A thoughtful inquiry into our concept of identity and its impact on society. The author considers how we define ourselves, how identity is understood in the world's different cultures, and how recognizing identity is key to survival in the new millennium. Identity--what makes each of us unique--has been a fundamental question of philosophers from Socrates to Freud. Identity is the crucible out of which we come: our background, our race, our gender, our tribal affiliations, our religion (or lack thereof), all go into making up who we are. All too often, however, the notion of identity--personal, religious, ethnic, or national--has given rise to heated passions and even massive crimes. ""I want to try and understand why so many people commit crimes in the name of identity,"" writes Amin Maalouf. Moving across the world's history, faiths, and politics, he argues against an oversimplified and hostile concept of identity. Cogently and persuasively, he examines identity in the context of the modern world, where it can be viewed as both glory and poison. He demonstrates, too, the dangers of using identity as a protective--and therefore aggressive--mechanism, which frequently leads to the repression or extermination of minorities, heretics, or class enemies. Maalouf contends that many of us would reject our inherited conceptions of identity, to which we cling through habit, if only we examined them more closely. The future of society depends on accepting all identities, while recognizing our uniqueness.
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