Yale professor Amy Chua on the identity of nations, why hardened tribes end up in civil wars, and why you can't just replace dictators with democracy.
Yale professor Amy Chua has two precautionary tales for Americans, and their names are Libya and Iraq. "We’re starting to see in America something that I’ve seen in other countries that is not good," says Chua. "We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to get to the point where we look at people on the other side of the political spectrum and we see them not just as people that we disagree with but literally as our enemy, as immoral, "un-American" people." Tribalism is innate to humanity, and it is the glue that holds nations together—but it's a Goldilocks conundrum: too much or too little of it and a nation will tear at the seams. It becomes most dangerous when two hardened camps form and obliterate all the subtribes beneath them. Chua stresses the importance of "dividing yourself so that you don’t get entrenched in just two terrible tribes." Having many identities and many points of overlap with fellow citizens is what keeps a country's unity strong. When that flexibility disappears, and a person becomes only a Republican or a Democrat—or only a Sunni Muslim or a Shia Muslim, as in Iraq—that's when it's headed for danger. In this expansive and brilliant talk on political tribes, Chua explains what happens when minorities and majorities clash, why post-colonial nations are often doomed to civil war, and why you can't just replace dictators with democracy. Amy Chua is the author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.
Amy Chua is the John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She was born in 1962, the Year of the Tiger, in Champaign, Illinois. She lived in the Midwest (Go Purdue!) until she was eight, when her father Leon Chua became a professor at UC Berkeley, and her family moved to California. Amy graduated from El Cerrito High School (Go Gauchos!) in 1980.
In 1980, Amy headed East. She graduated from Harvard College in 1984 and Harvard Law School in 1987. While at Harvard Law School, Professor Chua was executive editor of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating, she clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for Chief Judge Patricia M. Wald, who was a wonderful mentor to her (and who performed the marriage ceremony for Amy and her husband Jed!).
Amy practiced for four years with the Wall Street firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, where she worked on international transactions throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In 1994, she joined the Duke University Faculty of Law. Amy and her family loved North Carolina! The only problem was that Jed was teaching at Yale. Amy joined the Yale Law School faculty in 2001.