Sen argues in his new book that conflict and violence are sustained today, no less than the past, by the illusion of a unique identity. Indeed, the world is. Profound and humane, Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny examines some of the most explosive problems of our time. Identity and violence: the illusion of destiny, by Amartya Sen. In , when he was a boy of 11, Amartya Sen witnessed first-hand some of the.

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Identity and Violence is his attempt to overcome that bewilderment.

Indeed, the world is increasingly taken to be divided between religions or ‘cultures’ or ‘civilizations’ignoring the relevance of other ways idenrity which people see themselves through class, gender, profession, language, literature, iplusion, music, morals or politics, and denying the real possibilities of reasoned choices.

Sen believes this solitarist fallacy shapes much communitarian and multicultural thinking, as well as Samuel Huntingdon’s theory of “clashing civilisations”. Particularly since September 11th and the global War on Terror that followed, Huntington’s claim gained widespread support both among the public and the policy world, even though most academics considered the idea to be worryingly simplistic and based on shaky evidence.

This book is interested in the illusoon of human identity, its inherent multiplicity, and the choices that we make in regard to aligning ourselves with certain identities over others. Ten Predictions under EnglishFeatured. Indeed, ideological polarization among the general population tends to be more profound than among political elites, which tend to be more pragmatic.

In comparison, multiculturalism – the chief target of Sen’s critique – is a sideshow. The solitarist view of human identity is plainly false, and it can also be dangerous. Names Index I Impassioned, eloquent and often moving, Identity and Violence is a sustained attack on the “solitarist” theory which says that human identities are formed by membership of a single social group.

Unfortunately, Sen does not pursue his idea very far so the book is pretty uninteresting. It can thus be read not only as a rejection of the Clash of Civilizations thesis, but also as a criticism of those who enhance ideological polarization in more general terms. It has become fashionable to argue that the solution lies in partition, but if smaller and more viable states do eventually emerge in Iraq it will only be after a long period of mass illusionn as horrific as any that occurred when India was partitioned.

Sen shouted for his parents, and his father took the man to a vviolence, where he died of his injuries. But as Berlin perceived, when freedom and order break down it is not because of mistakes in reasoning. With academic freedom increasingly under attack in India, Sen writes that academics must resist “the unilateral extremism that characterizes many of the academic ad by the Modi government. Here, and at several points in Identity and Violence, Sen mounts a timely critique of the contemporary politics of identity.


The experience did not idengity him a pacifist – he served as a government official in the second world war – nor did it lead him to condemn all revolutions.

International Politics in What does Russia want? Such atrocities express deep-seated human traits that are not going to be removed by the kind of conceptual therapy offered by Sen. Indeed, the world is increasingly taken to be divided between religions or ‘cultures’ or ‘civilizations’ignoring the relevance of other ways in which people see While, among others, both Presidents Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff invited their respective predecessors to join them on the presidential airplane to fly to the memorial service, many citizens in the United States and Brazil found such symbolic outreach “embracing the enemy” reprehensible, as it undermined their ideological convictions.

Sen’s analysis is a wonderful treatise on the use and abuse of human identity and an admirable call to stop asking people to confine their thoughts to only one identity, may it be “Western” or “non-Western”, “Muslim”, “Hindu” or “Christian”.

Account Options Sign in. Through his penetrating investigation of such subjects as multiculturalism, fundamentalism, terrorism and globalization, he brings out the need for a clear-headed understanding of human freedom and a constructive public voice in Global civil society. Amartya Sen had a parallel experience, when as a child he witnessed an unknown man stumbling into the garden of his parent’s house, bleeding heavily and asking for water.

Review: Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen | Books | The Guardian

If he cannot accept this fact it is because it suggests that ridding the world of identity-driven violence is going to be infinitely more difficult than he would like to believe. Is he a Twitter-savvy technocrat obsessed with boosting development for all India by slashing red tape, wooing foreign investors and building a modern digital economy? Through his seminal studies of famine and violencr theory of freedom as a positive condition involving the illusikn exercise of human capabilities, dstiny has done more to criticise standard models of economic development than any other living thinker.

As an economist Sen has been hugely influential, helping found the new discipline of social choice theory and winning the Nobel prize for economic sciences in It is no coincidence that at a time of heightened sectarian tensions in India, Huntington is frequently quoted by leaders of the right-wing movement Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh RSSfor he crudely defines India as a “Hindu civilization”, even though the country is home to almost million Muslims, more than nearly every country in Huntington’s definition of the “Muslim World”.


How could the poor day-labourer be seen as having only one identity – as a Muslim who belonged to an “enemy” community – when he belonged to many other communities as well? He attacks the multicultural view of society, contrasting it with Gandhi’s “far-sighted refusal to see a nation as a federation of communities and religions”. Higher education Philosophy books reviews.

Wilsonianism in the 21st Century Book review: But if the error of solitarism is so blatantly obvious, why do large numbers of people continue to believe in it and act on it? He tells us “there is a big question about why the cultivation of singularity is so successful, given the extraordinary naivete of the thesis in a world of obviously plural affiliations”. Sen continues to be not only horrified but also baffled by the communal violence he witnessed at that time.

The world, Sen shows, can be made to move towards peace as firmly as it has recently spiralled towards war.

Writing of sectarian conflict in post-Saddam Iraq, Sen observes: Nearly everywhere, large-scale violence has been an integral feature of the construction of nation-states. He used to say that the episode gave him a life-long horror of violence, and it undoubtedly bred in him a suspicion violenfe theories that suggested a radiant future could be ilpusion by the use of force. There is a deeper unrealism in Sen’s analysis, which emerges in his inability to account for the powerful appeal of the solitarist view.

In his new book he writes more as a liberal philosopher than as an economist. For Sen, as a good liberal rationalist, it is an article of faith that the violence of identity is a result of erroneous beliefs.

Thinking out of the box

Book reviews, English, Global governance. The Illusion of Destiny. Even in its liberal, “civic” varieties, nationalism has spawned violence on a vast scale. This became obvious in several countries around the world when Nelson Mandela died in Penguin Books India- Political Science – pages.

In Sen’s view the idea that we can be divided up in this way leads to a “miniaturisation” of humanity, with everyone locked up in tight little boxes from which they emerge only to attack one another. Humans want freedom but they also fear it, and in times of insecurity they tend to retreat into closed, hostile groups.

As he puts it in Identity and Violence: Unlike most liberal thinkers, Berlin understood that, while freedom may be a universal value, it is far from being an overriding human need.