Summarizing and Reformulating Francis Fukuyama’s “Identity and Migration” essay
Modern Liberal societies have weak collective values. This is a dangerous problem to suffer in a world in which migrant movements tend to be massive. Then, if our societies cannot assert positive liberal values, if we are not able to assume a clear shared identity, if we find it difficult to define ourselves; our society may be challenged by migrants who are more sure of who they are (e.g.: Muslims), according to Francis Fukuyama’s “Identity and Migration”.
As a matter of fact, Modern Liberal societies in Europe and North America tend to have weak identities; many celebrate their own pluralism and multiculturalism, arguing in effect that their identity is to have no identity (postmodern relativism).
The worst aspect is that this American and European identitarial mess is located in a global society, where migrant movements are constant and massive. And of course, some of these migrant groups do have clear their identity, they know perfectly who they are; and this is the reason why they may constitute a menace against modern Liberal interests. In this sense, Fukuyama refers to Muslims.
Modern Liberal’s confusing identity becomes even more problematic precisely when Muslims, once Islam has become “deterritorialised”, leave traditional Muslim countries by, for example, emigrating to Western Europe.
And it is a problem due to the fact that, while European natives have no clear what their identity is, Muslims generally know who they are and what they are there for. In a traditional Muslim society, an individual’s identity is given by that person’s parents and social environment; everything – from one’s tribe and kin to the local imam to the political structure of the state – anchors one’s identity in a particular branch of Islamic faith. It is not a matter of choice.
Now the question is: how can the Western society solve this evident identitarial menace? The US and Europe both must admit that the old multicultural model has not been a big success. The old multicultural model was based on tolerance, group recognition and group rights. Muslim communities, for instance, are making demands for group rights that simply cannot be conceived with liberal principles of individual equality; even having expressed ambitions to challenge the secular character of the political order as a whole.
Then, it is clear that this old structure must be replaced by more energetic efforts to integrate non-western populations into a common Liberal culture: not multiculturalism; but interculturalism instead.
The intercultural debate has to be opened (and it has been already) in order to redefine Modern Liberal identity. It should be as opened as possible to new citizens. At all events, this intercultural dialogue needs to be faced in the light of Europe’s new diversity; for if existing citizens do not sufficiently value their national citizenship, the European countries can scarcely expect newcomers to value it either.
However, if postmodern societies are to move towards a more serious discussion of identity, they will need to uncover those positive virtues that define what it means to be a member of the wider society, “the good life in common”. If they do not, they may be overwhelmed by people who are more sure about who they are (Muslims?).
- Francis Fukuyama: “Identity and Migration” 25th February 2007, “Prospect Magazine” http://bit.ly/dc0Lqx
- Rex, John (2nd Edition available from January, 2010): “The Concept of a Multicultural Society” ,“European Policy and Practice towards Ethnic Minorities”; from the collective work “The Ethnic Reader; Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Migration”, edited by Montserrat Guibernau (Queen Mary University of London) and John Rex (Warwick University)
- “Fiction and Ethnicity In North America. Problems of History, Genre and Assimilation”, edited by Aitor Ibarrola, Uncilla Press, 1995.
- Identity formation. (2010, November 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:28, December 1, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Identity_formation&oldid=399584702
Alvaro D. Logroño González – Prince Charming