Francis Fukuyama discusses Identity Politics with Matthew D ‘Ancona

Filming by: Driftwood Pictures –

well good evening ladies and gentlemen please take your seats a very warm welcome to this special evening how to Academy my name is matthew dainko now I'm editor-in-chief of drugstore culture and new culture and politics magazine do visit us at www.expressoil.com and he has which is going to talk about tonight the format of the evening is he will speak for about 15 minutes he and I will have a chat and then probably an opportunity for you all to ask him questions he's a man who really needs little introduction he's a professor at Stanford University he's been world-famous sinces extraordinarily successful book the end of history and numerous books since come out trust the political order and political decay the origins of political order and many others he is a force in political ideas and there is no one else like him please join me in welcoming Francis Fukuyama so Matthew thank you very much for that very kind introduction it's a delight to be here in London thanks to all of you for coming out we in California aren't used to this kind of weather so I you know for me it would would have been a big sacrifice so I appreciate that I'm gonna talk about this question of identity which I think actually goes deeper than what we refer to as identity politics in the current debate the reason that I chose this topic I was actually diverted from my normal research agenda really by the elections of 2016 that brought Britain out of the EU and Donald Trump into the White House I think that this constitutes a threat to liberal democracy not to democracy as such these were the results of legitimate elections but the result of putting someone like Donald Trump in office I think is to threaten in a way the institutional order of a properly working liberal democracy I think this is part of a larger trend in world politics that involves people like Victor Orbin and Hungary the Law and Justice Party in Poland president air Dewan and Turkey in all of these cases you have democratically elected leaders that are using their democratic legitimacy to attack the checks and balances that are important parts of a properly functioning constitutional order because they believe that they have a kind of charismatic Authority that is inherited from their direct relationship to the people and I think it might particular in my own country I think this is embodied in Trump's attack on the FBI on the Justice Department on the Mueller investigation as well as on the mainstream media which he's called the enemy of the American people and so this is a kind of demagogic language that again does not threaten democracy as such it threatens the liberal part of liberal democracy the rule of law and the constitutional order and I think this is going on already in Europe in Hungary and Poland there are parties like this nipping at the heels of the mainstream parties in Germany and France in many other places so that's kind of the crisis of democracy I wanted to understand what was leading to this I think the conventional wisdom had to do with economics globalization as we are now I think quite aware globalization left a lot of losers people that had suffered job loss from deindustrialization the moving of manufacturing to Asia and to other parts of the developing world but I think that this to me misses an important dimension of what's been going on if it had been the case that that the increasingly unequal global order that has left a narrow band of oligarchs in every country and then the 99% that are doing much less well if that had been the only issue going on then left-wing parties should have been the inheritors of the populist energy that flowed out of the financial crisis in 2008 or the euro crisis in 2010 instead it's been right-wing anti-immigrant populist parties that have gained power they're the ones that have gotten the energy and I think it's really because of this issue of identity it's really not simply economic displacement it is also cultural displacement that's driving people now I have a very specific definition of identity you know identity is what's on your driver's license that's one version of it but I think that identity in the political sense has several different sources one of them is a universal psychological characteristic which the Greeks called sumos which means spiritedness it's the part of the human psyche that demands respect and dignity a recognition of one's dignity and it's kind of an inherently political tendency because it's not just enough to feel self-esteem you don't skills self-esteem unless other people properly esteem you and in the modern world it takes the form of a belief that I have an inner self that sometimes may be deeply buried and it is not being respected it is being ignored or actively disrespected I think that this is actually one of the drivers of modern politics it's actually at the source of many of the political movements that we see around us including liberal democracy itself so in Tunisia Mohamed Bouazizi in 2011 set himself on fire because he had his livelihood confiscated by the Tunisian dictatorship he could not get an answer as to where his vegetable cart had gone and therefore he doused himself with gasoline set himself on fire and his self immolation sparked the Arab Spring in every Arab country people understood his his agony that they were living under dictatorships that did not take him seriously as a human being and this is what led to the downfall of Mubarak of the Ben Ali regime of Muammar Qaddafi and the like now it went bad in the long run but this is the basis I think of all movements against dictatorship they do not recognize their citizens as human beings on the other hand a democracy a properly functioning democracy does that by giving people rights to speech to Association to belief and ultimately to political participation and you can weave a similar story in Ukraine and Georgia and other places that had experienced Democratic revolutions in other forms it can take the form of nationalism kind of the evil twin of liberal democracy where the group that needs recognition is a cultural group usually bound by language or common history that wants to have its own political community that's really what lay at the origins of the world wars in the first half of the 20th century and this is a case where the demand for equal respect moves over into the demand for superior respect very easily and this is one of the problems with this kind of dignity this kind of dignity politics now to get us to the present I think you have to look a little bit at the the genealogy of what we actually call identity politics in the present I believe that it really starts on the left rather than the right it starts in the 1960s with the emergence of different social movements on behalf of racial minorities women gays and lesbians the disabled you know there are many groups in mainstream European North American societies that were not respected they were ignored at best and actively discriminated against by the mainstream society which was largely white and male and as a result they were pushing back and they were seeking social justice so this was a perfectly legitimate part of being included in a liberal order but it had this effect on our politics where the parties of the left which during most of the 20th century had focused on the working class most of which was white in Europe in the United States increasingly began to understand marginalization not as this broad working class but the specific groups identity groups that had been victimized in you know in particular ways and one of the things that's gone on in virtually every advanced country is that the left has lost ground and so this gets back to this explanation of why is it after the financial crisis that it was the the right that that profited and not the left and I think part of the reason is that the left increasingly lost touch with these mainstream white voters that had been the basis of their their core support during much of the 20th century because of this shift in the left understanding of identity now the current moment is I think particularly fraught because we have now seen the adoption of this identity framing by people on the right now of course there's always been racism and xenophobia in in societies this is not something new but the way that a lot of right-wing identity groups frame their their problem is borrowed from the left so now you get like white nationalists that say we as white people are an oppressed minority we are the ones that are being victimized we're being victimized by the preferential treatment given to you know minorities to women to refugees to immigrants and we simply need to reclaim our equal rights this is of course been embedded by politicians that see that you know this stoking this kind of anger is their route to power but I think it's very important to note that there is a core of truth in that assertion if you think about the situation of a lot of white working-class people over the last generation it has not been good they've lost jobs they've lost income for roughly half of Americans they are either making no more money in real terms or are actually poorer than they were in the year 2000 so eighteen years have passed with no gains to income a lot of the communities are falling apart single-parent families high prime rates drug use in the United States we have a very large opioid crisis and I think a lot of the people in that group feel that the elites meaning the two political parties in the United States but here it could be the you know the two dominant parties in Britain simply we're not paying any attention to them did not have an agenda that would address their specific questions their their specific concerns and in general you know look down upon them with something like contempt certainly the cultural elites I think we're quite guilty of that and so this is what's led to the current situation where instead of a politics that has been divided between a left and right defined by their attitudes towards the free market or towards redistribution to social protections to economic regulation we now have a politics that is increasingly based on fixed identities and I think this is not good for democracy in the United States we are rapidly moving to a point where the Republican Party is basically the party of white people and where the Democratic Party is the party of minorities and women and the problem with that in the democracy other than that it creates this incredible polarization on the two sides of this divide is that you know the the these are fixed identities that you are born with and it makes rigid your attitude towards politics towards culture and in the United States unfortunately it's seeping down into you know the very personal relationships between people that had been friends or you know at least could agree to disagree on political matters and it's led to an extremely dysfunctional politics I think something similar has taken place as a result of the brexit vote that has created this completely new division in British politics that had not existed before and it's led to an emotional investment in demonizing you know the other side that is also not healthy for politics now when Matthew comes back on I think we'll have plenty of time to discuss you know potential solutions to this I would I guess like to leave you with a little bit of a hopeful observation which is that identity can correspond to culture but it's not the same thing as a long-standing you know culture where people have believed the same thing for you know hundreds of years identity is inherently plastic it can be shaped by human actors it has been deliberately sliced and diced into narrow identities over the past generation there's a certain dynamic and analogic to that but it can also be made bigger and I think that in a sense if you're going to have a successful democracy you have to worry about something like national identity I think for better or worse it's the nation-state that is the locus of our politics because that's the unit that deploys power you cannot have legitimate power without a nation-state and therefore our politics has to revolve around democratic processes to legitimate and use and control that power and you cannot have a democracy you cannot have a democracy if you do not have a common national identity meaning an identity where you agree on basic principles of the legitimacy of institutions that allow you to deliberate and to come to collective decisions I think that nationalism has gotten has given national identity a bad name because it does often times tend to become aggressive but it need not it can be a creedal identity or a civic identity in which your identity is not based on your race or your ethnicity it's really based on a commonly shared set of ideas in the United States I thought we had gotten to that point by the end of the civil rights era where being an American meant belief in the Constitution and the rule of law principle of human equality and that's really now what's under threat I think it's under threat primarily at the moment from the right by people that would like to drag us back into an ethnic understanding of what identity is now there's other things in terms of public policy that I think we can do but maybe at this point I'll leave it at that and I'll look forward to the to the discussion and then to your questions thank you very much well thank you very much Frances and so much to chew on there I just to return briefly to as it were the the whole question of how we got to where we are liberal individualism and the kind of tension between citizenship and consumerism seems to me at least in part of given way to a kind of group mentality why is that why is that so so I think that this is one of the big problems in a liberal democracy liberal democracies by a definition do not tell you how to live you know that's really the the good life is something that's left up to private choice and to private individuals it gives us a great deal of freedom but a lot of times we actually don't want that freedom because we want shared values we want community we want you know connection to other people other cultures have much more tightly bound you know communities in a liberal society we don't have that what we have is a lot of peace and prosperity which is great if you don't have peace and prosperity but if you start taking it for granted you begin to want other things you know and particularly and and and I guess the other thing to say is that there's no liberal society in existence that has actually lived up to its own ideals in terms of treating its own citizens or citizens treating each other with the kind of equal respect that you know they are theoretically do and so I think that creates the grounds for people saying actually I don't want to just have complete freedom of choice and you know lots of stuff that I can buy in the Walmart or the IKEA I actually want you know human connections with other people and I want you know my connection with them to be recognized by you know by others and so that leaves I think you know it's it's this new most that I was talking about that leads people back into politics to want something one thing that I think really quite interesting is in Eastern Europe so polling if you look at Poland and now has one of these populist anti-immigrant parties a law and justice party and it was the most successful country in the European Union for the ten years prior to the rise of this party so you say well what you know what could possibly make them this angry and I think part of it is just the fact that the majority of Polish voters these days actually were born after the fall of communism they don't have a memory of what a real dictatorship was like unlike their parents generation they could take peace and prosperity for granted and then they could focus on other issues like you know the tyranny of Brussels over you know and I mean because they in a sense they haven't experienced realtor knee in their own country so I think you know all of these are contributing factors that lead people to want forms of recognition other than the universal recognition that a liberal democracy owes all of its citizens because the liberal mindset is not only happy with but invites complexity of identity the multi-layered identity and is there a sense in which that extremely complex disaggregation that modernity is brought about has encouraged people to kind of recoil a little and to seek tribes and groups using often digital technology where perhaps they might not have done so much in the past no I think absolutely I mean I think actually the technology has abetted this search for identity because it actually makes the process a lot easier right so if you were living you know in the 1950s and sitting around you know a pub or a coffee shop and you have some crackpot theory about you know what the government was doing you probably couldn't find more than one or two other people that you could talk to whereas today on the internet you know you can find 10,000 other crackpots that believe exactly you know your particular conspiracy theory and that reinforces your view that actually there is a conspiracy because you know all around me nobody wants to admit this but in you know here on the Internet I see that you know there's a lot of people who are like-minded and so it you know it allows you to specialize and compartmentalize and wall yourself off from other kinds of information that that you don't want I think you know we were discussing a little bit earlier I'd have it has a lot of other impacts you know as well in terms of people's trust in basic information and things of that sort that I think have also contributed to this problem because one of the things that seems to me to have run through your work going back to the end of history in fact is it's a interest in dignity and one of the common factors in politics in the last 40 years has been a tremendous emphasis upon socioeconomic status and economic prosperity and so on and almost a sense that economic prosperity and liberalism were inevitable handmade they work together have we really lost I mean what is one of the problems here that we lost sight in our politics of the need for dignity that we always assume in a way adopted a kind of materialist approach to history and and didn't think hard enough about the importance of dignity alongside that I think those two are actually related in a lot of ways because what a job or what wealth convey to people past a certain subsistence level of existence is actually dignity right that I have a job which means that society values me enough to pay me a wage in return for what for what I do the other aspect of dignity that that comes into play is that status is oftentimes a relative thing so that no matter what your absolute level of wealth or income or you know how many cars you have if there's people that you see around you that have you know clearly more than you feel bad and I think that's what propels you know a quest for status and in certain sense in a capitalist society you're never sad with with what you have even though you're living at a material level of wealth that for you know impoverished people in the developing world would be you know a miracle if they could you know if they could get there and I think that that's you know also what's driving a lot of the unhappiness is this perceived well it's not just perceived I mean there's a reality every country around the world has developed a class of oligarchs you know the economic growth and there's been a huge amount of economic growth over the past thirty forty years really has gone to a pretty narrow slice of you know the population and they live in a way that you know scarcely comprehensible to you know the people that haven't benefited in that sense and I think that also has contributed to the sense of resentment and anger is that which raises an interesting question which is does liberalism have kind of conditions attached to it in the sense that if that income if that gap in the distribution of wealth becomes so great does liberalism start to bend and fray well of course I mean I think that's why we want liberal democracy yeah you know I mean pure liberalism of the sort that Britain you know practiced in the first part of the 19th century produces gigantic inequalities if you simply have a market economy with no state sitting over it to equalize outcomes to some extent you're going to end up with these inequalities and you're going to end up with social discord because people really don't like that and so I think the modern solution has always been a market economy attached to a fundamentally Democratic political order in which ordinary people were not given necessarily an equal share of income or wealth but they were given an equal political voice that then would allow them to you know elect the Labour Party after World War two that you know then put into place you know the modern welfare state and so forth the problem I think now is that you have political decay meaning that a lot of the elites have gamed the system to the point where it's no longer a level playing field and they can capture parts of the state and make it work for them they can exempt themselves from taxation they can get away with not providing basic social services as long as they're taken care of this sort of thing and I think that is that perception has you know a lot of reality to it and that again contributes to the sense of unfairness in the way that the system has so in other words you need liberal democracy but the democracy part I don't think has been actually working all that well because if you were to look ahead at the sort of available mechanisms to write that perceived wrong the problem of inequality those mechanisms are not conspicuously present are them we've got the juggernaut of automation coming towards us big tech corporations that have as much if not more power as many nation states how do how does one go about restoring and restoring the grip of democracy upon the economy well the the automation problem I really don't know what the answer is I mean another book yeah it's you know in that's a situation where I actually you know if you look at the current debate over that although there's some empirical disagreement about how big a problem its it is you know I think everybody recognizes that that's really one of the chief threats in the future and I think a lot of the answers that are being put forward like universal basic income or just more education I've got a lot of problems with them and so I I'm gonna duck you know answering that be honest yeah the other part of it is just as a political issue you know how do you get Facebook and Google and Microsoft in these gigantic tech companies for example to behave in a pro-social way rather than in a destructive way well that's a matter of political power actually as an American I'm actually glad that you've got the European Union that's coming down on them like a ton of bricks because in our political system we're not willing to you know we're not willing to do that because we just government and and so forth but I think it's just like any other political mobilization you got to get first of all you got to convince the troops that this is something necessary you have to have grassroots mobilization you have to have a workable gameplan and you have to have a certain amount of leadership but in the end you know if you have determined political majorities in your political sphere you know even these big economic powers are going to have to you know give in to the power of a state that Scott consensus the problem you know is that we don't have the consensus right now and so the the question for political leadership is how do you get it and how do you mobilize people so let's talk a little bit about some of the potential solutions you talked in you mentioned in your talk and and you talk great the rights and great lengths and fascinatingly about or you call creedal national identities can you elaborate on that very interesting idea yeah well you know I can explain it best by just a little history lesson so in the United States after the signing of the Constitution up until the Civil War you did not have a creedal national identity you had an identity that was basically based on race and also gender so that only white men initially only white men with property were allowed to be citizens were regarded as full human beings and in some I think deep sense the civil war in the 1860s was fought over the question of American national identity were black people actually part of this political community where they considered human beings the North won the war at the cost of 600,000 lives a very bloody conflict and in the wake of it you passed the 13th 14th and 15th amendments 13th amendment abolished slavery the 14th amendment extended due process to all Americans and the 15th amendment guaranteed voting rights it takes another hundred years until the civil rights movement in the 1960s until the promise of what Abraham Lincoln had called a new birth of freedom is actually realized for for black people in the United States it takes until you know second decade of the 20th century for women to be included in that you know in that circle but I think that by the time you get to the 1960s it does become possible to say that you know an American is somebody who believes in a certain set of basic you know democratic values that's the qualification for joining that community and it's no longer based on these characteristics like your race or ethnicity so that's what it is meant by a creedal identity and I think that's what's really that threat right now and in the States is you imply there's the Constitution the Pledge of Allegiance there are a whole manner of structural institutions and practices that conventions that or enforce that creedal national identity in this country which know Europe you Europe in a frequent visitor to know well have many friends here it's less obvious I mean traditionally people spoke of institutions then they start like the monarchy Parliament latterly the BBC the NHS there's been a great crash of trust in many of those institutions and it we're now going through what might politely be called a bit of a sticky patch with Greg said very politely so give us some hope what what what would be the Fukuyama creedal national identity for Britain for 2019 onwards well I think that for any developed democracy it's got to revolve around basically these I Enlightenment ideas about you know constitutional democracy just because you don't have a written constitution doesn't mean you don't have a constitution you have certain historical traditions of you know British Liberty that I think are at the basis of what you know makes this country what it is and distinct is it from countries that don't enjoy that kind of Liberty you know freedom of speech freedom of the press all of these I think are constitutive of the way that this political community has understood itself and so I think those would be components of citizenship I think that this country has a much in a way a much easier problem in defining that kind of a democratic identity than a lot of countries on the continent because in many member states of the EU citizenship for example is still restricted by ethnicity you can't actually and and it's it's also a cultural thing so you know if you're a second or third generation children of Pakistani immigrants you can still say I'm British and in a way you know the very term British was meant to overcome the interior you know the the existing divisions between scotch-irish you know English and so forth so it's a it's a broad inclusive concept of citizenship and so if your Pakistani of origin you can still say I'm a British citizen I you know participate in those British traditions it's not that easy to do that in in you know Denmark or in Germany where citizenship is really linked to ethnicity and so if you're a you know a Turk that doesn't speak any Turkish because you were born and raised in Germany it's still difficult for you to say I'm a I'm a German because you know people look at you a little bit funny so while you're actually not a German you know so I think that that's kind of the task that is in front of a lot of countries in Europe is first of all to try to establish some common ground for citizenship and for inclusion in the national community that is meaningful is democratic is based on these Enlightenment values and then to regard the job of dealing with immigrants not as keeping them out but actually of assimilating or integrating them to that to that set of values well assimilation integration aren't the same are they let's talk about that a bit I mean what how far does integration have to go because obviously there's a huge debate not confined to this country about as it were what how big that what Hamas would called the public sphere has to be mm-hmm is it just payment of taxes obedience to the law or is it more than that is it obedience to hope or involvement in a series of pressure of conventional practices so religious freedom has become a massive issue in this country which is how are there areas where religious freedom crosses swords with the rights of women and so on yeah and you have an endless stream of incommensurable values here how do you resolve those kind of conflict well on the incommensurable values I think that one of the things you actually have to focus on is that there are certain core values in a liberal democracy that you really should not abridge in the name of cultural tolerance right so again I mean this is a you know sort of classic case where you have a family that wants to send their daughter you know back to the country of origin for an arranged marriage because that's the cultural tradition and that in that society I think that that is incompatible with basic liberal values having to do with individual equality and individual agency you know in a liberal society we believe that women should have control over these big choices in life about who they marry and so forth and so I think that one of the mistakes that's been made by this wrong interpretation of multiculturalism is to not understand that there is actually a set of necessary values that underlie a modern liberal democracy and that in that respect not all cultures are actually equal and that you do have to make some some choices in favor of the ones that really you know are organic here to your political order now it's a complicated issue about how much how much glue there is in a society so in the United States we've got this big problem that we have a ver thin culture right you know you take a gay waiter in San Francisco with all the earrings and tattoos and you compare that person to a you know to an oil rig worker in Louisiana you know they don't eat the same food they don't have the same religion they don't you know like the same sports you know there's very little that ties them together because the country is so diverse and so our problem is I think actually creating a somewhat thicker culture that would bind us together so this is why I actually like the idea of national service because if you give people common experiences it may you know thicken the ties that they have with one another in a lot of Europe the problem is just the opposite that they've got thick cultures already that's based on religion on ethnicity on food on a lot of traditions that are very very deeply embedded that a lot of newcomers aren't going to share and so they do have to peel away you know the ones that are real obstacles to accepting outsiders but keep ones that are you know actually transmissible and open to you know to people that come from different places has the left-of-center become too preoccupied by the problem of offense and you're not open enough to the contest of ideas well I would say they have indulged a certain kind of dignity politics where you know they worry tremendously about the dignity of you know particular groups and that ground is shifting constantly and you can kind of see this in the evolution of things like gender pronouns so used to be that people thought they were just men and women but then they're trans people and then there's you know people of you know kind of intermediate genders that are neither you know the first three and you get this constant proliferation but then a lot of indignation when you do not recognize the dignity of the groups that you know nobody had actually even seen as distinct you know objects of discrimination and so forth and so I think that that has you know shifted the focus and and it's actually had this effect of alienating I think a lot of the mainstream people that say okay you know fine I I want to be tolerant and so forth but I don't really understand this new world where we have to be super sensitive and so this again has played directly into politics so why did a lot of people vote for Donald Trump he insults Mexicans he insults women or he assaults women he mocks a disabled reporter they actually voted for him because he did those things you know because he wasn't subject to this kind of pervasive political correctness and I think you know he was practicing a kind of politics of authenticity because you know in his tweeting everybody thinks I mean nobody could have made up that tweet that he just you know sent off this morning it has to be the real Donald so his own parody account yeah but that in itself is alarming isn't it because it suggests that the the public discourse has reached a point where you have on the one hand a kind of nativist my Sajha mystic discourse and on the other a discourse that's that's trying to that is so timid and so nervous are causing a fence that it's saying practically nothing mm-hmm so how do you again the question comes back to how do you assure people back into the public sphere to talk to each other in civil civil ways I think you need to draw different kinds of boundaries or around acceptable discourse so I think you know some of the rules of political correctness really do need to be relaxed a little bit and where that relaxation occurs is you know is crumpled I mean so you see this very much in the use of the term racism I think that that term is overused by many people on the left to denounce behaviors that oftentimes are actually not you know I mean they're they're different forms that racism can take and it's one that's used a little bit to expansively so everybody that points out a cultural difference between different ethnic groups is not there by a racist you know simply to acknowledge the fact that you know certain groups have certain you know characteristics do better in school you know this sort of thing so I think we need to you know in a way kind of relaxed a little bit about that that rhetoric but then we have to recognize that there are these people that really are racists you know and are introducing a much much uglier kind of discourse into you know what is acceptable speech so this is you know I mean I I know this is a kind of mushy answer but but I do think that you know on both sides we need to readjust the boundaries how much of this the Liberals have to own I mean just an extent you know the liberal moment has if not passed certainly come to a you know a very very big climacteric and a lot of liberals feel that there's no there's no way back and that they have to they're in a kind of cringe position so what bits of liberalism can be protected defended and how does it have to adapt to this new situation well I think you actually need to think about this politically because you need to in a democracy you're not going to ever get your full agenda you know that's not what happens in a democracy you're you're gonna have to make compromises so you have to decide on what elements of your agenda you're you know you're willing to to make it a deal on let me just give you an example with with the regard to immigration and and it gets back to this point about racism so not everybody that is worried about the current immigration regime either in Europe or in the United States as a racist it's it's simply not true there are other I think legitimate reasons for worrying about the current regime so one of them is the fact that a lot of immigration is illegal right people think there's a rule of law we have rules and we ought to enforce those rules and that I think is a reasonable worry another worry is will an immigrant actually assimilate or integrate into our you know our culture and accept the values that you know underlie citizenship and that's a legitimate worry as well so people that you know object on those grounds I think are not necessarily racist but they're you know they're raising real concerns and as a political strategy I think when you deal with immigration you've got to disaggregate and and separate the the real racists and xenophobes from people that worry about these other categories of issues where you can actually adjust policy to meet them halfway right so actually so this is this this problem I have I mean I think that every day Donald Trump says like a hundred really offensive and obnoxious things but every hundred thing that comes out of his mouth is actually correct and one of them for example is is that that country's ought to be able to control their borders you know I don't think you can have a democracy if you can't actually determine who the demos is who the people are and that means you know it did you need to exert some kind of sovereign control over who comes into the country who's a citizen and that sort of thing I don't think you know making that assertion makes you a racist and I think that you know kind of understanding that you can actually peel away a certain amount of this populist anger if you you know if you try to disaggregate and then see what concerns are more legitimate than others I think that would go some way to you know actually governing in over this space where things are you know currently as polarized as I guess that gets the heart of activism because the question is how many of those grievances are legitimate if you take what happened with the brexit referendum the leave campaign and incredibly hard on immigration and the remain campaign didn't campaign on immigration at all so the immigration argument went by default to leave which was essentially immigration is a bad thing it's out of control was presented as as at a free-for-all there's no such thing no one was making the argument for the necessities of liberation for example the National Health Service depends hugely on immigration in this country so the question that this begs is how much the Liberals have to as it were appease that feeling and how much do they have to fight back against it's actually immigration is really important you know imagine you're the society that you live in and all the benefits it has without immigration well I think that you know you have to engage in that debate and and you know actually make moral arguments about what sorts of policies are illegitimate and which ones are actually reasonable so there's an economic argument in favor of the NHS you know and the need for immigrants there's also an argument about you know the rate of cultural change and what you know is an acceptable rate I think that's something you can have a you know a rational deliberation over so I mean I guess this is my feeling that it was a big mistake for the remainders to think about this just in economic terms they simply were not perceiving what was bothering people on the other side because they were cosmopolitan and educated and benefited from all of this movement of people and I do think that you know I I'm I'm on I'm fundamentally on that side I would have voted to remain if I had been a British citizen but I do think that you need to a little bit sympathetically understand what's motivating people on the other side if you are going to you know actually try to diffuse some of you know some of that anger reverses it is the whole question of measures and and how to germinating nurture this sense of national identity you mentioned national service presumably education plays a big part in it yes would you I mean how would how would you make this these ideas into a curriculum how would that be done yeah so the degree of ignorance of I don't know what the situation is here but I wouldn't be surprised if it's different but in the United States they do surveys of high school graduates and the amount that they don't know about their own political system is really shocking you know that only like thirty percent of them can name one right in the Bill of Rights you know a very small minority of them can name what the three branches of government are you know this sort of thing and so I think that you know teaching people about their own democratic institutions is you know something that needs to be rien and this is actually where multiculturalism has played I think a negative role because you can't really understand the origins of these democratic institutions unless you know a little bit about the history of your country and then the other kinds of traditions that you know stand behind them and they're all Western traditions I mean that's the way we evolved to the point we are now but teaching that you know that particular set of historical facts you know has in a sense been you know D legitimated and so it is you know it is a little bit of an uphill slog to try to re-inject a sense of you know how we got to the place we are back into a school curriculum maybe people will be persuaded of the necessity when they see that the threat is not coming from you know the identitarian of the left that say that history is just a history of racism patriarchy but by identitarian of the right that one a you know in a sense capture that history and you know and use it to drag the country back into a more you know ethnic understanding of because one thing identity groups are fantastically good at is providing people with stories and narratives that explain who they are where they've come from or where they're going and what's interesting and I think implicit in in what you're saying is that the national community has got very bad at that yes that the story of nationhood has been or more or less lost it so this is delicate terrain for 30-odd because because the gap between patriotism and nationalism is always you know hotly contested but is it I mean starting where we're starting rather than where we'd like to start i think liberals often start where they'd like to start running where they are what what would be the steps that you could take to to reassert that without sounding fantastically old-fashioned well you know like I said given that we're kind of in a defensive crouch right now maybe just being a little bit old-fashioned wouldn't be so wouldn't be so bad you know saying that actually we do have this Civic understanding of you know of our identity I do think that you have to honestly craft these stories so again another little anecdote when so Thanksgiving is a big American holiday it's actually my favorite holiday because it's you know it's something celebrated really by all Americans as a celebration of their freedom in a certain sense so I remember when my daughter was in grade school they you know had a Thanksgiving pageant and so for Hofstra well what did you learn about Thanksgiving and she said well I learned that all the Indians were killed and I said you know that's an interesting you know conclusion and so that's not quite the that's not quite the right narrative you know that I would construct so it does seem to me that it's completely possible to tell tell the story of the evolution of any of our modern democracies without whitewashing any of the and the racism and the patriarchy and all of those things that did you know in fact and and that's what I've tried to do in my own writing so you know if you look at my last couple of books about the evolution of institutions I talked about colonialism and I you know talked about these highly unjust you know hierarchical systems but it does seem to me you can also tell a progressive story about how as a result of you know political struggle stretching over generations you know you are you are you know eventually able to overcome a lot of those prejudices and you know in Justices you're never going to get there to a perfectly just society but you know it is possible to tell a positive story that you know should resonate with people and in fact I think the people that it resonates the most with there are actually recent immigrants that you know they come from societies that they know are really really defective and they don't want to move to you know Britain or the United States because it's the home of racism and patriarchy they you know they actually think that there's something valuable in the kinds of freedoms that have evolved in these sorts of societies because an interesting minor parable of this recently was as I'm sure you know astronaut scott kelly during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings made the great error of quoting Churchill on Twitter which doing anything on Twitter can be an error and was subject to a kind of massive online attack and came out and said he was terribly sorry to upset everyone and he would go and reeducate himself on Churchill mr. this then ran which was odd because he's a man who did for space missions and serviced the Hubble telescope which you'd think he would be able to stand up to a twitter mole but apparently not it's actually a measure of how alarming being subject to a Twitter attack could be there is a problem isn't there to stick with the historical question when it is no longer possible to quote Churchill without becoming the subject of a kind of digital frenzy yeah I mean maybe that's something we just have to you know learn about and not get intimidated by and I think that's the role of political leadership is to actually not be intimidated by Twitter mobs you know maybe that's you know the kind of leadership that is necessary but really hasn't been forthcoming from a lot of people so we'll have to see I mean like in the United States you have you know the president of one University that's actually stood up for real academic freedom you know at the University of Chicago and the Twitter mobs didn't get him you know so I think it's possible is there in you mentioned not being intimidated very interesting because you'll throughout your your career you've always stood up for enlightenment values and I think sometimes is a presumption that enlightenment values are always in some sense permissive you know they're about the Liberty to do stuff but actually I think if I'm reading your work correctly you you also play a high place high value on duties yes and upon the duty to be a citizen in other words to go back to Franklin's famous remark about what manner of government have you bequeath this dog Franklin are a public madam if you can keep it that you are very much of the view that democracy is not a free ride yes I am NOT a libertarian you know I don't think the end of government is just to let people do whatever the hell they want I think that you know in a sense I mean it's a more classical Republican understanding of political community where you actually want to cultivate public spirited people you want to cultivate citizens that are informed knowledgeable able to deliberate able to you know come to common decisions because that's what it means to have self-government you know that's that's what self-government is and so I don't think that the you know the state can be neutral between people that you know don't care about politics and don't pay attention and and simply delegate that to others and those that are much more actively involved so that's why I like national service I was in viewed by you no reason magazine which is a libertarian magazine I didn't like my book but you know I I really think that especially you know when you have this kind of diversity if you don't do a certain amount of social engineering you're not actually going to solve some of those problems of creating community because it does have to be engineered to some extent do you think political you mentioned political leadership do you think political leaders have become too frightened of making demands or citizens because you look at the the great political oratory of the past whether it's Lincoln Mandela or Churchill or Harvey Milk or Martin Luther King all these people made demands of the people they address they didn't simply make them retail offers that's right I mean it's easier to do when you're under you know external threat it's easier to do when you fear you know the collapse of your society from a financial crisis or you know some other event and it could be that you're not going to get that kind of leadership until this kind of external shock suddenly appears but that is one of the functions of leadership to take advantage of situations that open up political space that you didn't think existed previously last question I want to ask Francis is do you what do you think the the next 10 years hold for this particular field of identity politics I mean is it is it going to get worse before it gets better or what no I'm hoping everybody will read and buy my book and then they'll be convinced that we need national identity ml know but but no but seriously you know I think that in the the same New York Times Book Review where my book was reviewed there are actually four books on identity all of which were critical of the way that identity politics had evolved in the United States and I thought it was actually a sign of the times that the New York Times which has been a Tribune in a certain sense of a certain kind of identity politics was you know was willing to do this and so that's why I think that's what happens in a democracy you know you have to try to persuade people and part of that work you know has to be done by you know people that make arguments and put them out in front of people because you know over time that's the way I mean that's how the conservative revolution happened you know you had a lot of theorists like Milton Friedman and so forth that stood behind people like Reagan and Thatcher that gave you know more intellectual weight and so I think we need a you know a little bit more of that kind of discussion when it comes to these sorts of issues now I'd like to take some questions from the floor what I'd like to do if I may is take groups of three if we could maybe raise the lights up a little so I can see people or not possible okay I shall do my best if you want to stick your hands up very is that question just here so we'll take three at a time in my lifetime I've seen we've moved from a class system to a meritocracy that meritocracy favors professional and academic success and it's easy and people have risen to succeeded very well in global globalization they've benefited from that enormous Lee do you think that has led to fostering identity politics because it's easier to break people up by allowing them to indulge in identity politics and in a way the clever people can push the stupid people around because they're busy fighting with each other and then the clever people can tell them what to do and they wield a kind of global overlay thanks Chris from the Urban Land Institute we spoke about the nation-state as being the unit that deploys power and it's really difficult to get identities to work through body politics that aren't the nation state are they're all turned territorial alternatives to that for example urban regions versus the nation okay and one more there thanks so I had a question going back to the 2016 election the brexit and Trump might there be a silver lining in both in the sense of a the debate we're having be in brexit the opportunity to redefine our national sense of national glue or those positive sides of nationalism that you alluded to and certainly Trump if he's nothing else he's a politician who can stand up to a Twitter storm so a question on the the implications of the movement from class system to meritocracy the the merits of looking through the prism of urban regions and then the silver lining of 2016 yeah so I've never actually heard the suggestion before that meritocracy actually promotes identity politics I would have thought that the two of them are actually a little bit at odds because the biggest pushback in many cases against identity politics is that you're trying to promote somebody just because they're black or just because they're female you know they're members of these big groups but individually they actually may not you know be the best person for the job you know there's a lot of conflicts you know like Harvard University right now is being sued because the argument is they're discriminating against Asians we're and a pure meritocracy basis you know there'd be a lot of them so I'll have to think about I'll have to think about your suggestion because I think that right now I see more of a conflict between the principle of meritocracy and the principle of identity by the way I'm not simply on on the side of meritocracy I mean I do think that actually people have advantages and conceit succeed in a meritocratic competition you know because they are members of groups are born into the right family they're brought Bannen to the right social class of the right neighborhood so it's not unreasonable that you know there should be compensation that's also based on those categories but it really does bump up against a principle that as individuals you know we should be judged in terms of regions yeah of course so one of the big problems I think in these very large units that we call nations is that they actually have a tremendous amount of you know regional variation they're really not uniform and I think that one of the moves towards defense realization federalism autonomy for regions has been to recognize that you're not simply going to homogenize people over you know a very large area the United States would be completely uncover noble if it were a unitary centralized state and so I do think that there's an opportunity to work at smaller scales by by doing that the third one was the silver lining of mm oh yeah no absolutely so I think that 2016 did several things that were good so first of all it's not as if these populace are just ignorant you know fools that don't understand how good things have been the elites in America and Europe have really screwed up in big ways no in America you had the Iraq war and then the financial crisis in Europe you had the euro crisis and the the migrant crisis all of these are elite generated screw-ups in policy they're the result of elite policies so it's not unreasonable that ordinary people are upset about that and furthermore you know as I was saying in terms of you know the views of a lot of these downwardly mobile white working-class people that has become all of a sudden a salient issue because of the you know of those elections and it does represent you know in in a way real democratic participation the other good effect has had is on the other side you know the populist have been so extreme that they've generated a lot of mobilization on the left and so my students you know you know in the last midterm election at Stanford only 17% of students actually voted in the election I guarantee you this election the numbers gonna be a lot higher because I think they've gotten a good civics lesson that if you don't pay attention you don't vote look at what you end up with lady in the white pearlitic thank you thank you very much for interesting conversation today you've talked about Georgian politics and there are presidential elections coming up now in Georgia so I wanted to ask you how would you compare Georgia's economic social and political development under the leadership of 3rd presidents actually with the current government under the leadership of the oligarch who doesn't officially hold a political position in Georgian politics thank you and then just here that's it yeah yep and I'm interested in like the this narrative of progression that you talked about for the nation-state and you mentioned the importance of like having a narrative but in terms of actually putting that into practice isn't it then necessary for things like political correctness to not be sort of dismissed as sort of unnecessary oversensitivity because political correctness began like you mentioned in the 60s from groups that were once marginalized standing up for sort of their right for to be represented and to have social justice and isn't that what we're seeing today with more groups like for example transgender that are now asking for the rights that they deserve in society and and if we kind of dismissed that then we fall in to continuing for the narrative to be shaped by the sort of old white rich men that have shaped the narrative of democracy and of liberalism from the beginning okay hi I think in your earlier book the end of history you postulated that the liberal democracy is the ultimate form of government for mankind and you know like after something around 25 years my question is or I'm curious you know given the situation we are in due to the politicians like put in Trump Modi etc do you still hold that belief that you know like eventually liberal democracy is going to be the ultimate you know life form of government across the world so Georgia yeah PC the case for yeah and then reflections on the end of history yeah well this time next week I'm gonna be in Tbilisi so maybe after I get back we can have a discussion of I mean I do have opinions about you know the current political situation you described and maybe we can talk about that offline I'm not sure that you know I mean that's that's a quite a specific political thing but yeah I don't like the current oligarch I I think that things could be better in Georgian politics now the question about you know the progressive history I do not in any way advocate airbrushing or glossing over actual and justices that exist in current society nor do I think that it's wrong for you know any marginalized group to push against the specific forms of injustice that it suffers I'm just saying that you need to balance that against you know first of all the need for a more integrative larger identity that gives people a common sense of belonging within a broader Democratic community and you also have to give them a certain sense of a source of pride and that's why I was just saying that if your entire historical negative narrative is about the in justices that the system is produced they're not going to have that sense that change is possible that we can make progress over time and that you know as a democratic community we're going to make things better so the question on the have to back up a little bit about what the end of history was really about right it wasn't necessarily a prediction that everybody was going to turn Democratic in the near future history you know a synonym for the way that I was using the word history could be the word modernization or it could be the word development I think those are contemporary terms that we would use in their place and the question that I was posing was what is the direction in which modernization is pointing so the Marxist said it was pointing towards communism and I was observing back in 1989 originally that it didn't look like that was going to happen and I still think that you know of the different forms of human social organization I don't see one that is likely to be more successful than some form of liberal democracy tied to some form of market economy if someone can show me an alternative that seems systematically better you know maybe it's China you know in another 30 years of China is much richer more powerful and completely stable compared to Western democracies then I would concede that maybe there is an alternative is just wrong in my assessment of the directionality of history but at the moment I think it's an open question good times two more questions is back my question is very short what will happen to Iran someone's got the microphone now yeah hi thank you um so you're very clear that people like Donald Trump in the far right or a threat to the poor democracy I need to start to analysis based on some of their assumptions such as the problem started in the 60s and that the nation-state is the core sort of actor I was wondering how how can we counter the narrative of the far-right if we yield ground and certain of these issues okay so Iran and I were yielding too much too far right and then we'll have to close down I don't know what's gonna happen in your own I mean eggs as brief and answers the question and and then what about the so you have to understand I mean he's good you got to give it you have to understand that my book is not about I didn't start you know by blaming the left for the current situation when I was you know the whole thrust of the book is that the biggest threat we have right now is this new right led by people like Donald Trump and Viktor Orban and the like and I'm just trying to give an account of how we got there and if you talk about how our modern concept of identity and identity politics evolved I think it does just as a matter of empirical historical fact it does begin there that does not mean that I am somehow morally holding you know the that kind of left-wing identity politics responsible for the current problem that we're in I think that it was legitimate I think that you know these were social justice issues that were you know absolutely necessary to resolve and so I somehow this idea that I'm blaming the left for Donald Trump has gotten out and it's just not you know it's not the argument that's in the book well last time sleeved they're from a crave 30 more seconds of your time many more riches are Hawaii with the how to Academy Michael Lewis in conversation with Owen Jones Peter Frank founding conversations are Kayla do come along to either or both of them and Francis will very kindly be signing copies of his book I do urge you to buy a copy it's fantastic please join me in thanking the maestro himself [Applause]

21 thoughts on “Francis Fukuyama on Identity Politics

  1. I’m glad I didn’t buy this guy’s book. He seems to be under the impression that political narratives are inherently grassroots. Has he literally never heard of proxy war? Propaganda from some groups over other groups?

  2. i guess if you're a normal white guy college educated middle class you're labeled a right wing anti immigrant. the liberals are the ones using "identity politics" to weaken and divide society. all of their media lies and propaganda. makes me sick. i cant take cnn or msnbc seriously anymore. the democrats will lose 2020 unless they can identify with hard working families and not expensive entitlements , such as medicare for all, green new deal.

  3. Six minutes in and BOY this talk is NOT aging well what with the FBI having literally spied on Trump…Gonna have to give this one a hard pass I'm afraid since the foundation of his understanding is deeply, deeply flawed from the get go.

  4. This guy is great. Not all cultures are equal. Sending girls back to "shitholes" to get married is not acceptable. You come to the West, you accept our basic values. This is not white supremacy. It is common sense.

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