Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

Penguin Pr. Feb. 2018. 304p. notes.index. ISBN 9780399562853. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780399562860. POL SCI
Legal scholar and author Chua (John M. Duff, Jr. Professor, Yale Law Sch.) follows up her popular and controversial The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother with a book that returns to the theme of her first two titles (World on Fire and Day of Empire): global political instability. Asking provocative questions about why groups form around particular ethnic identities or local needs, Chua begins with a discussion of American exceptionalism—and blindness to political "tribes" (which are never clearly defined)—and then moves on to test her framework in chapters on Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Venezuela. She rounds off with two chapters on North America, discussing inequality and the power of "political tribes" in a democratic system. Chua's inquiry is a potentially useful one in an era of violent, reactionary white nationalism. However, in keeping with her earlier work, she falls back on ethnocultural generalizations that do nothing to advance a deeper political understanding. Her notes indicate a heavy lean on current periodical literature.
VERDICT This book will likely find readers familiar with Chua's previous work, but those seeking thoughtful sociopolitical analysis of nationalism and identity will need to look elsewhere. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]
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