Sen argues in his new book that conflict and violence are sustained today, no less than the past, by the illusion of a unique identity. Indeed, the world is. Profound and humane, Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny examines some of the most explosive problems of our time. Identity and violence: the illusion of destiny, by Amartya Sen. In , when he was a boy of 11, Amartya Sen witnessed first-hand some of the.

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This became obvious in several countries around the world when Nelson Mandela or in How could the poor day-labourer be seen identit having only one identity – as a Muslim who belonged to an “enemy” community – when he belonged to many other communities as well? Iraq is a post-colonial construction whose populations are divided not only by ethnic and religious allegiances but also by rival claims on its oil reserves.

The communal slaughter that accompanied Indian independence is in no way exceptional. With academic freedom increasingly under attack in India, Sen writes that academics must resist “the unilateral extremism that characterizes many of the academic interventions by the Modi government. In Sen’s view the idea that we can be divided up in this way leads to a “miniaturisation” of humanity, illusiln everyone locked up in tight little boxes from which they emerge only to attack one another.

In each case it involves the fallacy of defining the multiple and shifting identities present in every human being in terms of a single, unchanging essence. He attacks the multicultural view of society, contrasting it with Gandhi’s “far-sighted refusal to see a thee as a federation of communities and religions”.

Particularly since September 11th and the global War on Terror that followed, Huntington’s claim gained widespread support both among the public and the policy world, even though most academics considered the idea to be worryingly simplistic and based on shaky evidence. Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities are not at one another’s throats because they have a mistaken view of human identity. Trapped by the brutal logic of anarchy, they are locked in a battle for survival that could go on for generations.


Here we touch the heart of Sen’s continuing bewilderment. You might also like Book review: They ullusion been translated into more than 30 languages. The Illusion of Destiny.

Is he a Twitter-savvy technocrat obsessed with boosting development for all India by slashing red tape, wooing foreign investors and building a modern digital economy? Identity and Violence is his attempt to overcome that bewilderment. As an economist Sen has been hugely influential, helping found the new discipline identuty social choice theory and winning the Violnece prize for economic sciences in They did what they did from fear, desperation or cruelty.

In his new book he writes more as a liberal philosopher than as an economist. Sen notes astutely how Huntingdon’s crude theory has been used in the “war on terror” to entrench the perception that Muslims are defined only by their religious identity, itself supposedly defined in “anti-western” terms. In Africa and the Balkans the formation of nations has gone hand in hand with tribal conflict and ethnic cleansing, while the welding of China into a nation that is under way today involves the ruthless suppression of Tibetan and Muslim minorities.

Thinking out of the box

Sen believes this solitarist fallacy shapes much communitarian and multicultural thinking, as well as Samuel Huntingdon’s theory of “clashing civilisations”. Sen’s book is both a rejection of Huntington’s civilizational argument and a celebration of the complexity of human identity: Indeed, ideological polarization among the general population tends to be more profound than among political elites, which tend to be more pragmatic.

Similar experiences can produce very different philosophies.

Other editions – View all Identity and Violence: The victim was a Muslim day-labourer who had been stabbed by Hindus during the riots that occurred in Bengal in the last years of the British Raj. Those who a,artya global confrontations or local sectarian violence impose such a prechosen and divisive identity on people who are to be recruited as “foot soldiers” of political brutality, slaves of an illusory force.


Book review: “Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny” by Amartya Sen

He is the author of IBSA: Sen’s analysis is a wonderful treatise odentity the viokence and abuse of human destinj and an admirable call to stop asking people to confine their thoughts to only one identity, may it be “Western” or “non-Western”, “Muslim”, “Hindu” or “Christian”.

Names Index I Commenting on sectarian violence in Iraq, Sen seems to suggest that the human conflict there is a result of an intellectual error. Or is the failure of understanding actually in the liberal philosopher? The Illusion of Destiny Issues of our time. Writing of sectarian conflict in post-Saddam Iraq, Sen observes: For Sen, as a good liberal rationalist, it is an article of faith that the violence of identity is a result of erroneous beliefs.

The emergence of modern nations has done much to emancipate individuals from the tyranny of local communities, but this freedom has come at a heavy price. But human divisions are not the result of any simple fallacy.

But as Berlin perceived, when freedom and order break down it is not because of mistakes in reasoning. What it did was implant in him a deep sense of the fragility of freedom.

Review: Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen | Books | The Guardian

The experience did not make vestiny a pacifist – he served as a government official in the second world war – nor did it lead him to condemn all revolutions. Yet his critique is undermined by a pervasive lack of realism. Witnessing the Russian revolution as a child in Petrograd, Isaiah Berlin saw a crowd dragging off a struggling man, pale and terrified, to be killed. In Identity and Violence: The world, Sen shows, can be made to move towards peace as firmly as it has recently spiralled towards war.