Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Fukuyama Leaves Me Wanting More

Written by: on March 20, 2020

This past week has been very challenging, perhaps extremely distracting and dismaying, for all of us. For us here locally at the Vineyard Church of Houston, we held our first “COVID-19 Response” joint staff and Pastoral Council meeting (via Zoom) last Thursday evening, March 12. Since then, we have and continue to learn and share with others about Zoom, Facebook Live, and the technical art of online streaming. We are discovering ways to stay connected amid social distancing. Going forward, we are preparing ourselves for the prospective (our friends in Washington and California are already there) “shelter in place” order for greater Houston potentially extending through May into the summer. We have also learned about our community, both the hoarders and the sharers, the fearful and the faithful. I am learning the struggles of figuring out how to work from home and manage the financial operations of our church. I am blessed to work for a lead pastor who expects me to work from home and care for a spouse going through daily radiation treatments (17 down, 13 to go!) with a troublesome sleep-killing cough (no fever, thank you, Jesus!). I am learning to love and pray for Glo’s healthcare providers and the truck drivers who supply and the workers at our local grocery store and pharmacies. Most of all, I am learning the Chinese word for “chaos,” which includes both the characters describing “danger” and “opportunity,” most aptly, and perhaps prophetically, describes our current global scenario. I recognize the danger for ourselves and others, but I also am sensitive to the tremendous opportunity God is giving his church to connect, love, and serve in surprising ways. Now, onto our assignment for this week, Fukuyama’s Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. Typically, I skim the foreword, the table of contents, and the conclusion of an assigned source. Like much of what our esteemed lead mentor assigns us, I found this source a thoughtful read to unpack concepts I have only recently come across when reviewing my learned cohort mates’ posts. Therefore, while this source does not sit within the focus of my research, I surprisingly enjoyed reading and may read the entire book.

Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama (born October 27, 1952) is an American political scientistpolitical economist, and writer. Fukuyama has been a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies since July 2010 and a Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. In 2019 he was named director of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy at Stanford. Before that, he served as a professor and director of the International Development program at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he was Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.[1]

In reviewing Fukuyama’s new book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, Alim contends the book focuses on the current threat to the continued development of a robust liberal democracy. Alim sees Fukuyama’s latest work centering on the fundamental paradox within our society’s need for self-worth, that is, we both crave to be seen as equal to others while seeing ourselves as superior to others. On both Left and Right ends of the political spectrum, politics has begun to hinge upon identity issues. Alim contends Fukuyama portrays the Left as fallen into arguments over historically under-represented group rights. Contrastly, the Right has used nationalism to harness longheld smoldering anger at being deprived of both equal access and advocacy. This shift towards identity politics threatens to fragment our society by continuing to divide and polarize citizens into ever more specialized zealous tribal units. Fukuyama concludes his book with recommendations to create broad, inclusive identities to bring people together. Alim contends Fukuyama’s proposals to introduce national service and enforce state sovereignty reveal his bias as an American neoconservative. Alim also contends that Fukuyama understates and underdevelops the role of the Internet and technology within the current identity crisis.[2]

My sense is the reviewer left disappointed in Fukuyama’s recommended proposals and their associated underdevelopment. Fukuyama is quite thoughtful in his weave of global history, politics, and societal development. While I agree we will never get away from identity politics, I am most interested in how we can steer political discourse back to “broader forms of mutual respect for dignity that will make democracy more functional.” He contends we start by addressing systemic issues such as police violence against minorities and sexual assault and harassment within all of our institutions. Again, needful and necessary, but how do we effectively move forward? He then goes onto suggest we need to integrate tribal units into more national identities based on trust and citizenship.[3] Fukuyama contends the United States, more than any other country, has benefited from the diversity of immigration. Therefore, the real focus should be on assimilating immigrants to our creedal identity.[4] He leans into the “assimilation agenda,” beginning with public education, but in basic civics.[5] I am thinking, perhaps I missed his point, or maybe he is philosophically locked into a neoconservative bias. Fukuyama’s concluding statement, “Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has also been used to integrate. That, in the end, will be the remedy for the populist politics of the present.”[6]. I am disappointed he did not apply his considerable skills and scholarship to the development of his proposals as I expected him to provide further amplification to the thoughtful advancement of his propositions going forward. Perhaps, Fukuyama does not see that as his purview, regardless I am left wanting more creative ideas and innovative actions as to how to move forward.

[1]Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Fukuyama

[2] Arjun Neil Alim, Book Review | Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama, November 11, 2018, The London School of Economics and Political Science, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lseih/2018/11/14/book-review-identity-the-demand-for-dignity-and-the-politics-of-resentment-by-francis-fukuyama/

[3] Francis Fukuyama, Identity: The Demand For Dignity And The Politics Of Resentment (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018) 166.

[4] Fukuyama, Identity,171.

[5] Fukuyama, Identity,172.

[6] Fukuyama, Identity,183.

About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

6 responses to “Fukuyama Leaves Me Wanting More”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Great post Harry. I am really glad you cited that review because your use of it helped me better understand this weeks assigned reading, and it was also fun to hear you enjoyed this book!

    Fervent prayers for Glo and her/your entire support community. So much love sent your way from across the globe.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words of encouragement! How are you and yours in this brave new world? I pray you are well and look forward to seeing you on the next Zoom call.

  2. Hey Harry, you said: “regardless I am left wanting more creative ideas and innovative actions as to how to move forward.” I’d really love for you to outline a way forward — something you say is lacking in the book. If you find Fukuyama interesting, may I entice you to read some of Os Guinness’ books (published in the last five years). He writes in the same vein, except, you may find, he makes up what you feel is lacking in Fukuyama.

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks so much for the Os Guinness suggestion. I have ordered his, “The Gospel Public Square” (2013). Too old, or should I have started with something more recent? Thanks again for your friendship and scholarship. Praying for you and yours during this crazy season.

  4. Mario Hood says:

    Great post Harry and praying for Glo! I love the idea of the Chinese symbol. Might find its way into a sermon here soon! I think you are right in that he doesn’t feel as though he can give a way forward. I see this trend in many that are great at historical analysis but not future casting. Great work as always my friend. How do you see yourself incorporating his understanding of identity?

  5. John Muhanji says:

    Thank you Harry for sharing this. It is true that the whole world is facing a serious challenge with Covid19. the virus had brought all almost a lockdown. Nothing is moving on and we are starting to feel the heat of lockdown. Covid19 has solved many issues Fukuyama is raising on human identity. It is time the world is coming to an understanding that there is no rich, poor, white, black or colored people where Covid19 is. We have all been subjeted to an equal level of quarantine and looking desperrately. We can now identify ourselves as human beings and the care for all is evident. There is no superpower here with Covid19. The developed and developing nations are facing the virus in the same context. Why is this happening?

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