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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua, offers a bold new prescription for reversing our foreign policy failures and overcoming our destructive political tribalism at home

Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. In many parts of the world, the group identities that matter most - the ones that people will kill and die for - are ethnic, religious, sectarian, or clan-based. But because America tends to see the world in terms of nation-states engaged in great ideological battles - capitalism vs. communism, democracy vs. authoritarianism, the "free world" vs. the "axis of evil" - we are often spectacularly blind to the power of tribal politics. Time and again this blindness has undermined American foreign policy.

In the Vietnam War, viewing the conflict through Cold War blinders, we never saw that most of Vietnam's "capitalists" were members of the hated Chinese minority. Every pro-free-market move we made helped turn the Vietnamese people against us. In Iraq we were stunningly dismissive of the hatred between that country's Sunnis and Shias. If we want to get our foreign policy right - so as to not be perpetually caught off guard and fighting unwinnable wars - the United States has to come to grips with political tribalism abroad.

Just as Washington's foreign policy establishment has been blind to the power of tribal politics outside the country, so, too, have American political elites been oblivious to the group identities that matter most to ordinary Americans - and that are tearing the United States apart. As the stunning rise of Donald Trump laid bare, identity politics have seized both the American left and right in an especially dangerous, racially inflected way. In America today every group feels threatened: whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, liberals and conservatives, and so on. There is a pervasive sense of collective persecution and discrimination. On the left, this has given rise to increasingly radical and exclusionary rhetoric of privilege and cultural appropriation. On the right, it has fueled a disturbing rise in xenophobia and white nationalism.

In characteristically persuasive style, Amy Chua argues that America must rediscover a national identity that transcends our political tribes. Enough false slogans of unity, which are just another form of divisiveness. It is time for a more difficult unity that acknowledges the reality of group differences and fights the deep inequities that divide us.

©2018 Amy Chua (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“An important book ...[I] strongly agree with Chua’s argument that America’s liberal elite has contributed to Trump’s rise by failing to acknowledge its own sense of tribalism." (Financial Times

“True to form, Amy Chua presents a provocative prescription to cure our political ills. She challenges us to cross the chasm between groups - not by denying differences, but by celebrating them.” (Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg) 

“Presented with keen clarity and brimming with definitive insights, Chua’s analysis of identity politics is essential reading for understanding policy challenges both at home and abroad.” (Booklist

What listeners say about Political Tribes

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great start but suffered from generalization bias

Although I enjoy reading the book, but the author makes a very generalizing theory on a number of occasion. One of them I would highlight is on group identity issues in America especially as it affects the white Americans. In general there's a discontent feeling toward some minorities by some white Americans, but to attribute them fully on race alone is missing other big factors. I'm a firm believer that racism would never be eradicated like chicken pox or murder crime. As an immigrant from Asian country living in Texas, I could attest to the fact that most people (white Americans) are generally nice people. Amy called them a more patriotic, flag carrying group, I identify them as people that love their country and show it as well. In regard to the source of discontent, one factor that academics must look into, similar to what Dr. Thomas Sowell has done for years, it's the attitudes and culture of these immigrants that might have clashed with the whites. But this is not unique America only problem, I would argue and I have proven myself, if you can make adjustment to our own culture, without losing our identity, we could co-exists. As a new-comer, we have to respect the tradition, and not to force our own especially not via activist movements but through a rational dialogue. One shouldn't force a school cafetaria to serve non-pork only menu without proper discussion and not expecting a backlash, for example. If we all just act with common sense and respect each other, the world would be a better place. And blaming the problem mainly on racism is not the way to go.

8 people found this helpful

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Revelatory.

In light of the 2016 election, I have really struggled to make sense of the emerging extremes within American society. I have spent the last year and a half consuming all the literature I can on evolutionary psychology and tribalism and been inundated with information to the point that it has become hard to articulate much with clarity. This book however does a wonderful job weaving a simple narrative that explains what is gnawing at the American soul. Amy Chua has done a wonderful job presenting concrete examples with a strong scientific foundation in a practical way that everyone can understand. If you care or are concerned at all about the state of the United States, I highly recommend this book, it was an insightful and thoroughly enjoyable read.

6 people found this helpful

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Every American Must Read This Book.

I picked this book up after hearing Amy Chua on Megyn Kelly's podcast. For context, it's 1/10/20; only a few days after a mob of Trump loyalists broke into the Capitol building, and only a few months separated from the BLM protests.

Amy Chua did a fantastic job of not only calling everyone out on their flaws and hypocrisies, but showing compassion and empathy at the same time.

I've never been so worried for this country in my lifetime. We are bitterly divided. We excommunicate each other over politics. Everyone's worried. Everyone's scared. There's not one group of people that feels safe right now.

Chua's book masterfully breaks down how and why we got here.

She also leaves hope at the end. I've never gotten choked up listening to a book before I heard the last few chapters of this one.

We have to find z way to understand each other.

Our democracy and country depend on it.

A must read.

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Excellent for the most part

Excellent job for the most part. But at the end dropped the ball on analyzing Trump by revealing liberal bias. Didn’t completely grasp why he won but came to liberal talking points. By the way I am black. I would have given 5 stars if not for the poor handling of the latter.

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Phenomally helpful for understanding "others”

I loved the way that Amy showed examples from both the conservative point of view and the liberal point of view. I was given this book by my conservative sister in law and I generally lean liberal.
I learned so much about why we love our own tribes and why we think about politics the way that we do.
The narrator (Julia) did a great job making somewhat dry and complicated content sound dynamic and interesting.

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Thought provoking

a great listen. well performed. thought provoking. would recommend. why require a minimum number of words, dumb.

1 person found this helpful

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Great book.

A good explanation of why we are the way we are. I'm still not going to hug a GOP person.

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Excellent, balanced book

Really enjoyed listening to this book. Very informational and fascinating. So good, in fact, I’m going to listen again to really take it all in. Definitely worth the purchase.

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thoughtful story written with a balanced hand

great book to think on our current situation globally, nationally, and locally. the author looks at identity and shows, in most cases, the view of both sides of the situational coin. it was well worth the time and it has and will generate some very good conversations

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  • Ed
  • 02-04-21

excellent book

highly recommend
very timely book for 2020 America.
we need to make this required reading in schools

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-15-18

Good in parts, but patchy

Some thoughfull chapters that can generate good debates, but rather descriptive and journalistic, like an extended newspaper article.