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How did identity become a trap, Yascha Mounk?

How did identity become a trap, Yascha Mounk?

In his new book political scientist Yascha Mounk explores the foundations of the woke ideology – what he calls "the identity synthesis". And how to counter it without losing yourself in the process.

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Yascha Mounk. Photo: Nurphoto/Getty images

On today’s episode I’m speaking with Yascha Mounk, who is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an international affairs professor at Johns Hopkins University. He also hosts his own podcast called The Good Fight (check out his Substack at

) , where I first found out about him. He’s written a bunch of books, and his latest – The identity trap: a story of ideas and power in our time (Penguin press) – just came out. It’s about diversity, equity and inclusion abbreviated as DEI, the woke ideology and identity politics. All of these terms are often used interchangeably. But instead of using these politically contested concepts Mounk opts to use the term “the identity synthesis” instead. 

He traces the ideas back to the works of scholars like Derrick Bell, Michel Foucault, and Kimberlé Crenshaw, highlighting how their ideas have been simplified, misinterpreted, twisted and/or radicalized in popular discourse and institutional policies. Mounk argues that while these theories have provided valuable insights into the complexities of identity and oppression, their current application often undermines social cohesion, free speech, and the pursuit of equality by promoting division, silencing dissent, and prioritizing identity over shared humanity. He also argues that the left’s long march through institutions, that’s often referred to, actually was much shorter than believed. The takeover was swift, he claims, and therefore we should perhaps not focus so much on the counterculture of the 1960s. 

He’s also concerned with the backlash from the right, and recently had an interesting debate with Chris Rufo on Bari Weiss’ podcast Honestly. While they agree on a lot of the issues, they differ a lot on the strategy of how to counter “the identity synthesis”. Rufo, Mounk says, if fighting fire with fire, and that will, well, backfire. Laws and regulations won’t increase freedom, Mounk argues, and it won’t stop ideas from spreading. So how should one do it? Listen and find out.

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