Just finished reading Haroon Akram-Lodhi‘s “The promise? Using and misusing authoritarian populism” from the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative 2018 conference at the Institute for Social Studies. A great piece that is well worth reading, but these bits stood out to me in particular:
“When the financial crisis of 2007 – 2008 hit, it appeared, for the briefest of moments, that neoliberal globalization, nay, capitalism itself, might collapse. Yet it did not. No effort was made by dominant classes to use the state to address the foundational causes of the crisis. The international system of open financial flows, which facilitated the crisis, was not challenged. Indeed, the financial sector was bailed out even though the financial deregulation frenzy of the 1980s through the 2000s was the primary source of the crisis. No effort was made to discipline finance, as occurred in the 1930s. No effort was made to restore production that was lost because of the crisis; rather, in an age in which central bankers are the high priests of the global economy, efforts went into simply prevent prices from falling further. Finally, while the fiscal space available for government to steer the economy in the interests of citizens was amply demonstrated, no effort was made to develop fiscal stabilizers that would protect citizens from swings in corporate profitability…
…with the loss of agency – political, economic or physical – comes the possibility that right-wing populist politicians will exploit the insecurities arising from the loss of agency by claiming a connection to “the people”.”
I can’t help be reminded of my post after Trump’s election:
…it seems to me that the narrative of “I’m going to punish Washington/ politicians/ undeserving Others” is an important part of [Trump’s election]… human psychology tends towards over-active punishment impulses; [and] are exacerbated by the sense someone “continues to get away with it”; …and may be undertaken even when risking costs outweighing benefits. In such a context, the apoplexy and disbelief of The Establishment on “both sides” is a feature, not a bug; and the fact that “their candidate” (Trump) may not even be dependable to bring benefits poses little obstacle if a big part of the point, alongside “shaking things up,” is to punish those who are perceived to have benefitted from resisting all attempted shake-ups before.
This “set phasers to punish” impulse would be consistent with Trump’s continued popularity: people haven’t stopped feeling aggrieved, nor have they become necessarily terribly more secure, nor have they necessarily felt like “The Establishment” has done much of real consequence to help them or punish those supposedly “out to get” the “average” (say, white, income of more than $50,000 a year, evangelical, no college education) Americans. Which is to say, it is hardly the only factor: race and racial perceptions of who is “deserving”, and a sense of panic at demographic change, definitely come into it, too.
Like many phenomena, what we are seeing right now is almost certainly overdetermined (in the broad, not necessarily Marxist, sense). But it is interesting that, with regards to Brexit, there is some indication of a response–an impulse to protest, or punish–to austerity & neoliberalism, care of a recent study:
“The most vulnerable tended to become more dissatisfied with the existing political establishment and shifted their support to UKIP. The empirical estimates suggest that in districts that received the average austerity shock, UK vote shares were higher than districts that were less exposed – by 3.6 percentage points in the 2014 European elections and by up to 11.6 points in local elections in 2016.”
(See the full study here; and a previous study with similar findings–and including the same author–here.)
Featured photo of “Trump Demonstration, London 13/7/18” by Mark Ramsay. Used under Creative Commons License 2.0.