Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Amy Chua's new book on political tribalism, and her warning today for the US

Jonathan Rauch, a libertarian writer (now a fellow at the Brookings Institution) who made the conservative case for gay marriage in the 1990s with his own book (“Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America”) offers a provocative review of Amy Chua’s new book “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations”, from Penguin Press (2018).   Chua is a law professor at Yale.

Rauch jumps on the hard-wired aspect of tribalism.  I don’t experience it as much as others, as I resist “joining in” with demonstrations or showing a lot of emotion over single-issue campaigns – and claimins of group oppression.  To my mind, it’s a little shameful – yet at 74 I won’t wear shorts in public either.

Rauch also notes how easily we can be fooled by the political rise of anti-intellectual tribalism even in a stable democracy.  We have been warned.

Amy Chua has an op-ed in the New York Times “The Destructive Dynamics of Political Tribalism” today.  She warns that free market capitalism can lead to disasters in some developing countries because wealthy minorities become targets, and she thinks this is happening in the US today. Chua notices the aloofness of coastal elites and their disinterest in personal communication with people whom they see as uneducated and intellectually inferior.  This has ramifications for the individualized speech on social media, as if becomes suspect from those “without their own skin in the game.”  Does this boil down to expecting more personal community engagement before having a voice? 

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