Dignity, recognition, esteem, respect, and the resentment that arises when they are not accorded—these are the themes of Francis Fukuyama’s new book. Like many political commentators, he was surprised by the results of two elections in 2016: the victories for Brexit and Donald Trump. To understand them, he sought a “master concept,” something that would explain not only these results, but also the many other political movements of this decade, from the rise of populism around the globe to #MeToo and campus protests in America. In Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, he proposes “identity,” a concept that grows “out of a distinction between one’s true inner self and an outer world of social rules and norms that does not adequately recognize that inner self’s worth or dignity.”… His framing of our present crisis as one of identity politics—which he understands broadly enough to encompass right-wing as well as left-wing versions, the international scene as well as domestic conflicts—is lucid and insightful.
Producing reactions of chuckles, indignation, anger, and unseeming self-indulgent pride, Duffy takes me on a journey of the sometimes unbelievably large divergence between the state of the world and our polled beliefs about the world. And … we’re almost always talking about objective, uncontroversial measures of things we keep pretty good track of: wealth inequality, share of immigrants in society, medically defined obesity, number of Facebook accounts, murder and unemployment rates. On subject after subject, people guess the most outlandish things: almost 80% of Britons believed that the number of deaths from terrorist attacks between 2002 and 2016 were more or about the same as 1985–2000, when the actual number was a reduction of 81% (p. 131)….
“Suppose a small bank has only one teller. Customers take an average of 10 minutes to serve and they arrive at the rate of 5.8 per hour. What will the expected waiting time be? What happens if you add another teller?“We assume customer arrivals and customer service times are random (details later). With only one teller, customers will have to wait nearly five hours on average before they are served.”
“But if you add a second teller, the average waiting time is not just cut in half; it goes down to about 3 minutes. The waiting time is reduced by a factor of 93x.”
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today