Monday, July 22, 2019

The Secret Sources of Populism — Bruno Maçães


I think this article is partially true as an articulation of one factor in a complex and emergent challenge. It is from a conservative think tank and was published in Foreign Policy (CFR organ behind a paywall).

My take is as a have been saying, following Alexander Dugin. The underlying dynamic of the 19th century was socialism-capitalism and its political manifestation as communism-fascism versus liberalism. The fundamental dynamic in the early 21st century is the historical dialectic unfolding between liberalism and traditionalism. This being a dialectical process historically, aspects of the communist-fascist-liberal dynamic are incorporated, but the fundamental dynamic characterizing the Zeigeist has shifted after the defeat of the Axis powers, subsequent collapse of the USSR, and the liberalization of China under Deng Xiaoping. Vladimir Putin recently referred to his in his interview with the Financial Times where he observes the excess of liberalism leading to its decline, along with the resurgence of traditionalism as a major factor. He seems to be echoing Alexander Dugin.

Bruno Maçães views the cause of the rise of populism as chiefly international, involving the decline of the Western hegemony and the unwelcome influence of other cultures across borders. I see that as only a partially true and reflective of a deeper dynamic between liberalism pushed to its extreme and the resurgence of traditionalism, which was the original target of liberalism in the 18th century. Now that dynamic is returning in force, as the conflicting world views clash. 

This is not only an international phenomenon, but also a domestic one. For example, in the US Christianists were tolerated in the GOP "big tent" as a political wing of the party, but for the most part they were thrown only crumbs. Dissatisfied with the rate of progress on their political goals, they have reasserted their political power and are a big force behind the Trump-Pence phenomenon. There are similar phenomena in the resurgence of Islamism in the Muslim world, Orthodox Judaism as a political factor in Israel, and radical Hinduism in India as a mixture of a particular viewpoint on traditional religion not merely as a system of doctrine, ritual and observance but also as a cultural model. The return to an alliance between the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church after the collapse of the USSR is another manifestation of this phenomenon.

The fundamental paradigm of liberalism is the naturalism of the scientific revolution in the West that replaced the Great Chain of Being that is in essence supernatural. While the great chain of being is generally thought of in the West as Judeo-Christian, it was also characteristic of the Greek, Roman and other "pagan" religions. It is found in some from in most traditional cultures were the wisdom of the ancients is regarded as authoritative based on a supernatural pedigree.

It would not be correct to claim that contemporary populism is "caused by" this dynamic, even through it is a fundamental factor. There are many factors in plays and the different in different nations, regions, localities and cultures. What seems to be happening is that the entire world is now caught up in the "melting pot" that once was characteristic of the US as the first liberal democracy with enough space to support large waves of immigration. This was always a challenge socially and culturally, and I am old enough to remember similar dynamics regarding immigrants as are happening now. 

This is inevitable as the world shrinks owing to innovation in communications and transportation technology, especially the Internet, as well as the expansion of economic globalization and global supply chains. This brings out the good side of liberalism in tolerance and emphasis on popular sovereignty, but it also brings out the bad side in terms of neoliberal globalization, neo-imperialism and neocolonialism, as well as the "excesses" of liberalism as perceived by the various traditionalisms. This leads to "populism" as circling the wagons against being forced to accept difference that is unacceptable.

While values can be applied to this depending on one's point of view, it is a historical and sociological process that can be viewed objectively in terms of phenomena and their causal factors. From this perspective it is history taking its path-dependent course. Hegel look at this as an observer and analyst, whereas Marx went further and added an activist perspective to shape the process. The liberal West has also taken an activist role in spreading the message and often imposing it on other who may not be willing to receive it. This has led to the present dynamic developing between liberalism and traditionalism.

Hudson Institute
The Secret Sources of Populism
Bruno Maçães | Non-resident Senior Fellow

1 comment:

Ralph Musgrave said...

Well that must be about the ten thousandth article by a leftie intellectual who is frustrated at the rise in populism, and who produces a long, boring series of compilicated pseudo-intellectual explanations for the phenomenon.

I suggest the explanatin is quite simple: leftie intellectuals have become progressively more and more idiotic over the years to the point where they are now champions of the religion which goes in for female genital mutilation, wife beating, homophobia, killing authors and cartoonists etc. I'm referring to Islam of course.

Ordinary people with a bit of common sense have got sick of these pseudo-intellectuals and have turned to the Donald Trumps of this world in search of some ordinary if boring common sense.