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Political Tribes

Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
By: Amy Chua
Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Length: 7 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (496 ratings)

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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

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Thought provoking

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

1 of 1 people found this review 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.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • RGO
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 06-05-19

Everyone must read this book!

Wow! As my slightly teary-eyes dry from the final poem... I want to shoutout from the roof tops, “READ THIS BOOK!”

And now a vulnerable confession, this listen too longer than usual, why? I didn’t want to hear parts of me, that I don’t want to be! That’s what makes this such a great read!

No one is safe... we all are at fault and as soon as we stop pointing our fingers or gaze outwardly, we need to stare at ourselves first. It reminds me of this famous quote:

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
—Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

This fabulous insightful and cleverly written thesis my just might be the answer we all are looking for, to calm our instinctive natures.

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hard truths

there are some hard truths to deal with in this book. I enjoyed the reader.

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Interesting Read

I like the concepts presented. I like that there is not blame or finger pointing. Rather, a difference in perspectives defined by the labels we pit upon our selves.

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Challenges for the Country and Globe Well-Defined

When we look at the successes and collapses of countries and confederations, group identifications create deep pulls on our loyalties, superficial appearances, past wrongs, and even factors we cannot yet easily identify. Amy Chua explains a lot about "minorities" and "majorities," Integrating a variety of research to support her arguments and observations, I learned bits and pieces about human nature that I did not previously consider. Here, the book shines. The only parts that get a bit bogged down is where she digresses into perhaps excessively detailed history (Argentina, Iraq). Power through those weak points. There is much for us all to learn from the problems and opportunities presented. How will we find the national and world leadership to help us overcome our turf battles. . . . our turf battles being more than just land. . . . economic power battles, aesthetic power battles, possessiveness, concerns about ethnic symbol misappropriations, . . . . I admire that Amy Chua does not try to end on a depressing note, but the ramifications are concerning. If we all break into tribal preferences so easily, then us versus them remains a terribly problematic issue not just of the past but of the present and future. Glad I read the book.

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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.

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Not Every Fairytale Needs a Happy Ending

I enjoy reading social science books a lot, but this one just fell short. There were streaks of interesting analysis throughout, but they were routinely cut short by a dedication to false equivalence and a pollyannaish insistence that the disease which the book identifies just cannot possibly be terminal. Like the Venezuelan letter writers mentioned in the book, Chua needed more distance from her subject. The book does a great job of identifying some of the problems, but I truly wish the author had resisted the urge to write that epilogue which was absolute grade school dreck. This isn't Full House, Uncle Jesse can't just guide us to the morally correct and expedient responses to all of life's problems in 26 minutes with limited commercial breaks. Despite the bright points, I wouldn't read this again.

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My goodness, what a fabulous book

Dr. Chua effortlessly walks you through a staggering volume of detail to deliver quite a lucid understanding of what feels like every major event in recent American history, all the way up to today's political and ideological divides. Vietnam, Middle East, Cold War are all pieces of cake to her voracious intellect, laying the framework from which she brutally dissects the excesses today's Leftists and Rightists. Far from being any kind of solutionism, or hip science, this book is not trying to preach anything, and that's one of the reasons why it is so successfully useful for discussing anything from racism to international wars to why Donald Trump is in the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame.

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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.