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Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (Hardcover)

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These are interesting times in American politics -- with centrifugal forces pulling voters from moderate centers to the land of either "radical righties" or "looney lefties".  There's the red tribe -- and the blue tribe.  But then, there are blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians.  Gays, straights -- and growing distinctions of "life-style others".  What's more, tribal distinctions slide even further into a seemingly infinite array of slicings and dicings -- by religion, geography, demographics, psychographics, etc.

 

Chua drives a stake in the ground, right from her introduction:  "Humans are tribal."  "We need to belong to groups."  "... the tribal instinct is not just an instinct to belong.  It is also an instinct to exclude."  So there you have it.  Political fragments are real -- with members of each, hell bent on pushing others aside.  Unfortunately, and lately, this pushing has become bloody nasty.    White supremacists seem to pop out of the ground.  Use of "alternative facts" flow freely -- expressed not as falsehoods, but rather as "differing story lines".  Truth becomes a relative concept.

 

Once in power, groups do not surrender it easily.  History is rife with examples -- and often they flare up as revenge.  To help mitigate these spats of revenge, our leaders have been embarrassingly ignorant and utterly blind to ethnic, cultural or historical reasons why pressing our "answers" elsewhere is akin to pushing a rope.  In Afghanistan -- where we failed to understand why Pashtuns were never going to coexist "happily" with Tajiks, Uzbeks, Tazaras, etc.  In Vietnam -- where our domino theory ignored animosities between locals and the Chinese.  Or in what now is Iraq -- where borders were drawn a hundred years ago by British and French blind men... and where Shias, Sunnis and Kurds were supposed to accept a gluing together as one in hopeful harmony.  Democracy in these areas -- where tolerance between tribes is nary impossible?  Forget it.  And the author piles on with views about The Balkans, Venezuela, Syria.  Same old, same old... as our leaders play blind-man's bluff.

 

So, back to The U.S.  The NASCAR Set loves the Mar a Lago Set.  Really?  What do these "Bud-chugging", "body art" laden racing fanatics see in the effete elite?  Wait a minute!  Trash talking, rough morality, "I feel your pain" groveling evidently can come with gold cuff links.  Irrationally different tribes can in fact marry each other -- for little reason.  They might be on different planets, but there are tribal forces that erase two-dimensional rationality.  (Take "white anxiety" as an example.)

 

Chua dissects deep political divides among our various tribes in America.  She tries to articulate ways in which gorges between these differences can be bridged.  And in her Epilogue, she even waxes positive about recent rays of sunlight penetrating apparent differences.  But you'll have to be the judge of this.  And you can only do so by reading "Political Tribes".  I'd recommend it -- before next November.

— Bob Wells

Description


The bestselling author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua offers a bold new prescription for reversing our foreign policy failures and overcoming our destructive political tribalism at home
 
Humans are tribal.  We need to belong to groups.  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.  But because America tends to see the world in terms of nation-states engaged in great ideological battles – Capitalism vs. Communism, Democracy vs. Authoritarianism, the “Free World” vs. the “Axis of Evil” – we are often spectacularly blind to the power of tribal politics.  Time and again this blindness has undermined American foreign policy. 
 
In the Vietnam War, viewing the conflict through Cold War blinders, we never saw that most of Vietnam’s “capitalists” were members of the hated Chinese minority. Every pro-free-market move we made helped turn the Vietnamese people against us. In Iraq, we were stunningly dismissive of the hatred between that country’s Sunnis and Shias.  If we want to get our foreign policy right – so as to not be perpetually caught off guard and fighting unwinnable wars – the United States has to come to grips with political tribalism abroad.
 
Just as Washington’s foreign policy establishment has been blind to the power of tribal politics outside the country, so too have American political elites been oblivious to the group identities that matter most to ordinary Americans – and that are tearing the United States apart.  As the stunning rise of Donald Trump laid bare, identity politics have seized both the American left and right in an especially dangerous, racially inflected way.  In America today, every group feels threatened: whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, liberals and conservatives, and so on. There is a pervasive sense of collective persecution and discrimination.  On the left, this has given rise to increasingly radical and exclusionary rhetoric of privilege and cultural appropriation. On the right, it has fueled a disturbing rise in xenophobia and white nationalism.
 
In characteristically persuasive style, Amy Chua argues that America must rediscover a national identity that transcends our political tribes.  Enough false slogans of unity, which are just another form of divisiveness. It is time for a more difficult unity that acknowledges the reality of group differences and fights the deep inequities that divide us.

About the Author


Amy Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor at Yale Law School. She is a noted expert in the fields of ethnic conflict and globalization, and the author of the bestselling titles World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance -- and Why They Fall, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and her most recent book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, co-written with Jed Rubenfeld. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with her husband and two daughters.

Praise For…


 “An important book ...[I] strongly agree with Chua’s argument that America’s liberal elite has contributed to Trump’s rise by failing to acknowledge its own sense of tribalism." — Financial Times

“True to form, Amy Chua presents a provocative prescription to cure our political ills. She challenges us to cross the chasm between groups—not by denying differences, but by celebrating them.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

“Presented with keen clarity and brimming with definitive insights, Chua’s analysis of identity politics is essential reading for understanding policy challenges both at home and abroad.” — Booklist 

“Amy Chua’s insightful, provocative and deeply troubling book is the place to begin our long overdue national discussion on how to repair the deep divisions in the American political landscape. Political Tribes is a wakeup call to the dangers of surrendering national unity to a fractured landscape of feuding and narrow interests.”
—Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation
 
“Brilliant, timeless and timely. Political Tribes concisely explains the forces that made our experiences in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq so maddeningly difficult to comprehend, and brings that same thoughtful analysis to America today.  Amy Chua provokes thought – and we need that.”
—General Stan McChrystal, US Army (Ret)

Political Tribes is a beautifully written, eminently readable, and uniquely important challenge to conventional wisdom. In it, Amy Chua argues that tribalism—and the social dysfunction and violence that comes along with it—is the norm all over the world, but the United States managed to escape its worst impulses thanks to a shared sense of national identity. But there's trouble on the horizon: identity politics on both the left and right threaten to unravel that consensus. Chua's book is a clarion call, encouraging us to reject the primal pull of identitarianism and return to that most radical of ideas, that Americans share something bigger than race or ethnicity or ideology: common citizenship and purpose.”—J. D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy
 
“Another wonderful book by Amy Chua! In Political Tribes, she demonstrates once again that she ranks with the keenest observers of the contemporary landscape, establishing convincingly that “Humans are tribal,” and that this reality holds significant implications for America if we truly are to achieve a ‘more perfect union.’” —General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret), former commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and former Director of the CIA

“Amy Chua speaks hard truths that no one can ignore. We are, as Chua makes clear, living in denial about the power of tribalism over our domestic and foreign policy -- blinded, it seems, by our own optimism and distaste for essentialism. A page turner and revelation, Political Tribes will change the way you think.”
—Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants and The Master Switch
Product Details
ISBN: 9780399562853
ISBN-10: 0399562850
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: February 20th, 2018
Pages: 304
Language: English

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