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Political Tribes, Amy Chua

"The Left believes that right-wing tribalism--bigotry, racism--is tearing the country apart. The Right believes that left-wing tribalism--identity politics, political correctness--is tearing the country apart. They are both right."


"What these elites don't see is that Trump, in terms of taste, sensibilities, and values, actually is similar to the white working class. The tribal instinct is all about identification, and Trump's base identities with him at a gut level: with the way he talks (locker room), dresses, shoots from the hip, gets caught making mistakes, politically correct, for not being feminist enough, for not reading enough books. His enemies, they feel, are their enemies. They even identify with his wealth, because that's what many of them want, along with a beautiful wife and big buildings with their names on them. For many working-class Americans, being antiestablishment is not the same as being antirich."

p. 5

"Nevertheless, from the point of view of many white Americans--ones who think the world of Mad Men wasn't necessarily all that bad--they've lost their cultural primacy. Now, it seems, everything they see--TV programming, commercials, pop music, ads on the subway--is influenced and increasingly flavored by minority culture."

p. 32

"In countries like these, it can be a catastrophic mistake to imagine that through democratic elections, people will suddenly rally around a national identity and overcome their preexisting ethnic, religious, sectarian, and tribal divides. On the contrary, in sharply divided societies, democracy often galvanizes group conflict, with political movements and parties coalescing around these more primal identities. America has made this mistake over and over again."

p. 34

"What this suggests is that our brains are hardwired to identify, value, and individualize in-group members, while "outgroup members are processed as interchangeable members of a general social category," making it easier to negatively stereotype them. Even more striking, seeing other members of our in-group prosper seems to activate our reward centers--generating emotional satisfaction--even if we receive no benefit ourselves."

p. 40

"Whether biologically based (as "primordialists" believe) or constructed by elites, culture, and power seekers (as "instrumentalists" believe), the experience of ethnic identification exists everywhere human beings do. It is one of the most combustible sources of political mobilization, and it is at its strongest when one group feels threatened--in danger of being extinguished--by another."

p. 42

"It's impossible to understand the stunning success of ISIS without understanding the ethnopolitical dynamics of postward Iraq. Iraq's Sunni Arabs correctly perceived that democracy would disempower them and--whatever the ethnically blind U.S.-drafted Constitution might say--leave them at the mercy of the majority Shias. And it was the height of naïveté for the United States to expect that Iraq's Shias would put centuries of Sunni oppression and brutality behind them."

p. 94

"Just as in the Cold War, during this decade of U.S. triumphalism, we failed to take into account the potency of tribal politics. Most important, we failed to see that democracy has ethnic, sectarian, and other group-dynamic ramifications. In many parts of the world, far from neutralizing tribal hatred, democracy catalyzes it."

p. 96

"But here's the kicker: those with stronger numeracy skills demonstrated more bias. They were more likely to err in the direction of their political predispositions, possibly because of their superior ability to manipulate data. In other words, Kahan found that the smarter you are with numbers, the more likely you are to manipulate evidence to conform to your group's core beliefs. This finding has now been replicated for several different hot-button factual controversies--for example, climate change--and extended beyond numeracy. The better informed people are, and the better educated, the more polarized they tend to be on politically controversial factual issues, and the more stubbornly they manipulate new facts to support their tribe's worldview."

p. 102

"Poverty alone does not create terrorism. But when stark inequalities track deep, preexisting racial, ethnic, religious, or sectarian divides, intense feelings of injustice, resentment, and frustration will become widespread, catalyzed by all the group-psychological phenomena just explored. These are the breeding-ground conditions of terrorist violence."

p. 112

"Yes, inequality is fracturing our nation. But just as America's foreign policy establishment repeatedly fails to understand the group realities that matter most to people abroad, America's elites have been blind to--or dismissive of--the group identities that matter most to ordinary Americans. If we want to understand our current political turmoil, we need to open our eyes to the vastly different group identities of America's rich and poor."

p. 139

"In other words, white America is itself divided. Indeed, there is now so little interaction, commonality, and intermarriage between rural/heartland/working-class whites and urban/coastal whites that the difference between them is practically what social scientists would consider and "ethnic" difference. They think of themselves as belonging to distinct and opposing political tribes."

p. 163

"Today, no group in America feels comfortably dominant. Every group feels attacked, pitted against other groups not just for jobs and spoils but for the right to define the nation's identity. In these conditions, democracy devolves into zero-sum group competition--pure political tribalism."

p. 177

"The peril we face as a nation today is not only that America might fail to live up to its promise, but that Americans might stop believing in that promist of the need to fight for it. The increasing belief on the left that this promise was always a lie, or on the right that it has always been true--and has always been achieved--are two sides of the same coin."

p. 204

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