in liturgical worship–as well as you sometimes find amongst fans at rock concerts where accountants and bikers stand side by side and regard each other as equals for a night. However, to radicalize it, rather than seeing an equality as a result of shared belonging to a liturgical community, this equality is postulated as a ontological given (contrary to Jesus’s statements to the Samarian woman). Note this eliminates the whole need for Christ and the Holy Spirit (which operate to create a unity in Paul).

            Next, instead of awaiting the Second Coming in the By-and-By, it falls on the party to immanentize the eschaton today.

            The Second Coming represents the emergence of a new possibility, of the impossibility become possible due to the end of sin (itself impossible). Once the impossible is declared possible, by fiat of the party, then radicalism ensues.

            I don’t think that this is a denominational problem of Christianity, either Christianity is the greatest embodiment of slave morality as Nietzsche suggested, or slave morality is ultimately a modern heretical view which exists as a potential error or distortion of Christian doctrine. Since I have no authority to issue a judgment on such questions, I won’t.

    • Conan the Agrarian says

      Yes, and there is the possibility that Fukuyama has cause and effect confused. One could view the proliferation of identities on the Left as people’s attempt at creating “alternative status ladders”.

      That is, since the traditional status hierarchy based on money and power is so competitive and so many are left completely out now (proximate community status largely having died off), they create semi-artificial classes of identity to achieve status and dignity on more favorable terms that are slanted in their favor: “I may not be an Ivy League Silicon Valley zillionaire or a famous sportsball player, but when it comes to fighting injustice [of the mean traditional hierarchy], I as an anti-racist non-binary vegan feminist am a brave warrior who definitely deserves respect and to have his peener touched …”

      Steven Quartz explores the power of alternative status in his book “Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives our Economy and Shapes our World”, the first half of which I highly recommend (skip the last half, IMHO):

  8. “Finally, the inner sense of dignity seeks recognition. It is not enough that I have a sense of my own worth if other people do not publicly acknowledge it or, worse yet, if they denigrate me or don’t acknowledge my existence. Self-esteem arises out of esteem by others.”

    I don’t know why the author just doesn’t come right out with it: esteem in the eyes of others is honor. The sense of honor depends on the esteem of others.

    Further, honor is a zero sum game. Only some can be esteemed, and the others must do the esteeming. Honor is shared through vicarious participation in the cult of the warriors (or football stars or rock stars or politicians). One identifies with, is a fan(atic) for, the honored one. . . resulting in football hooliganism or worse between the competing cults of honor.

    We end with a Master/Slave dialectic of sorts, which is not resolved and cannot be resolved through “mutual recognition” as recognition only has value in as much as it is not mutual. Hence, the bloody annals of human history in contrast to the wishful thinking of liberal intellectuals.

    • Daniel says

      “Further, honor is a zero sum game.”

      Only if your group is small enough, and is considered for a short enough length of time. There are societies in which an exceptionally small number of people are respected (and a better word woyld be ‘feared’) because they only hold on to that status with force.

      Societies don’t have to be that way. You describe a group that is massively dysfunctional. You can have groups where the vast majority can enjoy a satisfying level of honor, if that honor is based on merit.

      • Daniel: I think I addressed the relationship between group identity and honor.

        You can see it the white collar versus the blue collar. The white collar guy wants to be an “individual” and seen on his “individual merits”. The blue collar guy wants to work at a really big, really important company, even if he is just a janitor.

        Why is the politics of identity so widespread? Because most of us aren’t cut out to be masters of the universe, and get our honor from our participation in our tribes, or our corporations, or our political parties, or our football teams.

        • Daniel says

          I agree with you that most of us aren’t cut out to be leaders of multitudes. It is also true that people take pride (honor?) in ridiculous things. I especially like your example of football teams. Good heavens, at least the other ones you listed have an element of participation — however infinitesimally small!

          I haven’t heard that characterization of blue collar workers before, so I’m not yet convinced it is fair. If we’re roughly defining blue and white collar as working with hands and sitting at desks, respectively, there are undoubtedly some blue collar guys who want the glamor-by-association of being a part of a big company. But there are some staggeringly shallow white collar guys who are the same.

          I personally can’t think of any blue collar workers for whom that statement is true, though I can think of some white collar people. Granted, anecdotes aren’t evidence — hey, look here at my sample size of one! — but I also haven’t heard that characterization before. So chalk me up as not-yet-convinced.

          But that’s a minor point. The original point of our discussion was the claim that honor is a zero-sum game. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that what we are seeing now is a few individuals who have mega-rock-star status, and a multitude who esteem them. That’s definitely a fair assessment, and I agree that we have a disconcerting pattern that a cynic could call “Kardashians and groupies.”

          But that’s only one kind of esteem/honor. If we’re defining honor as esteem accrued to people because of their merits, there’s as many ways of being honored as there are manifestations of the human enterprise. My point was that only in a dysfunctional group is honor so narrowly defined that it is a zero sum game. When I say “group” I have in mind not just societies, but workplaces, families, teams, etc.

          • Daniel:

            There are many ways to accrue honor. Making a lot of money due to a master of the universe job is one way. Being a ruthless warrior is another. Obviously, the interests of the merchant caste and the interests of the warrior caste conflict to some extent, because combat (at least in your own economic zone) is bad for business. Likewise, esteem of money making lowers esteem from warriors, and warriors are sometimes in a position to do something about it.

            Heraclitus nails it:

            “We must know that war (πόλεμος polemos) is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being through strife necessarily”

            Dike eris!

          • Hobbes basic point is that humans are so inherently self-destructive that in the absence of a strong ruler able to impose order on motley individuals, anarchy and war are the result. Although Hobbes was not really Christian, this perspective is not divorced from a traditional Christian anthropology focused on original sin.

            “Dysfunctional” is a modern psycho-babble term, but I would contend that human groups are dysfunctional–to put it mildly–in the absence of a strong and decisive state per Hobbes.

          • Why do you think proles always get tagged as “racists” (while their children are being systematically drugged and recruited into rape gangs over decades) while the toffs get to live in the most economically and usually racially exclusive neighborhoods and send their kids to private schools that are equally exclusive?

            Because the toffs are always ready to tell you about their individualism, and the pride they take in their own achievements, whereas the prole may take some pride in their ethnic or racial identity, or even perhaps in their country’s military, and loves to wear clothes with corporate logos and the like (which the toff finds “problematic”).

    • Paul Ellis says

      I think you might be ignoring Noblesse Oblige. The Japanese have a variant: giri-ninjo. In it, the vertical binds of loyalty are two-way.

  9. I guess poverty for the vast majority, coupled with authoritarian tyrannies would at least make most of us feel equal in outcome.
    Free trade without free people is not freedom, but a recipe for letting some take advantage of a global economic world based on workers and consumers who have recourse but to remain in place (or face deportation, detention, etc.).

  10. Fukuyama continues to portray humanity through the spirit of Adeimantus. As KD points out above this is all about the role that honour plays in the human spirit. It is lifted from Plato’s Republic without acknowledging the existence or needs of the other parts of the soul as represented by Glaucon or Thrasymachus in particular. Or that there is a whole other cast on display in The Symposium.

    And since he does this he has to be aware that it is Plato who does provide that “better theory of the human soul” for those willing to go look.

    It isn’t a theory that an egalitarian metaphysics finds acceptable but it is far more profound than what Jung and his successors have offered.

  11. Special Tanner says

    I always like to go back to this quote from Dostoevsky, which echoes Hegel about the primacy of the individual:

    “But I repeat for the hundredth time, there is one case, one only, when man may consciously, purposely, desire what is injurious to himself, what is stupid, very stupid–simply in order to have the right to desire for himself even what is very stupid and not to be bound by an obligation to desire only what is sensible. Of course, this very stupid thing, this caprice of ours, may be in reality, gentlemen, more advantageous for us than anything else on earth, especially in certain cases. And in particular it may be more advantageous than any advantage even when it does us obvious harm, and contradicts the soundest conclusions of our reason concerning our advantage–for in any circumstances it preserves for us what is most precious and most important–that is, our personality, our individuality.”

  12. “But only in modern times has the view taken hold that the authentic inner self is intrinsically valuable, and the outer society systematically wrong and unfair in its valuation of the former,” Mr Fukuyama writes. “It is not the inner self that has to be made to conform to society’s rules, but society itself that needs to change.”

    Is he not describing, really, the apotheosis of the Romantic movement, or counter-Enlightenment, the celebration of the self to the point of absurdity, or even beyond, if there can be such a beyond? Maybe madness is what lies beyond absurdity. It sure looks that way.

    A central problem with the Romantic worldview is that the recognition so stridently demanded by every self-important self can only come from other equally self-involved and demanding selves. This kind of self is Anti: It is against its host society and sooner or later will destroy it, as if it is a fatal disease. It will destroy itself in the process.

    The modern Left — the cultural Left — seems to be obsessed with encouraging human beings’ worst traits, among them self-absorption, immodesty, sanctimonousness and rage. The good society would try to curb and contain these tendencies for the common weal, not inflame them. Do people even speak of the common weal anymore?

  13. listdervernunft says

    But remember, Special Tanner, what Hegel also said of someone who uses this abstraction of individuality as an excuse to shun all community with others despite their being directly implicated in one’s very own particularity; Hegel calls this “the supreme, most stubborn error, which takes itself for the highest truth, manifesting in more concrete forms as abstract freedom, pure ego and, further, as Evil.” [‘Science of Logic,’ Sec. 356]
    For example, the right-wing ideal of individual freedom without universal justice is no less pernicious and unrealistic as the left-wing ideal of universal justice without individual freedom. One extreme is the vapid shadow of the other. If both sides of an antithesis mutually arise, this tells us that neither side is what it is supposed to be but really is the opposite. But since the opposite is also the opposite of its opposite, the inversion inverts itself again and thus the difference dissolves into a distinct identity and/or identical distinction. The constancy of the opposition betrays the unity of the terms. This is the paradox which is also mirrored in the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity wherein the Father is the Father and the Son is the Son only via their unity in the Holy Spirit. Or in secular terms: it is our universal intersubjectivity that enables us to be particular individual subjects, not the other way around. Thoughts?

    • listdervernunft: your thoughts are very Hegelian, but you blow the Trinity. The Father is–the Son is begotten by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. However, the Father that is–is also unknowable–except through the Spirit and the Son. You could say that the Father has positive identity in the truest sense, but for that reason is unknowable.

      • Are you orthodox KD? In the Western churches, the holy ghost is begotten from the Father AND the Son ( procedit— filioque). This simple addition was the reason some 1000 yrs ago that the churches divided and the East got their own popes and bishops

        • True Dirk, but prosodoi in Greek (I am told) has the connotation of source (the stream proceeds from the natural spring) and prosedit has the connotation of from without necessarily being the source ( the river proceeds past my house).

          Thus the dispute over the filioque has much to do with Latin speakers and Greek speakers misunderstanding each other. I have been advised that Orthodox or Latin both affirm that the Son is begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.

          But whatever we say about the Holy Spirit, the Father is the root source of the unity of the Trinity (by sharing or the overflowing of the Divine essence), and it owes more to Neo-Platonism than Hegelianism.


          The filioque clause was the main subject discussed at the 62nd meeting of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, which met at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline, Massachusetts) from June 3 through June 5, 2002, for their spring session. As a result of these modern discussions, it has been suggested that the Orthodox could accept an “economic” filioque that states that the Holy Spirit, who originates in the Father alone, was sent to the Church “through the Son” (as the Paraclete), but this is not official Orthodox doctrine. It is what the Fathers call a theologoumenon, a theological opinion. (Similarly, the late Edward Kilmartin, S.J., proposed as a theologoumenon a “mission” of the Holy Spirit to the Church.)

          • Thanks KD, not that my life or belief in any sense is influenced by this dilemma. How could such things ever have been of relevance, what about all the energy, emotion, learned knowledge and animosity (if not downright hatred) put into such theological questions! And funniest of all: the holy ghost was thought to inspire the popes and theologians to edict the truth behind all this!

          • Dirk: I just think it is cool (the Trinity) not the theological controversy. No one has ever thought as in depth about the nature of identity and personhood as the Patristic Fathers.

            But I also think Plotinus contains the answers to the problems of contemporary philosophy, which makes me highly eccentric and only prescient if the up-and-coming philosophers come to agree. We could be overdue for a Neoplatonic revival.

  14. martti_s says

    A human being living in a society is constantly under various tensions:
    -What he wants and what he can achieve
    -What he feels he is entitled to and what he gets
    -How he performs and how he perceives it vs. his peers
    -What he believes is true and what is verifiable
    -What he knows and how it makes sense
    -Who he appreciates and who accept his company
    -What impression he likes to make and what is perceived

    All of these axes are a subject of innate capabilities, social circumstances, and his own effort.
    There are a multitude of theories of personality already. Some of them are tested and proved to carry significance in predicting social success and well-being.

    There are also cultural mores and traditions that predict less positive outcomes. What is remarkable, very little is done in the way they are discredited.

    One thing that has passed without any discussion is how the media –TV, movies, video games, commercials– influence the way people perceive as positive or negative means of coping. There is a striking difference in the values of Asian and American entertainment. Now the official truth from the academy have says that content that shows violence and the primary means of solving conflicts has no effect on how people behave, whether TV, movies or video games.

    My question is: If this is the case, how come there are such tremendous amounts of money invested in TV advertising? How come jet pilots and formula drivers spend hours and hours on video games to learn the correct reactions to the instances that require immediate action, where reasoning is too slow? If video games really have no effect, why are they used in training?

    In most of the Asian TV-series the values stand out. This is partly because they are different from ours but also because they are planted there in purpose. It is normal to see an odd person become the one who creates the group movement to save a block in the city, or to bring down a corrupted police or a mayor with his cronies. The value of social co-operation is always stressed. There are bad people who actually change for the better, who realize their bad wasy were causing suffering. The jail is no only a storage, or a university for evil doers. Some people actually change for the better.

    In the Asian series the actors are nearly always examples, people who have characteristics that a normal person would like to possess. (Normal in the Asian society, of course) Drinking is depicted in a humorous way, people act silly and say stupid things but very rarely brag or fight. SEx receives very little attention. There are some kisses but mostly it is thought that adults ‘know’ what happens when the lights are low. This also is a consequence of the moral codes of the Chinese market. Think of the size!

    Brief: I would like to bring in the discussion the Western Soul as it is depicted in our modern folklore. It is depicted and shaped by the mores and the morals and the actions proposed in the media wee use for entertainment since we are very small. The Academy denies its effects while they fervently de-platform any speaker that ‘threatens the safety and ‘inclusivity’ of their campuses.
    As if a person wearing a suit and a tie, giving a speech to a closed group could have any effect to the cultural mores, especially if compared to the mammoth industry that turns night and day messages that are actually acted out, in living 3-D and Dolby Stereo.

  15. martti_s says

    My ‘Asian’ includes material from China, Hong Kong, South Corea, Taiwan and Japan.
    I would really like to see somebody doing media research to focus in the values reflected in entertainment. I see nobody paying attention.

  16. cjcmay says

    What, no apology for the over-hasty meme ‘the End of History’? It appeared at exactly the time that Vladimir Putin quit the KGB to enter politics – I bet he muttered ‘we’ll see about that’ when he heard it.

    • ga gamba says

      The “End of History” complaint such as yours strikes me as coming from a person who didn’t read the book. Fukuyama was was quite clear that historical events including war would continue to happen, some of which may even lead to socio-political regression, such as the imposition of Sharia law, totalitarianism, etc.

      By ‘history’ Fukuyama used Hegel’s idea of it being a protracted struggle to realise the idea of freedom latent in human consciousness. His Philosophy of History emphasised the development of freedom and the consciousness of freedom over the course of world history, and it was historical events such as the American and French Revolutions as well as the the fall of communism that we find this. In fact, it was Hegel who wrote “the end of history”: The History of the World travels from East to West, for Europe is absolutely the end of history, Asia the beginning.

      In the 20th century, the forces of totalitarianism, such as communism and fascism, had been decisively defeated by the (post)industrial, secular, liberal, free enterprise, capitalist democracies of the US and postwar Japan, Britain and post-colonial Singapore. Western liberal democracy, even practiced in the East, represents the attainment of this idea. The current tension between Islam and the West is religious totalitarianism’s crack it at, but even Islam itself is not unified in jihad. If Islam were to prevail, it would be a regression for the West, a step backward in history. China is a one-party state that’s purportedly capitalist, but when you look at all the top companies most of them are still state owned – it’s a state capitalism model. These are the two significant ideological challenges presently, but both are a regression to models tried earlier that suppress human freedom. Fukuyama dismissed postmodernism as nihilistic and destructive – he studied under Derrida in France for a while – so anything birthed by that would be deformed and defective. Leftists rejected Fukuyama’s declaration stating “true socialism” had never been tried; this denies socialism’s inherent fatal flaw.

      Keep in mind that Fukuyama was not triumphant about this. For example he was not pleased at all by aspects such as consumer culture and the homogenisation that results from it; the higher ends of man such as art, philosophy, and high culture were degraded by this. But this is more due to choice, an aspect of freedom that allows people to dismiss those higher ends if they so choose, than government edict. Fukuyama is the type of fella who’s displeased more people attend a rock concert or a rave than the opera or a poetry reading.

      • It is indeed funny that Fukuyama, with his oriental descent, leans so heavily on Hegel’s monolithic view of social evolution, whereas most in the West have long since a more diversified view on political development. More Western than Buddhist, anyhow.
        Not to talk about Marx’s form of Hegelianism (but also he never came out much beyond the victory of the proletariate).

        • More Roman even than the Pope himself, so we call it in my country.

  17. Eric from Detroit says

    This cultural change we are witnessing before our very eyes needs to be understood, lest we end up like the Roman and British Empires; vestiges of our former selves.

    What’s happening is a migration from a Culture of Honor to a Culture of Dignity. The former was predicated on the fact that your voice and your role in society was one that was earned through virtuous work and good deeds. In other words, you had to earn Honor as a source of capital before you could spend it to inspire others.

    Today, individuals who feel disrespected, disregarded or otherwise pick up their phone and send out a Tweet to 100 likeminded friends and we have a interstate highway or mall shut down with the media climbing all over themselves to report yet another Social Justice moment.

    Our nation (as noted by Jonathan Haidt) is a collection of tribes and colonies and the psychology of members of those tribes is what has sustained them over centuries through feast and familne. They’re not going to chuck those principles and values aside just because an individual member of a smaller unimportant tribe screams “It’s Not FAir…Look at Me! I’m important!”

    Life…and our lives..doesn’t work that way.

    This nation’s founding documents are predicated on the larger collective morality as a nation. Our laws have been put in place over centuries based on our collective morality as a smaller community. Those of us who innately understand virtue, sanctity, reverence for Institutions, Loyalty and respect are not going to merely stand aside for someone screaming “Fairness!!!!”

    North of our border you can witness this firsthand in PM Trudeau. When asked what he wanted his legacy to be as PM, he paused…and said “Fairness.”

    Haidt nailed it.

  18. David J says

    I’ll have to say I found the majority of this extract quite orthodox and uninteresting.

    The only things that interested me were, first, this – which I believe is wide of the mark:
    “Identity grows, in the first place, out of a distinction between one’s true inner self and an outer world of social rules and norms that does not adequately recognize that inner self’s worth or dignity.”

    Does it? In all instances of identity? I really don’t think so. For example, I really cannot see how anyone in the West who bases their identity on say their ethnicity or race ever now finds the outer world not adequately recognising their inner self worth or dignity. Media, commerce, culture, government – all of them and more – are preoccupied, even obsessed, with race and ethnicity. I therefore simply don’t understand why the author wrote what he did.

    Second, is Fukuyama claiming a sense of national identity is formed, at all times and in all instances, in the same way – out of such a distinction? It seems nonsensical.

    He groups together a wide range of identities, and includes nation alongside things such as gender and sexual orientation (“… nation, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender.”). This seems odd and quite simplistic, because a sense of identity based on nation is qualitatively different from the other types of identity – historically, politically and culturally. I would not include it under the umbrella term identity politics, without qualification. Identity politics as a term has a very specific meaning which does not apply in the same way to national identity as it does to other identities.

  19. codadmin says

    A rational, mature, globalism based around the adage: “good fences make good neighbours”, would be a great thing.

    The Southeqst Asian countries have it correct. They are global, advanced, open economies, but they have clearly defined borders and are stable because of it.

    Western Europe on the other hand…

    • ga gamba says

      Rather a simplistic analysis of Southeast Asia. Of the lot, only Singapore is global, advanced, and open, but its relationship with Malaysia is strained and the neighbourhood’s 800-pound gorilla, Indonesia, keeps everyone on edge. It was under Japanese pressure and leadership that the Malacca Strait states began to cooperate to fight piracy.

      And I haven’t even began to address the overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

  20. martti_s says

    Every society has a story it tells its citizens about their ‘souls’. Some stories are more successful than others while the ‘homo Sovieticus’ was a flop despite all the sacrifices the Soviet people had to make in the experiment. It sort of worked with foxes, though. The fifteenth generation were lapdogs already.

    Google is probably working on a story that would work in a society consisting of Americans, basically those who agree with their ideals of social justice. Probably there would be another component trying to turn those with different ideas onto the right track, or isolate them. They are collecting data of our interests, our shopping, our travels, the films we watch and the sites we get our news from. Probably they have a more accurate idea of our patterns of behavior than the biased one we have about ourselves.

    Naturally, they will use this knowledge for matching products to consumers but eventually they will figure out that their ideology is exactly the product YOU need to live a better life. They will match their ‘marketing’ to your interests and intelligence in such a fashion that you feel they actually are telling you stuff you agree with. With a twist.

  21. “Twentieth century politics had been organized along a left–right spectrum defined by economic issues, the Left wanting more equality and the Right demanding greater freedom. Progressive politics centered around workers, their trade unions, and social democratic parties that sought better social protections and economic redistribution. The Right by contrast was primarily interested in reducing the size of government and promoting the private sector. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, that spectrum appears to be giving way in many regions to one defined by identity. The Left has focused less on broad economic equality and more on promoting the interests of a wide variety of groups perceived as being marginalized—blacks, immigrants, women, Hispanics, the LGBT community, refugees, and the like. The Right, meanwhile, is redefining itself as patriots who seek to protect traditional national identity, an identity that is often explicitly connected to race, ethnicity, or religion.”

    The passage above is profoundly wrong.

    The mutually exclusive economic systems idealized by Left and Right are expressions of a deeper philosophical divide. The defining concerns represented by the Left-Right spectrum relate directly and specifically to the nature and purpose of government itself.

    What is sovereignty? Is it a manifestation of state power, or is it a feature of individual agency intrinsic to human nature?

    To say the Left wants more equality while the Right demands greater freedom is lazy and misleading.

    Political rhetoric and semantics aside, the efforts of the Left are geared towards the accumulation and consolidation of institutional power at the expense of individual liberty. Conversely, the Right is primarily focused on maximizing individual liberty by constraining and dispersing institutional power.

    The Left “wants” equality in ways that are illusory, manipulative, and dishonest.

    The Right “demands” a government structure conducive to effective administration capable of maintaining ordered liberty.

    The weaponization of “identity” in this second decade of the 21st century does not suggest some sort of change in the nature of the Left-Right spectrum. The emergence of “identity politics” signals a new epoch in the evolution of Leftist political warfare. It’s not new. What was a far more subtle campaign of division commonly referred to as Balkanization has grown beyond innuendo and implication into a ceaseless parade of hysterical accusations.

    The Left isn’t focused on promoting the perceived interests of “marginalized” groups at all. Marginalization is a consequence of reinforcing arbitrarily-defined tribal identities. The Left exploits these tribal identities by assigning and prioritizing political interests for the group (including who hates them based solely on the trait defining the group) which in turn determine the parameters of acceptable thought and boundaries of social engagement.

    Manipulating the “perceived” interests of segregated constituencies promotes the expansion of necessarily coercive government powers under the guise of a benevolent paternalism animated by the incorruptible compassion of uniquely qualified experts.

    For the fiction to work, the Left requires a villain.

    The Right becomes the home of hate and bigotry. It is the source of oppression in this hero’s journey. Quite cleverly, the narrative constructed by the Left casts each tribe as the hero from the perspective of their own particularized frame of reference. The Left chooses to take up a role in support of it’s roster of heroes… illuminating the path forward, clarifying objectives, and inspiring them to action.

    To what end, though?


    “Equality” is a word, not a guiding principle.

    The Right anchors itself to meaningful articulations of ideals worth pursuing.

    “Equality under the law.”

    “Equality of opportunity.”

    These are coherent principles that clearly convey specific ideals a society can measure itself against. These are principles the Right believes in.

    The Right is not “redefining itself,” The Right has consistently embraced genuine patriotism, believing that even the ugliest chapters of American history can legitimately be viewed as testaments to the greatness of the American experiment. The Right isn’t proud of slavery, but can find something to admire in the sacrifices which ended that hideous institution. The Right sees Jim Crow as morally corrupt abuses of institutional power.

    To the extent that the Right seeks to protect a common national identity, values become the tie that binds. The identity worth celebrating doesn’t look a certain way, it behaves a certain way. It’s amorphous — immune to being confined in it’s scope by description or definition. This identity is tethered to the individual, as opposed to individuals being tethered to an identity by virtue of belonging to a narrowly defined group.

    There are things this identity is NOT, and it is not in anyway perfect.

    But this idea that the Right “explicitly connects” this identity to “race, or ethnicity,” is an outrageous implication. The Left “explicitly connects” the Right’s “real” motivations and appeals to a “traditional” identity with race and ethnicity, because the Left profits from the divisions it sows. The Left does not want unity; it promotes solidarity within groups.

    It is more fair to connect the Right with religion, because even those with no particular attachment to religious institutions or tradition can recognize how Judeo-Christian values have contributed to the instantiation and maintenance of the Republic. However, that is not to say that the national identity the Right wishes to preserve cannot confer to an individual lacking religious affiliations.

    With respect to the broader point about needing “a better theory of the human soul”:

    I think “we” need only the liberty to come to our own understandings about what a “soul” is and what that means for us as sovereign individuals.

    It’s not as if there is some shortage of conceptual frameworks available from which to choose. So, anyone who finds themselves deeply unsatisfied with their present understanding of themselves and is troubled by a perceived detachment from their own “soul,” is not likely to discover meaning in a “better theory” that attempts to explain human motivation from a non-economic perspective.

    I’m just not seeing the nexus between the supposed insufficiently of current theories of “soul” and our politically-biased interpretations of human interactions acted out through various complex and dynamic economic systems.

    Is the suggestion here that equipping the Left with a “better” theory of the human soul would end their cynical condemnations of opposing viewpoints as overt expressions of bigotry?

    And I’m having difficulty with the notion that we can ever, in fact, “properly interpret human behavior” without actually listening to real human beings and what they say about what motivates their political views or economic decisions.

    • Equality is not just a word, it is engrained in al kinds of international manifests and constitutions. It is, of course, wishful thinking, but the judicial systems in all nations on earth are based on it. It’s simply like that. What most people forget, is, that it is something new on earth, not something natural, it’s only valid, say, for the last 3 generations, and not even worldwide so.
      Is it something Christian?? (not original, but a work-out?).

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