Jack A. Goldstone, the Virginia E. and John T. Hazel professor of public policy at George Mason University; Shadi Hamid, senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; and Kathleen R. McNamara, professor of government and foreign service at Georgetown University, and 2016–2017 distinguished scholar in residence at American University’s School of International Service discuss inequality and the rise of authoritarianism at the 2017 International Studies Association Annual Convention as part of CFR’s Academic Outreach Initiative.
CALDWELL: I’m the chairperson of the academic outreach effort of the Council on Foreign Relations. And on behalf of Richard Haass, the president of the Council, and Irina Faskianos, the vice president of the Council over here—she and her staff arranged all this, so let’s give them a round of applause for their efforts. (Applause.)
As probably most of you know, the Council on Foreign Relations was founded in 1921 in order to underscore the need for the international involvement of the United States in the world. And I think that original mission is even more important today, for obvious reasons.
To that end, the Council on Foreign Relations publishes the influential really interesting magazine, Foreign Affairs, that I’m sure all of you are familiar with. And for professors, for students, there are discounted, deeply discounted rates for Foreign Affairs. In addition to that, the Council has just come out with a new teaching tool called Model Diplomacy. And I would urge you to stop by the Council’s booth in the exhibit area to take a look at Model Diplomacy.
In addition to that, the Council has educators’ workshops. There are also very interesting and valuable conference calls where professors can call in with their students and talk with Council fellows and other academics, as well as policymakers. So I would encourage you to look into that also at the Council’s booth in the exhibit area.
In addition to that, the Council publishes special study reports and things such as that. So there are really a number of resources for professors and academics. In addition to that, the Council has two publications I wanted to underscore, or two efforts. One is the Global Governance Monitor, which is produced by Stewart Patrick, our chairperson this afternoon. And he also does a blog entitled the Internationalist.
I’m not going to waste any more of our time, but I would like to turn the floor over to Stewart Patrick, who’s currently senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. And so please join me in welcoming Stewart and our panelists. (Applause.)
PATRICK: Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure to have Dan Caldwell helping us out. And I want to thank you in particular, Dan, for your incredible service to CFR’s academic outreach program.
I also want to thank Irina Faskianos, who is the director of CFR’s national program and a vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Irina never sleeps, for those of you who know her. She is constantly on email. I get emails from here at about 3:00 in the morning when she’s arranging different events around the country.
CFR now has about 40 percent of its members outside of either Washington or New York, and that figure will probably only increase as we go forward and try to make ourselves as much of a national as opposed to just liberal, pointy-headed, East Coast elite institution going forward. Having grown up in Maryland, I’m always excited to be back in Baltimore. And I’m delighted that ISA is here this year.
I want to make a reminder to all of you that this session is on the record. And given our proximity to Fort Meade, your comments will be taken seriously—(laughter)—and be taken down. So I just want to make sure that you know they are listening.
I’m fortunate to be joined today by three outstanding scholars who are well known to you. Jack Goldstone, Jack A. Goldstone, Virginia E. and John T. Hazel professor of public policy at George Mason University.
Shadi Hamid is senior fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
And Kate McNamara is professor of government and foreign service at Georgetown University, and in 2016-2017 distinguished scholar in residence at the School of International Service, also in Washington, and American University.
What I’d like to do is maybe spend the first 25 minutes of our allotted time here engaging with our speakers directly, and then we’ll turn things over to what I know from previous years has always been a very lively Q&A with all of you.
Today’s topic is, I guess I would say, topical. To generalize broadly, around the globe we’ve seen powerful populist and nationalist forces unleashed in reaction to the dislocations and other influences of globalization, a sense that problems are out of control and that governments are unresponsive, that previous uncertainties no longer hold—excuse me—certainties no longer hold, and the traditional livelihoods, cultures, values, and social guarantees are under strain, and that the gains from interdependence have been wildly oversold and are increasingly unevenly distributed.
And one reaction that we’ve seen in many countries in the world is to turn away from participatory democratic politics as a solution to, in a sense, societal problems since they’re unable to deliver and are often captured by particular entities. That’s the perception. So they aren’t able to deliver, whether we’re talking about standards of living, societal cohesion, and national cultural or religious identities.
One symptom of this disillusionment with the open society in some ways would be declining support for democracy. For the 11th straight year, according to Freedom House, we’ve seen a decline in global support for democracy. Now, it’s obviously impossible to generalize over the 193 countries in the world. Clearly there are multiple variables at play—economic, technological, demographic, political, cultural, et cetera. So we need to be aware that there are—each of these manifestations doesn’t necessarily have the same cause.
But what I was hoping to do, given the different sectoral and conceptual approaches that our scholars take, and also their variety of—their variety of regions that they’ve dealt with, is to engage each of them briefly in a sense of what to make of the causal dynamics that are at play, and are we describing one phenomenon or many.
I want to start with Jack. When you look at this authoritarian turn, if we might call it that, and—how do you untangle the causes behind this? What explains it? And is it all of a piece, in a sense the symptoms of a broken global system? Or are there important variations and nuances you think we should be paying attention to?
GOLDSTONE: Well, there are certainly variations and personal idiosyncratic elements. But I think it’s a mistake to look at Donald Trump and say it’s all about having a reality TV star as president. Trump is a symptom of a much broader global situation. And it’s not that we’re seeing an enthusiasm for authoritarianism as such, but there is a colossal disappointment with the status quo. That status quo has been dominated by an image of liberal democracy as an idealized norm. And we haven’t recognized the degree to which that has failed people all across the world in delivering what they sought.
In some ways, China’s authoritarian system has been more successful in delivering what it promised, which was growth. But we’ve had a situation—I’ll point to two things. We’ve had a slowdown in global economic growth since the great recession. Some of that is the shift from a more material to a more digital economy, which puts pressures on jobs. Some of it is from a shift in labor-intensive work from higher-income to lower-income countries. Some of it is just from population aging and the slowdown of new entrants into housing and labor markets.
But we haven’t really adapted to that. It has left a lot of people in a situation where kind of before the great recession, if you had 3 percent annual growth, if 1 percent went to the elite, one third of the growth went to the elite and two thirds was distributed, that was fine. People didn’t worry about inequality or people getting rich if everyone was sharing in the growth. But if you go down to 1 or 1½ percent growth and the top elite still continues to take the 1 percent as their share, there’s not much left for the rest of us. And that has been deeply disappointing.
One of the reasons I’m up here is I think this is a globally revolutionary moment. I’ve written a book; brought a copy. It’s just been reissued in a new edition. But this is a book about the waves of revolution in history. And we’re in a moment now where revolutionary movements, movements for a rejection of the status quo and change, are widely spreading, whether it’s the Islamic State in the Middle East, which presents itself not just as an enemy of the West but an alternative to the existing mainstream governments in Islamic states, which are accused of failing the Muslim world, whether it’s the rise of anti-immigrant movements in Europe.
Even in countries that have done well economically, like the Netherlands, there’s an anxiety about global patterns of change, the fact that China’s getting richer and more powerful, that Europe has not been able to solve its problems of unequal progress within the European Union. All of this combines with a sense that we kind of put experts in charge. We trusted leaders to create a new system, and that system was supposed to give all of us more opportunities, steady growth, help our children do better than we did. That stopped happening. And it’s actually stopped happening in a lot of places.
And the situation reminds me of what Alexis de Tocqueville described in the years before the French Revolution. He said in the 1750s, ’60s, and ’70s, the educated elites in France talked about the problems of the poor. They talked about excessive taxation. They talked about growing inequality. They talked about lack of access and the irresponsibility and corruption of the monarchy. But they didn’t do anything about it. They talked about it as if they thought the rest of the population wasn’t even listening.
But the rest of the population was listening, was aware, and started looking for any leaders, even leaders from the aristocracy, whether it was Lafayette or Comte de Mirabeau, anyone who would lead them to a change. And I think that’s where we are now. Even if Trump were to disappear tomorrow, we would still have a movement of people who say why aren’t our schools safe, accessible, affordable? Why hasn’t my health care gotten cheaper and better? Why is it so hard for me to move to a home in a neighborhood where my kids are safe? Why is it so hard for me to find leaders or experts who I believe in? People are looking for that.
I thought it was very odd. A poll published this morning said 80 percent of Republicans believe Trump is more truthful than the media. Eighty-five percent of Democrats believe the media is more truthful than Trump. So we have this pattern—and again, this is something else you see before revolution—where we are polarizing into two different populations, those who feel the status quo is working well—we believe in internationalism, we believe in free trade, we believe in immigration—and a population that almost sees a diametric opposite set of facts, and is looking for someone who will reinforce that view and give them leadership to change their situation.
PATRICK: That’s terrific. Jack, before I engage Kate, can you at least tell us the title of this book—
PATRICK: —just in case anybody were to go buy it? (Laughter.) Or where they might find it here?
GOLDSTONE: Yeah. I’m being a shameless advertiser myself. I even have discount flyers if you want to see me afterwards. (Laughter.)
PATRICK: He will be available for signing after this. (Laughter.)
GOLDSTONE: Yeah. The book is called “Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World.” And it’s about the waves of revolutions that occurred both in China, Japan, and Turkey, as well as in England and France, when you got to a situation of kind of demographic and social changes that governments didn’t really comprehend. They knew that there were things going wrong, but they didn’t respond effectively. And pressures built up for alternatives, not because anybody really wanted revolution—it kind of takes an approach that’s not Marxist; it’s not ideological—but looks at when do institutions fail because they don’t meet the demands that people expect? And I think that’s where we are.
PATRICK: Thanks, Jack.
So, Kate, next month the European Union gathers in the Eternal City to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. And I guess this will not be a Roman holiday, right? This will be probably a somewhat somber occasion.
How do you see some of these same trends playing out in Europe and in terms of how they’re rattling politics in Europe? And then what does this spell for the future of the European project, which you’re a major expert in? Thank you.
MCNAMARA: OK. Thank you.
Well, I think Jack very nicely laid out some of the sort of foundational issues. There’s nothing that I would, I think, disagree with. But I think maybe I would sort of reframe it a little bit in terms of the European-specific case and talk about the fact that the economy in Europe and in the United States, in the West in general, has, of course, been on this trajectory of change throughout the postwar era and has really moved from industrial economy to post-industrial economy and a digital economy.
And I think that that has really sort of upended the traditional left-right politics that really governed the entire postwar era; upended it in ways that I think the mainstream centrist political parties really have not dealt with, right; that there’s really been an absence of reaction to the various types of inequality that have grown over time, you know, to staggering levels. In the United States, of course, but also in Europe, there is persistent inequality in terms of who’s capturing the growth, right; that really it’s the top half of the population in terms of income that are actually capturing all of the benefits of this changed economy.
And so I think that that sort of set up a real problem in terms of, again, the rise of a more populist candidates that could address the concerns that really were not being addressed by the mainstream political parties, particularly, I would argue, on the left. Sheri Berman has written, I think, very convincingly about the sort of implosion of the left in Europe and how she views that very much as a critical part of the story of the rise of populist parties.
Now, what role has the EU played in all this? And that really is the sort of, you know, great difference between what’s going on in the United States and what’s happening within the European Union. We have this, you know, quite revolutionary sort of superstructure of governance over these countries in Europe that has, in some ways, I think, taken on or embodied this critique about the role of the elites and the role of sort of delegating responsibility up the food chain to elites that are so far out of touch in terms of democratic legitimacy and so on that it really does set up the European Union as the sort of perfect punching bag, if you like, for these—for the political effects of these broader economic trends, right?
Now, in my own work—I will flag my own work as well, of course—in my own work, I wrote a book recently called “The Politics of Everyday Europe” where I talked about the notion that even though the European Union has an incredibly robust governance capacity—I mean, you know, for those that are familiar with the story, it’s actually astonishing how much power has moved to the European level across, you know, a wide range of activities—but the EU has actually sort of, by design, painted itself as this sort of technocratic, boring sort of banal entity where a European identity was not sort of constructed as this impassioned kind of political solidarity and emotion, like it was with the rise of the nation-state.
And so the EU has—that was very successful for decades, right, in the EU, until it wasn’t, right; until the EU actually grew to the point where you really needed some sort of social solidarity, some way to have a shared sense of social purpose across the European Union which could support this incredible amount of power that had accrued to the European level. And that simply is missing, right. That’s not there.
I don’t think that it’s—you know, we can sort of beat up the EU and say, well, why didn’t they create that? I mean, you know, people in this room are scholars of international politics, international studies. Do we have a modern example of the creation of the post-national political community that really is robust, that actually allows for true sacrifice in terms of citizenship in that community? I mean, this is a very, very difficult thing to do, right.
The EU has sort of tried to do it, has tried to go forward and create this effort at peace and prosperity after, obviously, the miserable first half of the 20th century. But I think we are at a moment today when, fortunately, you know, the pigeons are coming home to roost, and it’s not clear what the path is out of these various dilemmas.
PATRICK: Thank you very much. I’m sure that we’ll get to more of that in the Q&A.
We couldn’t cover the entirety of the world, but we did want to provide some geographical representation and diversity in this. And when it comes to the Middle East, Shadi, obviously so buffeted since the early openings of what some still refer to as the Arab spring, there’s obviously been a resurgence of strongman politics, but in some ways strongman politics is not really something that the region hasn’t seen before.
Do you see what’s been going on in the region, which is a broad and very diverse region, to be, in a sense, of a piece with what has been happening in the United States and the European Union and, in a sense, other parts of the West? Or are there obviously additional dynamics that we need to bear in mind?
Also I was struck when we were talking on the phone in preparation for this a couple of days ago, and Shadi mentioned something that struck us all, which was that, for the first time, the Middle East had actually helped you understand American politics. And you were referring to the current president. And I think that that—you know, it was sort of left there, and I think all of us were sitting on the phone thinking, well, I’m really looking forward to hearing what he has to say about this.
HAMID: Yeah. So I actually remember the first time I watched a full rally that Trump did. I guess this was in the fall of 2015. And I remember just being totally mesmerized. It was almost hypnotic. Of course I disagreed with 99 percent of the content; don’t get me wrong. But there was something that I could relate to because of the work that I do in the Middle East, this idea that politics isn’t just about politics. Politics is almost, in a way, transcendent. It’s a means to something else.
And I think what you saw with people who were at these Trump rallies, they weren’t there to listen to policy. They were there as part of these kind of faith-based festivals. And there was something festive about these types of gatherings of like-minded people, and they felt they were part of something that was bigger themselves. Yes, it was ideologically inherent, but there was this sense of meaning.
And, you know, I’ve spent a lot of my time working on illiberal movements in the Middle East. And by this I’m referring mostly to Islamist parties, Islamist parties that come to power through democratic elections. And they are fine with the democratic process, at least procedurally, but they use the democratic process to promote illiberal ends. And these are religiously inspired illiberal ends.
And Donald Trump is, as far as I can tell, the first time that we as Americans have elected an illiberal democrat; in other words, someone who I guess is somewhat committed to democracy, although that’s still an open question really in some ways. But he does have an ambivalent relationship to classical liberalism in terms of the constitutional protections that we take for granted—freedom of expression, minority rights, equality for all citizens, so on and so forth.
So this kind of tension between liberalism and democracy, which I’ve been thinking a lot about in terms of the Middle East, is now, you know, quite relevant in my own country. But I think if you look at all these different movements, they’re obviously very different, because, you know, Islamists are different than white nationalists or the ethno-nationalists that we have in Europe, or even some of the kind of more bizarre populists, like, say, in Italy; the Northern League, which calls itself libertarian but also socialist. I don’t know what that means. (Laughter.)
But if you look at a lot of these different—and then we have the far-right Hindu Nationalists in India. We have Duterte in the Philippines. So as different—as disparate as these different movements are, the fact that there is this kind of ideological or identity-driven politics, which is happening in so many different parts of the world, should really tell us something.
And I think at least when we talk about the Trump movement and far-right populists in Europe, the one thread that I’ve been able to identify is—so some of them are kind of more leftists, like the National Front, which wants to outflank the left on social-welfare benefits. I mentioned the Northern League in Italy. They all have an anti-Muslim animus. Islam is seen as a civilizational threat. And by now we know that the Trump administration, some of those influential people in it, see Islam as a civilizational threat.
Now, it’s a little bit weird for me, because as an American Muslim, we’re only 1 percent of the American population. But the fact that it’s only been a month since Trump’s been in power and we hear about Islam and Muslims endlessly, it’s like an obsession, really. So the fact that we’re a small group of people but yet so much of the debate is around our role in Western societies and what our religion is or isn’t, I think that common thread is really interesting.
And it gets to this bigger issue, I think of, you know, everyone—all these different movements are trying to supply a kind of meaning to their constituents. Now, in the Middle East people find that meaning usually through religion. And I might as well just plug my book too while we’re at it. (Laughter.) So my new book is called “Islamic Exceptionalism.” So I argue that Islam is exceptional in how it relates to politics. It’s resistant to secularization and even liberalism. It’s a little bit of a different debate.
So people—but the point there is that religion does have a very strong currency in the religiously conservative societies of the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia. But in places like Europe and the U.S., where we’ve seen a decline in mainstream Christianity, that doesn’t mean that what replaces religion is going to be better, a kind of techno-liberalism. What we’re finding is that something worse might replace it, this kind of white nativism or ethno-nationalism. So it’s kind of like this be careful what you wish for. And we have to think critically about whether the decline of religion in the West is necessarily or always a good thing.
PATRICK: That’s absolutely fascinating. One of the things that’s coming out of—I should also mention that Shadi is also a contributing writer to The Atlantic—is that correct?—as well.
PATRICK: And I commend you. He has excellent pieces there.
One thing that’s coming out is, you know, this was billed as, well, inequality and, in a sense, the rise of authoritarian, which, in a sense, is about, in a way, economic exclusion, the sort of notion that the world is a hopeless place, if you will. But I think other things that are coming out in terms of—that are driving this is also the sense of physical insecurity. The world is a dangerous place; but then also, whether one wants to call it cultural insecurity or cultural anxiety, the notion that the world is an alien place as well. And all of these contributing factors seem to be at play here.
I just want to go back—
MCNAMARA: Can I jump on that?
MCNAMARA: Would that be OK?
So I think this raises a really important point. One thing that I’ve been really disturbed by, actually, amongst my colleagues in political science, but I think more broadly the sort of punditry out there, is this notion that those two things somehow have nothing to do with each other; that it’s either identity politics and sort of racism or nativism, et cetera, et cetera, that is driving all these events, or it’s economic anxiety and the sort of, you know, raw data about material difficulties and so on, and that, you know, many people say things like, well, you know, I don’t need to empathize with these working-class white people who are saying all these horrible things. We shouldn’t do that, and so on.
And I think it’s really important to put that aside and to think about understanding as not an apologia for bad behavior, right. I was remembering after 9/11 there was this very strong sort of cohort of people who argued that terrorists were just people who we shouldn’t try to understand because there was no sort of rational basis for what they were doing, right, which strikes me as a deeply unhelpful position to have.
And I think today as well that we need to think about, as scholars, the ways in which our ideational or identity-based phenomena interact with these more material questions at hand. And I think that that is really the way forward, both as scholars and in terms of policy recommendations as well. So I would really think that’s important.
PATRICK: Yeah. In fact, I was sort of reflecting as you were talking about how this may say a little bit about our own disciplinary boundaries too in the way that we interpret things.
Just to get back to each of you perhaps briefly, and then, before turning it over to the gray matter in the room—the other gray matter in the room, I should say—as you look on this era of domestic and international turbulence as scholars and you try to make sense of them, are there any political theorists or perhaps historians that you’ve been dusting off, you know, on your bookshelf that perhaps you hadn’t really been—or previously marginalized or antiquated academic schools that might merit a second look here? I’m sure, if you don’t have any, that—on your mind that others will have some ideas about what’s suddenly relevant again.
GOLDSTONE: Well, I mentioned Tocqueville. I also looked at Trotsky and tried to understand the rise of the Bolsheviks to help get some insight into what was going on with the Islamic State. They see themselves as kind of ideological founders of a new empire. I think they’re going to be overthrown geographically in the near future. I hope so. But as an ideological movement, I think they will continue.
And what was important to realize in Trotsky’s work is his argument was we didn’t win the revolution by making the better arguments. We won the revolution by getting the most enthusiastic followers acting boldly and then bringing everyone else along. And I see that strategy again.
And again, I would just remind, you know, the Enlightenment promised to rebuild a world through reason and constitutions. And it was succeeded by a Romantic movement, led by many intellectuals who just felt there was something missing in a totally rule-bound world that didn’t respond to human needs. And romanticism brought us nationalism. Nationalism brought us world wars one and two.
And then of course, people who lived through that embraced the idea of European Union and global institutions as, oh, this, you know, we don’t want France and Britain to ever fight a war again or France and Germany. But that doesn’t resonate with people living in Britain who simply say, why do we have to have a union with Poland? French say, why do we have to have so many Romanians coming here, not to mention immigrants from parts of the Islamic world who we don’t understand and can’t be bothered to understand?
The upside of the rational world is not always there. And if you look back at history, there was always a very strong pull to emotion, meaning, identity. I agree with you; it’s not just—it’s not just economic problems. It’s not just fear about terrorism. It’s not just fear of losing a kind of coherent national identity. But it’s all of these things coming together which creates enough fuel for really kind of radical and revolutionary fires to be widespread.
PATRICK: Great. Shadi.
HAMID: Yeah, sure.
So, I mean, all of you have read this, and it’s almost too obvious, but, I mean, I always like going back to the final three paragraphs of this essay, I mean, “The End of History” by Fukuyama. And I think that in reading it over the past year—and I remember rereading it when Brexit happened—and I’ve always felt that Fukuyama was a little bit misunderstood and got a bad rap because people didn’t get to the end of the essay or didn’t take it seriously. (Laughter.) But the final three paragraphs are absolutely fascinating in that he essentially—you know, he’s talking about the end of history, but then he sort of acknowledges that he’s ambivalent about the end of history, and he’s worried that we’re all going to become bored. And this prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history restarted. And I don’t think he thought it would happen in 30 years—maybe he thought a hundred or 200—but I think that it was very prescient.
And I’ll just—it’s only by chance that I have his—a quote from one of the final paragraphs with me. So I’ll just—so he says, quote, unquote, “the struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism will be replaced by economic calculation and the endless solving of technical problems.” So he says this, and he says we’ll start to get bored.
And this is precisely what I think we see more and more with center-left parties is that they offer a kind of reassuring to someone like me, because the status quo is fine for me, but it’s kind of boring. And this is the problem I had with—even though I support her—with Hillary; I always had trouble explaining what she was really about. What was all of this for besides nudging towards better outcomes? And you might recall the book that Cass Sunstein co-wrote called “Nudge,” which essentially is supposed to be, I guess, an inspiring vision for the future but is actually quite, you know, uninspiring in that it’s just about, we’re going to spend the rest of our lives nudging and tinkering around the margins and getting a little bit better. And I think it profoundly misunderstands human nature and what drives us. And until the center-left can actually speak to the—speak to this desire for a deeper meaning, I think—I think we’re going to be in a—in a—in a very bad place.
And just one—maybe one other book I’ll mention, even though I thought it was bad in some ways, but I think it’s interesting that after 9/11, there were a series of authors who were political romantics and who wrote these very kind of—with very strong, colorful, evocative prose—these kinds of call to arms. So you might recall—obviously, Christopher Hitchens was doing this, but also Paul Berman wrote a series of books—“Terror and Liberalism,” “A Tale of Two Utopias,” and “Power and the Idealists.” And they’re, like, an interesting trilogy because he really takes ideas and ideologies seriously, however much you might disagree with his conclusions. And I think that kind of thinking about first principles, about how ideas drive us, we have to I think revisit some of that.
GOLDSTONE: Shadi, before you go too far with that—(laughter)—I think it’s important to remind ourselves that yes, Fukuyama said it would be technical tinkering, but we didn’t get the solutions right, right? The technical tinkering was supposed to solve problems of war and peace. That’s what the EU was about. It didn’t prepare us for how do we keep all of the violent sectarian conflicts from Afghanistan to the Middle East from spilling out in the world. It didn’t prepare us for how to deal with the rise of China. We still don’t have what’s satisfying to people. It didn’t prevent the massive global recession of the late 2000s. So it’s not just boredom. There was a lot of, why are you guys doing all this expert tinkering if you can’t solve the biggest problems in my life?
MCNAMARA: Right. Yeah, I would agree with that. I mean, you know, a bunch of my work has looked at sort of the technocracy around financial policy, monetary policy, all that—central bank independence, all that stuff. And, you know, it was—it would—the banner was that this was just simply the right answer, always, for everything. And the actual real story is that it had real distributional impacts, right, across different groups and affected different groups very differentially.
So the things that I’ve been reading recently—I’m actually working on a project what I’m calling the new politics of class. So I had a really bang-up time rereading “The Communist Manifesto” recently. So I—you know, beautifully written and remarkably prescient, actually. But I don’t believe that sort of material conditions determine everything. So of course, I’ve moved on to Weber and have been enjoying that as well and Bourdieu, right, because I’m very interested in thinking about class but thinking about class in ways that match the new economy and in ways that do capture both sort of your relationship to the means of production but also these social interactions and culture and identities. So I urge you all to read those things.
PATRICK: We have all been assigned quite a reading list. (Laughter.) So we’ll have to stay one week ahead of our students, which is at least the way I usually go about things.
Now I’m going to recognize people. Please raise your hand. And I probably will take two at a time, I think. You first, gentleman in the—in the pink shirt. And then you right here. Sorry. No, I’m sorry, the—him in front of you. Thanks. You start, and then he’ll go. Sorry about that, guys.
Q: Thank you. Jim Hollifield from SMU, Tower Center, Dallas.
Jack, you’re a sociologist. One of the great scholars of revolution and social theorists—shouldn’t we be going back to Durkheim?
PATRICK: Right, and—let’s take two at a time. If you could have—you could do yours. Yeah, that’s right.
Q: My question—
PATRICK: I’ll get you in the second round, sir. I’ll get you in the—no, no, no—gentleman with the microphone speak, and then I’ll get the gentleman. Yeah, go ahead.
Q: My name is Larry Bridwell, and I teach international business at Pace University in New York.
And I have a question for Kathleen McNamara about the EU, which about 10 years ago was considered to be the great trend towards future governance, and we’ve had all these problems. But being—teaching at business school, I kind of look at things from an economic detailed viewpoint. And I was intrigued when you said that Brussels has gotten all this power. And to me, the economic reality is that the—Brussels is only responsible for 1.2 percent of the GDP. They have limited revenues. And as you know, one-third of that is on agriculture subsidies. So, to me, if Brussels doesn’t have much money to spend, how much power can it have?
MCNAMARA: Should I go ahead?
MCNAMARA: Great. Great question. And actually, interestingly, I didn’t ever say Brussels. I don’t know if you didn’t notice that. I said European level. Because in fact, I would argue that the real seat of power for the European level is actually the European Court of Justice, which is Luxembourg, right? And in fact, the EU is this very odd, innovative governance form, which simply does not have very much money and doesn't employ very many people—about the size, apparently, of the city of Marseille is how many people are directly employed by the EU.
But what it does do is have supremacy in the laws generated by the European Court of Justice, which, of course, cover everything that has to do with the European single market. And it turns out that a single market—free movement of labor, goods, money and so on—is a tremendously intrusive thing when you go about regulating it. So I would argue that in fact, this is sort of—you know, we see the tip of the iceberg when we hear about the EU. We see the summits. We hear about the Eurozone crisis. No one really ever talks about the incredible revolution in the sense that there is a supreme court, right, overseeing the national laws at the European level. And then of course, you have the European Central Bank in Frankfurt and so on and so forth.
So I don’t think it’s just the sort of bureaucracy in Brussels. I think it’s these broader sort of ways of governing, which are very, very different from sort of the modern nation-state. You’re exactly right. They don’t have the kind of fiscal responsibility and so on and so forth—but which definitely have fundamentally reshaped everyday life in Europe in really important ways—for businesses as well.
GOLDSTONE: I’ll respond very briefly to that too and then get back to Jim.
You talk about Europe, Iceland, United States. We had a technical problem with the collapse of banking sector, 2008. Europe and the United States decided there is no point trying to identify blame; we’ve got to fix the banking sector in order to pull the economy out of its deep spin. Sociologists, however, would say, you have to pay attention to people’s gut feelings about justice. If you just fix the banks and don’t make anybody pay for it and don’t change the system, people are still going to be angry, especially if the economy doesn’t come back roaring back. And Iceland, on the other hand, they broke their big banks. And they have not had the same kind of political backlash against the status quo or mainstream, or they had it, and they got over it. But we have this lingering anger that nobody paid for what they did to us. And that kind of distrust of expertise spills over.
Now, to Jim’s question about Durkheim, for those of you who don’t remember your Durkheim or need something on your reading list, he was a French sociologist who did three very different books, all of which are relevant. One was on the division of labor that said: Society hangs together. It used to be out of a feeling of uniformity that everybody felt they lived by the same tradition. In modern life, society hangs together if everybody feels they contribute to the complex division of labor, but everybody’s got a meaningful place, everybody’s got an honorable job, gets fairly paid and so on. When you lose that, you lose the sense that we’re all one society working together. And what you get, Durkheim said, is anomie—people feeling discarded, high suicide rates, a lot of the problems that we are seeing and people who are—essentially got discarded by the digital economy, never hired after the recession and wonder who really cares for them.
And Durkheim did a third book called “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.” He said, at the end of the day, when you get below the surface, we are all looking for tribes to give us value, right? We’re all looking to be part of something. And so add that to the reading list—(chuckles)—because all three of these are happening.
PATRICK: OK. Paul Musgrave. And this gentleman down here. And then we’ll—I’ll get the lady in the middle over there. Thanks.
Q: Hi. Paul Musgrave, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
I have a question that kind of speaks to something that hasn’t really been addressed yet, which is the contingency of 2016. For all this deep talk about structure, look, 20,000, 30,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and we’re having a, you know, panel about managing technocratic reforms of the liberal system under the Clinton administration.
So one of the—you know, one of the elites and one of the sources epistemic authority that was really challenged in 2016 was, of course, our own discipline. And depending on who you are listening to, you thought there was a 70 percent chance of a Hillary victory. If you were listening to people who aggregated polls, 99 percent or higher. But at a deeper level, some of our theories don’t seem to really predict these sorts of contingent outcomes with profound systemic consequences. So what should we be doing differently to grapple with this new era?
PATRICK: This gentleman here and then the woman in the back—in the middle right there. We’ll take those three. Thank you.
Q: I’d like to respond to—
PATRICK: Could you—could you state your name here?
Q: Oh, sorry. Matt Smith Lawrstein (ph), Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Stewart Patrick, called us to look for earlier references or—I think Rousseau, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I think had a lot to say about anger, the anger that follows from being left out, being all the things that Jack and Kathleen McNamara and Shadi Hamid talked about. And—but my original thought was to address myself to—particularly to Jack Goldstone and also, to a certain extent, Kathleen McNamara on the role of demography.
Revolutions, it struck me, follow certain demographic trends that go in a certain direction that lead to outcomes favoring larger numbers of people in the long run—talk about long-run processes. In the United States, it seems that we’ve had a—the Trump election that was result of a fading demographic—that is, the white working class being outnumbered and outclassed in a variety of ways. And in Brexit as well, you had both demographic and regional sources. But the demography of the older population tended to vote for “leave”—that is, carrying Brexit to its conclusion. So I wonder if you could comment on this. Thank you.
PATRICK: Let’s get that third question in. In the table behind you with a—perfect, thanks.
Q: Regina Axelrod, Adelphi University.
I’d like to first compliment the speakers on a very provocative discussion so far, and I wish we could continue way into the afternoon. (Laughter.) I think this may be one of the most important moments of our whole convention here.
Another book I thought might be relevant—and I’m eager to buy all your books—is, going back, the paranoid mind of American history or something like that by Richard Hofstadter, an old book that may—
PATRICK: “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” is that right? Yeah.
Q: Yes. But “paranoid” is in there, which may or may not be relevant today. I’m interested—OK, so we have these various revolutions, populism, examples of people being dissatisfied globally. So I would think that some of the explanations might be different, depending on where it happens. And is it that—so I’m looking for responses to it or solutions to it. (Has ?) society been unsuccessful in addressing inequalities, maybe some would say because some sectors don’t want to, they would lose out if that happened. Or we’re not good at social engineering or the techniques of solving some of these problems. You can’t experiment on groups of people in different parts of the world to see if this solution works or another. So maybe there is some problems that are wicked problems that don’t have easy solutions, technical solutions. And then we have to learn how to deal with those problems. Or do we have to resort to the white knight that will fix all these problems, or at least say that they will fix all these problems? So I’m just interested in your thoughts on this. Thank you.
MR. : OK. If you’ll start.
MCNAMARA: Should I—maybe I’ll do the political science one because I think I’m the official, you know, political science representative here.
So Paul knows very well that I wrote a piece a long, long time ago called something like the dangers of monocultures in international political economy—a very long time ago I wrote this piece. And I basically called attention to the fact that folks in my field, international political economy, comparative political economy, were using what’s called open economy politics to explain the kind of evolution of politics around globalization, around economic change, and that these theories really were—sort of had this bedrock assumption that openness to the international system would create a bunch of winners, and those winners would sort of capture the political process—they didn’t use the word “capture,” but capture the political process and encourage more globalization, more openness, and it would be this sort of—you know, sort of inevitable thing that would happen. And I—and they were also very, very much stripped of any kind of social or historical context and very much relying upon a sort of classical economic man sort of way of thinking about things.
And I think that really did kind of blind a lot of my field to what was going on. There is no doubt in my mind, right? We didn’t see the global financial crisis coming, right? Those are things that happened in Latin America, never in the United States, right? And we certainly didn’t see the rise of the sort of backlash against the centrist parties that, you know, Hillary Clinton very much embodied and Jeb-exclamation-point very much embodied, right?
And so I think that we really need to open up as a discipline and move beyond, you know, this sort of stripped-down micro-ways of looking at things and basically have to deal with the messiness of political reality. And again, in my work, I look at a lot of things like the creation of meaning and how culture matters. And yeah, those things are slippery and hard to study, but I think we absolutely have to engage with those issues for us to really be able to wrap our arms around what’s happening.
HAMID: So on the—on the first question about 2016 as contingent or unusual or whatever, I mean, I think there’s just a couple things, I mean—and we almost never talk about this, but I think—as much as I’m scared of Donald Trump personally, I think there is something very reassuring, maybe even inspiring about the fact that if enough Americans want to vote for a radical candidate, our democracy is still democratic enough, at least in one sense of the word, to accommodate that popular desire—because there was always this idea that radicals could never win in American elections because of the way our political structures are formed. And now you can imagine people not just like Trump but also like Bernie going forward, those kinds of people actually being able to win. And that is an important aspect of democracy that I think very few of us in this room are comfortable talking about.
The other thing about 2016 is I think it forces us to—I mean, I don’t think at all like philosophical on the nature of evil, but the fact that—I think a lot of my—you hear a lot of liberals writing things like all Trump voters are racist or they’re—like, these are bad people in some kind of absolutely sense. And I think that that’s a very—there’s a lot of philosophical assumptions that built into that, this kind of the arc of history bends towards justice, and anyone who isn’t on that arc is somehow outside of history, and we tend to see evil as something that is beyond us and not part of us and intertwined in who we are. So I don’t see any problem seeing Trump voters as people who could be otherwise good but believe in some evil things.
And as someone who has relatives in Egypt who I think—because I—I mean, I love some of them—(laughter)—who—you know, these are people who I—who are very dear to me and I know quite well, who are otherwise good people but who—and I’m not—this is not hyperbole—but who supported mass killings against their fellow countrymen in the worst massacre in modern Egyptian history and openly called for it and seemed to have a kind of—a vicarious enjoyment of being part of this collective act of violence. So are my relatives evil? I don’t know if I can really say that. So I think we have to sort of complicate some of those—some of those notions.
And just one thing on the paranoid conspiracy theory-type stuff. I think that—I think that we—as academics, we want to respond with facts—that’s part of our jobs—and to be rigorous in that. I’m starting to doubt how effective that’s going to be in the new era if we want to reach out to a larger audience. And one thing I got used to in the Middle East to some extent is that words weren’t meant to convey truth. They were more like impressionistic paintings. They were to evoke a sensibility. They were to perform in some way. It wasn’t meant to establish a kind of objective fact-based analysis of something. That’s why I gave up arguing with my relatives about things like mass killings because words weren’t enough to—we couldn’t—there was nothing we could do to kind of traverse that gap. And I think that there are more and more Americans who—I don’t know, and I’m just kind of—I’m just leaving that open as a kind of—a question to pose to all of you about how we think about the kind of work that we do.
GOLDSTONE: Let me bring together all three of these questions—contingency, demography, and that do we have to deal with wicked problems—because they’re all related in this way.
I think it’s a mistake to look at the narrow margin of victory and say, well, it was a close thing because it shouldn’t have been a close thing. That a candidate as deeply flawed as Donald Trump did well, won the national nomination is itself surprising. But you look in the Republican contest, who were the leaders? Ben Carson for a while, right? Ted Cruz. If it—if it wasn’t Trump, someone else was going to tap that. And among the Democrats, Bernie Sanders, a socialist independent from Vermont, gave a strong run to Hillary Clinton, if not for the superdelegates, might have done well, and if nominated, might have won. It’s radicalism all around. It’s rejection of the center.
And this gets to the demography. If you look at the breakdown in Brexit, you look at the breakdown in the U.S., don’t look at the vote totals. Look at the county. The places where the Democrats won were overwhelmingly the places where knowledge workers and the digital economy was producing strong economies. You know, you go to restaurants in New York or Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seattle—they’re all doing well, the real estate markets are booming; it’s a prosperous world.
But the overwhelming number of rural and small-town counties were won by Trump. And that gave them a pretty strong advantage in Congress, which is not, you know, responsive to population quite the same way. And same thing in England: London was the place where “remain” was victorious, and much of the rest of the country, it was not.
And I say demography is important: In the United States, as recently as 1970, only 15 percent of the population was not native-born. Now that’s doubled because of liberal immigration, mostly legal. But now the percentage of foreign-born is about 60 ½ percent. People haven’t essentially been prepared for that. They were told, it’s good for you, it’s good for the economy. But I don’t think that people really felt that their communities were being integrated and protected.
And we’ve had this anxiety in the U.S. for a long time. First there was concern that Catholics would never fit in, and political scientists looked at Latin America and say, you know, Catholics are prone to authoritarian government or saying, you know, what’s foreign is difficult. And Hispanics, Hispanics are all Christian, but they speak a different language, they come from a different culture. You know, now a lot of states are moving towards majority nonwhite. And so people are concerned what’s happening.
In Europe, most of the immigrants in European countries are from other EU countries. But they are also—speak different languages, come from different cultures. It’s up to about 20 percent. And if you ask people in Europe what’s the percentage of Muslims in your country, they have it all wrong. They say, well, is it 20, 25 percent? Nowhere is it above 6 to 8 percent. But people have this perception that the world is racing out of their control.
And these are wicked problems. How do we integrate an increasingly diverse population? How do we make sure that the central public services are provided fairly without being abused? How do we make sure that people learn to respect differences? I mean, it starts—you know, it’s a long process. Our civil rights process has been a century-long process.
But this leads to this paranoid concern—the world’s changing, my government is not protecting my way of life, my physical security, my economic future.
And so you have two options. You can have people who come in like Bill Clinton, say, I feel your pain. I’m going to do something about it. And he was persuasive. Barack Obama comes in: I am something totally different. My story offers hope of an unexpected outcome. And lot of people voted for Obama and then voted for Trump because Trump said, I’m something different. I’m a businessman. I understand that America’s gotten a bad deal. I’m going to fix that.
And every—Turkey, Europe, U.S., Thailand, China, the Philippines—people are turning to a strong person who promises to cut through the wicked problems and deliver a simple, satisfying solution. They probably won’t succeed in the long run. They may do some things in the short run.
But we need to recognize political discourse is no longer about, do we have the ideology or the technique to win 2 or 3 percent? It’s, how do we deal with this really desire for an escape from a frightening, complicated world? And how do we compete with what—these easy solutions? I’ve said in the book, what we need is ennobling leadership, people who can say, look, if we want our kids to be better off, we’re all going to have to work together and make sacrifices. It’s not easy, but that’s what we’ve done; that’s worked. If you don’t do that, if you just say, well, we have boring technical solutions, you get people who say, I can offer a glowing future. They don’t need to say the details. That’s the thing we learn about revolutions. You don’t get ahead with a detailed plan. You get ahead by painting the defenders of the status quo as evil, corrupt, demonic, dangerous, lock them up, put me in charge and I will save the people. And that’s the world we’ve got.
PATRICK: That’s a pretty impressive synthesis of those three questions. (Laughter.) I’m just going to—just going to go ahead and say that.
The man in black here, the Johnny Cash outfit here. And then this gentleman over here.
Q: My name is David Skidmore, Drake University.
And one of the narratives that we use in talking about the rise of radical populism is its connection with globalization. In the campaign, there was a lot of talk about trade and protectionism. But going back to previous authors, I go back to Keynes. You know, Keynes said that, you know, he supported the free movement of goods across borders, but he felt that financial globalization, the movement of capital across borders, was both destabilizing to the global economy but also incompatible with social democracy and, you know, giving rise to growing inequality, hollowing out of welfare states. And so I’m wondering—and of course, all this political change is taking place in the wake of major financial crises in both the United States and Europe. So I just want to ask the panelists to talk a little bit about, you know, globalization as a factor and finance versus trade.
PATRICK: Thank you. And the last gentleman that’s over there in a—yeah, go ahead.
Yeah, and then—and then we’ll go back to the panel. And I think that’ll probably wrap it up because we’re supposed to wrap up at 1:30. Please.
Q: Well, thank you for this discussion. Fred Pearson, Wayne State University, Detroit, which is a city in the—in the mix, sort of speak, of what’s—what we’ve been talking about.
I have problem with the use of the term “populism” because I think it’s thrown around way too generally without specifics. And if we look at history, to me, William Jennings Bryan was a populist. Bob La Follette was a populist. Franklin Roosevelt was a populist. You can be coming from different backgrounds and still have a genuine interest in reaching the people at the lower levels. I don’t know that I can take leaders seriously who propose massive tax cuts for people at the highest level and then pose that as a populist move. I guess you can do that with smoke and mirrors, but I think we see a lot of smoke and mirrors around the world, and we’re maybe mistaking some of it for true revolutionary aspects.
But to me, populism is not prejudice, and it’s not demagoguery. It can be, and it has been in our—in our current usage very often. Look at the leader of the Philippines bragging about killing people with his hands. And is that really populism, or is it some sort of—you did get to the I can cure it for you, I can—I’m the one who can do it for you, they can’t. That—to me, that’s not populism, that’s demagoguery.
And somehow we seem to be subject to it and ignore the realities that, for instance, the EU is suffering weakness because of its technical difficulties to a certain degree. It has a monetary policy which is common. It does not have a common fiscal policy. It never had a common fiscal policy. So therefore, it’s going to be hamstrung in the very ability to reconcile different budgetary and spending policies around the community. But we should not downplay its achievements. Who would have thought that the most progressive and forthcoming country in Europe would turn out to be Germany?
PATRICK: Thank you. Who would like to begin?
MCNAMARA: OK. I’ll try to be really quick.
Very good points about populism. You’re exactly right. We didn’t sort of throw out our definitions. I tend to use the definition Cas—how do you pronounce his last name? Mood (ph)? Mudde? M-U-D-D-E? Anyone?
MR. : Yeah, Mudde.
MCNAMARA: Mudde. If you’re Dutch, you can say it very nicely, I guess. He talks about a thin ideology, right, that populism, as you’ve said, can be kind of used in lots of different settings with lots of different animating ideologies and, therefore, is this sort of, you know, flexible thing that really is about this sort of us-versus-them, the anti-establishment aspect. And I think that that is, you know, clearly what we’re seeing in terms of Trump’s victory is this sort of attack on the establishment, on the elite, et cetera, and this creation of these two camps. So I’m very comfortable using it. But you’re exactly right. We could say FDR was a populist, absolutely, right? So that’s how I think about it. But you’re exactly right to call us on that.
I’ll just quickly talk about the globalization question. You know, there’s wonderful data on how the U.S. is an incredibly closed economy. We’re not very globalized at all, right? Globalization actually doesn’t impact—in terms of market integration doesn’t impact people. But it strikes me as an IP scholar that thinking about the various ways in which the global trade regime and money regime has gone forward since, say, the 1990s, it very much has moved away from the classic John Ruggie embedded liberalism that is informed by Keynes, you’re exactly right. And, you know, we shouldn’t be surprised, frankly, that TPP and so on were unattractive to the average person because they seemed to be written by, you know, corporate elites, corporate power. And, you know, I think that that’s, you know, entirely understandable. And, you know, I think Dani Rodrik is really terrific on this, thinking about how to get the benefits of the open markets while still allowing for democracy to be stable and so on. So I think you’re exactly right to raise those questions.
HAMID: So on the globalization question, let me just say—I’ll say something about the cultural globalization, that—which really gets less attention. But I think that what’s really been striking to me, especially in light of election results, is—so when I go—I live in D.C. So when I go to, you know, a party or a reception or a get-together or whatever, it doesn’t even occur to me who’s American and who isn’t. What we all share, the people who get together, is a kind of cultural sensibility which transcends borders, a certain kind of—a level of education and being liberal, for the most part, in one way or the other. And I think what dawned on a lot of us that night, November 8th, was we—I mean, we knew this for a long time, but we really knew it then that we didn’t know our country and that it—we would get—we would get along better with European elites than we would with our fellow American citizens in, I don’t know, pick your state—I don’t—because I don’t want to just pick a—I don’t want to, like, pick on a particular state, but, like—
MCNAMARA: The flyover states.
HAMID: Yeah. So I think that that—I don’t know—I don’t know what the resolution is to that. And I hear my friends, you know, complaining about—like, if a friend from back home visits them now, they don’t know how to speak to the people that they left behind, in a way. When they go back home, even if they grew up in this so-called white working class areas, I mean—so I—that, to me, is just an open question of how do we get away from this idea that a lot of other Americans view people like me as, like, rootless cosmopolitans who are not American in the sense that they think of the word “American.”
And just to comment on the—actually, I’ll just end there. Yeah, that’s fine.
GOLDSTONE: OK. Quickly, on populism: You’re right, populism is a bit vague. But what Jan Müller has pointed out is the key thing about populists is they identify themselves with the people to such a degree that anyone who disagrees with them is seen as an enemy or a traitor, right? When you label an assistant attorney general as someone who betrayed the Justice Department for having a different opinion, or you say, I couldn’t really have lost the popular vote, people are on my side, or if you’re with Erdogan in Turkey, anyone who was ever affiliated with any Gulen institution, that’s a traitor because they’re not authentically part of the people who support us.
So that’s what we’re seeing. And, you know, it’s not always radical. It’s not always left or right. It’s a(n) assertion of individuals being able to express some authentic link with the people’s interest to the extent that everyone else is considered dangerous, an enemy, traitor, the press is the enemy of the people—that’s kind of what we mean classically as a good example of populism.
Now, where globalization functions into this, oddly enough, there’s almost a globalization of the process of using the tools of populism in social media to build an alternative to the kind of liberal technocratic state. We just have—we, as liberal, rational academics and so on, we built this meritocracy, created hurdles for people to go up. We promised solutions for peoples—we didn’t deliver very well and have to kind of expect this.
And let me just say, I was in Egypt after the early months. I was there in June 2011. And the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to get support. The army was trying to figure out what to do. And you were hoping for some kind of coalition to emerge that would bring factions together and say we’re going to make a new Egypt. But the most isolated, arrogant, aggressive, lecturing, self-serving group were the Western intellectuals. They tried to take over radio and TV and give the message that even though we’ve been kind of out of touch and we haven’t actually done anything for you for a long time, we represent some kind of global elite that knows the solutions. And people just laughed at them and jeered at them. And where were you—I mean, the Muslim Brotherhood were at least doing social work, the army was at least fighting for us, but, you know, you guys, you’re part of the problem. And that kind of—you know, the World Bank experts, the Wall Street experts, that’s now seen—you know, Council on Foreign Relations, that—(laughter)—you know, you have to get it that if you don’t offer better solutions, you’re part of the problem.
PATRICK: Well, the Council on Foreign Relations, the only thing that we offer is good conservation and, at least in this case, a free lunch. (Laughter.) So, on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations, educational outreach effort and particularly outreach to the entire country effort, I want to thank you all for participating in this. And please give a round of applause for our speakers. (Applause.)