The Secret Sources of Populism
July 22, 2019 9:39 AM   Subscribe

The West’s understanding of globalization and interdependence is increasingly outdated. It imagines a global system in which Western countries radiate their influence all over the world but influence is never reflected back at them. Yet the rebalance of economic and political power has made that idea obsolete. And the phenomenon of populism in Europe and the United States is showing why.
posted by Mrs Potato (20 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's a lot in here I disagree with, especially in its discussion of immigration, but this is something I found demonstrably false:

"After all, it was Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, who complained during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign that tens of millions of Americans were not the real America."

I assume this is referring to the "basket of deplorables" speech, but I can't take seriously anyone who doesn't understand that Donald Trump's entire campaign is fundamentally premised on the idea that tens of millions of of Americans are not the real America. Honestly, the exclusion of anyone who's not white, straight, cis, male, Christian, and possessed of a very narrow set of cultural signifiers from ever being a "real American" isn't just his fundamental premise, it's pretty much the only one he and his supporters actually care about.
posted by Copronymus at 10:09 AM on July 22, 2019 [35 favorites]


but this is something I found demonstrably false:

"After all, it was Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, who complained during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign that tens of millions of Americans were not the real America."

I assume this is referring to the "basket of deplorables" speech


I see your point, but I also see his. What Hilary said was divisive even if I agreed with it. And to the point of actual article, it speaks to the divide in (not just) America between those who feel genuinely threatened by the declining hegemony of the West, and those who are more inclined to roll with it. Or as he puts it later:

Even in the United States, it has become difficult for a politician to adopt an internationalist position. Voters doubt their country is powerful enough to use that position for concrete advantages. Populist leaders and those who vote for them are frightened of the rise of the rest, with immigration appearing to them as colonization in reverse. Immigration has been the main fodder for anti-establishment populists so far, but we should expect its impact to pale by comparison to the next wave of influence from the rest of the world, particularly from China and from economic interdependence.

Change is coming.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 AM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


Dividing is divisive. Recognizing that division has taken place is not.

The mass of Trump supporters chose to cross a line that cannot be uncrossed. Calling them out for it is no more divisive than ringing a fire alarm is arson.
posted by Naberius at 10:26 AM on July 22, 2019 [36 favorites]


The author's notion that the current Polish government (my extremely negative opinion of it notwithstanding) has deepened the country's problems with corruption, inequality or "entrenched oligarchs" is: true on first count, false on the second, a complete non sequitur on the third.
posted by hat_eater at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Well, he was a Minister in the previous government, wouldn't that influence his worldview hat_eater?
posted by Mrs Potato at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2019


It seems like there's a world of difference, and not just semantically, between "x group is not [e.g., does not exclusively define] AMERICA" and "x group is not AMERICAN [implied or explicit: and they must be eradicated from here]"
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


with immigration appearing to them as colonization in reverse.
Which is exactly what every country built upon Colonization deserves. And the United States is OBVIOUSLY one of them. What Hillary didn't realize is just how large the 'basket of deplorables' is and that the Deplorables have always run things in most of this country (including Wall Street).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:42 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Change is coming.

"the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed" -W. Gibson

Change came, long ago. Seriously, from a global perspective the US has not been it for a good decade or more, people are just starting to notice now... Trump has certainly hastened the collapse of US hegemony, but it is not like it wasn't in process already.

What with the nukes and the aircraft carriers the US can pretend for another couple decades maybe, but show's over.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:42 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


But as the balance of power shifted, cosmopolitan elites appeared in a different light.

Oh man does that sentence sound willfully ignorant of the "cosmopolitan" dogwhistle.

But more generally, the analysis that unpriviliged rural people form the main body of populist movements, against the urban centers just isn't true. It's hard to argue that Donald Trump, for instance, isn't urban and elite in his upringing; the same of Pence. Moreover, college-educated people were more likely to vote for Trump than those without that education.

It kinda reads like the whole article is an attempt to explain away populism without any reference to the words "racism" or "xenophobia", which, come on.

But I do think the author is probably correct to note the the rising economic, military, and cultural influence of other nations and regions, compared to Western Europe, the US, and Canada, is a fuel of that fear-of-the-other, broadly defined, that, in terms, fuels populism and nationalism.
posted by thegears at 2:30 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


i'm pessimistic. when there is a hegemonic global force, you get imperialism and racism. when there isn't a hegemonic force, you get a free for all of xenophobia, war, and racism. and when you transition from one to the other, you get instability and fear.. and war and racism. there aren't a lot of good options.
posted by wibari at 4:34 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


The author's notion that the current Polish government... has deepened the country's problems with corruption, inequality or "entrenched oligarchs" is: true on first count, false on the second, a complete non sequitur on the third.

The quote
"today’s leaders in Italy, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere might spend more time addressing corruption, inequality, or entrenched oligarchs."

I can't find anything that says inequality isn't rising in Poland. Perhaps a small dip in income inequality, but wealth inequality continues to rise. And I'm not sure how entrenched oligarchs could be a non-sequitur from inequality and corruption.
posted by Acid Communist at 1:20 AM on July 23, 2019


Gini index keeps falling in Poland - soon after coming to power, the ruling party has started or expanded a number of welfare programs, including direct wealth transfer to families with 1+ children. And while you may perhaps find "entrenched oligarchs"in every capitalist country, they're more of a strawman than a real problem in my country.
posted by hat_eater at 1:40 AM on July 23, 2019


Well, he was a Minister in the previous government, wouldn't that influence his worldview hat_eater?

Sorry it took me that long to respond - he was a minister in Portugal, not Poland.
posted by hat_eater at 1:41 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


when there isn't a hegemonic force, you get a free for all of xenophobia, war, and racism.

You have a lot of good examples of what the heavily industrialised world we live in today looks like when there's no hegemony?

How do you come to this conclusion with such certainty that you can say, well, it sucks, but US hegemony is for the best, and others would do worse?

There's a US guy going around on twitter right now proud that his waterboarding kit and instructions are in some museum. Because he is not ashamed, maybe he doesn't love torturing people, but he is quite convinced, I am sure, that his horrors are necessary to stave off the certainty that the collapse of American hegemony would bring greater horror.

Are you an American? I presume you would be comfortable with a slightly liberalised China or Russia taking on the role? After all, the US is in shambles, essentially a rogue state with an unstable fool in charge of nuclear stockpiles. I'm sure Americans would come to understand the need for regime change being externally imposed, after a decade or two of occupation while the new government finds its feet.
posted by Acid Communist at 1:48 AM on July 23, 2019


hat_eater, afaict that Gini index is income, not wealth. This Financial Observer site says that inc ineq is falling, but wealth ineq is rising.

I'll trust you on oligarchs being less relevant for Poland, and that same piece doesn't say as much but says things that don't contradict that idea.
posted by Acid Communist at 2:01 AM on July 23, 2019


You're right that Gini coefficient shows income inequality. Wealth inequality is much harder to fix, it takes time and commitment and doesn't score any easy political goals.
posted by hat_eater at 5:51 AM on July 23, 2019


It kinda reads like the whole article is an attempt to explain away populism without any reference to the words "racism" or "xenophobia", which, come on.

I think the point the article is trying to make is that these are effects and not causes. To suggest that they are causes begs the question "Why now?"
posted by Edgewise at 9:35 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


Unless its the long hidden racism and xenophobia that is emerging visibly in response to the thought of a planet where the white race is not the dominant decision making one.
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:53 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


I really liked this article. There's a seed of something insightful present, but I don't think the author quite achieves their desired aims. The piece is too short and lacks detail. Does anyone have book recommendations on this topic? (Not sorta on this topic, but directly to the point of the rise of the third world leading to right-wing nationalist populism in the first.) It's a great thesis.
posted by booksarelame at 4:05 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


How the US should frame its approach to China

Many observers in Washington and Beijing criticised Kiron Skinner, head of the US State Department’s policy planning staff, when, in late April, she cast America’s competition with China in racial terms.

Unlike the cold war, which she characterised as “a fight within the western family”, Ms Skinner concluded that China’s resurgence marked “the first time” the US has faced “a great power competitor that is not Caucasian”.

Leaving aside that the US has, in fact, confronted such a challenger — fascist Japan, during the second world war — her judgment suggested to some analysts that the Trump administration might view US-China tensions not only in strategic terms but also, more concerningly, in societal ones. In an observation that garnered the most attention, Ms Skinner posited that the US finds itself in “a fight with a really different civilisation”.

Her remark evoked the late political scientist Sam Huntington, who famously predicted in an essay in Foreign Affairs magazine roughly a quarter-century ago that “the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilisations”. Considering how swift, forceful and numerous the rebuttals were to Ms Skinner’s supposition — many, incidentally, penned by those who strongly endorse the Trump administration’s contention that China is a strategic rival — it might seem misguided to try once more to impose a Huntingtonian overlay on US-China relations.

posted by Mrs Potato at 7:07 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


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