Authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld link keys to success to ethnicity and religion

African American Barack Obama may have defeated Mormon Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.

But that hasn't stopped self-described U.S. Tiger Mom Amy Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, from claiming that Mormons are superior to most Americans.

Their new book, The Triple Package, says it all in a simplistic subtitle: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.

I haven't read the book, but I can already guess that it's going to trigger a wave of accusations of racism and ethnocentrism.

The three traits, according to Chua and Rubenfeld, are "superiority complex", "insecurity", and "impulse control", according to an article in today's New York Post.

Chua and Rubenfeld declare that Jews, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles, and Mormons have these qualities to a greater degree than other cultural groups.

This type of cultural stereotyping utterly ignores what the great Nobel Prize–winning Indian economist and author Amartya Sen covered so well in his landmark book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny.

Sen pointed out that we're all a multiplicity of identities. We define ourselves not only by our ethnicity or our religion, but also by our occupation, our class, our educational level, our hobbies, our marital status, our sexual orientation, or any number of other aspects of our being.

As a result, two people of different racial backgrounds may find they have a lot more in common with one another than with people of their own race.

Of course, Chua and Rubenfeld might argue that Sen is so great precisely because he's of Indian descent, which means he has the gift of the "triple package".

But how does their theory explain Obama, Cesar ChavezCornel West, Chief Bobby Joseph, or all the other great achievers who don't fit into Chua and Rubenfeld's tiny box of success?

To reduce humanity to religion or ethnicity is to deny who we are. The way that Chau and Rubenfeld have done so is quite shameful.

No doubt, there will be a market for their book. They'll do the rounds on talk shows, get written up in magazines, and make a lot of money.

But they'll never be seen in the same light as the true giants in our midst, no matter how many articles get written.

It's reductionism run amok.

Comments (21) Add New Comment
Michael
Interesting had a white person written this classless dribble they would be lambasted as racist. An Asian writes it and it's okay. Amy Chua is a narcissistic racist, typical of an immigrant or an immigrants offspring that takes the best of the West then uses it and insults the people who made her and gave her the opportunity to be successful. Funny how she lists Chinese as smart people...at what ripping of Western innovation and back engineering stolen products.
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Noknok
Didn't these "academics" read Stephen J. Gould's critique of The Bell Curve ?
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jess
The writer of this article admits that he has not read the book. I am amazed that he could not wait to trash it. Next time when I see the author's name, Charles Smith, I can simply dismiss his writing without reading it first.
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Tom
Exactly Michae. I thought judging people is wrong in any religion. I am sure if both were transplanted to the Middle-East the book would have ben written. Michael, could I add, greedy narcissistic racist.
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Rick
Research has shown that immigrants in America generally do better. It is a matter fo survival for them because they do not feel entititled.
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Sylvia
Anyone who writes a review without having read the book is to be discounted immediately. And it reflects very poorly in anyone who publishes a review by someone who hasn't read the book. Really!!!
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Charlie Smith
Hi Sylvia,

It isn't a book review. It isn't even posted in our books section. It's a commentary.

Charlie Smith
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Albert Ross
"Funny how she lists Chinese as smart people...at what ripping of Western innovation and back engineering stolen products."

Okay Michael. Western and other nations have been ripping off Chinese inventions for ages before the Western concept of "copyright" even existed. The four great Chinese inventions are paper, compass, gunpowder, and printing. Not to name the countless number of inventions (go look it up genius) including the inspiration for Italian spaghetti and pizza. Your reply shows an utter ignorance for history and it is probably why you are not likely to be successful while I come from a family that has bred success for generations.
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MannyHMo
Don't forget to add group support as part of the package. Insecurity seems to contradict with superiority complex. I think this feeling of superiority comes from the fact that he or she has that support of the group. Being insecure also necessitates the formation of a supportive group.
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Mark
I feel sorry for the students of these Yale lecturers who don't fit the racial profile of what they consider will make a successful American.
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Michael T.
I protest. As a former Mormon "high priest" and ward and and stake leader, I can attest that Mormons should not be included in her group of "superior" cultures. Mormons believe in a literal Adam and Eve that lived--of all places--in Missouri, USA. Mormons believe in the demonstrably false Book of Mormon, as well as the fraudulent Book of Abraham. Mormons accept affinity fraud as an acceptable form of making money. There have been many cases of convicted Mormons serving Federal prison time and going on to superior positions in the LDS church. It is no wonder that they worship the likes of Romney. Brigham Young University is a closeted, intolerant, and insular institution, where no criticism of anything Mormon is allowed. The LDS church taught a doctrine of racial exclusion for 148 years, and today does not even acknowledge that it was doctrine, which is an open lie. The LDS church still does not tolerate any dissent, particularly by women, as misogyny is alive and very healthy in the church.

I take it personally, and resent the inclusion of Mormons into her group of superiors. Fifty-nine years of Mormonism made me stupid, and at 64 years of age, I do not have the ability to make up lost time.
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Scomar
The destructive element of a book like this is exactly what we're seeing in the comments being posted - negative comparisons based on race and culture. So regardless of the legitimacy (or lack of) of the authors' claims, the net result is a caustic and disruptive dialog that does little to no good in furthering acceptance and tolerance across racial and religious divides. America has struggled with these problems for a long time and the authors should know that they are inciting conflict, which reduces society as a whole, rather than elevating it. Two final points. 1 - the book largely ignores individual successes that transcend race, culture, religion, and class, which has been at the root of much more valid and interesting research. 2 - their definition of "success" is suspect. It plays into the false notion that professional and financial achievement, along with being "the best", is success in a more generalized term. Success, in relative terms, can be many different things. Lastly, to keep things light and no offense intended, I can't help but descend into stereotypes, since the authors seem to be totally okay with it - this was written by a lawyer, so what else would you expect... :)
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The Scoad
I strongly disagree with Amy's success picks .... the Japanese are much better engineers, esp. electrical & computer, manufacturing experts, marketers, artists, & but not least .... soldiers than the Chinese. Does she remember how Nanking was slaughtered by a handful of suberbly trained Japanese soldiers in WWII? Japanese leaders still pay homage to these feats of death by their soldiers at special shrines. Are they going to do anything about past atrocities? The cowards!
Secondly what about the the Germanic speaking countries? Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium? Not even an honorable mention? I'll bet your hus. drives a German made vehicle and not one made in Lebanon, India, China, Israel, Utah, Nigeria, or Cuba. Opps ... forgot Iranian made cars!
Alas, my parting thought is: Bernard Madoff is one of the greatest businessmen to walk the earth! How does he fit into your groupings? Does he fit your criteria?
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anon
So if I want my kid to go to Harvard, I need to parent him to be insecure and narcissistic? Im sure those traits will work well for him in his social and family life. Thanks for the tip guys.
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Francis
Chua and Rubenfeld's daughters are both Chinese and Jewish hyphen Americans, so I guess they have won the sperm lottery by doubling up on everyone else in the chosen group of 8. I have yet to read the book either, but it seems that it does take a Chinese and a Jew (Americans) to put the fire back into the intellectual consciousness of North Americans, it's been too long that we have been put into a comatose state by the mainstream media through mass indoctrination. Charlie Smith is commenting from the political correctness' point of view, PC has made us all into closet hypocrites and racists, we can't call a spade a spade in public anymore, we are being dishonest with ourselves, and I believe the essence of the book is to stir up debate on how we have changed from a country of basic decency and integrity to one of selfies and pretense. The Triple Package actually defines the great Canadians of old.
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Frank Aguilera
Frank Aguilera

January 7, 2014 4:37 pm


Oh dear Tiger Mom, there you go again! I could open your eyes and explain to you, one by one, the whys and wherefores of those seemingly outstanding peoples and races that you have elevated far above all others in this amazing land called America.
I wonder if, just wondering if, during your training as a law professor you ever learned anything relating to the concept of cause and effect? It is an interesting concept, and it is never too late to catch up on it. Scientists, doctors, engineers, theologians, why, even lawyers find it useful. What I could reveal to you about all of those over- endowed peoples you favor is probably not going to be published by anybody simply out of fear and disbelief, so maybe someday I could drop by in your town for coffee and conversation, and try to let you see the light of day for once. Oh, I have a request to make of you, please, please, keep your neurotic, success-obsessed life practices and big mouth in the privacy of your home, club or family and friends. The world is bad enough as it stands, and the public can do without your insolence and dumbness. Your behavior is a disgrace to the Han race, and to the whole human species as well. Discretion is the handmaid of wisdom. I am sure you can find this axiom somewhere in Eastern or Western cultures, if not all around the world. Also, try to enjoy life, your success as a law professor and self-proclaimed minority critic of other minorities and the majority of your, presumably, fellow citizens, is not conducive to what, in the end, life really is all about, enjoyment. So, lighten up, how about you and I take a walk on the wild side one of these days? Incidentally, I am American, of Mexican, indigenous American, Spanish and other European ancestry. Don't let that shock you, I am only human after all.
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Benny B
"how does their theory explain Obama, Cesar Chavez, Cornel West, Chief Bobby Joseph"...
Do you understand the idea of a statistical average? Like, if you say that "most" green people tend to prefer pizza to popcorn, that doesn't mean that this applies to all green people all the time everywhere? I get the impression that you do not understand this idea, which is odd, because a bright 7-year-old would understand it intuitively.
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RUK
I haven't read any more of the book than Charlie but am willing to consider its theses - were we to dismiss books on the basis of an author's incivility and peculiarity, I would imagine that the library would dwindle to the capacity of an Econoline van.

Instead, let's debate the premise. The premise is groups with (financial, political, social?) success share the traits of (a) believing in their innate superior characteristics; (b) being insecure, leading them to work hard to maintain their birthright; (c) able to delay instant gratification and focus on longterm goals.

That's not weird. That makes a lot of common sense.

If you look at it from the premise that the groups with these traits are x, y, and z, instead of the premise that groups x, y, and z naturally have these traits, then it's not offensive but rather pretty interesting.

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Shaun
It seems to me that the authors are definitely on to something. Clearly, they are not making an argument based on race but, rather, culture. Some cultural groups have qualities that make them, on average, more successful than others. And I can buy the idea that insecurity and superiority complexes go hand in hand - often, groups that are insecure push themselves to achieve and use their achievement to fuel a sense of superiority -but it doesn't lessen the insecurity. What is clear is that, on average, some groups in the US do better than others. Figuring out what makes them distinctive seems, to me, to be a good idea.
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Wanda Psychs
One need only look at the results of the Canadian Math Olympiad for the past couple of decades. 90%+ of the top scorers are of Chinese origin (5% of the general population). The rest of the top scorers are largely Jewish, Korean, Russian, or Iranian names.
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