Review Renowned intellectuals interpret the signs of the times: What has populism to do with growing inequality? How does the Left respond to the tired of democracy?
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The feuilletonchef of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung , René Scheu, is the book Die grosse Regression. An international debate on the spiritual situation of the time is worth only a snap ( NZZ , May 4, 2017). In all seriousness, he presents this volume with the contributions of internationally leading intellectuals as a “beneficial antidote” by a work of our great Swiss thinker, Kaspar Villiger, who, with all his mental faculties at his disposal, opposes the “progressive Zeitgeist”. Shortly before, there was still a very well-read discussion of the sociologist Walter Hollstein in “Bücher am Sonntag,” the monthly supplement to the NZZ on Sunday , which describes the volume as a “clever guide”
Incidentally, the NZZ review says a lot about the mental situation of the editorial staff of this newspaper. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the NZZ is to be re-oriented to tight publicity. The still existing niches of free thought are coming under increasing pressure.
Guides and fans
The book The Great Regression responds to the current turn to a backward – looking modernity, characterized by a rebirth of nationalist political patterns and the destruction of civilized forms of dealing with each other. The recently deceased sociologist Zygmunt Bauman characterizes this development as follows: The hope of “placing the course of history under the tutelage of man” disappears, and civilization now transcends nature with regard to its unmanageability. In other words, the history of humanity threatens to sink back into the natural history. The German sociologist Oliver Nachtwey, who teaches in Basel, speaks of a de-civilization as the reverse of individualization, Which had been understood as liberation from old dependencies. Under this banner, however, there was also a reduction in necessary social security systems. The social constraints were not diminished, but the individuals are now more and more self-imposed.
The collective rise of the working class and other pay-dependent classes, which had begun in the industrialized world after the Second World War, seems to have come to an end, and social inequality is growing again. Because democracy can no longer hold what it once promised, there is a weariness on it. This is the breeding ground for populist leaders: they hate democracy “because they stand in the way of their own monomaniacal lust for power.” Their followers are suffering from “democracy tiredness”, according to the Indian cultural scientist Arjun Appadurai. This is how guides and fans meet.
The impossible modernization
Still deeper and deeper in the analysis is the French political scientist Bruno Latour. He is the only one among the fifteen authors of the book, which places the ecological question at the center of his reflections. Latours Conclusion: The promised modernization is not possible “because the planet is not enough for their dreams of boundless growth”. So people like Trump are “fleeing forward”. Gains are to be maximized while leaving the rest of the world to their fate. This movement is connected with an “escape back” to nationalist thinking: one wants the people to believe that it is again something. There is a massive contradiction between both movements. If this was recognized, then a “grounding” policy would have to be initiated immediately,
Is the left of this task actually growing? Doubtless, the few authors who are represented in the band are particularly sighted. The Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz criticizes the left and liberal elites of her country, mainly descended from Ashkenazes (Jews of Central and Eastern European origin), while the majority of the working class belongs to the Mizrachim who came from North Africa and the Middle East. The Left had never represented this people’s group and remained blind to their destiny, Illouz notes. The fundamentalists had jumped into this gap. The author concludes that in Israel “a massive class struggle”, which is at the same time linked to an ethnic conflict. The Left, however, has not yet succeeded in dealing with the world of those who,
A left story
There are similar reports from the United States. The text of the American philosopher Nancy Fraser is a settlement with the establishment of the Democratic Party, in particular with their presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. For the legitimate concerns of the people who supported Trump, she had not raised an understanding – and thus strengthened the impression that the Progressives were allies of the global financial system. This “progressive neoliberalism” is considered by Fraser’s sharp criticism. Bernie Sanders could have been an alternative because he raised the socio-economic problems that many US citizens suffer. The persistent forces in the Democratic Party, however, proved to be more powerful.
Fraser notes that there is still a lack of a sustained left-wing presence in the US – and a left-wing narrative that is able to address the legitimate complaints of the Trump electorate with a fundamentals of financial capitalism and a comprehensive understanding of emancipation connect. The development of such a narrative as an individual as well as a collective liberation story is not only in the United States.