This is a guest post by Lucas Dolan, a PhD Student at American University’s School of International Service. His research deals with the transnational coalition-building of right-wing populist movements. For further information, see his website, or find him on Twitter (@mrldolan).
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (L&Z) have accomplished something impressive. Their new book How Democracies Die (HDD) is a relatively condensed volume that—while clearly written for a popular audience—is also likely to become required reading for scholars interested in authoritarianism and democratic backsliding. Indeed, my institution’s chapter of the 24 university “Democratic Erosion” consortium assigned the book even before it was released. It is a rare scholarly work that has generated substantial discussion in both the scholarly and policymaking communities immediately upon publication. The book draws from the authors’ extensive research on de-democratization in Latin America and Eastern Europe (as well as some instructive episodes of American history) to identify processes of democratic erosion and derive lessons for resisting such processes. These historical and comparative chapters are then used as benchmarks for evaluating the threat to democracy posed by President Donald Trump. Puzzlingly, the book omits a meaningful discussion of the role of populism in democratic erosion—despite one of the author’s influential work on that topic. In this review, I attempt to reconstruct how deeper engagement with populism might have fit with the book’s core contentions. I conclude that Levitsky’s own mobilization approach to populism lacks cohesion with HDD and that Jan-Werner Müller’s ideational understanding of populism interfaces more naturally with the mechanisms of democratic decline proposed by L&Z.
This is a guest post by Hanna Kleider, an assistant professor in the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She is currently on a research leave at the European University Institute in Florence. Her main research interests are comparative politics and political economy, with an area focus on Europe.
Engaging in election punditry is a tricky enterprise – it requires a good understanding of the issues that irk voters and a sense for what might drive them to the polls. Even then, pundits often miss the mark. I, for one, seem to be particularly unqualified for election punditry, which is why I have more questions than answers after these elections. Take the catastrophic results for the German Social Democrats (SPD) for example: The Social Democrats have been responsible for the most influential social reforms in the last four years: they succeeded in introducing a minimum wage, they fought for a fairer inheritance tax, and they introduced a retirement reform – all of these reforms are important in an increasingly unequal Germany. Last but not least, the SPD brought about marriage equality. These changes were pushed through singlehandedly against the will of their senior coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (CDU) including Angela Merkel, who opposed every single one of these reforms (an inconvenient fact perhaps sometimes overlooked by Merkel’s liberal fans around the world). Yet, the SPD received only 20.5 percent of the vote, a historically bad result. In the former East German regions, the SPD is now the fourth strongest party after the CDU, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), and the Left party (Die Linke). Neither the current SPD campaign slogan “It’s time for more social justice!”, nor its 2013 campaign against “the centrifugal forces in society” gained much traction with German voters. Rising income and wealth inequality just did not drive as many voters to the ballot box as some observers, including myself, would have thought.
This guest post is by Todd Tucker, PhD, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a research think tank connected to the FDR Presidential Library. He was previously a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on judicial politics, international political economy, and qualitative methods, and has been featured in Journal of International Dispute Settlement, International Studies Perspectives, and elsewhere. Follow him @toddntucker.
How much does the broader socioeconomic context matter in legal determinations involving sovereign defendants? Recent decisions from the Ninth Circuit of U.S. federal courts, World Bank arbitration arm, and World Trade Organization (WTO) illustrate a variety of approaches, with differing implications for policymaking.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Simon Frankel Pratt, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. His research is on institutional politics, international norms, and the US’s security apparatus. For further information, see his website or find him on Twitter (@simon_the_pratt)
Unlike other contributions to this essay series, mine will be somewhat more informal in tone. I am going to share some concepts (and neologisms) that I find helpful for making sense of ‘Trumpism’—by which I mean Trump, his rogues’ gallery (or carnival), and the broader coalition of right-wing movements that support him. Specifically, I am going to try to sell you on the following points:
- That Trumpism is best understood as an insurgency—as a sort of ‘cold civil war’;
- That Trumpism is largely motivated by ‘way of life’ anxiety;
- That Trump’s policies are often not attempts at institutional retooling but are ‘potency performances’—self-affirming displays of provocation, revenge, and dominance;
- That the response of scholars should be to seek ‘polity relevance’.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Moonhawk Kim, who was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado Boulder from 2007 to 2016. His research focused on the politics of international trade institutions. This post first appeared on his blog To Be Analyzed.
Ruggie’s (1982) “embedded liberalism” provided the framework for understanding the nature of the domestic social contract underlying the post-World War II international economic arrangement for the last three-and-a-half decades. As an alternate to the “disembedded liberalism” (Polanyi 1944) model of the gold standard era, this model described and prescribed the importance of domestic political economic stability over maintenance of the liberal international economic order. In the decades since Ruggie’s article, the potential threat to the stability of embedded liberalism scholars anticipated was a return to disembedded liberalism, the model of hyperglobalization at the cost of domestic political economic stability.
One way to interpret the triumph of Donald Trump is that the long-standing social bargain within the U.S. underlying Pax Americana—and thus the whole post-war international order—has unraveled. The bargain is moving toward hyper-priotization of domestic political economy over a liberal international economy. This interpretation is consistent with the broad observation about the characteristics of voters who voted for Trump (losers from globalization, broadly defined to include those that confront a high level of economic uncertainty if not low income) and Trump’s nationalistic economic policies, now taking the first step in the form of withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Two interrelated components are necessary for maintaining a stable domestic-international bargain. One, the international benefits of a liberal world economy—the gains from trade—has to be domestically distributed. Economists have always recognized that the gains are at the aggregate level. Those who gain from economic globalization (”winners“) need to compensate those who are hurt from it (”losers“) and mitigate the latters’ cost of adjusting to the new economic reality. Two, the domestic population needs to intuitively and/or rationally understand the nature of the domestic-international bargain and continually support to reinforce and sustain the international arrangement.
I have some ideas on why these two components unraveled over time:
- A Paradox of Stability: When an international order works—works really well, as it did in the post-war era—it becomes taken for granted. People and states simply come to think “this is how it is” and fail to realize the institutions and the effort underlying it. That’s actually the indication of the most institutionalized institutions, at least according to sociologists. However, when the taken-for-grantedness leads to desires for dismantling the institution in question, it becomes a problem. (This is akin to the vaccination issue—”Oh, I don’t have to vaccinate against pertussis, because pertussis is not a problem anymore!“A related aspect of this is that people/leaders also come to disregard the strategic interaction underlying the stability of the existing order. Other countries have been keeping their trade open because the U.S. has been. If the U.S. becomes more protectionist, other countries will not keep their trade open. The U.S. doesn’t just import; it also exports.
- Disjuncture from the Historical Moment: Much of the post-war international order was shaped by the experience states endured during the interwar years, in particular the Great Depression. As the length of time between the historical moment and the current period increases, the lessons fade—people/leaders who experienced it die and new ones never learn it. (What about the Great Recession? See #1 above.)
- Disembedded Liberalism: #1 and #2 led to an increasing emphasis on the liberal economic order over domestic political economic stability. The gap in real income growth in the U.S. over the last four decades is the best evidence of this. Certainly not all wealth resulted from a liberal international economy alone—technological progress played an important role—but the gains were not distributed in ways to ensure long-term domestic stability.
- Complexity of Globalization: I use the term “globalization” as a shorthand for lowering of costs of transportation and communication, thereby increasing the density of interaction among people. These changes are mainly facilitated by technological innovations that lower the costs. As a result of this, the global system becomes more complex in two ways.First, causal chains in large-scale outcomes become harder to trace. When causation has to be inferred rather than perceived, people reject both the process of inference (science) and the assertions of causality. This opens up the possibility of phenomena like “alternative facts” to arise.
Second, differences across individuals, groups, and countries—which have always existed—become revealed and more likely to generate conflicts. Simultaneous with this increased exposure to diversity, the same technology that increases that exposure facilitates individuals and groups to communicate and organize with those that are likeminded (e.g., cable news channels). In short, globalization strengthens intra-group cohesion while increasing inter-group conflicts.
So what happens now? The next four years will be an interesting test of Keohane’s (1984) thesis that international institutions can in fact successfully persist and maintain order after hegemonic decline. Of course, with the current regime in the U.S., we are witnessing less of a decline and more of a willful rejection in alleged service of domestic political economic priorities. The absurdly misinformed protectionist policies by the administration will certainly end up causing a great deal of economic harm to the very groups it is claiming to be helping.
The Duck of Minerva’s WPTPN group is still seeking guest contributions. If you are interested in writing a post and have research expertise in international relations, international political economy, foreign policy, comparative politics, or cognate fields please see this post for more information.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Layna Mosley, Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She researches the political economy of multinational production, labor rights, and sovereign debt and can be found on Twitter @thwillow.
President Trump’s first days in office have been marked by a continuation of his pledges to fundamentally remake US trade policy. On January 23, the website of the United States Trade Representative, the executive branch agency charged with negotiating and implementing US trade policy, underwent a radical redesign. The site’s front page now touts the “America First Trade Policy,” in which the “landscape of trade policy” is revised “to work for all Americans.” Four days later, the administration announced – with subsequent qualification later — a 20 percent tax on all imports to the US (or, perhaps, on all imports from Mexico).
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Seçkin Köstem, an assistant professor of International Relations at Bilkent University, Ankara, and managing editor of the Review of International Political Economy.
Various sub-fields of International Relations, including IPE and security studies, have explored dynamics of cooperation and conflict in different regions of the world as well as regional integration and regionalism. Yet little has been done to investigate the role that regional powers, as economically preponderant states, play in fostering economic integration in their regions. In particular, two questions have been unexplored. First, why do the regional economic priorities of regional powers shift over time? Also, why do regional powers pursue different forms of leadership to exert economic influence over their neighbors? In my doctoral dissertation, I have tried to answer these two questions with a cross-case and within-case comparison of Russia and Turkey.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Malliga Och and Jennifer M. Piscopo. Dr. Och (on Twitter @malligao) is an Assistant Professor in the Global Studies and Languages Department at Idaho State University. Her research focus on women’s political representation in conservative parties and she is the co-editor with Shauna Shames of The Right Women. Republican Activists, Candidates, and Legislators (forthcoming Praeger Press, 2017). Dr. Piscopo (on Twitter@Jennpiscopo) is Assistant Professor of Politics at Occidental College and a 2016-2017 Visiting Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. Her research on women, representation, and gender quotas has appeared in numerous academic journals.
Donald Trump swaggered along the U.S. campaign trail, a hyper-masculine figure whose braggadocio extended to celebrating sexual assault. In France, Marine le Pen clothes anti-Muslim rhetoric in language about protecting women’s equality, rights, and bodily freedom. The majority of white women and men voted for Trump, but with a notable gender gap of 53 and 63 percent respectively. By contrast, the gender gap for populist support is narrowing in France, with Le Pen gaining support among female voters (Mayer 2013, 172). Populist movements have differentially affected men and women in their roles as party leaders, parliamentary candidates, and voters, but these outcomes are not consistent across regions or cases (de Lange and Mügge 2015; Kampwirth 2010). Yet understanding the gendered dimensions of the populist resurgence is critical for explaining why and how these parties cement their appeal.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Sean D. Ehrlich, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida State University who researches international and comparative political economy, trade policy, and democratic institutions. His first book, Access Points, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011 and he is currently finishing his second book, The Politics of Fair Trade, which is under contract with Oxford University Press. He can be reached on Twitter @SeanDEhrlich.
Since the end of World War II the advanced industrial economies of the West have moved towards freer trade and increased economic integration at a fairly steady clip. While the Great Depression brought the previous era of globalization to a sudden halt, economic downturns after the War led only to temporary and isolated retreats from economic liberalism. The globalized world economy had even seemed to as, despite fears of rising protectionism and the collapse of the European Union, the world entered 2016 with global trade reaching an all-time high (albeit it with sluggish annual growth) and with the economic problems of the previous eight years seemingly mostly resolved. The twin political shocks of 2016—Brexit and Mr. Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election—call this all into question and suggest that the global liberal economic order might begin to retreat in the face of rising economic nationalism and populism.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Stewart Prest is a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His research focuses on civil conflict and non-violent resistance, and the role of local institutions in shaping patterns of contentious politics. He can be reached on Twitter @StewartPrest.
I. The Global Rise of Neo-Nationalism
Though its expression varies markedly from country to country, two aspects recur with remarkable regularity in the new populist nationalisms now sweeping much of the developed world: 1) a newfound, or perhaps rediscovered, suspicion of outsiders that often veers well into the territory of xenophobia and outright racism, and 2) a powerful new distrust of certain aspects of globalization and those who seem to benefit from it. Two different themes, but they co-occur to a remarkable degree. When they do, the result is often coloured by xenophobia and explicit racism. For ease of use, for the purposes of this essay I’ll refer to the occurrence of the two of them together as “neo-nationalism,” as some others have done.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Nikhil Kalyanpur, a PhD student in Government at Georgetown University. He researches business-government relations and the relationship between security and finance.
While Donald Trump has naturally dominated headlines across the world this past month, his chauvinistic brother-in-arms Narenda Modi has been just as active. The boss from Gujarat is taking a page from today’s global autocratic elite – exploiting international liberal norms to further illiberal ends. The BJP’s dramatic demonetization initiative leaves nearly 87% percent of Indian currency (the 500 and 1000 rupee notes) void, in a country where virtually the same percentage of the economy operates informally. The move is meant to curb the endemic corruption eating the Indian bureaucracy, and crack down on tax evasion and apparent (“Pakistani”) currency counterfeiting. The country is not quite following Modi’s modernization script. The country is stumbling toward recession while the burden is disproportionately placed on the poor, and, in particular, rural women for whom cash is the only way to escape abusive relationships. While the economy grinds to a halt, the legislature has been thrown into gridlock, US Congress-style, as the filibuster is now all the rage.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Ahsan Butt, an Assistant Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. His book, Secession and Security: Explaining State Strategy against Separatists, will be published next year by Cornell University Press.
The future of a U.S.-led liberal order in Europe and East Asia has attracted considerable attention in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, given his distaste for internationalism signaled by heavy criticism of NATO and the TPP. Much of the post-election conjecture has focused on whether China will step into this anticipated breach, with its maneuvering on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Asia-Pacific alternative to TPP, taken as a portentous sign that China will seek to displace US leadership in the region (it bears remembering that China was not behind RCEP, but an addition to it). In this post, however, I will focus on the prospect of a Chinese order in less-developed regions of the world, a concern that would have existed even for a President H.R. Clinton.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Aida A. Hozić is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Florida. This blogpost draws on a chapter prepared for Hegemony and Leadership in the International Political Economy, edited by Alan Cafruny and Herman M. Schwartz (Lynne Rienner, forthcoming).
There is a moment at the end of every regime when the relationship between all hitherto accepted modes of representation and reality seems to collapse. Regimes start running on fumes when well-established political rituals appear devoid of meaning, when institutionalized practices are revealed as arbitrary, when beloved symbols of power suddenly have no referent, pointing instead at power’s empty seat. In short, regimes collapse when narratives that have held them together are no longer believable.
America, I would argue, might be rapidly approaching that point.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science and Global Governance at the University of Hamburg, visiting fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at Cambridge University (September – December 2016), and 2015-2017 holder of the “Opus Magnum Fellowship” funded by the Volkswagon Foundation. She is founding editor of the Cambridge University Press journal Global Constitutionalism: Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law and her book Contestation and Constitution in Global Governance is scheduled for publication by Cambridge in 2018. An earlier version of this paper was presented at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge Nov 25, 2016: https://www.hughes.cam.ac.uk/news-events/.
When struggling to come to terms with the result on the morning after the US 2016 elections, some tried to make sense of what they saw by describing the results as a “Black Swan Event”. On Jan 28 2016 Politico published an article titled “Trump the Black Swan Candidate” which noted that “(i)mmune to the standard laws of politics, Trump has continued to rise in the polls, replacing the manageable disorder of a presidential politics with his chaos.” On Nov 12 2016 Politico dubbed Trump “The Black Swan President”. Accordingly Trump “became the closest thing to a black swan event we’ve ever seen in American politics: Statistically unlikely, rationalized only in hindsight—and carrying an impact that could be off the known charts.”
Typically, such an event indicates something out of the ordinary, quite sensational, which we try to explain with reference to the exception of the rule. The reference to a black swan event conjures the eventual return to normalcy following disruption. Does this mean that despite the Trump election, all else remains ‘normal’? Can – and should – we therefore move on and wait for the exceptional event to pass and politics to return back to ‘normal’?
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Dr Cynthia Banham, a University of Queensland Post-Doctoral Fellow at the School of Political Science and International Studies. She is also a Visitor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University. Her forthcoming book, Liberal Democracies and the Torture of Their Citizens, will be published by Hart Publishing in 2017. She can be reached via e-mail and Twitter. Cynthia would like to thank Professor Susan Sell for her comments on an earlier version of this blog post.
Political accountability, we are taught to believe, is a defining feature of liberal democracies. A basic relationship of accountability lies at the heart of democratic government: citizens elect their political representatives, and these representatives become accountable to voters. Yet political accountability, as we have traditionally understood it to exist in liberal democracy, is under stress.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Emily Holland and Hadas Aron, PhD Candidates in Political Science at Columbia University. Holland’s research focuses on energy politics, political development, Russian politics and East/Central Europe. Aron studies right wing populism and nationalism with a regional focus on Eastern Europe, the United States, and Israel. They blog at Commenting Together.
Immediately following the annexation of Crimea and the tragedy of flight MH17, the West largely regarded Vladimir Putin as a dangerous international pariah. But two years later, following the sweeping success of demagogues world-wide, Putin has emerged as a new oracle of the East, leading the charge for the new wave of illiberalism. Widely praised by US President Elect Donald Trump, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Erdogan, India’s Modi, and Hungary’s Orban, amongst others, Putin’s brand of strongman leadership and exclusionary nationalism is succeeding like never before.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Fiona B. Adamson, an Associate Professor of International Relations at SOAS, University of London.
In the aftermath of the UK Brexit vote, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo issued a joint letter committing themselves to work more closely together and to deepen connections between cities in Europe and across the world, declaring that “the 21st century belongs to cities.” They are not the only ones who think so – sociologists, geographers, urban studies scholars and others have long focused on cities as important sites of power in the international system – sites that increasingly make up a networked global structure that exists side-by-side with the system of nation-states.
The tension between the globalized world of interconnected cities and the still territorially-defined system of nation-states is one of the factors that has come to the fore in both Brexit and the US election. Voting preferences in both cases mirrored the rural-urban geographic divide – with urban centers overwhelmingly voting “Remain” in the UK and for Clinton in the US. Indeed, both the “Leave” and Trump campaigns played on this distinction. The Brexit vote was as much about perceptions of London’s “elites” and “experts” as it was about fact-based arguments or the actual workings of the European Union. Trump’s “America First” and “Make America Great Again” version of nationalism was pitted against the “globalism” of metropolitan elites – who were deemed to represent neoliberalism, mainstream media and corporate power – but also pluralism and cultural diversity.
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Louis F. Cooper. His online writing includes “Reflections on U.S. Foreign Policy” at the U.S. Intellectual History Blog (July 16, 2014). His Ph.D. is from the School of International Service, American University.
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1792-1815, which one historian has labeled “the first total war,” engulfed basically the whole of Europe. A century later, a war broke out in Europe that extended beyond the continent to become global in scope. One can think of the two enormously destructive world wars of the twentieth century as a “thirty years war” (1914-1945), interrupted by what can be viewed in retrospect as an uneasy lull marked by the Depression and the rise of fascism.
Those who see history as essentially cyclical might have expected another global war to occur in or around 2014. The idea of ‘long cycles’ of war and peace, explored by several scholars, could have suggested this. And if one believes, as Robert Gilpin wrote some years ago, that “even though some states occasionally come to appreciate the mutual benefits of international cooperation, unfortunately all states have yet to learn the lesson simultaneously,”[i] then the occurrence of another world war would not have been out of the question. Obviously, however, it didn’t happen on the centenary of World War I. Why not?
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Robert Y. Shum, an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies at The College at Brockport, State University of New York (SUNY).
Does the Paris Agreement, and the likely withdrawal therefrom by the Trump administration, matter? On the surface, the current situation is not so different from George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Probing deeper, however, important differences come to the fore. Many independent observers saw the Kyoto Protocol as fundamentally flawed in its lack of obligations applying to developing countries, including China and India. In contrast, an understanding between China and the United States lay at the center of the Paris Agreement.
Critics of the Paris approach to internationally-negotiated national emissions targets nonetheless argue that its effectiveness is limited compared to that of policies made at and by domestic institutions, regardless of the Parisian promise to broaden participation at the international level so as to include developing-country emitters. With the prospect that US participation in the international climate regime will be reduced under a Trump administration, the question regarding the value of participation in international agreements now shifts to the effect of US (non-)participation on the global climate regime. Minimizing this effect has become a source of hope and optimism. Thus, ironically, following Trump’s election, the critical view of Paris takes on a new function as both consolation for environmentalists and apologia for skeptics.
I plan to post relevant items for the World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) group somewhat regularly, so please send links to me via Twitter (@whinecough or the #WPTPN hashtag) or e-mail (wkwineco _ at _ indiana _ dot _ edu). For more information on the WPTPN series see this post. Follow WPTPN posts using this tag.
— “International Relations Scholarship in the Age of Trump,” by Brandon Valeriano at RelationsInternational.
— “For Trump, politics, family and business merge. We know from Indonesia how that may end up,” by Tom Pepinsky at WaPo’s The Monkey Cage.
— “Donald Trump is an economic nationalist. What’s an economic nationalist?” by Jeff Colgan at WaPo’s The Monkey Cage.
— “Trump and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective,” by Cullen Hendrix at Political Violence @ A Glance.
— “Trump and Diplomacy: Time to Eat Some Spinach,” by Elizabeth N. Saunders and James H. Lebovic at Political Violence @ A Glance.