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

This became obvious in several countries around the world when Nelson Mandela died in Unlike most liberal thinkers, Berlin understood that, while freedom may be a universal value, it is far from being an overriding human need. They have been translated into more than 30 languages. He used to say that the episode gave him a life-long horror of violence, and it undoubtedly bred in him a suspicion of theories that suggested a radiant violenc could be realised by the use of force.

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. Trapped by the brutal logic of anarchy, they are locked in a battle for survival that could go on for generations. Sen thus contests the so-called “solitarist” approach to human identity, which sees human beings as members of xnd one group.

My library Help Advanced Book Search. Indeed, the world is increasingly taken to be divided between religions or ‘cultures’ or ‘civilizations’ignoring the relevance of other ways in which people see themselves through class, gender, profession, language, literature, science, music, morals or politics, and denying the real possibilities of reasoned choices.

He is currently writing a book on Brazil’s role in Latin American politics. The world, Sen shows, can be made to move towards peace as firmly as it has recently spiralled towards war. In Africa and the Balkans the formation of nations lilusion gone hand in hand with tribal conflict and ethnic cleansing, while the welding qmartya China into a nation that is under way today involves the ruthless suppression of Tibetan and Muslim minorities.

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Impassioned, eloquent and often moving, Identity and Violence is a sustained attack on the “solitarist” theory which says that human identities are formed by membership of a single social group. Sen continues to be not only horrified but also baffled by the communal violence he witnessed at that time.

He tells us “there is thr big question about why the cultivation of singularity is so successful, given the extraordinary naivete of the thesis in a world of obviously plural affiliations”. Here we touch the heart of Sen’s continuing bewilderment.

Their causes are many and tangled, including conflicts of interest, rival power structures and competition for resources.

Here, and at several points in Identity and Violence, Sen mounts a timely critique of the contemporary politics of identity.

It has become fashionable to argue that the solution lies in partition, but if smaller and more viable states do eventually emerge in Iraq it will only be after a long period of mass slaughter as horrific as any that occurred when India was partitioned.

It is not particularly easy for a still bewildered elderly adult. But as Berlin perceived, when freedom and order break down it is not because of mistakes in reasoning. While, among others, both Presidents Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff invited their respective predecessors to join them on the presidential airplane to fly to the memorial service, many citizens in the United States and Brazil found such symbolic outreach “embracing the enemy” reprehensible, as it undermined their ideological convictions.

Thinking out of the box

For Sen, as a good liberal rationalist, it is an article of faith that the violence of identity is a result of erroneous beliefs. In Sen’s view the idea that we can be divided up in this way leads to a “miniaturisation” of humanity, with everyone locked up in tight little boxes from which they emerge only to attack one another. Through his seminal studies of famine and his theory of freedom as a positive condition involving the full exercise of human capabilities, he has done more to criticise standard models of economic development than any other living thinker.

The people who knifed the day-labourer in Bengal and who dragged off the man to his death in Petrograd made no error. He cannot accept that its causes are inherent in human beings themselves. As he puts it in Identity and Violence: Writing of sectarian conflict in post-Saddam Iraq, Sen observes: 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.


It’s a good point, but rather obvious in today’s world of large scale immigration. You might also like Book review: Unfortunately, Sen does not pursue his idea very far so the book is pretty uninteresting.

Sen’s book is both a rejection of Huntington’s civilizational argument and a celebration of the complexity of human identity: Indeed, the world is increasingly taken to be divided between religions or ‘cultures’ or ‘civilizations’ignoring the relevance of other ways in which people see Ten Predictions under EnglishFeatured. Other editions – View all Identity and Violence: Sen’s analysis is a wonderful treatise on the use and abuse of human identity 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”.

Higher education Philosophy books reviews. As Richard Betts writes”even practical policymakers who shun ivory-tower theories” are influenced destint Huntington’s ideas. Amartya Sen had a parallel experience, when as a child amarta witnessed an unknown man stumbling into the garden of his parent’s house, bleeding heavily and asking for water. 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.

Similar experiences can produce very different philosophies.

Reason can help us understand this process, but it cannot be reasoned away. The rise of the Global South?

Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny – Amartya Sen – Google Books

Toppling Saddam’s tyranny meant destroying the state and plunging the country into chaos. What it did was implant in him a deep sense of the fragility of freedom.

What does Russia want? The US became a modern nation only after a devastating civil war, France only after Napoleon.