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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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Introduction: Why Populism Is Not Just Trump

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INTRODUCTION

Why Populism Is Not Just Trump

From 1989 to Despair

Remember 1989. The Berlin Wall collapsed, a sense of euphoria spread across the world. The West had won the Cold War! The fight against evil communism was over. President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, with the song, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” ringing in the ears of viewers from his nomination gala. A new generation, the baby boomers, were finally taking over, and with their mix of optimism and sense of compromise, they would create a new type of politics. Tony Blair promised a “Third Way,” more compassionate than conservatism, but more fiscally responsible than progressives. Bill Clinton and others promised a “peace dividend,” a promise to dismantle the billions spent annually by NATO to check the Soviet Union. The same year Clinton was elected (1992), Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History and the Last Man, proclaiming that the triumph of bourgeois democracy and free markets had won the century long war of ideas. The party continued throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, as Time magazine and The Economist (in story after story) exuberantly proclaimed the internet age and the spread of capitalism would usher in an age of unprecedented prosperity that would benefit not just the West but also lift the rest of the world out of poverty. Even Africa would be lifted by its turn away from nasty socialism. Thomas Friedman capped off the...

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