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Identity and Global Politics: A Discussion with Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama, Mosbacher Director of the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

Dr. Francis Fukuyama joined the school for a discussion on the impacts of identity on global politics, drawn from his new book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment.

Fukuyama stated that identity has been underestimated in the current world where new forms of nationalism, religious politics and populism are surging, even in certain developed democracies. He noted that ‘identity’, or ‘Thumos’ in Greek, was described by Plato to indicate the human desire for recognition, and without respect and dignity, human beings tend to seek outlets of nationalism or populism to satisfy their needs of recognition.

Fukuyama distinguished three characteristics of identity politics before elaborating on their roots such as globalization, domestic political gridlock, and cultural grounds for populism.

On how to shape identity in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy, Fukuyama emphasized the flexibility of identity, suggesting the establishment of a national identity on the basis of political belief, rather than simply of biological characteristics. He also called on policymakers to focus more on the assimilation of foreigners to address immigration issues.

Questions from the audience covered topics including the changing landscape of cross-cultural identity and how it affects political correctness, why efforts to tackle global issues such as climate change are distracted by factitious identity, why the European Union struggles to create a common European identity, and the influence of technology on identities.

The Q&A session was moderated by FPI Senior Fellow Cinnamon Dornsife, Associate Practitioner-in-Residence and Senior Advisor of International Development.

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