Friday, September 13, 2019

Why have we seen the rise of right wing populism?

Why have we had a wave of right wing populism sweeping across the world in recent years? Brexit and Trump are both the result of right wing populism, but it's not just the US and Britain where this is happening. Currently there are right wing populist governments in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, United States, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Italy, Greece, and China. Australia also recently joined the list with the surprise victory of a conservative prime minister in its election. Even traditionally leftist countries like Sweden have seen the rise of right wing populist political parties and ideologies.

What do I mean by right wing populism?

Right wing is the conservative section of a political system. Conservative means to hold traditional attitudes and values, to be cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion, to oppose political or social liberalization and reform.

Typically the underlying goal of conservatism is to protect the social unit, whether it be the family, village, race, culture, or nation. Therefore its themes tend to follow along those lines, e.g. family or cultural values, "ethnocentrism" (racism), culturism, and nationalism.

Populism is a political approach that appeals to ordinary people, who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite leadership. This definition of populism gives us a big clue about the rise of right wing populism.

So what do all those newly right wing populist countries have in common? Not much. The diversity of nations, cultures, races, histories, attitudes, and political systems tells us the causes of right wing populism are rooted in some fundamental aspect of human nature. I'm still trying to understand it, but the common thread seems to be breakdown of law and order, and oppression, or at least perceived oppression by existing governments. E.g. Brazil: crime and government corruption. Sweden: mass immigration leading to cultural dilution, crime, and welfare dependency. Greece and Italy: austerity measures forced upon them by the EU after the financial crisis. China: economic stagnation, crime, and mass migration. US/Trump: wealth inequality, mass migration, loss of employment from globalization of industries. Brtiain/Brexit: loss of power and authority to the EU. Germany: having to foot the bill for irresponsible financial practices by other EU members. The list goes on.

Thus, the rise of right wing populism appears to be a response to the liberalization and globalization of international affairs, cultural identity, and the financial system.
Changes in material conditions also contribute, such as urbanization, the collapse of family and village hierarchies, and historical levels of wealth inequality.
More importantly however, there is a common thread concerning "untrustable authorities" who claim to be taking care of the best interests of the population, but are really just self-serving elites who favor even greater wealth inequality, especially for themselves, and have little regard for protecting the social unit. While they speak about ideals and virtues, life for the average person has not improved much in decades.

Anxiety about order. Anger at corruption and elite self-dealing. That's what's pushing the world towards right wing populism. Whether it's fighting crime, preserving a familiar culture, protecting a nation's power and authority, or stemming the tide of people of a different culture, race, or nationality, the goal is to protect the social unit.

This blog post is actually copied from a Facebook post I made a while ago. Here are some of the replies, with names removed.

  • Nationalism and populism - bought into by people who are scared and want things to be like they were in some bygone time that they think was better than now. Normally comes with rose tinted glasses and a chunk of forgetfulness.
  • They're probably not all that scared anymore. They may think they're right and winning. All of this reflects a social change that's happening all over the world and will probably just change back when people figure out that it's not making anything better.
  • The world is shifting right because we haven't had a good world war in awhile. That could be fixed soon.
  • Because people are stupid and a big chunk of society is hard wired to be motivated by fear.
  • [My reply] Populism has given us Trump and Brexit. Populism of the left wing kind made Venezuela what it is today, a big crumbling mess. Yay populism! Yay for kicking the elitists out of the government and replacing them with people who do whatever the people want, even if it's aweful. Consider the similarities with the recent ending of game of thrones, Samwell Tarly suggests "Maybe the decision about what’s best for everyone should be left to, well, everyone?” The council laughs and someone asks "Do dogs get a vote?" and another says "I'll ask my horse". Were Benioff and Weiss trying to tell us something about populism? Perhaps the running of countries really is best left to dynastic families and elites who are familiar with the task? 
  • It's always the power and money.
  • Low wage growth. Maybe resource insecurity. Like rats in a cage

There are many articles on the topic.  I'll add links to them here as I find ones I like.

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