Reasonable analysis and clear advice: Diverse societies need strong common identities!

With „Identity“, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama has taken up one of the most urgent problems of our time. Modern societies are in danger to fail by dissolving themselves into diversity, either by individualism, or especially by immigration without integration. On the one hand, the necessary cohesion of democratic societies is challenged. On the other hand, a dangerous uprise of right-wing populism is provoked. The political Left as well as the political Right often blockade each other to analyse and solve the problems. The political Left exaggerates the protection of individual identities, the political Right dreams of old days of national identities defined by biologist ethnicity.

Before giving advice how to tackle the problems, Fukuyama presents a thorough historical analysis, how the Western understanding of individiuality and identity evolved, then spreading world-wide. He begins with Plato’s theory of the soul and „thymos“ as its third part, representing ambition and pride, i.e. especially the need to be recognized by others. Via Martin Luther, Rousseau, Kant, Herder, Ferdinand Tönnis, and the Roy-Kepel debate about Islamism, finally he reaches modern ideas of human rights, diversity, radical equality, and multiculturalism.

While the romanticists of globalisation dream of the final dissolution of borders and nations, Fukuyama confronts them with a harsh landing on the ground of hard facts: Even if nations would become superfluous one day, the world is yet far from reaching such a state. At least for now, if not forever, nations are indispensible in order to make democracy possible, for democracy needs a common cultural sphere of a culturally integrated people. The awareness of a common cause and a common cultural sphere of communication form the very basis for democracy.

Fukuyama is very clear about the fact that it is not enough to have a common democratic culture, i.e., a mere constitutional patriotism which comprises solely democracy and human rights. The existence of deeper cultural bonds of an informal common culture is indispensible to make democracy work. His example is the Anglo-Protestant culture of the US which he calls „the common property of all Americans“. Although many Americans today are no longer protestants of Anglo-Saxon descent, they still have (or should have) become integrated into this informal culture. If the people of the US would loose this heritage of the founding fathers, then the US would no longer be the US and its democracy would stop to work.

So, Fukuyama gives a list of clear advice:

  • The Left has to reduce its minority identity politics to a reasonable level, and return to focus on broader identities and social categories, such as the poor, the working class, the nation, Europe, etc.
  • Nations have to redefine their national identity on a cultural basis in order to get rid off the outdated idea of biologist ethnicity as the basis for a nation. Nations have to introduce „ius soli“ for acquiring citizenship, yet with very strict rules.
  • A strong emphasis has to be put on the integration into the democratic culture as well as into the informal national culture. This is valid for immigrants as well as for „native“ citizens. For Germany, Fukuyama explicitly applaudes the idea of Bassam Tibi resp. of Friedrich Merz of a „Leitkultur“, i.e., a „leading culture“.
  • It is considered harmful to foster diversity by multi-lingual schools, or by schools separated by religions and the like, instead of fostering the common national identity.
  • A common military or social service for young men and women of all parts of society could serve well to foster a common identity and the awareness of a common cause.
  • Dual citizenship is considered harmful since it spoils loyalities and the awarness of a common cause.
  • It is important to keep a difference between being a citizen and not being a citizen of a state.
  • In order to make integration working, the sheer number of immigrants is of importance, too. If there are too many immigrants there are not enough „native“ residents to have contact with, and too many immigrants of one place of origin tend to form closed-up parallel societies. It is necessary to have a working border control, and it has to be recognized that moral obligations to support refugees, or poor people, have limits resp. can be performed by other and more intelligent means than by immigration.


Francis Fukuyama provides a good theoretical analysis of the problems, and good practical advice to solve them. Everybody interested in the topic should read this book to get a basic understanding to discuss the issues.


It is one thing to integrate into culture and cultural traditions, yet you cannot do this easily with a religion. Fukuyama has not talked about how to integrate religions which have not been subject to a similar process of reforms as the Christian religion, from Martin Luther, via the development of historical criticism, until the Second Vatican Council.

What is missing from a theoretical point of view are the concepts of „transculturalism“ and „integration“. Fukuyama does not talk about „integration“ but always about „assimilation“ of immigrants into a „diverse“ population. This sounds like a contradiction and reminds of a strictly monocultural society. But this is not what Fukuyama is talking about. The concepts of „transculturalism“ and „integration“ remove the contradiction: „Transculturalism“ means that one person can exercise more than one culture, in the same way as you learn another language without forgetting about your mother tongue. Thus, „integration“ is not about taking away the culture of origin from immigrants but rather about gaining the new national culture and making it the priority culture („Leitkultur“). Immigrants are free to exercise their original culture, too, but only in private and in parallel and with secondary priority. So, „integration“ is measure and centre between the extremes of either complete assimilation or no integration at all.

Minor mistakes

  • Bassam Tibi’s „Leitkultur“ had been originally meant for Europe, not for Germany alone. It was Friedrich Merz who coined the word for the national purpose.
  • It was not 9/11 which led to tensions with the Muslim minorities in Europe, yet it was the increase in number of Muslims which supported the formation of closed-up parallel societies, it was the establishment of mosques led by Islamic traditionalists, and it was the regression of certain countries of origin (e.g. Turkey) back into nationalism and islamism. All this made the European Muslim population less European than it had been in the 1980s.
  • Hitler and the Nazis were no nationalists, in a strict sense, because they were not interested in Germany as a nation with its historical and cultural development, but they were racists. For them, the German people and the Germanic race were absolutely not one and the same. This had been pointed out e.g. by Hannah Arendt.
  • Fukuyama interprets the reluctance of Germany to support Greece in the Euro crisis as a lack of common identity, but overlooks the economic futility to save foul credits with even more credits.
  • Fukuyama did not understand that the migration crisis of 2015 did not come about because Greece had not the means for an appropriate border control. It came about because in January 2015, the Greeks had elected the radical leftist Alexis Tsipras for Prime Minister, because of the Euro crisis. And Tsipras simply stopped any kind of border control, i.e., he intentionally opened the borders. It is as simple as that although you rarely read about it.

Indicators that Fukuyama starts from a rather left-wing point of view

  • While in some passages he very clearly states that more is required than only accepting democracy and human rights, when it comes to integration into the national culture, there are many passages where this picture is blurred.
  • Fukuyama erroneously thinks that the fear of the Right is „greatly exaggerated“, that the Left is redistributing advantages by identity minority politics in an unfair way.
  • In the Roy-Kepel debate about Islamism, Fukuyama first says that both approaches are legitimate, but then continues emphasizing the social backgrounds of the problem, downplaying the religious background.
  • For Europe, Fukuyama would prefer a European citizenship instead of national identites. At least he realizes that this is not a good idea for the moment.
  • Fukuyama always talks of „liberal democracy“, yet isn’t democracy necessarily liberal in its very essence, as well as necessarily open for less liberal politics within its liberal framework?

Bewertung: 4 von 5 Sternen.

(Erstveröffentlichung auf Amazon am 24. November 2019)