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Human beings are tribal creatures, particularly when they feel threatened. And the reality of living in America in 2018, at a time of massive demographic change and social upheaval, is that we all feel threatened, and so we are all becoming more tribal.
In her new book, Political Tribes, Amy Chua argues that America’s foreign policy has long been undermined by our underestimation of tribalism abroad, and that our domestic stability is now being hollowed out by our inability to see it clearly at home. Donald Trump, she argues, is a product of tribal threat — of a country where “race has split America’s poor and class has split America’s whites.” And progressives, she argues, are a big part of the problem — they have become judgmental, exclusionary, and smug.
The question that animates much of my conversation with Chua is: What can be done to calm American tribalism? Is it a product of overheated rhetoric and political choices? Or is it the inevitable result of a country teetering on demographic instability, a moment when no group can truly consolidate power so all groups are left fighting for it?
The book about sports rivalry that Ezra mentions as an example of the power of divisive sports identities
Amy Chua mentioned Better Angels, a group working to depolarize America
She also mentioned Sarah Silverman's new show, I Love You, America, which aims to bridge our political divide with comedy
Anne Jones' "whitelash" idea is articulated here
Ezra mentioned that the Soviet Union exploited American racial tensions. Here’s an explanation of that history.
The Possessed by Elif Batuman
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Ethnic Groups in Conflict by Donald L. Horowitz
Amy Chua also did a By the Book with the New York Times recently, so here's a full breakdown of her reading recommendations.