Chua argues that this vision of the American nation has always been riddled with self-deception, since ethnic, racial and class loyalties have never truly disappeared in America, let alone anywhere else. And she argues that this has two important implications. First, Americans need to recognise that tribalism — in the sense of group identities — exists inside America and is becoming stronger today under President Donald Trump. Second, drawing on the example of McMaster, Chua argues that American leaders need to ponder the issue of tribalism on the world stage … This is an important book since Chua’s key argument is entirely correct: America’s leaders need to recognise that tribalism exists, and to think more clearly about the implications … Chua is right to argue that tribalism matters; what Political Tribes leaves unanswered is the crucial question of how America (or anyone else) can create a non-tribal world.
Amy Chua’s compact, insightful, disquieting, yet ultimately hopeful book is both a sign of the rediscovery of the primacy of tribalism and a lucid guide to its implications … Her short book relies on a handful of case studies and examples to draw broad conclusions, so scholars will want to be cautious with it; but her accessible and provocative treatment sets up just the right public conversation. She takes her argument in two directions, one foreign, the other domestic … Chua’s observations on international affairs, although useful and timely, will not surprise anyone who has been paying attention...More interesting, and more challenging, is her take on tribalism here at home.
Chua sprints through her international material in a little over 100 pages before returning to the United States — which is where she gets stuck in a quagmire of her own making. What started out in her introduction as a shrewd assessment of our fractured political situation turns into a muddled argument about what Americans, mainly liberals, need to do next … Considering how much she’s thought about tone-deaf cosmopolitan elites seeming hopelessly out of touch, she would have done well to heed the moral of her own book: When changing lanes, check your blind spot first.
In the end, Chua falls back on the very attitude to which she turned her sharply skeptical gaze at the beginning of the book: the conviction that the United States was, is and will remain an exceptional nation, different from all the others. In her introduction, Chua remarked that the United States as a supertribal entity indifferent to ethnicity and culture became at best a partial reality only a generation ago. By book’s end, however, the battered ideal has been polished and refurbished ... A lot of the interest of Political Tribes comes from the strong sense it emanates of an author arguing with herself.
Before getting to her points about contemporary American politics…[Chua] surveys a series of what she regards as American foreign-policy disasters—Vietnam, Afghanistan after 9/11, Iraq after the 2003 invasion, Venezuela—and contends that a fuller awareness of tribal loyalties would have saved the U.S. from costly mistakes. Many of her criticisms are valid … I’m not convinced, though, that mistakes in war and foreign policy can tell us a lot about domestic social and political cohesion. We are not trying to root out insurgents but simply to live together peaceably. Ms. Chua’s analysis isn’t helped, either, by her tendency to bolster her arguments with sloppy assertions … Ms. Chua has written a brisk and readable polemic in defense of common sense.
Here she suggests that while America has enjoyed great success as a melting pot, its failures – discrimination, injustice, inequality – stem from this unwillingness to recognise the importance of ethnic and tribal affinities. As far as it goes, that’s a thesis that is unlikely to provoke a storm of dissent for the good reason that it’s large incontrovertible. However, it’s when Chua attempts to expand her argument into the ever more complex world of identity politics that the book begins to lose its way or, rather, the picture blurs into a series of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other hedge … A well-intentioned book that never quite comes together.
In a biting critique of American foreign policy and analysis of the nation’s divisive culture wars, Chua argues that tribal affiliation exerts a crucial, powerful force on individuals’ behaviors and identities … A persuasive call to rethink foreign policy and heal domestic fissures.
A Yale Law School professor with expertise in ethnic conflict and globalization, Chua devotes her thoughtful, if overreaching, survey to the role of tribalism in politics and society in and outside the U.S. … Although the book ends weakly and too soon for the ground it attempts to cover, this is still a thought-provoking, illuminating study on a hugely important political and cultural issue.