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.

One comment

  • This opinion is so filled with contradictions it’s outright Orwellian.

    People who question authority – which is rampant with civilization-destroying corruption – are ‘authoritarians’. Designing a successful campaign around the will of the people is ‘fascism’.

    Today The Donald tweeted:

    ‘The Republican Party will become “The Party of Healthcare!”’

    Notice this tweet makes you think: no, the Democrats are the party of healthcare. Then you think: no, the Democrats are the party of healthcare promises that evaporate every time they get power – over the past 50 years! (Like Lucy with the football!)

    JFK brought America its rotten healthcare system. The Clintons promised Single Payer – but delivered nothing. Obama promised Medicare-Option (literal Medicare-For-All.) But delivered a neocon healthcare reform that was largely disastrous leaving 30 million uninsured and doing absolutely nothing to rein in soaring premiums from HCII gouging.

    (The US spends 18% GDP on healthcare compared to other Western nations that average around 12% for universal coverage. That’s over a trillion-dollars a year being looted from the economy!)

    It would appear when weasels run out of lies, their only recourse is to make everything a lie: a crazy cult of contradictions.

    Of course, a world of lies cannot stand. A civilization perched upon feet of iron and clay is one that does not stand for long.


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