All politics is, in a sense, about identity: who we are and what we want as individuals and groups in the public realm. But in the past couple of decades, as the main focus of politics has tilted from socioeconomic to sociocultural themes, questions of identity and recognition have become even more central.
Many people, including Francis Fukuyama, see the rise of identity politics, especially in its narrower forms, as a regressive step associated with challenges to the liberal status quo from both Left and Right. But there seems little doubt that it is here to stay, partly because of the very success of modern liberal democracies in creating more socially fluid and meritocratic societies that sharply differentiate between winners and losers, offering little by way of psychological protection to the latter.
Fukuyama, despite his reservations, can claim to have forecast this development, at least in part. His famous essay ‘The End of History’, about the triumph of liberal democracy, was turned into a book, The End of History and the Last Man, in which he speculated about the ability of