Identity Politics: A critical analysis of Francis Fukuyama’s thesis on the threat of identity politics to liberal democracies

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In this thesis Francis Fukuyama’s criticism of identity politics as a threat for contemporary liberal democracies is critically evaluated. Identity politics is used by groups who demand recognition of their identity based on the perceived disregard and marginalization of their identity. The phrase was initially applied to social movements advocating for the rights and positions of marginalized minority groups who used identity politics to change social and cultural norms and improve social justice. Today, the phrase encompasses many more movements including majority and right-wing nationalist, religious, populist, or authoritarian movements. Fukuyama argues that contemporary developments regarding identity politics in terms of the formation of more narrow defined identity groups based on exclusionary identity traits is a threat to the functioning of liberal democracies by fuelling polarization and impeding possibilities for collective deliberation and state action. His thesis is contrasted with the original claims of identity politics and with the main critiques levelled directly against Fukuyama’s arguments. It is concluded that Fukuyama’s liberal approach in terms of the politics of universalism is problematic in the sense that it is unable to grant equal recognition, denies the reality of social groups, and supports an idea of colour blindness that prioritizes the experiences of dominant groups over the disadvantaged. Also, Fukuyama illegitimately generalizes all kinds of identity movements and proposes the development of a liberal national identity that is argued to be ambiguous and ineffective.
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