The Crisis of Culture

Identity Politics and the Empire of Norms

March 2024 9781911723059 232pp
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


Are we confronting a new culture—global, online, individualistic? Or is our existing concept of culture in crisis, as explicit, normative systems replace implicit, social values?

Olivier Roy’s new book explains today’s fractures via the extension of individual political and sexual freedoms from the 1960s. For Roy, twentieth-century youth culture disconnected traditional political protest from class, region or ethnicity, fashioning an identity premised on repudiation rather than inheritance of shared history or values. Having spread across generations under neoliberalism and the internet, youth culture is now individualised, ersatz.

Without a shared culture, everything becomes an explicit code of how to speak and act, often online. Identities are now defined by socially fragmenting personal traits, creating affinity-based sub-cultures seeking safe spaces: universities for the left, gated communities and hard borders for the right.

Increased left- and right-wing references to ‘identity’ fail to confront this deeper crisis of culture and community. Our only option, Roy argues, is to restore social bonds at the grassroots or citizenship level.


‘An intellectual nonconformist, Roy has achieved something remarkable: he has written a book on identity politics that neither condemns nor embraces it, but is instead a nuanced cultural dissection of its origins and its contradictions.. . Proof that truly singular books do not scream their originality. [An] illuminating and highly original interpretation of today’s world… . It brings order to a world not at ease with itself.’ — Financial Times

‘Roy has a deep and useful take on our current predicament.’ — Compact Magazine

‘This is by far the best analysis I have read of the culture wars and identity politics that beset our time.’ — Faisal Devji, Professor of Indian History, University of Oxford

‘Our world is flattened, says Olivier Roy. Linguistic diversity is replaced by Basic English; expression by emoticons; culture (in both the high and the anthropological senses) by identity-markers. Roy draws on his long experience in both academia and public life, but with a captivatingly youthful verve and provocativeness.’ — Jonathan Benthall,  Director, Royal Anthropological Institute (1974–2000), Founding Editor, Anthropology Today

‘Olivier Roy has long been one of the world’s most creative thinkers on religion. It’s a delight to see his mind at work on the broader issue of the culture wars.’ — Thomas Hegghammer (PhD), Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford


Olivier Roy is Professor at the European University Institute in Florence. Six of his highly acclaimed books on religion and politics are published by Hurst, including Globalised Islam; Jihad and Death; Holy Ignorance; and Is Europe Christian?

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