The Predictable Trump – Part V: Neoliberalism Needs the State

The remarks on Part IV situated the wider context of a crisis that inspires and makes possible, at the epistemological level, the rise of populist phenomena such as Trump, Duterte, or Erdogan: the seemingly inevitable waning and dying belief in liberal values of Western modernity, all around the world. A number of historical factors inform this crisis, including the erosion of the face value of core liberal values such as ‘human rights.’ In fact, profit and strategy-oriented wars endlessly waged in the name of these values – e.g. ‘spreading democracy’ – have rendered these terms empty and even dangerous. And the proven incapacity of modern liberal institutions, such as the UN, in safeguarding the lives and sovereignty of non-Western peoples and nations only exacerbates this epistemological crisis. [18] But this crisis is also inspired by the staunch success of the Chinese model of state capitalism. [19] Not only this model provides for a safer passage to global markets – a passage more protective of domestic industries and more preventive of an unbridled inflow of foreign investments – but it accomplishes this passage without a crucial need for the UN’s counterparts in the World Bank and the IMF. Moreover it promises ‘development’ without a priori need for so-called ‘cultural modernizations’ that may threaten existing or traditional value-systems of the ruling and conservative classes of developing countries, be it patriarchy, caste systems, or religious and ethnic divides. Finally and most importantly, the Chinese model ensures that the transition to market capitalism is overseen and directed by the interests of the country’s political elite, and not the whimsies of international capital.

It was in this climate of disillusionment with the Western model and its so-called values that The Troika’s atrocious treatment of Greece and its citizens provided the ultimate lesson on the perils of the old school of neoliberalism. All around the world, developing countries are beginning to realize an immediate need to address and tackle unbridled market expansionism – without, however, risking the foundations of the neoliberal state and order. Turkey’s imminent departure from the European Union model, toward the emergent nativist and protectionist ‘new-Ottomanist’ agenda, may be deemed the culmination of the death of neoliberalism’s present era.

The main battle cry of Donald Trump, “Make America Great Again,” resounds in timbres of a similar realization. It speaks to a nostalgia for the lost cultural, economic, and religious hegemony of yesteryears’ America – not only an America before the Suffrage and Civil Rights movements, but an America prior to Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the havoc it wreaked in the homes of the American working and middle classes. Indeed, the so-called ‘Trumpettes’ label all critics as being, first and foremost, puppets of “the global elite” and their “liberal values.” And because of this ideological deficit, should Trump’s wealth creation policies succeed, any unified internal or international opposition to the Trump administration’s other dangerous plans and actions – whether through the UN or the European Union – will likely work to further consolidate his support base.[20]

It is finally evident that the Trump model is in fact a copy of the Chinese model and premised on the success of the Chinese model, and hence its need for the ‘white-Christian nationalist’ facade to disguise its state capitalist structure, just as the rhetoric of ‘the People’s Republic’ somewhat disguises the Communist Party’s protectionist but nevertheless globalist, neoliberal agenda. With the institution of Trump’s project, the old era of neoliberalism, marked ‘the end of history and ideology,’ transitions to the new post-Brexit era of neoliberalism, one that relies and thrives on the state’s ideological mandate.

In light of recent experiences with the militarized police forces’ heavy-handed handling of all manner of civil protests, Trump’s inevitable stronghold over the Supreme Court’s decisions, and the strength of his vocal and rather solid support base – currently polling at well above 40% (approval rate) despite all the uproar against him – to dismiss the above scenarios as unlikely and in the name of so-called ‘checks and balances’ and ‘histories of democratic practices in the U.S.’ would be to gravely underestimate Donald Trump once again. Indeed, if the economic and political policies described in the above materialize in the clockwork manner just laid out, a number of key political moves may put Trump on a path of least resistance to further consolidation of power, such as: transforming the current polemic around “voter fraud” into a judicial platform for altering elections laws; defunding civil institutions and liberal arts and humanities (already underway) as a way of undercutting the most resilient opposition from within the camp of the middle class; and finally establishing the so-called “post-truth” rhetoric as the dominant counter-narrative to the challenges offered by the independent press.

And if there are important lessons to be learned from history, such the British citizenry’s nativist reaction to the Falkland War, the centrist folds of the intellectual and business communities that currently oppose Trump may very well shift their political and moral allegiances in the event of an unforeseen war or traumatic terrorist attack – and so instigate an electoral landslide in favour of Trump. It is also important to recall that similar strategies to Trump’s have been already tested and successfully carried out in once-thriving constitutional democracies such as Turkey’s. The U.S. civil society is on the brink of a dire, historical test of its true political mettle and resilience.

 

[18] The apocalyptic stalemate in Syria serves as the epitome of this failure – a sad irony not lost to and exploited by authoritarian states that accuse the UN of a overlooking human rights abuses perpetrated by the U.S. and its allies in Syria

[19] The Russian and Iranian appropriations of this model testify to the model’s multimodal capabilities.

[20] Just as the recent sanctions against Russia or Iran were successfully transformed into projects of nation building by the administrations in Moscow and Tehran (who riled their citizens against foreign interventionism).

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