As people throughout the world react to globalization and revert to nationalism, they are proclaiming distinct cultural identities for themselves. Cultural identity seems to offer a defensive wall against the homogenizing effects of globalization and a framework for nurturing and protecting cultural differences.
In this short and provocative book, François Jullien argues that this emphasis on cultural identity is a mistake. Cultures exist in relation to one another and they are constantly mutating and transforming themselves. There is no cultural identity, there are only what Jullien calls ‘resources’. Resources are created in a certain space, they are available to all and belong to no one. They are not exclusive, like the values to which we proclaim loyalty; instead, we deploy them or not, activate them or let them fall by the wayside, and each of us as individuals is responsible for these choices. This conceptual shift requires us to redefine three key terms – the universal, the uniform and the common. Equipped with these concepts, we can rethink the dialogue between cultures in a way that avoids what Jullien sees as the false debate about identity and difference.
This powerful critique of the modern shibboleth of cultural identity will appeal to anyone interested in the great social and political questions of our time.