7 December 2018   Leave a comment

I do not typically link to scholarly articles, but Ruben Gonzalez-Vicente has published a fascinating (albeit dense) essay on why authoritarian movements have grown so dramatically since the Great Recession of 2008-09.  He argues that what he calls the neoliberal response (his phrase for the authoritarian/populist movements) is, in fact, a response to globalization by some of its strongest supporters–a paradoxical volte-face.  He writes (I have taken out the references–they are extensive):

“Across the world, we are observing an emergence of illiberal politics in countries that have represented the backbone of neoliberal globalization, and indeed at its very Anglo-American core. In many places, reactionary politicians have been first to galvanize social discontent successfully by publicly condemning the negative social impacts of economic globalization, such as increased inequalities and growing insecurity. In the United States, the UK or France, for example, it has been the populist right that has more prominently hoisted the anti-globalization flag, even if its discourses place targets on ethnic minorities or national trade imbalances, rather than on class inequality or the increased leverage of businesses in processes of transnational integration. We can see, for example, how rising job insecurity and deteriorating living standards in the UK were mobilized by the Brexit campaign. While much of the ‘Leave’ discourse was problematic, and focused its anger towards European Union regulations and immigrants, Brexit advocates successfully tapped into a widespread sense of vulnerability and precarization throughout the isles that is intimately linked to neoliberal transformations at home and to the consolidation of the world market and its competitive pressures more broadly

“Similarly, Donald Trump’s anti-China and anti-migrant rhetoric resonated with the experiences of many in the middle class who have been on the losing side of growing inequality and declining social mobility for decades, but also remarkably in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, with the top 1% capturing 85.1% of the country’s income growth between 2009 and 2013.”

The argument is intriguing, but I need to examine more evidence before I accept it.  At this time, I tend to think that the supporters of the populist programs are the losers of globalization, not the winners.  But Gonzalez-Vicente’s argument suggests that the winners adopted neoliberalism in order to “close the door” on other possible winners.



Along the same lines, we need to rethink the role of political parties in liberal democracies.   Many of the most recent elections in the world have featured “new” parties–ones that are not the traditional parties, such as En Marche in France, Alternative for Germany, the Sweden Democrats, Podemos in Spain, and the 5 Star Movement in Italy.  Indeed, US President Trump is probably the first third party candidate to have won the presidency–his roots in the Republican Party are quite thin.  Patrick Liddiard has written an essay for the Wilson Center that is entitled, “Are Political Parties in Trouble?”  His concern is clear: “a worldwide decline in political party influence would raise fundamental issues of democratic accountability, an issue that is already associated with increasing unrest worldwide, and is likely to degrade the quality of democracy worldwide in the future.”



The US is asking Canada to extradite Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Huawei, the Chinese technology firm that ranks among the largest in the world.   The US charges that Huawei violated the sanctions against Iran, but the US has long been concerned about Huawei’s links to the Chinese government and fears that its technology is compromised by that connection.  China has protested Ms Meng’s arrest and believes that the US extradition request is merely another attempt by the US to limit Chinese technological development.  Global Times, which often represents the official view of the Chinese government, places the arrest in the context of the trade war with the US:

“The US will not stop countering China’s rise in the technology sector and will never drop its hostility toward China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy, Wang Yanhui, head of the Shanghai-based Mobile China Alliance, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“‘Huawei has become another card for the US to play against China in the ongoing trade war,’ he said.

“China and the US announced a trade truce following a meeting between the two countries’ top leaders in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

“But experts warned that China should be prepared for a long-lasting and heated trade war with the US, as it will continue to attempt to counter China’s rising power.

“‘The latest Huawei incident shows that we should get ready for long-term confrontation between China and the US, as the US will not ease its stance on China and the arrest of a senior executive of a major Chinese tech company is a vivid example,’ Mei Xinyu, a research fellow with the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Thursday.”

Financial markets were rattled by the news as the arrest will make the trade negotiations between the US and China significantly more problematic.  It is important to remember that the US views the trade dispute as and economic issue; China views it as an attempt by the US to contain Chinese power.

Posted December 7, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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