The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time

The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time cover

The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time

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Named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist, Financial Times, Inc., Prospect Magazine, and The Conversation

“The most comprehensive and reasonable story of this shift that has yet been attempted . . . Mounk has told the story of the Great Awokening better than any other writer who has attempted to make sense of it.” The Washington Post

"An intellectual tour de force about the origins of identity politics and the threat it presents to genuine, honest, old-fashioned liberalism.” Bret Stephens, The New York Times

“Among the most insightful and important books written in the last decade on American democracy and its current torments, because it also shows us a way out of the trap.” —Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, and coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind

"Outstanding." David Brooks, The New York Times

One of our leading public intellectuals traces the origin of a set of ideas about identity and social justice that is rapidly transforming America—and explains why it will fail to accomplish its noble goals.


For much of history, societies have violently oppressed ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. It is no surprise that many who passionately believe in social justice came to believe that members of marginalized groups need to take pride in their identity to resist injustice.

But over the past decades, a healthy appreciation for the culture and heritage of minority groups has transformed into a counterproductive obsession with group identity in all its forms. A new ideology aiming to place each person’s matrix of identities at the center of social, cultural, and political life has quickly become highly influential. It stifles discourse, vilifies mutual influence as cultural appropriation, denies that members of different groups can truly understand one another, and insists that the way governments treat their citizens should depend on the color of their skin.

This, Yascha Mounk argues, is the identity trap. Though those who battle for these ideas are full of good intentions, they will ultimately make it harder to achieve progress toward the genuine equality we desperately need. Mounk has built his acclaimed scholarly career on being one of the first to warn of the risks right-wing populists pose to American democracy. But, he shows, those on the left and center who are stuck in the identity trap are now inadvertent allies to the MAGA movement.

In The Identity Trap, Mounk provides the most ambitious and comprehensive account to date of the origins, consequences, and limitations of so-called “wokeness.” He is the first to show how postmodernism, postcolonialism, and critical race theory forged the “identity synthesis” that conquered many college campuses by 2010. He lays out how a relatively marginal set of ideas came to gain tremendous influence in business, media, and government by 2020. He makes a nuanced philosophical case for why the application of these ideas to areas from education to public policy is proving to be so deeply counterproductive—and why universal, humanist values can best serve the vital goal of true equality. In explaining the huge political and cultural transformations of the past decade, The Identity Trap provides truth and clarity where they are needed most.

Yascha Mounk is a writer and academic known for his work on the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. Born in Germany to Polish parents, Mounk received his BA in history from Trinity College Cambridge, and his PhD in government from Harvard University. He is a professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University, the founder of the digital magazine Persuasion, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of The Great Experiment and The Identity Trap.

ISBN: 9780593493182

ISBN-10: 9780593493182

Publisher: Penguin Press

Publication Date: 09/26/2023 - 12:00am

On Sale: 09/26/2023 - 12:00am

Pages: 416

Language: English

Categories

Social Science / Popular Culture

Political Science / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism

History / United States / 21st Century