Chua, “Political Tribes”

This year has produced a bumper crop of books written by liberal academics hawking Chuathe medicine for what ails democracy, liberalism, America, some combination of these, or every last one of them. Mark Lilla, Yascha Mounck, Steven Pinker, and so many others are in on the game. So why not a law professor? Here is “Tiger Mother” author and Yale Law professor Amy Chua with her own diagnosis (religious “tribalism” seems to be part of the problem) and prescription for national healing and regeneration, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (Bloomsbury).

Never has our society felt more divided.

In Political Tribes, Amy Chua diagnoses the cause of our current political discord: tribalism. In many parts of the world, the group identities that matter most – the ones that people will kill and die for – are ethnic, religious, sectarian or clan-based. Time and time again our blindness to tribalism has undermined our foreign policy.

At home, we have recently witnessed the rise of identity politics, a movement that encourages us to define ourselves against, and thereby exclude, others. The shock results of the US election and the Brexit referendum show that tribalism is a social truth that we ignore at our peril. When people are defined by their differences to each other, extremism becomes the common ground, and the grand ideals of democracy have a hard time competing with a more primal need to belong.

If we are to transcend our political tribes, we must rediscover a broader, more nuanced unity that acknowledges the reality of our group differences. Insightful, challenging and provocative, Amy Chua’s groundbreaking book could not be more timely.

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