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The Great Disruption

Understanding the Populist Forces Behind Trump, Brexit, and LePen

Anil Hira

The Great Disruption: Understanding the Populist Forces Behind Trump, Brexit, and LePen aims to put the shocking events of 2016–17 into a long-term, historical perspective. The seemingly disparate and separately discussed election of Donald Trump, Brexit vote, success of Marine LePen’s National Front Party, and the wider spread of populism have an overlooked commonality: They all start with a similar core constituency of disaffected older blue collar workers. Using a data-driven analysis, author Anil Hira shows that racism and xenophobia are linked to economic populism—xenophobia becoming widespread under conditions of economic stress. Hira shows further that since economic stress is felt very deeply, conventional solutions are inadequate. There is a perception among the affected group that politicians can not offer "normal" solutions and thus turn to populism. The Great Disruption traces long-term and largely un-linked shifts in the economy from globalization to automation to uncover the deeper sources of populist outbreaks. This book demonstrates that racial and immigrant attitudes have not changed, rather any backlash is a scapegoating effect of economic loss and dislocation. Populism not only misdiagnoses the situation but also misses the wider long-term threats of climate change, demographic shifts, and the rise of China. Recognizing the transformational nature of such threats depends on the maturation of the Millennial generation and its willingness to evolve towards a more global style of governance, in the process rejecting the shallow promises of populism.

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Chapter 3. The Seemingly Paradoxical Nature of Social Values Towards Race and Immigration in the Populist Wave of 2016


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Here is the puzzle from the conventional wisdom—we have had a series of business cycles since World War II, without seeing any previous turn away from globalization and immigration and towards unconventional authoritarian figures. Moreover, the postwar period has been a slow but steady march towards more open societies, with immigration and openness to different cultures and values increasing over time, reflected in shifts in daily practices from the types of religious gathering spaces to the types of readily available food in the US and the European Union. A simple flip through the telly shows an incredible difference in the characters shown in black and white TV shows of the 1950s to the multicultural news anchors, characters, and stories available today. The civil rights movement has extended towards greater gender and sexuality equity as well as towards greater racial equity. So, what gives here? Have we reached the bounds of social change, pushing too far and too fast to where resistance is creating a rebound effect, or is this a last gasp of dying order? Or was the sense of progress illusory, and racist attitudes persisted below the surface as many celebrated critics such as Cornel West have long claimed? Let us begin to answer this question by examining social values and economic trends over the long term, a perspective that has not received...

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