I will do a book review on Francis Fukuyama’s work entitled Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politic of Resentment (2018). Fukuyama is a political scientist and student of Samuel P. Huntington, who has written several books, often inviting debates and controversies among academics and policymakers in several countries. The book of Identity is his work published during the Donald Trump administration in the United States. It is about political and geopolitical book.
The End of History
In the Preface of this book, Fukuyama places the position of this book among the previous works of the Identity book published. Of course, readers remember Fukuyama’s work published in the Journal of Foreign Affairs, whose ideas were later presented in his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992). This book has been translated into various languages.
Academics dispute the term The End History, a debate scholars. Fukuyama admits that readers should read his work from a Hegelian-Marxist perspective. Fukuyama said, “the history … is a long-term evolutionary story of human institutions that could alternately be labeled development or modernization.” Fukuyama’s meaning of ‘end’ is “target” or “objective.”
According to Fukuyama, the issue of contemporary liberal democracy has not yet resolved the core problem, namely the thymos. Apart from thymos, there is also a problem of isothymia and megalothymia. Fukuyama describes the concepts as follows:
Thymos is the part of the soul that craves recognition of dignity; isothmyia is the demand to be respected on an equal basis with other people, while megalothymia is the desire to be recognized as superior.
The three problems above cause conflicts in political issues in several countries. Because no one understands how to recognize other people in political affairs, it seems that, apart from politics, the problems that arise are also geopolitical issues globally.
The Politics of Dignity
This book consists of 14 chapters. This book focuses on Fukuyama’s desire to see how the issue of dignity is in daily political activities. Fukuyama discusses the politics of grace, where Fukuyama specifically describes the democratic recession in the last three decades. Various conflicts in several countries have desired to install democratic behavior in imagination and political practice. The conflict between the “left” and the “right” became a political image of the 20th century.
The “left” wants justice, while the “right” wants freedom. The conflict of interest between these two groups occurred in the political and economic fields. The “right” group wants to maintain a traditional national identity associated with ‘race, ethnicity, or religion.’ This situation leads to where the politics of resentment emerges. People are then presented with hatred for each other, which is then used by political figures to mobilize their followers to fight for the dignity that the opposing group has dwarfed.
Politics of Resentment
Resentment political behavior has become commonplace if we follow various news lately. Putin’s experience in Ukraine is a form of resentment that has created global instability. This creates chaos by spreading hatred between one group or another or one country against another. Fukuyama then bases his argument on the concept of identity politics. He reminds us that:
In all cases, a group, whether a great power such as Russia or China …believes that it has an identity that is not being given adequate – either by the outside world in the case of a nation or by other members of the same society. Those identities can be incredibly varied, based on country, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. They are all manifestations of a common phenomenon, that of identity politics.
After that, Fukuyama explained the concept of identity to understand contemporary politics. He mentions that identity grows “out of a distinction between one’s true inner self and an outer world of social rules and norms that do not adequately recognize that inner self’s worth or dignity.” The socio-political environment shapes how a person’s inner self is treated with dignity. So, it is very human if humans need the grace of the environment where they live their daily lives.
Thymos, Megalthymia, and Isothymia
Next, Fukuyama explains the inequality of liberal democracy in terms of thymos, isothymia, and megalothymia. For Fukuyama, these three terms emerged from the history of philosophy. Thymos is part of the spirit associated with human self-fulfillment, called thymos. Fulfillment of personal needs, ranging from food and economy to political issues. For that, everyone wants to be treated and recognized equally. This politics then provides space for certain groups to carry out a superiority process that causes a change megalothymia to isothymia. Fukuyama points out that:
The Rise of modern democracy is the story of the displacement of megalothymia by isothymia: societies that only recognized an elite few were replaced by one that recognized everyone as inherently equal.
Contemporary identity politics has largely removed certain groups from fulfilling their thymos. Likewise, the recognition of isothymia is still not explained, both in concept and in reality. The rights are not recognized because they are not recognized and become a burden for some communities that have implemented the megalothymia pattern. So, Fukuyama wants to emphasize that Identity Politics and Politics Recognition are fundamental rights that must be owned by every individual, from the private to the public sphere, especially in political life.