Richard Ned Lebow


On his book The Politics and Ethics of Identity: In Search of Ourselves

Cover Interview of February 14, 2013


One of my principal findings is that we do not need images, let alone stereotypes, of “others” to create ourselves.

This idea finds initial expression in the epics of Homer and Virgil but is supported by recent research in child rearing and social psychology.  Healthy identity construction for children, groups and nations requires us to draw closer to those from whom we are separating.

Psychological research indicates that negative images of others are a special case, most likely to arise when groups compete for the same scarce resources.  Although it is apparent that politicians can readily propagate such images for reasons of their own.

Identity construction is thus a dialectical process and we need to pay as much attention to the drawing closer together side of the equation as we do to the separation side.  This insight has important ethical and political implications, which I draw out in the conclusion.