Populism in the Time of Neoliberalism
The way of the world in recent and present time is the preach and the practice of neoliberalism, of pushing markets to their extremes. The Turkish writer and political analyst Ece Temelkuran in her new book How to Lose a Country: the Seven Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship, draws on her Turkish experience and applies its lesson elsewhere, notably to Trump’s America.
What is the relationship between neoliberalism and populism? Temelkuran sees a link and makes a most insightful point: neoliberalism itself lacks a moral centre is without meaning. A vacuum is created which calls forth right-wing populism which provides the necessary narrative of authoritarianism.
Temelkuran believes that people crave a narrative which gives point and purpose to their lives. In the time of liberalism the story was of economic forces yielding a better life. With neoliberalism, many got no such benefit. The authoritarian leader like Trump provides a politics of redemption even though it is likely that this will lead to policies that actually worsen the lot of its hardcore of supporters. The latter exposes a contradiction that may lead to yet more authoritarianism, more repression of dissidents.
This is what has happened in Turkey. Too soon to know the fate of Trumpism, but Temelkuran has given us a way to understand what is going on and to guess as to its consequences.