Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time)


Sen, Amartya, and Henry Louis Gates. 2007. Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time). W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copy at


Smashing such stereotypes as "the monolithic Middle East" or "the Western Mind," Amartya Sen examines the much-misunderstood concept of identity.

The world may be more riven by murderous violence than ever before; yet Amartya Sen, the galvanizing Nobel Laureate, proposes in this sweeping philosophical work that the brutalities are driven as much by confusion as by inescapable hatred. Conflict and violence are sustained by the illusion of a unique identity, overlooking the need for reason and choice in deciding on bonds of class, gender, profession, scientific interests, moral beliefs, and even our shared identity as human beings. Challenging the reductionist view that people of the world can be partitioned into little boxes in terms of civilizational categories, Sen draws on history, economics, science, literature, and his own memories of difficult as well as easy times on three continents to present an inspiring vision of a world that can be made to move toward peace as firmly as it has spiraled in recent years toward violence and war.