Against Identity Politics | Lecture by political scientist Francis Fukuyama

Against Identity Politics | Lecture by political scientist Francis Fukuyama



good evening ladies and gentlemen good evening it's a great pleasure to welcome you all to this beautiful concert hall the veining on behalf of publisher atlas contact and what about reflects the academic and cultural outreach program of about university it's a tremendous honor to welcome professor francis fukuyama now I'm confident that for most if not all of you Francis Fukuyama hardly needs an introduction so I shall be very brief Francis Fukuyama is a professor of political science at Stanford University is of course best known for his book the end of history and the last man that was released in the early 1990s in this book he presents the thesis that Western liberal democracy not only was the victor of the Cold War but also marked the large the last ideological stage in the progression of history in the following years professor Fukuyama has written on various issues in international politics and political philosophy ranging from neoconservatism in the United States to the origin of political order this evening he will talk about a topic that is at the heart of many present-day societal debates namely the rise of identity politics based on religion ethnicity and gender in his new book identity the demand for dignity and the politics of resentment professor Fukuyama argues that the desire of identity groups for recognition is a key threat to liberal democracy as the human desire to be recognized cannot be easily set aside he holds that we must begin to shape identity in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy now the outline of this evening is relatively straightforward we will first of course listen to Francis Fukuyama's lecture in which he explores the notion of identity the rise of authoritarian leaders and the threat identity politics poses for democracy following professor Fukuyama's lecture he will be interviewed by dr. flooey young appear fewer young appear as a philosopher and assistant professor of applied ethics at about University in her current research he focuses on self-knowledge implicit bias and identity so she is in a perfect position to further explore with Francis Fukuyama the implications of identity politics the possible risks it poses and the question of how we should deal with this after the interview there will be room for a few questions from you the audience my name is Paul Becker I'm the director of Robert reflects and I wish you all a very insightful and thought-provoking evening and now without further ado I'm happy to give the floor to Professor Francis Fukuyama so thank you very much for that very kind introduction it's delightful to be here in the Netherlands in Naima ghin I want to thank my publisher at those contact rod wood University and all the other people that had a role in sponsoring this event I must say you know of all of the countries in Europe where I've talked the Netherlands has been one of the friendliest and I've had you know some of the deepest contacts and I've also tried to follow your politics over the years as I've come here and so I really appreciate this opportunity to talk to you about what I think is a pretty important subject which is the role that identity plays in but I think is a current crisis of global democracy so the basic argument that I want to make is that world politics is shifting from an axis that had been defined between a left and a right which ideologically disagreed over essentially economic issues the left wanted more equality more social protection a stronger state that could provide services and and redistribution to citizens the right wanted more economic freedom they liked capitalism and markets and wanted you know more social socially conservative values that was the basic dichotomy and much of the 20th century I would say that today with the rise of leaders like President err Diwan in Turkey prime minister or Bonn and Hungary mr. Kachinsky the law and justice party in in Poland the people who voted for brexit in Britain and then finally Donald Trump my president in the United States we are now living in a world that is shifting towards an axis that is defined not by that traditional left-right spectrum but by identity if you want to know what that means in a very concrete way can the way that Donald Trump talked before the midterm election last November he was advised by the traditional Republicans to say that unemployment is very low the economy is growing everybody has a job because of our tax cuts and the great deregulation that we've been doing Trump listened and he basically said thank you very much and he continued and he went on to talk about the threat posed by these terrible migrant caravans that were approaching the southern border of the United States he talked about wanting to take away birthright citizenship from immigrants he said that he was going to send the army he did send the army to the southern border to defend America against this immigrant invasion that is what it means to be a politician who cares about identity rather than economics and I'm afraid that that list of other populist politicians that I mentioned is our part of that larger group so I want to walk you through a number of definitions I'm sorry about this but you have to understand I'm a professor and a political scientist so we have to get some of these concepts straight and then try to explain I think what the different varieties of populism are and why the particular kind that's appeared here especially in northern Europe is problematic political scientists by the way don't agree on the definition of populism but I think there's there's three that I think are relevant all right in the first a populist is someone who advocates an economic or a social policy that feels good in the short run but is unsustainable in the long run and therefore leads to a kind of economic catastrophe I think the chief example out in front of us is Hugo Chavez in Venezuela who was providing free eye clinics and subsidized groceries and subsidized gasoline all of which was dependent on a high price of oil once that collapsed in 2014 his regime started collapsing because it simply couldn't afford what he had promised so that's one definition the second definition has to do with a certain style of politics a populist politician tends to be charismatic that is to say they have a direct relationship with the people that they claim to represent and that charisma is expressed in only their person and not in institutions and in fact most populist politicians don't like institutions and they seek to do whatever they can to undermine institutions because institutions like the rule of law like a free media like an impartial bureaucracy these all stand in the way of the populist leader accomplishing his or her purposes so again I'm gonna pick on Donald Trump a lot tonight you'll have to bear with me but he's for an American it's hard to get away from him but when he was nominated by the Republican Party in 2016 he said I alone understand your problems and I alone can fix them and he's gone on to attack all of the major of American institutions that he didn't like he began by attacking the intelligence community he's attacked the FBI and the Justice Department because he's afraid that they're going to go after him and his family he's attacked the media as enemies of the American people I think the last world leader to say something like that was actually Joseph Stalin and in general has launched a broad attack on those check-and-balance institutions that are necessary to maintain a real liberal democracy the final definition of populism has to do with who the people are so populist claims to represent the people but oftentimes it's not the whole people not everybody that lives in the con often times it's a certain ethnic group a certain favored ethnic group or a certain traditional population with certain kinds of values and not others so again as a contemporary example Viktor Orban and Hungary has said very clearly Hungarian national identity is based on Hungarian ethnicity and for the same reasons that this was problematic when Adolf Hitler said it it's problematic when Viktor Orban says that because it means that there are a lot of non Hungarians living in Hungary that somehow are not part of that national national identity and there's a lot of Hungarians living outside of Hungary and Slovakia and Romania and other countries in central in Eastern Europe and they are actually Hungarian citizens and he considers them to be part of the national body and so there's a kind of exclusivity that does not take account of the de facto diversity of the of the countries that they're operating in now the dangers I think of this type of populism are fairly evident because they threaten both liberal democracy and the international the the liberal international order they threaten domestic democracy or I shouldn't say they threaten democracy I think what these populist are doing is to attack or to use their democratic legitimacy to attack the liberal part of liberal democracy meaning they say I have a democratic mandate from the people and therefore if you a court or a judge say that I can't do that I'm going to try to get rid of you or replace you or ignore what you tell me if you criticize me in the press I'm gonna have my friends buy your newspaper so that you know your your voice will be shut down and so it's the check and balance institutions of liberal democracy that are under threat from this kind of populism and that damage has already been done in a number of members of the European Union a union that is dedicated to maintaining high standards of democratic prac does the other danger that populism presents is to the international liberal order itself we are living in a world that has been created by a number of democratic countries in the 70 plus years since the end of the Second World War in which we have created economic institutions that have promoted the movement of goods services investment people ideas across international borders because this is going to lead to the mutual prosperity of everyone this is what you learn if you take a basic course in international trade theory and I want to just remind everybody in this room that system worked we have gone through a remarkable period of economic growth in which hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in many parts of the world it's growth that is extended to virtually all regions of the world and it's not just increasing incomes it's under-five mortality it's maternal health it's a lot of the complex measures of development that we now see important you know female empowerment has increased dramatically over this period there's also a political pour to the liberal order which has to do with the mutual support that liberal democracies have given one another that extends through various security alliances like NATO the North Atlantic Treaty Organization US Japan u.s. South Korea alliances that have secured a remarkable period of peace together this economic growth and this framework of security has led to the widespread proliferation of democracies around the world so in the year 1970 there were only about 35 democracies electoral democracies in the world by the first decade of the 21st century that number had increased to about 115 to 120 depending on how you define a democracy alright so this is a pretty successful this is a pretty successful record Steven Pinker's written a book called enlightenment now where he provides a lot more empirical information that the world has actually gotten better but the threat that is posed I think is both to the political and to the economic pillars of this Democratic liberal order by these nationalist populist nationalist politicians who have directly attacked the fundamental institutions here in Europe the European Union in the United States NAFTA questioning the American commitment to its traditional Democratic allies and in fact you know reaching out to Authority really ders like let amir putin or duterte in the Philippines or Sisi in Egypt completely undermining the moral meaning I think of the Alliance's that have provided this mutual security over the years and so that's really I think the threat that we face at the present moment so question then is why is this happening and why is it happening at this particular moment and I think here again there are another three basic reasons that have to do with economics politics and finally this question of identity all right so let's begin with economics the idea that free trade should create prosperity for all of the countries participating in it is one of the things you learn in international trade theory but if you listen carefully to your professor he or she should have told you that not every individual in every country benefits from this system and in particular if you have lower skills or education and you live in a rich country you're likely to lose your job to an equally skilled person living in a developing country in a poor country and this is in fact what has happened so there's been widespread deindustrialization in many parts of the rich world as jobs were outsourced to people in China Vietnam Bangladesh other parts of the rising a developing world which was for the first time developing its own middle class and was industrializing this has led to you know widespread stagnation and even regression in people's incomes for working class and lower middle class individuals which has been quite striking in the United States medium income for middle-class people has actually fallen between the year 2000 and and the present and it means and and the problem I think also has a gender dimension so as we move from an industrial economy into an information economy women have a more natural place in it and in fact most employers would prefer to hire a woman than a man because she's going to be more reliable she's been at work harder not have behavioral problems and so forth and so a lot of men have have discovered that they you know their fathers and grandfathers were earning the major income in the family providing for the family and now they're the ones that are unemployed and it's their wife or their girlfriend that is the chief earner in the family and so this you know leads to a you know a very big loss of both income and status all right so that's I think the proximate trigger it was driven home to everybody by the financial crises in 2008 in the US and then the euro crisis in the eurozone here where the system really blew up and it turned out that it had really not been well well organized all right now the second driver of populism I think is political so for many democracies right from the beginning the charge was that they lead to weak government democracies have to build consensus you have to make coalition's you have to deal with interest groups you've got to talk in Parliament you've got to explain things to people make speeches people just talk talk talk and then nothing ever gets done now this is actually not characteristic of a lot of democracies a lot of have been quite successful in making difficult decisions but it's certainly true of a number of them Italy Japan India and I would say the United States all of these countries have had trouble formulating decisive policies to deal with some of the challenges economic social and the like that they have faced and this in turn creates a demand for a strongman they want the you know voters want somebody that can cut through all the blather in Parliament and actually deliver things you know make the trains run on time and this I think explains you know the the desire for a leader you know somebody out of the business world who's used to making decisions I think Prime Minister Modi in India was elected because he was seen as a strong leader obby in Japan so there's a lot of different manifestations of this drive for stronger government the final issue however is this issue of identity which is the subject of my current book and I think that it's important because people pay too much attention to the economic drivers of populism and they don't fully appreciate the the importance of the cultural side of it because identity is really about the question of culture if you think that the drivers of this populist upsurge were simply economic you have to ask yourself the following question given the financial crisis and the general perception that that capitalism was benefiting a small class of very rich billionaires and not doing anything for everyone else in fact putting them out of their homes and I was their jobs why is it that after 2008 you didn't see a big surge of support for traditional left-wing parties for communist socialist social democratic parties that promised to do more redistribution and and take up the cause of the less fortunate instead what you got was the rise of right-wing parties and in fact many of the traditional Left parties of the left went into a decline in that in the over the past 10 years they've been declining in the period before that but the decline accelerated the you know the French Socialist Party basically has disappeared the German Social Democrats went from about 45 percent of the vote to 25 percent now so what what is happening why is it the people on the right have been able to capture the anger that is generated by this economic crisis rather than parties of the left and I think it does have to do with this issue of identity so what is identity first of all my definition of identity you don't have to accept it but my definition is very broad because I think that identity pervades the way that we think about many issues in politics and I'll give you some examples of it I think that identity is based on a universal human psychological characteristic which Plato the philosopher Plato labeled thumos themost is a greek word in english it's often translated as spiritedness or pride it refers to the fact that human beings want to be respected they believe that they've got a certain inner sense of dignity or Worth and they want other people to recognize that Worth and they become very angry if they don't receive that recognition and so it's a completely interest objective relationship and it's different from its it's different from the things that the economists say drive us the economists say okay we have what they call preferences or desires for material well-being and there's rationality by which we calculate and that's it that's it for the economists that those two things together can explain the whole of human behavior the problem is that I think there's a lot that can't be explained by that model that has to do with this feeling of resentment that comes from being disparaged or being denigrated and you see this actually in the debates that we've been experiencing over populism so for example many of the voters the brexit voters in Britain when they're asked why they would vote for something that was likely to lead to an economic catastrophe for England loss of jobs companies moving out of Britain a lot of them said if we have to suffer this way fine we will accept that as long as we can keep foreigners out as long as we can keep our national identity from being undermined by this influx of immigrants and that's an example I think of a identity issue taking precedence over an economic one all right so there's a universal desire to be recognized particularly to be recognized as equal and in a sense it it's you know part of modern part of modern democracy I think there's a special modern form of this universal desire which I would date actually from the Protestant Reformation which says that we all have an inner being that is different from our outer cells our outer cells are defined by other people our families our neighbors are our colleagues people that live in fellow citizens but we have an authentic inner self and what Luther said was that God sees only the inner person only the inner believer the core of the Christian faith was not conformity to the rituals of the Catholic Church saying the Rosary are going to mass it was an inner faith that only God could see and that that inner faith was more important than all of the external laws and rituals of the church the church could crumble and disappear and it wouldn't make any difference for the Christian faith because the Christian faith was something interior and I think that this idea that what has worth is what's inside us then in subsequent European thought gets secularized and made general so I would say the two thinkers that were critical in this were Immanuel Kant who held that you know what it what may human beings of infinite value was their capacity for moral choice and jean-jacques rousseau who said that the historical process is what has suppressed our inner self that is authentic and makes us behave in false ways that ultimately lead to our unhappiness and so the goal of life that would make our lives fulfilled is to liberate that inner self from all of the external constraints that society that a phony or a false society imposes on us and that I think has been the structure of a lot of identity movements over time so for example you know the me2 movement is really a movement about dignity and it's about recognition of dignity and it's about the fact that a patriarchal society has defined rules that do not take women seriously they do not respect women as a whole human being with talents abilities experience empathy all of these other things that make a complete human being they only see one dimension and what needs to change is not the inner woman conforming to those external rules what needs to change are the rules themselves because it's the whole of the society that is suppressing you know the the appreciation and the recognition of of the dignity of women all right so this urge to be respected naturally takes a political form there have been many of them in history beginning with liberal democracy itself so if you think back to the year 2011 there was a Tunisian fruit seller named Mohamed Bouazizi he had a vegetable cart he was part of the informal economy a police woman confiscated his cart he went to the governor's office he said where's my cart why have you taken away my livelihood nobody would talk to him and in despair he doused himself with gasoline set himself on fire and that was the incident that triggered Arab Spring millions of people living in Arab dictatorships and at that moment there really weren't anything but Arab dictatorships saw themselves in Mohamed Bouazizi's situation they were living under government's that did not respect their basic human dignity right a human being should at least deserve an answer to the question why did you take my livelihood away but rather they simply ignored him and and treated him as if he were he were invisible so I think that at the core a liberal democracy and particularly the liberal part of liberal democracy actually recognizes us as as human beings with an equal moral worth it basically has to do with the fact that we are equal insofar as we are moral agents that are capable of making choices it recognizes us by giving us rights it gives us a right to speech to Association to belief and ultimately a right to vote which means a right to share in political power so that we are considered morally capable of governing ourselves through an electoral process in an authoritarian country if it's a mild one like Singapore you're treated as a child so the government is a wise parent it knows better than you what your self-interest is but it doesn't trust you with the ability to make decisions on on your own if you're a dictatorship like North Korea they don't even care about that they really don't care if you know a large part of the population starves to death as long as they can pursue their own objectives and so being treated as a citizen on a universal basis is a matter of dignity it's a struggle for dignity the philosopher Hegel actually argued that the end of history was a regime that would recognize people on a universal basis and that is the you know I think one of the moral foundations of liberal democracy itself however there are other forms of recognition that lead to less happy outcomes and the other big one the original form of identity politics is striving for recognition of identity was European nationalism in the 19th century and in fact coming out of the French Revolution there was a liberal strain in the rights of man that the French Revolution carried to countries throughout Europe but there is another strain which was French nationalism which competed with the liberal strain throughout the rest of the century and in a sense a lot of 19th century European politics was fought out between these two ideologies the revolutions of 1848 you know for example in Germany had a nationalist German nationalist side and it also had a Universalist liberal side and unfortunately by the early 20th century the nationalist version of it won out and it was a nationalism that was aggressive intolerant and ultimately led to violent conflict as the old empires disintegrated and a lot of new nations began struggling for recognition as independent bodies I would argue actually that a lot of what we understand today as Islamic radicalism is actually also based on a desire for recognition on a on a desire to be recognized and I think this is why actually so many young European Muslims have gone to the Middle East to fight on behalf of the Islamic state or al Qaeda or other kinds of radical groups because a person in that situation I think faces a very big identity conflict on the one hand they don't like the identity of their parents and grandparents which is usually a form of village Islam it's it's not terribly sophisticated and on the other hand they don't feel like they are accepted or well integrated into the society in which they're living and by the way it's not just in Europe this can happen in a modernizing country in the Middle East where you're confronted with a modern world and a traditional world at the same time and under those circumstances you begin to ask yourself the question Who am I am I really modern am i european am i muslim am i traditional and I think what the radical forms of Islamist ideology do is offer an answer to that question they say you're a member of a large Ummah that extends around the world our brothers and sisters have been persecuted they've been treated with disrespect by the West and we are offering you a way to fight back you can have agency and take control of your life in a situation in which you and your fellow Muslims are disrespected now this is not the whole explanation for Islamism you know there is also a genuine religious aspect to this which also we have to take into account but I do think that you know if you look at the life histories of a lot of people who sign up for this movement you know they're very confused they're petty criminals they come from broken families they don't have a clear place in their societies and all of a sudden this kind of a movement and this kind of an ideology gives them a location where they can where they can see themselves very clearly all right so as you can see there's a lot of different strands and different political movements that have an identity component to them so now we come to the emergence of identity politics what's strictly speaking known as identity politics in contemporary discourse which is what happens in contemporary liberal democracies and that has a somewhat different history I think that in liberal societies we have accepted the premise that we are all moral agents but the liberation of that agency has been a project so that individualism you know has has has increased at the expense of social norms and social controls in virtually all liberal societies we prize the liberation of that inner individual and we particularly prize it when it's connected to a certain form of social injustice and I think if you look at the development of identity politics in Western democracies it really begins in the 1960s in the u.s. it begins with the civil rights movement and the feminist movement in in that decade in Europe it begins with the rethinking of what it means to be on the left after the revolutions the uprisings the event em all of 1968 and inequality came increasingly to be seen not as a something that applied to a large group like the proletariat right this was the understanding of Marxist and of left-wing parties throughout the twentieth century that the object of inequality was the working class as a whole but rather came to be seen as located in specific groups that had specific grievances and specific ways of being mistreated so so the problem that women faced was very different from that of immigrants or racial minorities and then you get the intersection of these different things that if you're a you know a lesbian female you know a person of color your situation is going to be different from you know somebody else that had a different combination of characteristics and these became the rallying points for social equality so I want to make one point really clear because this usually comes up to the questions I have no problem with this strand of democratic politics and in fact I think that this you know thinking about identity in these terms and pushing back in terms of identity groups is perfectly legitimate because the mainstream society discriminates against people in group terms and so naturally people that are members of these groups have common experiences and they want a common correction to the problem and so that was not that was not the issue the issue I think was more of a political one having to do with the way that parties on the Left interpreted inequality to primarily to these groups many of which were minorities as opposed to the traditional working-class which in most European countries and in the United States was largely white and in fact you know parts of the left began to see that the old working-class was unionized they were becoming middle-class they were actually in themselves a privileged category and therefore that was not the appropriate object of activism and you know the drive for equality and so over time a lot of working-class people began to drift from the left to the right this defection didn't just happen in this decade it started happening in the United States in the 1980s when a lot of working-class Democratic voters started voting for Ronald Reagan because they liked his conservative cultural and message an identity message about American that's better than the one that the Democrats were offering and the other thing that began to happen was that right-wing groups began to take up the cause of identity as one of their own but it was identity as a white person or as a member of the formerly dominant group that had to find the old national identity that was now being displaced by all of these other groups that were that were claiming moral authority over them there's a there's a sociologist arleigh Hawk shield at Berkeley that's written a very nice book it's an ethnographic study of conservative voters in Louisiana that lived their rural voters they voted for the Tea Party and she has a metaphor to explain their perception of what happened what went wrong they're all standing in a long queue they're waiting to get through a door in a house that's marked the American dream they're raising families are going to work they're playing by the rules they're doing all the things they should be doing and then all of a sudden they see people cutting in front of them so these are African American women gays and lesbians Syrian refugees Mexican immigrants and these people are being helped by elites that are saying no no these other people deserve to cut in line and ahead of you because they're more deserving and she says that this metaphor explains you know the mentality of people that voted for triming she wrote she did this study before the rise of Trump that clearly you know this was the thinking of many of the populist voters and I would say that this kind of anti elitist mentality where the elites are in league with people that are you know rising up below you socially is characteristic of many of the other populist parties in Europe now I think it's very important for us to understand this phenomenon psychologically and socially there is a tendency on the part of many people who don't like populism to simply dismiss this as racism and xenophobia and I think that is correct for a certain group of people that vote for populist parties they just don't like the fact that people with brown skins or black skins are coming into their country right and they're I don't think we can do much except to say that they're wrong and you know that is you know that's genuinely racism but I do think that there's a certain group of those voters that actually do deserve a certain degree of sympathy when they say they are not respected because what's happened across the the rich world is that societies have divided up into two groups one group has a college education they live in a big city they're mobile they can take advantage if they live in Europe of the mobility that Europe offers they can marry somebody from a different country they can live in a third country work in a yet another one and they're connected through technology and and other means with the rest of the world and they have been doing pretty well economically over the years the other group lives not in a big city does not have a great education has skills that are disappearing or the the demand for which is disappearing has much more traditional kinds of conservative values and that sort of person actually does I think have a certain claim to genuine sympathy especially when they say the elites have not been respecting us or even paying attention to us as deindustrialization has taken place as jobs have disappeared to foreign countries the political parties the main political parties the mainstream media and then the arts you know people that make films and and and and and and work in creative occupations are much more concerned about those other underprivileged groups that are more favoured by the left rather than this old working class so I think that the the belief that elites and by the way I I sort of suspect that everybody in this room is probably part of that elite I'm part of that elite so I you know I own up to that has a tendency to a certain kind of cultural snobbery towards that kind of person and I think that you know so in addition to the brexit voter being told oh your policy is going to lead to economic disaster you know the person supporting remain will start lecturing that person and saying well you know if you took basic economics you'd see that this is really a you know a terrible thing that you're advocating you're essentially uneducated and you don't understand your own self-interest so it's that kind of attitude you know that kind of arrogance that I think is felt very deeply by that kind of voter and I think that explains some of the support for these populist parties so I'm I'm coming to the end of what I wanted to lay out for you I would say that and I look forward to the discussion because I think we can talk more about some of these ideas and then some of the solutions but I would say in terms of solutions there's basically you know several categories of things one has to do with a kind of symbolic level in which I think that we we need to recognize that people are going to pursue their specific identities every one of us has multiple identities based on where we're born what we do for you know work who our friends are where we live and no one would question the fact that in many cases if we're mistreated or part of a group that has suffered exclusion in the past we're going to you know we're going to fight back with other members of our group and there's nothing wrong with that but I think that what we need in addition to that our integrative identities and the nice thing about identity is that it's a very malleable concept it can be made smaller or it can be made larger right now you have a lot of opportunistic politicians that are taking specific grievances and making people more angry about them and I think that it's possible to move in the other direction where you talk about more integrative identities and I for better or worse think that those identities have to be based on something like the nation now saying this in Europe I want to make really clear I like the European Union you know I think that it's a very noble project I think it would have been nice if the original concept had worked out where European identity displaced the individual national identities of the Member States but I think especially after the euro crisis we have to admit it hasn't worked right Germans are willing to take care of poorer Germans because they believe they're all part of the same family but they're not willing to take care of poorer Greeks because they don't believe that they share you know a common European identity with them and that's what it would mean if that identity really was was a powerful one so for better or worse I think national identity remains important and it's being threatened I think in two directions it's being threatened by these new right-wing nationalists that want to say national identity should be based on race or ethnicity right it's only a certain group of people that qualify to be part of the national community but on the other hand I do think that there's a certain threat from the by people that say nation just is an important you know we're global citizens we are citizens of the world we believe that you know we have to work with other people and we need to be as sympathetic to people that are thousands of miles away as as to our next-door neighbors and I think that doesn't resonate well with you know a lot of people for whom that local community still is important and so talking about these kinds of issues in a more integrative way is important there's some specific things I would recommend with regard to immigration because that really is the one issue that has United all of these populist parties because that's what threatens identity in in in the most direct way and I do think that there are a lot of adjustments you know the immigration systems in both the United States and in Europe are far from perfect and they could be you know they could be they could be changed I would say the final thing that can be done is simply you know to act through politics and start winning some elections this is something that I find I you know with my Stanford students I have to lecture them on this you know because they think that politics is dirty or you know it's old-fashioned they want to work you know they're willing to protest but they're not actually willing to go to the next step of organizing you know supporting a political party supporting a candidate running for office all of these sorts of things which is what you have to do if you want to gain political power in a democracy and if you don't do that then you leave the field to these super energized populist politicians and voters that are interested in getting out there and changing things and so I think you know finally the solution to the problem for better or worse is going to is going to lie in politics so with that thank you for your attention and I look forward very much to both the discussion and hear to your questions thank you thank you for this wonderful lecture let me get some water first and now I feel almost silly because you just gave a talk without any PowerPoint slides were cars and Here I am just a few questions on cards but anyway the sort of just to start with when I was reading your book I was thinking your main concern was with progressive leftist emancipatory identity politics but then you also really discuss as as you just did sort of left-wing identity politics so first I wanted to ask you and then I changed my mind where your can with which type of identity politics you're most concerned and then I was thinking you're probably gonna say both no you're not so is there one that you are concerned no I'm much more concerned about the right-wing populism because as I said at the beginning of the talk that's what's actually threatening democracy you know you have populist politicians that are trying to undermine the independence of their judicial systems you have right-wing politicians that are trying to muzzle an independent media nobody on the Left is doing that you know I mean they might in some future world but they're certainly not doing that now so I think the real threat to democracy is on the side of the you know the the populist nationalist and that's really the immediate danger I you know I think that to some extent people on the Left may not recognize the degree to which some of their views have given ammunition to you know to people on the right but the right right now I think is the much bigger threat okay so the ammunition point is I think interesting so so to put it bluntly do you do think that in some way these leftist identity politics movements as somehow to blame for this backlash that we're seeing now on the right or would you say that's – no no it'sit's much too strong a statement I think that they have contributed to Cermak and to it but like I was saying there's all these other drivers of it you know it has to do with globalization it has to do with outsourcing and job loss and deindustrialization I think that's actually you know still pretty important despite the fact that I think that these identity issues are are crucial for understanding it but there's lots of things that are creating this this right-wing populist movement and you know the the areas in which I think the left have contributed to it is mostly in the framing of the problem so fifty years ago you know a white person either in Europe or the United States wouldn't have even thought of themselves as a white person you know they would have just said I am a member of that whatever the you know country I'm an American or you know I'm doctor I'm you know a German and they wouldn't have thought of themselves as a member of a of a particular racial group that was somehow under threat whereas today's populace really believe that you know Viktor Orban I mean the reason that he emphasizes Hungarian – national identity is he really thinks that Hungary is under threat Hungary is a small country they've also already lost a lot of their population more people are moving out you know a month by month and so hungry could disappear in another 50 years really and you know in a practical sense and so I think that you know it's very easy therefore for these populace to adopt the conceptual framework that is used by the you know people on the Left to say yes we are also an endangered minority and we have to fight back in order to win respect from the rest of the world so when one of the things you do mention in the book well actually let me read out a passage because I thought it was worth reading out let me get the page it was actually good because you just mentioned that usually in the in the Q&A people forget about how positive you actually are about of a lot of these emancipatory identity politics so let me just read this up the embrace of identity politics was both understandable and necessary the lived experience of identity groups are different from one another and often need to be addressed in ways specific to those groups outside us through those groups often fail to perceive the harm they're doing to their actions as many men realize in the wake of the me2 movements highlighting of sexual harassment and sexual assault identity politics aims at changing culture and behavior in ways that will have real benefits for the people involved so by turning a spotlight on narrower experience of injustice identity politics has brought about a welcomed change in concrete public policies and I thought it was important to read this out because I noticed that a lot of the the interviews that I that I read so far people tend to sort of overlook this aspect but then of course we all do feel that it's about coming and there is about coming and you mentioned five problems certain versions or ways of doing as it were identity politics can can be problematic and some problems you mentioned are actually socio-economic problems that they stand in the way of socio-economic progress and well maybe the first question is could you say something about this relation between how precisely identity politics is standing in the way of so this may reflect my narrow experience being a university professor but identity politics is particularly pronounced in the universities and there's been lots of protests this began in the 1980s and then it went quiet for a little bit but now it's it's back very strongly over issues of race ethnicity gender sexual orientation and and so forth and usually what happens is that the university administration meets these protests by saying okay we understand your point of view so we're going to create a special ethnic studies department or new Gender Studies program to look into these issues and and then that's it and the truffle is that these you know that kind of sponsz only gets at the most superficial aspect of the problem if you think about the problem of race in the United States it is deeply rooted in you know economics in in the structure of American cities in you know long deeply held racial attitudes but also you know cultural characteristics of different populations and fixing that is really really hard students would much rather have a kind of symbolic victory in the realm of you know dignity politics rather than do the hard work of you know trying to materially fix the position of the people you know that they claim to be concerned about you know another example of this so I really liked Obamacare I liked Obama's Affordable Care Act because I think it was not targeted at any particular group but it was targeted at poor Americans and it was very necessary the United States was the only developed country that does not have some form of universally mandated health insurance and you try to get a university student interested in protecting the health care system they don't want to do it you know it's it's too boring for them and so they would much rather you know deal with a you know a statue that they don't like that they want to have removed from the campus rather than actually try to protect you know a really important social program that will do some concrete good to the to the people that they care about so I think that's that's what I meant by that so do you think we shouldn't be doing this symbolic injustice do we need to do other things as well we need to focus you know and there's some I think there's some evidence now that people on the left in my country are beginning to focus on the more concrete economic policies and I think that's a good thing but we can't do the other you can't do the other so now I'm so I have a different question now so earlier on you were I think saying that one of the reasons why certain leftist parties haven't been as successful as we we otherwise should have expected them to be if socio-economic problems and problems of distribution with a real problem but maybe for them it would be important to appeal to identity whereas now actually what you seem to be suggesting is actually know what we should be working on is not identity but rather these know fixing the socio-economic situation I think both you know so we both need to concrete socio-economic policies but we do need to speak of Ida about identity in different ways and that's what I was saying about national identity that we need to talk about identities that you know so the problem is the following in a democracy you have to have a community you have to have a democratic community that believes in a common set of institutions has similar values of supporting democracy and basically trust each other to the extent that they can disagree about concrete issues that come in front of them but they feel that you know their fellow citizens of you know the same democratic enterprise I think that's what it means to have a national identity and so on the symbolic level I think you need politicians that will emphasize that sort of thing I so I just to give you an example which may seem a little bit trivial but I mentioned in the book the film Invictus about Nelson Mandela in the 1996 Rugby World Cup we're in this bitterly divided society that blacks played football or soccer and the whites played rugby and he saw it as his job as a leader to get his fellow black South Africans to root for the almost all-white national rugby team the Springboks because you know he saw sport as a as a symbolic you know unifying factor that could help to bridge this racial divide so you know that in the end I it wasn't enough but you know I think that's an example of what it means to enter into this symbolic identity realm and worry about integration rather you know then division okay so the identity component has to has to be national identity not there well like I said you know I wish there was a European identity that you could clearly so I have another question about the concept of dignity so you write some somewhere in the book that the struggle for recognition everywhere is a struggle for dignity and then you also mention at various places that of course dignity is a very ambiguous concept and has mental different things to different people and different and philosophers as well and the the way I understood it is that at least there's one basic distinction between and being engaged in the struggle for recognition trying to get respect for yourself as a human being and that you're treated equally or that you're not treated differently for contingent reasons yes and the second conception has to do with specific well with a struggle for your yourself as a specific individual with a specific identity and this you described as a struggle for dignity that is related mostly to authenticity or your inner self and the way understood it is that you regard most of the identity politics that you see going on right now as identity politics or struggle for dignity of the second type is that is that right yeah I I think it tends to be not simply for a universal dignity that gives you rise as a citizen and a democracy it's for the dignity of the specific way of life of your group so for example you know at the beginning of the civil rights movement Martin Luther King basically wanted black people to be treated the same as white people and be allowed to live in their neighborhoods and you know integrate into that society but then in later years you have different strands of you know the black power movement that said no no we actually don't want to be the same as white people we have our own culture and we want to be respected as a different way of life as a different culture so it's us as a group that needs to be respected and not simply as individuals and that I think you know it's understandable it kind of depends what the culture is that you're demanding respect for but there is a fundamental tension in a liberal society between respect for groups and respect for individuals because sometimes not all cultures actually respect the individuals that live within you know within that group so I think I see what you mean and and I think it's it's it might well be true that for a certain individual it's going to be sort of a struggle for recognition of the second type they want this specific worth as an individual with specific characteristics their gender their race whatever it might be respected specifically respected maybe that it be recognized of something that is of of specific value as well it's not just neutral but then I actually think that a large amount of people who are engaged in these struggles wouldn't be happy to accept this description they wouldn't be happy to say yes I'm engaged in the struggle for my inner worth or for authenticity and maybe it's the framing that would put them off but actually I imagine it's manat going to accept that this is true of them do can you use do can you imagine the same thing or do you think that actually in what sense wouldn't it be true of them I think that what they would say is no I'm struggling for justice no I mean that's fine I think a lot of them would say that yeah as I said this is not a general characteristic of identity groups but it is definitely characteristic of some of them right so you know so within you know the the LGBT movement a lot of the the the the political activism has indeed been simply for gay marriage and you know kind of juridical equality of gay people but there is a certain part of that community that says no actually we have a you know a different type of sexuality and that that in itself is valuable and we ought to be respected for being you know for being different and not simply for being you know like heterosexual people so I think both of those exist at the same time so in any way do you think it would be informative to have sort of empirical research and of course I'm always in favor of empirical I shouldn't be saying this is a philosopher but still yeah yeah no I mean interesting how they sell they describe their own struggle and whether they really think it's just a huge you know a human right sort of thing or whether they really think no I have a specific value and I want you to respect my value specifically you know one of the things that makes it really hard to empirically judge this and I don't think there are any particularly good empirical studies is that there's a tendency given social media and the Internet to pick outrageous examples of people that are you know taking extreme forms of identity you know to shut down a speech or thing and then it gets picked up and the conservative media and it you know it's passed around and then people say yeah this is the general problem in universities or in Hollywood or things like that and you know I think we honestly don't know how widespread that is all right so ever different questions so one of the problems that you also mention or at least one of the problems that identity politics could have is that it impedes freedom of speech or sort of mixed freedom of speech hard or impossible can you expand on that argument yeah again this is not a general problem in the society but it is a problem I think in universities where if you want to say anything on any of these sensitive topics having to do with gender ethnicity race sexual orientation who you are biologically is really important you know and oftentimes you know if you're a white male that is seen as if so facto de legitimizing you know what you say and as a result you either self-censor or you're shouted down and so I think and there have been incidents you know where this kind of thing has happened and so it breeds it's bred a kind of intolerance of alternative you know alternative viewpoints and in a university you know it does seem to me that the primary concern ought not to be avoiding the offense to the dignity of you know particular groups that ought to be you know defense of you know kind of vigorous debate so okay let me give you another example from my own experience at Stanford University so you know there are these things that are now labeled microaggressions so what's the mic I learned this because I we now have to take a yearly course in sexual harassment training so this was added to last year's curriculum so a microaggression example of a microaggression is something I've experienced you know so someone comes up to me and says well where are you from well I was born in the United States you know my grandfather came from Japan but we've been living in the country for three generations now right so I said I'm an American and they said no no where are you really from and I say well yeah I'm really from Chicago and then I grew up in New York and so forth and so you know it's it's I've my whole life I found that mildly annoying but now I've discovered that I'm actually a victim of a microaggression and I I now have an actionable case that I could take to a university Authority and I could say that person asked me where I'm from and I'm really you know offended by it and you know my view is you should just toughen up a little bit because sometimes people will say offensive things to you so I do think that you know it's not an absolute right to free speech but I do think that there's a you know there's a carefulness and talking about certain subjects that is not really something that universities ought to be cultivating right so there's a sort of source of victimization I think is the notion as you put it that's that might be dangerous it's not toxic yes all right do you actually think that anger might ever be a productive or a good image that's it's I mean you wouldn't get any historical progress if you didn't have anger right because you know I mean that's why Hegel said that the whole of the historical process is a struggle for recognition its slaves resenting the fact that they're slaves and wanting to be you know regarded as respected as equal human beings you wouldn't have a civil rights movement you wouldn't have an anti-slavery movement you know you wouldn't have a women's rights movement people didn't get angry about the way they're treated so it's not anger in itself you know thumos is a universal characteristic and it can be used for good purposes and it can be used for bad purposes in fact you know one of the problems I make this distinction between these two words that I created I so see Mia and megalo see Mia so I Sophie Mia is the desire to be treated as equal and megalo Samia is the desire to be respected as superior and you know in general megalovania is seen as a bad thing because that's what you know tyrants and dictators have but on the other hand that's also what great opera singers or football players or you know anyone that wants to be excellent in any field presumably also wants the recognition of being great and so it's also responsible for you know good things in the world so I don't think you can really characterize that either in in moral terms or the the the moral judgment lies other other than the fact that it comes out of few mouths yeah okay so anger can be a good thing and but we don't have we shouldn't be getting angry too soon she's also sometimes well I think there's a little bit too much anger out there right now all right I'm gonna move on to a different topic which is your sort of your proposal to offer also a different model to certain societal developments than the socio-economic model and one of the examples that you discuss in the book is the example of the the homeless person who's begging for money and you say this person has become invisible and what's what's the main problem is not in a way that he or she doesn't have money but is the fact that he or she has become invisible and lacks any status in the relevant sense and I was wondering well someone's a good social economic model advocate sort of defender of that model would say yes but surely if that person did have meet the threshold the socio-economic threshold would have enough money then surely the status would come come with the socio-economic improvement of his or her situation so what would you say to to us response like that and and I guess my question in the background is more methodological how are we ever going to get out of this chicken egg situation between socio-economic explanations and and identity that the poverty of the homeless person is not something that couldn't be remedied by resources I mean with with homelessness it's actually a very complicated thing because there's usually some much deeper behavioral problem like alcoholism or drug abuse that lies behind that behavior schizophrenia or you know actually clinical conditions that make it actually very difficult to treat but there's definitely you know need for services for people like that so I'm not saying that you shouldn't do that I'm the the simple point I wanted to make was that and I've seen this in my own behavior when somebody on the street asks you for money a lot of times you will put money in that person's hat but you won't look them in the eye if I won't you look them in the eye because you're afraid that you know all of a sudden they'll be this recognition that there's another human being there and maybe that person will start talking to me but I'm rushing you know I got to get to an appointment I don't want to talk to this person you know this person doesn't really mean anything to me and so that's why you kind of avoid any kind of really human deeper contact because you don't want to the moment that you acknowledge that that person is a human being then you actually have a certain moral obligation to you know deepen your relationship and I think that we're you know the fact that we're reluctant to do that is also what makes homelessness you know feel bad that you know people give you money but they won't look you in the eye and they won't engage with you yeah yes so I see that but what I meant to say was that it's it's always possible to say that actually having less position of goods as you call them or relative goods or less status and thinking that one's identity dignity is somehow at stake might always piggyback because it were on or be the result of no lower socioeconomic status and then you enter this debate where it's not really clear how we ever are going to get an answer whether it's really status or identity as such that's a problem or whether even for brexit ears or people voting for the freedom party in the Netherlands are also identity claims but they they look like sincere identity claims and they are but they they wouldn't be there they wouldn't have the strength that they they didn't you know if they had jobs I agree with that I do have one chapter in which I talk about the fact that what seems oftentimes to be economic motivation is actually a status concern and that it's really hard to disentangle yeah the two so we'd actually only know two to see if this book is true if we had social economic justice all across the world if we still had status problems then this would be true in a way that would be okay all right so I wanted to talk about the solution and what you mentioned just now about about national identity as well and you were at the boat and off today and there was also seabird on the Boomer and probably most people in the room know that Sivan's boomer proposed that we should actually I think he said actually well we should have kids sing the national anthem standing up we should reintroduce this and he was quite enthusiastic when you was when you were talking about this identity solution and and I was just wondering maybe you could say a little bit about about how this solution wouldn't slide back into populist versions of the national how do we prevent that slide from happening yeah I think that this is a worry that a lot of people especially in Europe have because of the experience of nationalism but I really do think it depends on leadership that defines that national identity very clearly as what I call creedal identity based on ideas that are rooted deeply rooted in democracy and not rooted in ethnicity and so that has to just be said very very explicitly and also it's you know an identity that enjoins tolerance of other people and actually acceptance of the de facto diversity of our societies and I actually think that it it has a juridical component as well because a lot of European countries have citizenship laws so a citizenship law is the fundamental definition of what it means to be a member of the national community and a lot of European countries have citizenship laws that are too restrictive and and conservative parties often support these restrictive laws and I think those need to be changed you know the citizenship cannot be based on it cannot be based on on bloodlines and and who your parents were but really on more you know neutral characteristics so I think that you should be able to have a you know a political leader that says all of that clearly and you know we have a lot of countries Canada Australia you know that don't go around invading people and don't you know exclude people and they still have a pretty good sense of who they are yes so I am trying to imagine what this would look like and I think singing the national anthem isn't really going to help much and surely you agree and maybe we can all defend sort of ice skating and windmill sort of thing but that probably isn't gonna help either plus we want to national identity that actually acknowledges the different cultures that we have in the Netherlands so what sort of national identity so it's a really difficult question for you to answer would the Dutch have what would identify the Dutch I I am the last person in the world who can answer that question but it was I don't know what would if if sort of symbolism isn't the right way of going and then ethnicity isn't the right way no no symbolism is fine I mean I think the symbolism is you know actually that's what people get attached to you just have to have the right symbols that where it doesn't depend on what ethnic group you belong to that you know you consider that symbol important yeah so more ice skating or ice skating is fine except I guess with global warming you don't do ice skating yes yes and that was actually my last question so an ice bridge before we we open the floor to questions from the audience which is that on this solution of kind of strengthening our national identity is how are we going to solve problems like climate change which which seems to require a global solution if not you know maybe a global identities is not gonna happen if your opinion identity is not gonna happen but it is do you see a tension between trying to reinforce this national identity and no I don't see any tension at all I mean if you're gonna get a solution to climate change it has to be based on the international cooperation of Nations I think that you know there's no global body that's going to force countries to behave if the individual nations that make up the global community don't make those decisions themselves and so I think actually strengthening the ability of a nation to actually make a cohesive decision is is pretty important if you're going to address this problem the reason that you don't have climate change has nothing to do with identity I think it has everything to do with a bunch of powerful incentives that are working against any politician that wants to you know push strongly for a policy that will cost a lot in the short run and will give benefits to people living in other countries or in other generations I think that's you know that's the base well plus a huge collective action problem where you know India is going to add as much carbon to the atmosphere in the next decade as Europe is planning to take out of the atmosphere and you know so in a sense why bother if you know if you can't get everybody to go so that's just one of the intrinsic problems of solving that problem

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