Amy Chua on rediscovering our national identity

Amy Chua
Author Amy Chua
Sasha Aslanian for MPR

Best-selling author and Yale law professor Amy Chua speaks about the dangers of our polarized America and the importance of a strong national identity. In her new book she writes that humans, along with our fellow primates, are tribal. But she believes we're in a moment where there are very few voices-- on either side-- standing up for America's "group-transcending identity" that binds us together.

America was founded, she says, as "the great enlightenment experiment," which moved past the destructive religious hatred and tribalism found in Europe.

"Here's the secret about America," Chua said. "Among the major powers, America alone is a 'super-group'. We have a very strong collective identity, but it allowed individual sub-group and sub-tribal identities to flourish."

"We have had exceptional success assimilating incredibly diverse populations in this country," Chua said, "so we tend to think of democracy as the cure for everything. We romanticize it." When we consider our foreign policy, we think, "oh! there's a tribal or group division, let's have some elections!"

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Amy Chua says she's hopeful about America, because "polarization and hatred is exhausting. People want to come together." But she wonders if we will soon have a leader who wants to be a "unifier."

Amy Chua's new book is "Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations." She's also author of "World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability," and "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."

Chua spoke with Lanhee Chin of the Hoover Institution at the Commonwealth Club of California on March 7, 2018.

To listen to the program, click the audio player above.