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Francis Fukuyama: Identity — The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment

Tobias Blanken
Aug 31, 2018 · 9 min read

Am 11. September 2018 kam “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” von Francis Fukuyama heraus; was folgt ist eine kleine Sammlung der Auzüge, Rezensionen und Podcasts zu dem Buch des amerikanischen Politikwissenschaftlers, dessen wohl bekanntestes Werk “The End of History and the Last Man” (auf Deutsch: “Das Ende der Geschichte”) ist.

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Das Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) der Stanford University hat einen kleinen fünfminütigen Promo-Film erstellt. “To mark the publishing of his book “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment,” Fukuyama speaks about the issues he discusses in the book but reveals a little about his personal identity as well”:

In der Zeitschrift Foreign Affairs hat Francis Fukuyama unter dem Titel “Against Identity Politics — The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy” einen Auszug aus “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” veröffentlicht, der zu Beginn ans Ende der Geschichte anknüpft, um anschließend die Schwächen (und das Gefahrenpotential) der linken und rechten Identitätspolitik aufzuzeigen:

Beginning a few decades ago, world politics started to experience a dramatic transformation. From the early 1970s to the first decade of this century, the number of electoral democracies increased from about 35 to more than 110. Over the same period, the world’s output of goods and services quadrupled, and growth extended to virtually every region of the world. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty plummeted, dropping from 42 percent of the global population in 1993 to 18 percent in 2008.

But not everyone benefited from these changes. In many countries, and particularly in developed democracies, economic inequality increased dramatically, as the benefits of growth flowed primarily to the wealthy and well-educated. […]

Ultimately, these changes slowed the movement toward an increasingly open and liberal world order, which began to falter and soon reversed. The final blows were the global financial crisis of 2007–8 and the euro crisis that began in 2009. In both cases, policies crafted by elites produced huge recessions, high unemployment, and falling incomes for millions of ordinary workers. Since the United States and the EU were the leading exemplars of liberal democracy, these crises damaged the reputation of that system as a whole.

Einen ähnlichen Ansatz — es klingt eher wie eine Rechtfertigung — wählt Fukuyama für einen kurzen Essay in der Zeitschrift American Interest, in “Identity and the End of History” legt er dar, warum das Ende der Geschichte im Kern noch stimmt — und was sein damaliges Buch mit Identitätspolitik und seinem neuen Buch “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” zu tun hat:

History is directional and progressive, and the modernization process points to liberal democracy as its fullest embodiment. But getting there is harder than it seemed back in 1992, and the possibility of institutional decay is ever-present.

Since this point has already come up in some of the social media commentary on my new book Identity, I should address from the outset the relationship of this work to what I had written on the end of history. As someone said on social media, “Hard to believe that someone who proclaimed the end of history 25 years ago now gets to publish on identity as a driving factor in politics.”

The fact of the matter is that I had been writing about identity consistently over the years, beginning with my 1992 book. The title of that work was The End of History and the Last Man. My superficial critics did not bother to read the book, and in particular ignored the concluding chapters on the “last man”. The latter, of course, was a reference to Nietzsche’s “men without chests,” that is, the docile, passionless individuals who emerged at the end of history. They had no chests because they had no pride, and that very passionlessness was what would drive a revolt against the modern world.

Wer es sich lieber anhören will: Fukuyama hat einen Podcast von dem American-Interest-Essay aufgenommen, der hier auf Soundcloud zur Verfügung gestellt wird.

Für den Guardian hat Tim Adams Fukuyama über sein neues Buch, Donald Trump und die Zukunft der (westlichen) Demokratien befragt, unter der Überschrift “Francis Fukuyama: ‘Trump instinctively picks racial themes to drive people on the left crazy’” schildert er die Essenz des Gesprächs:

Last week, I talked to Fukuyama, now 65, on the phone from his home in California, about his latest analysis. He had just returned from 10 days explaining the pull of democracy to middle-ranking officials in Iraq. I began by asking him whether an overestimation of rational motives in the electorate was a universal condition or one particularly pertinent to our times?

He admitted it was certainly nothing new, but that our decade seemed to be supplying particularly startling examples of megalothymia in action. “You were told Brexit was clearly going to be very costly for the British economy, therefore it would be irrational to support Brexit,” he says. “But what has been proved is not only that a lot of people voting to leave the EU didn’t care about that, [but] they were actually willing to take a hit in terms of their prosperity. The issues were cultural and they were willing to pay a price, it seems, to have greater control of immigration. In general, the mistake a lot of elites have made is that you can have a politics led by economic rationality divorced from these feelings about national identity.”

Im Economist wird Fukuyamas “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” zusammen mit Kwame Anthony Appiahs “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity” unter der Überschrift “Francis Fukuyama and Kwame Anthony Appiah take on identity politics — Two leading thinkers explore the deep roots of populism and resentment in the West” rezensiert. So auch in der New York Times, über Fukuyamas und Appiahs Bücher finden sich unter der Überschrift What Is Identity?” folgende Absätze:

Fukuyama is more sympathetic to that need in “Identity.” The assertion of particular identities, and the insistence that respect be paid to them, is a hallmark of our age. And it is, in his telling, not because people are bad at reasoning or narrow, but because of how discombobulating our age has been.


Fukuyama suggests that we are living in an era in which the sense of being dismissed, rather than material interest, is the locomotive of human affairs. The rulers of Russia, Hungary and China are driven by past national humiliations. Osama bin Laden was driven by the treatment of Palestinians. Black Lives Matter has been driven by the fatal disrespect of the police. And a large swath of the American right, which claims to loathe identity politics, is driven by its own perception of being dissed.

Für die Financial Times rezensiert Michael Ignatieff unter der Überschrift “Is identity politics ruining democracy?” das Buch, wobei er im Gegensatz zu anderen Rezensenten nicht lange um den heißen Brei herumschreibt, sondern gleich in den ersten Sätzen zu dem Kern von Fukuyamas neuestem Werk — Identitätspolitik — vordringt:

Identity politics is pulling modern democracy apart. There is something insatiable about the recognition we demand for our identities these days. We want to be recognised as equals, but we also want to be valued as individuals with unique selves. We want our group identities — as women, as gay people, as ethnic minorities — acknowledged as equal, but we also want them uniquely entitled to reparation and redress. It’s not obvious how a modern democracy can meet all these demands at once — in which individuals are valued as equals, their unique selves respected as special, and their group claims all receive equal recognition. Something has to give, and what may be giving way is the very capacity of liberal democratic society to hold together.

This, in a nutshell, is Francis Fukuyama’s diagnosis of the identity crisis besetting modern liberal democracy.

Im New Yorker nimmt Louis Menand das Buch zum Anlass, einen längeren Text über Fukuyama und Fukuyamas (Gesamt-)Werk unter der Überschrift “Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History” abzuliefern:

Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The demand for recognition, Fukuyama says, is the “master concept” that explains all the contemporary dissatisfactions with the global liberal order: Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden, Xi Jinping, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, gay marriage, isis, Brexit, resurgent European nationalisms, anti-immigration political movements, campus identity politics, and the election of Donald Trump. It also explains the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Chinese Communism, the civil-rights movement, the women’s movement, multiculturalism, and the thought of Luther, Rousseau, Kant, Nietzsche, Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir. Oh, and the whole business begins with Plato’s Republic. Fukuyama covers all of this in less than two hundred pages. How does he do it?

Der Chronicle of Higher Education nimmt Fukuyamas Buch zum Anlass, ein Interview mit Fukuyama unter dem Titel “What Follows the End of History? Identity Politics” zu führen:

Q. Let’s start where you start Identity: Donald Trump. The book is a response to his election. He also made an appearance in The End of History and the Last Man.

A. One of the arguments I made in The End of History was that it’s good to have a democracy linked to a market economy because it acts as a sponge for the ambitious energies of people who could otherwise become Julius Caesar or Adolf Hitler. That’s the context in which I mention Donald Trump. Our political system has to absorb such people and render them safe. At that time, it looked like our system was doing that. He could be a real-estate developer or, later, an entertainer. That wasn’t enough for him, and he went into politics. Now we’ve got a real problem. Our constitutional system was designed to prevent the rise of fantastically ambitious individuals, to limit them through a system of checks and balances. That’s the test we’re up against right now.

Für die Washington Post interviewt Nathan Gardels Fukuyama, unter dem Titel “Francis Fukuyama: Identity politics is undermining democracy” geht es um Identität, linke und rechte Identitätspolitik und Trump-Wähler:

Does dignity trump material interest as the driving force in human affairs? What is the relationship between income and status, of others getting advantages that you don’t?

Fukuyama: People’s happiness is driven more by relative rather than absolute levels of income and by social recognition. As Adam Smith noted in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments,” the rich man “glories” in his riches while the poor man is invisible to his fellow human beings. Many who voted for populist politicians feel that they have been invisible to elites who are indifferent to their struggles and ready to favor immigrants, minorities and others “less deserving.” This perception is untrue but nonetheless lies behind much of the anger from members of former majority populations. This is why Brexit voters were willing to risk economic costs as long as they could “get back their country” and why Trump voters are often happy with his confrontational anti-elite rhetoric in the absence of concrete socio-economic gains for themselves.

Auch NPR, ehemals als National Public Radio bekannt, hat ein Interview mit Fukuyama übers neue Buch geführt, unter der Überschrift Fukuyama: “A New American ‘Identity’ Could Be Antidote To Polarizing U.S. Politics” wird das Interview folgendermaßen eingeführt:

The phrase “identity politics” has come to be used as a political insult. It’s now shorthand for pandering to voters according to demographics.

But political scientist Francis Fukuyama says that everyone is playing at identity politics now — that nationalism, radical Islam and other movements are fueled by people wrestling with identity in an economic world order that’s letting them down.

The election of Donald Trump has ridden on the back of such identity issues, he says.

“His core supporters are people that feel that their understanding of a traditional American identity is being challenged,” says Fukuyama. “That’s why immigration has been so important to him.”

Einen Interview-Podcast hat Sarah Leonard von The Appeal mit Fukuyama aufgenommen; der Podcast, der auf iTunes angeboten wird, wurde von ihr mit folgenden Worten angekündigt:

Also on the podcast, I argued with @FukuyamaFrancis about his new take on identity politics — he says they’ve given rise to Trump-style “white identity politics“ — and also asked after his personal drone collection.

Und schließlich gibt’s ja auch noch die Leser-Rezensionen auf Amazon; wer sich die tatsächlich antun möchte, wird hier fündig.

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