Starr Forum: The Global Rise of Populism


RICHARD SAMUELS: All
right, why don’t we begin? I’m Richard Samuels. I direct the Center for
International Studies here at MIT, and I’m delighted
to see how many of you are here this evening. I suppose it’s because one
can’t engage with the news of the past several years
without tripping over the observation that populism
has again reared its ugly head, whether in the United States,
where Donald Trump has crafted a hard-to-dent bond with
that base that he has, or in Europe where the right
has seized upon some of the same nativist, anti-immigrant,
anti-elite tropes– not least of all, sadly,
in liberal and progressive Germany, where the AFD, the
Alternative for Deutschland, now evokes memories– nightmares, really–
of a history that ought to be remembered,
that deserves to be remembered but that ought not
be resuscitated. And just this week, The
Economist, some of you may have seen the current
issue of The Economist, which referred to the transformation
of Britain’s ruling Tories from conservatives to what
they call radical populists. Populist politicians, whether
they’re wannabe or actual demagogues, are likely to
insist that their people and their nation are
safest and most productive when they’re homogeneous– and forgive me for saying
this to this audience– but they also will
insist that elites with their multicultural
cosmopolitanism are basically evil. We know that promises and
demagogues are made and often abetted by rank amorality. And we observe how power is
seized from institutions. Populists can successfully
redefine as is illegitimate. They run for the people. They run against
the establishment, and as we’ll hear
this evening, they run for themselves above all. We’ll also hear that not
all populists are the same. But I’m reminded of one
often invoked archetype of Benito Mussolini who
was a socialist until 1919 before proclaiming himself
an anarchist for six years until 1925 when he
became a free trade liberal for a short time– contradictions that
were lost on adoring crowds that he posed
for and that he lied to. But this evening, we’re going
to hear about the difference– fundamental differences–
between Mussolini’s politics and an evolved contemporary
populism from two distinguished scholars
who can help us sort out a very complex
phenomenon, including how populism in
the United States might compare with
its European variant. Our first speaker,
Jan-Werner Müller, studied at the Free University
in Berlin at University College London at Oxford and at
Princeton where he received his PhD– shouldn’t say received–
earned his PhD in 2005 and where he teaches in the
politics department today. He’s been affiliated with
The institute for Advanced Study there as well as
the collegian Budapest Institute of Advanced Study and
with major research institutes in the United States,
including at NYU and here in
Cambridge at Harvard. He’s the author of highly
regarded intellectual histories published by Yale
University Press as well as his latest book,
which I’m calling for you, What Is Populism,
which will help frame his remarks this evening. I’ve been asked to remind you
that there are books for sale in that side in the back of the
room, in the back of the hall, and that he’ll be available
for signing down here. So you’ll have to
make a trek, but I think it’ll be well worth
your time and effort. He’ll be signing at
the end of this event. Jan-Werner will
address the diversity that’s hidden, as I’ve
already suggested, that’s hidden within the
simple label populism and will offer his
views on what he calls the populist art of politics. Suzanne Berger is the inaugural
John M. Deutch Institute professor at MIT,
which makes her one of the most
distinguished faculty members in this institution. Her current research focuses
on politics and globalization. She recently co-chaired
the MIT production in the innovation
economy project and in 2013, published Making
in America from Innovation to Market. She created the MIT
International Science and Technology initiative
here at the Center for International Studies
and was a leading contributor to the widely praised Made
in America Project at MIT. Susanne has served
as head of the MIT department of political
science, was the founding chair of the Social Science
Research Council’s committee on West Europe, and was vice
president of the American Political Science Association. She’s been elected to the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and
the French government has awarded her many honors,
including the Legion of Honor. She’s going to focus her remarks
on how to fight populism. We’re going to start
with Jan-Werner. I asked him to speak
to you, then Suzanne, and then the two of them will
have an opportunity on stage here together to
interrogate one another, and then we’ll broaden the
conversation to the audience. So without further ado,
I bring you Jan-Werner. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] JAN-WERNER MULLER: Thank you
for the very kind introduction. Thank you for having
me here today. As you all know and as
was also just mentioned in the introduction,
our era is characterized by an absolutely inflationary
use of the word populism. All kinds of political actors,
primarily perhaps on the right, but also on the
left, are nowadays labeled as populists,
even though someone like Emmanuel
Macron, who Emmanuel Macron, at a certain
point during the 2017 presidential election, was
also called a populist. People at the time
in France accused him of being a populist of the
extreme center, whatever the hell that was exactly
supposed to have meant. Moreover, as you also all
know, commentary on our era is dominated by one particular
image, or if you like, metaphor. I’m talking about the image of
the allegedly unstoppable wave, or as Nigel Farage,
who apparently thought that the image of the wave
was too puny to do justice to his world historical role
put it, the tsunami of populism, which to stick with
a metaphor, is now bound to wash away the
elites and the establishments everywhere. I actually believe that this is
a profoundly misleading image, and I’ll try to explain
towards the end of my remarks why I think that. But before, allow
me to offer you one brief set of remarks
as to the question, what are we actually talking about? What is populism? Can we make meaningful
distinctions such that we don’t end up with this
ever-expanding set of allegedly populist actors? And secondly, allow me to say
a few words about the question whether populists
can actually govern. This is against the background
of the fact that many observers– dare I
say, in particular– more liberal observers
often hold the view that well populists
are all demagogues, or they constantly lie. Or they make
promises, which can’t be kept so that essentially
once they get to government, they have to renege
on their promises. No walls actually get
built. No trade agreements are really going
to get renegotiated so that essentially they
disappoint their followers. Or if they don’t
go down that road, they tend to moderate
and hence perhaps cease to be dangerous populists. That’s a very widespread view,
and I’ll tell you in a moment whether I think that
view is correct or not. But before, a few words
on the question of what is populism, anyway. Of course, the conventional
wisdom of our era is that populists are those
who as the cliched phrase goes criticize the establishments,
establishment, or some are angry about elites. So far, so obvious, except
when you think about it, it’s actually a very
strange thought. Up until just a few years
ago, any civics textbook would have told you that
keeping an eye on the powerful is actually a sign of good
democratic citizenship. All of a sudden, at the
beginning of the 21st century, were constantly told that having
a problem with the powerful might somehow turn into
populism, which somehow might be dangerous for democracy. Clearly, things can’t be
quite as simple as that. It is true laziness. It is true that
populist when they are in opposition, criticized
sitting governments and usually also other parties
and in that sense are indeed anti-establishment
or anti-elitist. But above all, they do
also something else. In one way or another,
they suggest that they and only they represent
what populists often refer to as the silent
majority or also very typically as
the real people. Now at first sight,
you might say, well, that doesn’t sound
that dangerous. It’s not the same
as, let’s say, racism or in the context
of Europe, sort of fanatical hatred
of the European Union, and yet this claiming of
a monopoly of representing the people, I
believe always does have to for democracy
detrimental, if not outright dangerous, consequences. First and rather
obviously, populists are going to say that all
other contenders for power are fundamentally illegitimate. This is never just about
differences in matter of policy or even differences
on questions of value, which after all is completely
normal– ideally even productive in a democracy. No, in a sense, populists always
immediately make it moral, and they immediately
make it personal. One way or another,
they’re going to say that all other
contenders for power are simply corrupt or crooked. Secondly, and less
obviously I think, populists are also going to say
that all those citizens, all those among the
people themselves who do not share
their, if you like, symbolic understanding of
the allegedly real people that with all
those citizens, you can put into question whether
they truly belong to the people at all. Let me try to illustrate this
perhaps less self-evident point with two examples
from recent history. At the end of the night of
the Brexit vote, Nigel Farage, gave what became a famous speech
when he said that the vote had been– as he put it– a victory for real people,
implying, of course, that the 48% who wanted to stay
inside the European Union well, on some level,
aren’t quite real– do not truly properly
belong to the British or maybe in the case of
Farage, specifically, the English people. Or if you forgive
me, another example from that fateful year, 2016. In May of that year,
our president– but is now our president– gave a campaign
speech, which given all the other interesting things
he was saying at the time, got virtually no attention. But it contained what
I think turned out to be a deeply
revealing sentence. Trump, at that time said– I’m quoting Wallace
from memory– the most important thing is
the unification of the people, and all the other people
don’t mean anything. I hope you can see
where this is going. The populace decides who truly
belongs to the people and who doesn’t. And whether you happen
to legally belong whether you happen to
have an American passport, that’s not really the
question at issue here. So long story short, what I’m
trying to make plausible to you is that what is distinctive
and dangerous about populism is not anti-elitism. Any of us can
criticize the powerful. Doesn’t mean we are right,
but this is not in and of itself a danger for
democracy quite possibly on many occasions the contrary. What is distinctive and
dangerous about populism is for shorthand antipluralism,
the tendency always to exclude, obviously at the
level of politicians and party politics, less obviously
at the level of the people and citizens themselves. One footnote, if I may,
if what I’ve said so far seems remotely plausible
to you, the thought will probably occur
to you that populists who don’t win elections
have a massive problem. How can it be that they
say, on the one hand, we and only we represent the
people, and on the other hand, they don’t win
elections or let’s say, don’t get overwhelming
majorities? Well, I think there is
typically populist response to this conundrum. And by typical, I mean
it doesn’t always happen, but it happens quite a lot. What I’m talking about is this. According to their own
logic, if the silent majority is able to speak, they’re
always going to win. If they don’t win,
they very often suggest that perhaps it’s
time to take another look at the majority, and in
particular, one way or another they start to suggest
that perhaps we’re not talking about
a silent majority, but about a silenced majority. In other words,
the suggestion is if only the people had been
able to express themselves, they would have won. The fact that they
didn’t win doesn’t show that they are unpopular. It only goes to
show that somebody must have manipulated
things behind the scenes to prevent them from winning. Again, ladies and
gentlemen, I’m not saying that this always happens. But if you look closely,
it happens a damn lot that populists
who lost are going to start to question
the integrity of the electoral process. Most recent example that
probably most of you will remember is the mayoral
election in Istanbul in Turkey where after the initial
loss of the governing party, the allegation had been
that, well, this can’t be that really
lost this, so there must have been irregularities. Now footnote to the
footnote, of course, it’s also true that eventually
the ruling party conceded, and occasionally then
observers, liberal observers, rushed in to write
about 2000 op ed saying, oh, populism can be defeated. Great, this just shows that
democracy is alive in Turkey. Well, yes and no– it can be defeated at the polls. But if you look more closely,
what did the government in Ankara end up doing? Well, they transferred as many
powers of the mayor as possible to other people who basically
are beholden to them. Anyway, I thought
it might be worth slipping in that footnote,
because I could think of a country where a
populist losing is perhaps a not totally remote scenario. And then the question
comes up, how would a populist who
lost at the polls react to such a situation? Allow me to, in the
second step of my remarks this evening, say a few
words, as promised earlier, about the question
of what populists do when they come to power. As I hinted at earlier,
there’s a widespread view that, well, almost by definition
they can’t really govern. They’re all crazy demagogues. They all have unbelievably
silly policy ideas. So if they really
come to power, then start to implement these ideas,
nothing is going to work. So their followers are
going to get disappointed. But actually if they sort of
see the light of, let’s say, liberal reason, they will change
course, become more moderate. Or a kind of variation
of this idea. All populists are anti elitists. Once they come to
power, they themselves have become the elite. So they can’t continue with
their anti elite discourse. You can see where this is going. According to these
kinds of arguments, the problem is always
bound to solve itself. Either they cease being
populist in a certain way, or it’s going to look so
disastrous to their followers that they’re going to be
out of office the next time an election rolls around. It’s a widespread, complacent,
and, I think by now it’s fair to say deeply,
deeply mistaken view. If you look around
in the world today, I think we have enough
examples of what you might call the populist art of governance. Look at in the European
context Hungary, Poland. Look at Turkey. Look at maybe by now India. Look at Venezuela. And perhaps, to some
degree, look at here. What I’m talking about is
the fact that not only can populists govern, but they
can govern specifically as populists. Which if you find
what I’ve been trying to say earlier
unplausible, means that they can govern as actors
who on a fundamental level are not going to recognize the
legitimacy of an opposition. What that means in practice– you might say that’s
rather obvious– is that whenever
these sorts of actors are challenged by independent
institutions, be it courts, or be it free media,
where free media still exists, the response is
always going to be, we and only we
represent the people. Who elected you? You are not legitimate. That’s not totally new. I mean, Napoleon III
already said pretty much the same thing about the
press in the 19th century. But that’s always going
to be the first move. Less obvious I think
are three other elements of this populist art of
governance, which I briefly try to put on the table
for you, and hopefully we can talk about them in
more detail later on. First of all, I
think it’s noticeable that with all these regimes the
governing part of the governing populist party will try to take
possession of the state itself, which is to say that they
will try to replace what at least in theory should
be a neutral civil service with their own partisan actors. Now, some of you
might say, yeah, OK. But I can think of
plenty of examples of parties that try to do that. And there are plenty among those
that we wouldn’t necessarily associate with populism. Completely correct. The difference,
though, I believe is that in the case of
these populist regimes something that is
usually carefully hidden is done very openly,
and with what, in the eyes of the populists,
is actually a legitimate claim. Remember that they say we and
only we represent the people. Who is the state, therefore? Well, it’s therefore
the people, of course. So if the party takes
possession of the state, that’s not something
to be ashamed of. That’s actually how
things should be. Second element of
this populist art of governance, what
scientists often refer to as mass
clientelism, which is just another way of saying that those
citizens who support the ruling party get benefits
or maybe bureaucratic favors of one sort or another. Again, some of you are
going to say, but, look, I can think of plenty of
parties who try to do that. That’s not
specifically populist. Correct. But again in this
case, populists can do something very openly. And even with, what in their
eyes, is a kind of moral claim, that others rather try to hide. Why? Again, back to the beginning. In the eyes of the populists
not all citizens are the people. Only some citizens
are the real people. So the fact that only
these real people get benefits and
bureaucratic favors is not something
to be ashamed of. That’s actually how
things should be. And another footnote, if I may– forgive me for being
so professorial– this thought might perhaps
generate at least a hypothesis to explain something which
otherwise is really, really difficult to explain. I’m talking about the fact
that a lot of these populists of course when
they start out are the great anti-corruption
crusaders. Right? I mean, the
establishment is corrupt. And let us come to power. We’ll clean up, drain the
you know what, et cetera. Very often– again,
I’m not saying always– but very often these
actors then come to power. And they turn out to
be 10 times as corrupt as the previous establishment. And the innocent observer
would think, well, this must be fatal
for them politically. I mean, how can Jorg Haider
in Austria run for office, and then the state that his
party ran for decades still has lawsuits with banks, and
horrendous stuff that came out? Or the same to some degree in
Turkey and other countries. You would have thought this is a
pretty big blow against anybody who initially appears as an
anti-corruption crusader. Well, perhaps in the
eyes of the followers this isn’t really
corruption or some kind of illegitimate clientelism. This is sort of
them doing something for us, the real
people, who, by the way, have also long been neglected
by the previous elites. I can’t prove that
thought to you entirely, but it seems to
me very plausible that this might hold the key to
understanding something which otherwise is very
tricky to make sense of. With the possible
explanation that some of you may also reasonably
say, well, in some of these countries at
least media pluralism has been radically reduced. So the fact that we read about
these corruption scandals in The New York
Times is one thing, but we can’t assume that
everybody on the ground necessarily hears
exactly the same story. Anyway, very last point I want
to make about this populist art of governance. It’s one that I think will
not surprise you in the least. When there is opposition,
real opposition, let’s say, on the streets,
from civil society against these populist
regimes, they all tend to respond in a
particular kind of way. Or they all tend to deploy
a strategy which arguably was pioneered by Vladimir
Putin at the beginning of this decade. What I’m talking about
is their tendency to from the get go say, look,
what’s happening out there? Demonstrations. People in the
squares, and so on. That’s not really civil society. That’s fake. That’s all been sponsored
by, manipulated by– well, and then we
have the usual range of suspects who can be trotted
out on these occasions. CIA. George Soros always a favorite. But no limits to creativity. Some of you may remember, in
2013 at the time of the Gezi Park protests in
Istanbul some members of the Turkish government
immediately came out and said, look, this is not real. Turkish citizens demonstrating
against this crazy plan of destroying this park. No. It obviously has
all been organized by, as I’m sure you all know,
Lufthansa, the German airline. Why? Because as Morgan
Freeman keeps telling us in these great ads in the
paper, Turkish Airlines is now the world’s best airline. Erdogan had his
mind set on building this grand new airport. So that’s why
Lufthansa got so scared and basically paid all
these people to demonstrate. Notice again that this has a
kind of symbolic dimension, which goes back to what I was
trying to make plausible to you at the beginning. If you tell people constantly
that you and only you represent the people, then by definition
it cannot be that there are people out there who
demonstrate against you. So the obvious thing
is to tell people that these aren’t real people. That this is basically fake
civil society, fake citizens, or something is going on
which essentially devalues their claims immediately. Hence also, I think
it’s a telling sign, a sign that tells us something
if the reaction of a government is that its leader immediately
says, or rather tweets, that the demonstrators
are paid up activists. Of course every
government is initially going to react by saying,
look, we are elected. We have these policies. We have the mandate. We’re doing it. We listen to the criticisms,
but if you really don’t like it, you can vote on somebody else. That would be normal. It would be abnormal if
somebody immediately cuts away the legitimacy of
protesters by saying, I don’t even have to listen
to them because it’s all been paid, manipulated, and so on. So I hope you can see the
difference between how different kinds of governments
would react to protest. All right. Very last point. Because I promised
you at the beginning that I was going to say at
least one word about the wave slash tsunami as supposedly
the metaphor that best captures what’s going on. I think the problem
with that metaphor is that it somehow suggests
that a figure like Nigel Farage brought about Brexit
all by himself. Or that our current president
sort of single handedly came to power as a populist. When in fact, just to
remind you of the obvious, Nigel Farage needed
his very established conservative collaborators in
the Tory party, who basically told British citizens,
Nigel over there is maybe a bit eccentric, but
Brexit is a jolly good idea. I mean, serious people with
a sense of responsibility, such as Boris– Well, OK. Michael Gove. Somebody who had some
real standing and was seen even as a leading
intellectual in the Tory party. Or to remind you of the
obvious in our context here, it was not irrelevant
that people like Rudy Giuliani, Chris
Christie, and Newt Gingrich came out and said, he’s a bit
eccentric, but I know him. And as a citizen who votes
for the Republican Party, you can vote for him. And as completely banal
as it’s going to sound, the single most important
explanatory factor for what happened on the
8th of November, 2016 remains partisanship. More than 90% of citizens
who identify as Republicans voted for their party. That’s pretty normal. People go to the polls
and vote for their party. That’s sort of what
happens in most elections. Maybe not an entirely
normal candidate. But the suggestion I
think is clear enough. That had he not been
the Republican candidate he may have gotten maybe 20%,
30%, the kinds of numbers that far right populists might
get in some European countries. OK. Why am I belaboring
these points? What I want to make plausible
to you is that up until today, with the possible exception of
Italy, up until today at least no right wing populist
has come to power without the collaboration– and I use that word
consciously with all its historical overtones–
without the collaboration of established
conservative elites. In countries where
these elites have refused to collaborate
with populists they also have
not come to power. So it’s not some unstoppable,
quasi natural phenomenon. The wave is now going to
roll, and roll, and roll. No. This is still up to
individual actors. And one might be tempted to
draw the further conclusion– but I’ll only say
this very briefly, and it’s a much longer
discussion to be had, of course. But one conclusion
from this might be that, contrary
to what we sometimes hear from, broadly
speaking, liberal observers, it’s not the people who
destroy democracies. It’s elites who
destroy democracies. You might say, well, now
he sounds like a populist. But remember, not all criticisms
of elites are populist. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] SUZANNE BERGER:
Well, this afternoon I’d like to talk about how
to respond to populism. And in particular, I
want to ask whether we need to give up on
internationalism and globalization in order
to beat back populism. The rise of populism
around the world has motivated some of the most
interesting social science research over the
last five years. There is a big debate over
what concept we should be using, how to define populism. Should it include
left wing populism, as in Greece and Spain, as
well as right wing populism? Does it include the
French gilets jaunes? Isn’t it really basically
a form of nationalism? We really need a new concept? And I think it’s a
real honor for us to have here today Jan-Werner
Mueller, since his book, What Is Populism? was really
among the very earliest serious efforts to
tackle these questions. And I think there is
also debate over why populism has become such a
huge phenomenon just now. Some of the early
accounts of the rise of populism in the United States
right after Trump’s election focused on economic
factors, and, in particular, on manufacturing job
loss in the rust belt. Then there were a wave
of research projects that focused on fears
about status loss, and status anxiety,
white males fearing that somehow their value in
society, their power in society was under attack. Then there were
accounts that focused on disappointed expectations,
disappointed economic expectations. And yet another
generation of projects that focus on how
economic losses might trigger authoritarian values. But in all these
different theories there is a single common
element or background condition. And that’s that in all of these
different explanations of why populism has become
so big now there is the idea that globalization
is ultimately responsible. And since it’s the elites who
brought about globalization in their own interests,
it’s understandable that they have been targeted
as the enemy of most or all of the other 99% of the
population who do not benefit from globalization. I want to start by quoting
from David Goodhart, whose book The Road to
Somewhere is a really powerful defense of Brexit. Goodhart writes, “It was global
elites and their choices that led to hyper
globalization, including at the regional
level with the effort to create a single
fiscal and economic space within the European Union. Under the banner of free
trade and European integration they battled against
so-called market frictions. But what they call
market frictions are what most people look at
as vital national interests.” This is Goodhart. So in many versions
of this story, the European Union is presented
as a kind of Trojan horse for globalization. And so from that
point of view you can see why populism in Britain
has coalesced around Brexit, the movement to leave
the European Union and to evict the Trojan
horse from Britain. Goodhart, the journalists,
and scholars on the left, center, and right now claim that
in a country with open borders, those who gain from
globalization, that’s the group that Goodhart calls
the anywheres, people who are comfortable
anywhere, who have lost all attachment to
their own community, that the anywheres lose
all sense of commitment to more vulnerable groups in
their own home population. Those are the
people that Goodhart calls the somewheres,
people who are grounded in local communities, who
are tied to the communities where they grew up, who are
educated in their own home communities, and are employed
in their own home communities. And I would say that unlike
all of us in this room, I would guess, who grew up
far away from Cambridge 02139, the somewheres are people
who stay in their own home communities and deeply resent
the anywheres who have lost their attachment to the plight
of their own fellow citizens. So the argument here is that
social solidarity and feelings of care and responsibility
for your own more vulnerable fellow citizens wither away
once the borders open up. All kinds of ethnic others
flood in over the borders. In Britain the resentment
was against Polish people moving into Britain. In the United States
the resentment about people from Latin America,
from Mexico, from the Caribbean moving in. And the results of this, the
outcome of these resentments of how impossible it
becomes to sustain public support for
a generous welfare state, the result of this
feeling that somehow opening the borders has led
to an abandonment of the most vulnerable
people in your own society. The results are polarization
and deep anger against elites. There’s a cartoon that appeared
by a Greek cartoonist, Panos [INAUDIBLE],, that I think sums
up this story in one frame. The cartoon shows three sheep
looking at an electoral poster on a tree. The candidate on the
poster is a wolf. And one sheep says
to the others, I’m going to vote for that wolf. That’ll really get the shepperd. The sheep knows, like many
of our fellow citizens who vote for populists know,
that the wolf will do nothing to advance the
interests of the sheep. The sheep even knows he’s likely
to be dinner for the wolf. But just getting back at
the sheppard is good enough. Anger against the elites is
the common denominator here, I think, of these shifts
towards authoritarianism that we see in many
countries today. I think it’s the greatest
danger today for democracy. So among leading
scholars, both of populism and of globalization,
there has emerged the idea that globalization
destroys liberal democracy, and that we need some kind of
return to national borders, to the state on the borders,
and to national control. I think probably the
best known advocate of this idea in the
academic community is Danny Roderick,
an economist who teaches at the Kennedy School. He claims there is a
globalization trilemma. Those of you who’ve
ever taken a class on international economics may
recognize that the expression trilemma plays off
the Mundell Fleming’s impossibility trilemma. The idea in economics
is that it’s impossible for a country to be
able to control its exchange rate, to have open
borders, and also to have an independent
monetary policy. A country can only have
two of those three options at the same time. And what Roderick is arguing
with his globalization trilemma is that it’s impossible
for a country to have, one, borders open to
globalization, two, have national sovereignty,
and three, have democracy. Now, according to Roderick,
only two of these three are possible at the same time. Since nation states do not seem
to be going away any time soon, we don’t seem to be moving
towards anything that could look like
world government, and so since national
sovereignty seems to be a given, the demonstration
that Roderick is providing is of the impossible coexistence
of democracy and globalization. And so like many others
who see the politics of the past few years as real
threats to liberal democracy, Roderick ends up
defending nationalism and closing the borders. And you can find a very
powerful development of this idea in a book by a left
wing philosopher, Yael Tamir. The book’s called
Why Nationalism? And it basically is a left
wing defense of nationalism. And it’s this
perspective, this response to populism that I would like
to challenge this afternoon. First of all, I think
that nationalism is dangerous and uncontrollable. Economic nationalism is a
politics focused on borders. And as we can see
today, a commercial war between the United
States and China, or the United States
and the European Union, or even the threat
of a commercial war spills over very rapidly into
threats in multiple domains, into threats of
security collaboration, into threats that effect
scientific cooperation, into policies about the
entry of foreign students and foreign researchers into our
universities and laboratories. More generally, I think there’s
no way of drawing a line or building a wall between good
economic nationalism, in which we close the borders and
induce more social solidarity within our own group, and bad
nationalism, in which hostility to outsiders and aggression
become more and more likely. Secondly, I believe
that globalization and national liberal
democracies are compatible, but we’re going to need great
changes in how we go about it. And on this critical
point of the compatibility of globalization and
liberal democratic regimes, I’d like to suggest
that there are lessons to be learned
from the period of the first globalization. That was the years
between 1870 and 1914. So first, the
lessons of history. We’ve been here before. Over a century ago the
first globalization, that between 1870 and
1914, ended on one day when England declared war on
Germany on August 4, 1914. The city of London,
the epicenter of the world’s
financial markets, stopped sending capital out
of England and globalization was over. Not just for the duration of the
war, but for the next 70 years. Border walls went up
all around the world, and they didn’t come down
again until the 1980s. Capital markets were more
integrated in the 1880s than they were in the 1970s. We know that the first
globalization, like ours, was made possible by great
technological advances. Telegraph. Telephone. Steamships. The transatlantic cable. Now, when war broke out in 1914
none of these new technologies disappeared. No one went back to carrier
pigeons or sailboats. But the protectionists
barriers on the frontiers just didn’t come down again
for the next 70 years. And I think that today we’re
beginning to understand that in 2019, just as in 1918,
that the foundations of globalization are basically
political, not technological. In normal times we barely see
those political foundations. But in moments of
crisis, like today, they become visible and operative. My conviction is, based
on historical experience, globalization could end. Barriers on our
national frontiers not only could come up. They are coming up. And this is a conviction
that’s, I think, strongly reinforced
by what we’ve seen over the past few
years with populism, Brexit, and Trump’s election. Now, you could say
there’s a big difference between globalization today and
globalization 100 years ago. And I agree. But even leaving aside
the lessons from history, there’s a second
reason to question the future of globalization. It’s that even before
Trump and Brexit, we were already seeing
slow down and retreat in the volumes of products,
goods, and capital that were being
exchanged across borders. The advances of automation
and of artificial intelligence are beginning to
make localization and re-localization
of production more possible and profitable. This is a topic that
we’re exploring here at MIT in our current research
on work of the future. The extent that robots
can replace human labor in simple repetitive
tasks, there will be less and less reason to
offshore for these activities to low wage economies. Companies have already
become, in any event, much more realistic than
they were 20 years ago about what the real costs of
offshoring and outsourcing are. They now realize
that the real costs include delays in delivery,
difficulty, and maintaining quality, demands for
technological transfer, IP theft, and other stuff. So there is a
variety of reasons, economic, technological,
as well as political that the
motors of globalization seem to be turning
far more slowly today than they were in
the recent past. So should we care? Should we care if
globalization is in retreat? After all, it was the
globalization of finance that gave us the financial
crisis of 2007, 2008. The opening of the borders
to goods and services with the entry of China
into the WTO in 2000 was at the origin of a
massive loss of manufacturing jobs in our own country. The opening of borders to a huge
wave of refugees and immigrants in Europe triggered the rise
of the far right in Germany, and Brexit in England. I’m simplifying. But really I want to
ask the basic question. Should we care if
borders are closing up? And particularly,
if we’re worrying about the impact
of globalization on liberal democracy,
maybe we might think that a return
to nationalism, and to more closed borders
around national states, and to more national controls
could be a good thing. Personally, I think
that closing the borders would be a great error. And that for three reasons. First of all, open
borders seem to me to be the essential condition
for a more just and stable international order. If we look at the history
of very poor countries, like South Korea in the
1950s, or China, or Mexico, without policies based on
export industrialization, without the possibility
of access to consumers in rich countries
those poor countries would never have
been able to extract hundreds of millions
of human beings from very extreme poverty. Now, obviously that
success of globalization has to be qualified. Because it didn’t
work everywhere. Certainly it didn’t
work for Africa. And it didn’t work
for Latin America. But it did work for large
populations of very poor people in Asia. It also has to be a qualified
success, because it gave rise to great inequalities in the
economies that did succeed. But still, this is
the only success that we know in which large
sectors of the population in very poor countries
have been able to rise out of poverty have been these cases
of industrialization oriented towards consumers in
countries with open borders. So that’s the first reason. I think the second reason to
care about saving globalization is the damage that we
would inflict on ourselves, in this case, being Americans. If we closed our borders, if
we engaged in commercial wars, what would happen to us? Let me just suggest a few
of the self-inflicted wounds that we would suffer. In the United States a quarter
of the technology startups that were founded
between 2006 and 2012 had immigrant founders. 28% of new entrepreneurs
in 2014 were immigrants. If we look at the impact of
Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs there are only 400,000
workers in those industries in the United States. But there are millions of jobs
in industries in the United States that use
steel and aluminum. There are a million
in automobiles, a million and a half in
metalworking, and on and on. There are estimates that
for every job created in steel by the new
tariffs, 16 jobs will be lost in other sectors. And as we now move to
even higher tariffs, the possibility
that protectionism will lead to
recession has become a real one in this country. And so I would say the
self-inflicted wounds are a second reason to
care about globalization. And the third reason I
think is an even deeper one. It’s the relationship between
globalization and democracy. The case for globalization
depends not only on material gains,
which, I admit, economists have over
overestimated and exaggerated. The case for
globalization also depends on possible political
gains, which I think we have too much neglected. Again, if we look
back at the history of that first
globalization, 1870, 1914, this was actually a period
in which democracies expanded and consolidated. It was a period of
democratic reforms. In advanced
industrial countries, more and more groups
in the population were given the right to vote. In Britain in 1867, 1884,
Germany, 1871, Australia, Austria, Belgium. These were countries
which through that period arrived at universal
manhood suffrage. It’s in this period
that the income tax was introduced for
the first time in most of the leading
advanced countries. It’s the period in
which the first welfare reforms, limitations of
hours of work, unemployment insurance, pensions, child
allowances are introduced. Lloyd George in Britain, after
winning the 1907 elections, which are basically
elections about free trade, he immediately promulgates what
he calls the people’s budget, with an array of
democratic social reforms. So I think if we
want to understand why these democratic reforms
were introduced in that period, I do not think that it
was because being enclosed within the borders
of the national state that the elites of
that period acted out of a sense of
commitment and concern for their fellow countrymen
in the lower classes. Rather, most of these reforms
were won in hard fought battles with unions, strikes, and
large scale mobilization. The elites acted
out of necessity and out of concern
for social peace. And the elites proposed
social and economic reforms in order to build
political coalitions that would support opening
the borders to flows of trade, capital, and people. In those days, as today,
there were multiple challenges to opening borders. The challenges came up
over trade and tariffs, over immigration,
over capital flows. And I think the most
important lesson we can derive from
that period has to do with the
political coalitions between natural supporters of
an open international order and other groups that had more
mixed and conflicted interests. And by natural supporters
of open borders I mean groups like bankers. And by groups that had more
mixed and conflicted interests, I mean working class groups. So what is, to me, amazing
is that unions, working class groups, and left wing socialist
parties in that period all supported opening
borders through free trade and open capital mobility. So what remains relevant
to our own times I think today is that in
the first globalization the coalitions that supported
free trade, immigration, and cross-border capital
flows were joined to a program of political,
fiscal, economic, and social reforms. In exchange for support
for globalization, unions and parties of the
left demanded social reforms. And they got them. Nowhere in the world did
globalization advance alone on its economic merits. It always was linked
to larger visions, in which internationalism
was defended as the outward face of a nation
in which the domestic order was on the move towards greater
well-being and greater social justice. The difference this time is
that globalization moved ahead without any of those social
and democratic reforms that had previously been
its domestic legitimation. The anger of voters
who turned out to elect Trump, discouragement,
depression in rural areas and old manufacturing
centers, all these suggest that
globalization today is in deep trouble in
the United States. Most proposals to
rescue it center around providing something
like individual retraining, individual compensation to
people who lose jobs because of imports and offshoring. I think it may be fair
and decent to justify individual compensation. But I don’t think
there’s any evidence that such policies of
individual compensation would deal with the
deep anxieties of people about the impact of
leaving borders open. And so I think that
drawing lessons from the historical
experience with globalization for our own times
suggests three things, three approaches
that we need to go beyond individual compensation. In the first globalization
the parties and unions in the coalitions that
advanced both free trade and social reforms
were organizations close to their base. They played an essential role
in transmitting grievances, demands, and aspirations of
workers and rural populations into public debate. In the United States from the
depression through the 1960s unions and the Democratic
Party were just that kind of transmission
belt. They are no longer that. Unions have shrunk. And they only
represent less than 7% of the workforce today
in the private sector. The Democratic Party,
I think its critics claim with some justification,
that the party has given up on its link to working
class voters for connections to Wall Street, Silicon
Valley, and the educated elite. That’s us. With no channels
for voice, people who are fearful of globalization
remain isolated and vulnerable to the siren calls of
populist politicians. Voice requires more
than simple expression. It’s true that anybody today can
tweet an instantaneous reaction to anything. But it’s not just the
volume or the tone of demands that shape policy. What parties, unions, and
social organizations can do is to process this noise into
useful social and political information, and connect
it into the sites where public policy is made. And it’s this function of
transmission and transformation into policy that makes it
crucial to build organizations that can bring the voices
of those people who are most affected by globalization
into arenas of policy. Second, I think we need to
slow the pace of globalization in order to gain its acceptance. This can be hard to justify
for free trade purists. And I think it’s even harder
to justify in the case when we’re thinking
of immigration. How do we morally
justify slowing the rate at which refugees
and immigrants enter our own country? It’s really hard to know
where to draw the line, or where to put up a
border level barrier when, in principle,
one is committed to a borderless world. Take the case of H1B
visas, for example. It’s common knowledge that entry
tickets to the US labor market that are used not only to fill
skilled positions that cannot be filled with US workers, it’s
also used to bring in workers who will do the job that
domestic US citizens are already doing at lower cost. Indeed, in some
cases the H1B jobs are already held by US
workers who are being required to train their replacements. Many of these jobs could
be filled by US workers, if only companies were willing
to invest more in training. But however inconsistent
with our basic ideals and with theory, the
practical consequences of not slowing the pace
may just be too dangerous for liberal democracies,
as we saw, for example, in the reaction of
the German public to the enormous surge
of immigrants in 2015, and the reaction to Angela
Merkel’s generous, courageous, but probably too optimistic
statement of Germany’s welcome. So slow the pace. And then finally,
rebuild a coalition for globalization, for
support for open borders. We need, once again, to
link change on the borders to a broad program of political,
social, economic reforms. There are many
obvious candidates. Raising minimum wages. Consolidating national
health insurance. Lowering financial barriers
to college education for working and
middle class children. Tax reforms. Tackling the sources
of inequality. Building such coalitions in
this period of slow productivity growth, and after years of
stagnation of middle class incomes is going to
be very difficult. But it’s a time when we need to
make good on our old promises to use globalization as a lever
to raise everyone’s well-being. Saving globalization is going
to take massive expenditures on education and job retraining,
rebuilding our infrastructure, and also flat out compensation
for lost income and benefits. I think that protecting
globalization and liberal democracy has to go far beyond
defeating the populists. It will take moving beyond
our broken, polarized politics and paralysis at the center. We need a politics capable
of massive initiative in state and society. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] RICHARD SAMUELS: Well,
I know that our plan was to have Suzanne and
Jan-Werner interrogate each other directly. But I also know
that they agree it’s important to engage with
you, to the extent possible. So with their indulgence, I want
to change the format slightly and go directly to the Q&A,
and ask those of you who have questions to step up to
the microphones and frame them. Identify yourself please. And then be as
succinct as possible so that we can get
as many questions in. And I’ll do my best
to umpire that. Sir. AUDIENCE: My name
is Dick Madden. And I’m a retired educator. And I think not enough
was said, for me, about income inequality, which
has gone on for 35 or 40 years. And I think if
people’s incomes had– if they were able to
share in the wealth that technology and
globalization generated, this kind of right
wing, Trumpy populism would not have gained the
ground that it has gained. Also, Suzanne, you
mentioned global markets and financial markets,
and globalization of financial markets. And I don’t think that
that is the issue. It’s the abuse on
Wall Street that caused the depression,
which was worldwide, and the abuse on
Wall Street that caused the financial crisis
of 2009, which was worldwide. And nationally,
people who owned homes were encouraged
to refinance them. And then they lost their
homes in the financial crisis. RICHARD SAMUELS:
So sir, do you want to focus a question
to Jan-Werner? AUDIENCE: OK. I would like you to
comment on my comments. RICHARD SAMUELS: Thank you. [LAUGHTER] SUZANNE BERGER: Well, I
largely agree with you that we have failed to
tackle the inequalities that have developed over
the past 30 years, and that it’s the
absence of an agenda of social and economic reform
that we’ve sort of proceeded to do a border
opening without having any domestic agenda of the
kinds of reforms and changes that would have made this
not only domestically acceptable, but
domestically desirable to have this kind
of more open world. So I think I would
agree with you. RICHARD SAMUELS: OK. Let’s move to that side. Yes, sir. AUDIENCE: First of
all, let me say, this is a great discussion,
and I really appreciate what both of you have said. I am a policy advisor,
and I’ve given input that you would like for one
of the European countries, for the same reason
that you gave it. My question. China closed its
borders at one point. Someone said I think
it was about somewhere around the 1500s or 1700s. Perhaps someone would
know what year or frame. What was the impact? Is anyone familiar with that? SUZANNE BERGER: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear your question. AUDIENCE: Yeah. So there was a period of
time when China’s economy was growing, but for whatever reason
the emperor at that time period closed its borders
to the outside world. SUZANNE BERGER: Uh-huh. AUDIENCE: And I don’t
know if either of you are familiar with that
and what impact that had. SUZANNE BERGER: I’m sorry. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps some scholar of
Chinese history in the room might know the answer
to the question? JAN-WERNER MUELLER:
You know how academics when they don’t know
the answer start talking about something else? So that’s what I’m going to
do for one second, if I may. Just for the record, I
agree with almost everything you said. But that’s also a danger,
because then people say, oh, typical liberal
homogeneous elites. Always groupthink. Always the same. So one quibble. And that, in a sense, indirectly
maybe goes to your point as well. So I think David Goodhart is
profoundly wrong, empirically. Elites remain
profoundly national with the possible exception
of some pockets in academia. So the bad news is, with all
due respect, we are not– OK. Maybe you at MIT. I can only speak for Princeton. But we are not the real elite. The real elites in the economy
and the administrative state remain profoundly national. It’s not true that anybody
can go anywhere and take on any job, and so on. Yes. We can think of a
couple of examples where that actually happened. But overwhelmingly this
is simply not true. Nor is it true that elites are
particularly cosmopolitan when we think of this as
a substantive ideal, of free movement, open borders,
and so on and so forth. Yes. They want globalization. But globalization was
always justified in the name of the national interest. We did it because it was
good for us, not because we believe in global justice. I mean, even in
political philosophy, I can only think of about 2
and 1/2 people who actually truly advocate open borders. So I know this doesn’t
answer your question, but I hope it’s still
interesting to point out that we should I think
be careful with words like open borders. Yes. Angela Merkel, for
a brief period, said there is free
entry into Germany. By the way, not for
immigrants, but for refugees. And then it was closed again. Good luck emigrating
to Germany today. It’s not an open country. The whole EU is not
an open anything. OK. So I think it’s important
to remind ourselves that very often people
like Goodhart and others, in a sense they start
off with a caricature. And they do it for
particular reasons. And they partly sort
of play on the idea that I think David Brooks
first convinced people of, that cultural capital is
so much more important than financial capital. Well, I hate to tell you
that in many ways it’s not. And the world is not
nearly as cosmopolitan as populist rhetoric
would make us believe. Again, I know this absolutely
doesn’t answer your question, but I hope it was
still interesting. AUDIENCE: What was said
more than compensated. Thank you very much. RICHARD SAMUELS: Sir. AUDIENCE: Yeah. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I want to make
two quick remarks. One of them is general. As the good speakers
probably made it clear, it seems to me that this
populism is a misnomer. It is just kind of the different
reactions of what I may call– it’s a meeting of the
mind of the scared, for whatever reason. This is just a reaction
to certain conditions. It’s not a political ideology. It’s not a political philosophy. It does not have a unique
economic background or kind of just for the nationalists. It says we know that
among the Brexit people, there are the monarchists,
there are some left wingers, and so on and so on. Populism is kind of a
very vague, fuzzy thing. For the lack of any other name,
people just decided to call it. And then the
populism in the west is different than the populism
in other places, which brings me to the second
remark about Turkey. Now, Turkey kind of especially–
and I’m not Turkish. So I want to make that clear. Turkey, in the [INAUDIBLE] of,
say, the Arab and Islamic world is considered for the
liberal Democrats, comparing it to Saudi Arabia,
to Iran, to Iraq, to Libya, is a success story,
that basically here is a regime that
succeeded in ending up the rule of a
military dictatorship. Now, who is to blame for this
kind of reactionary policies later as Erdogan is
the European Union for not accepting Turkey
in the European Union, France in particular. Because had Turkey became
part of the European Union they had to live with
the rules and regulations of the liberal democracy
of the European Union. So Erdogan does not go
kind of under this thing of being a populist. Nationalist he is. But all things are relative. We speak of populism
in very absolute terms. The populism of the west,
different than the populism of, say, North Africa,
where populist is considered good people who are standing
up against the hegemony of the west, and taking over
national resources and all that. So one has to be
very, very careful. I don’t think there is
such a thing as populism. There is different reactions. And these are, as
I said, meeting of the mind of the
scared, whether they are the elites or
the working class. RICHARD SAMUELS: Thank you. Do you want to respond? JAN-WERNER MUELLER: So
two things, if I may. First of all, I think Viktor
Orban has proven to the world that you can build an autocracy
inside the European Union. If we had had this
discussion 10 years ago, we all would have said
this is impossible. Yes, there are rules. There are criteria
for how you get in. There are watchdogs who protect
the rule of law and democracy. And alas, in 2019 it’s
no longer a debate I think whether you can
be entirely in this club, and yet basically not respect
the rules of the club. And it’s also, by the way,
an interesting example how you can talk the anti
globalization talk, and say that these things– a socialist government
that actually sold out to multinationals and so on. And yet, at the same
time, basically provide what a colleague
of mine once called Chinese conditions
in terms of work, safety, and so on to
German car companies, which are absolutely
integral to the success of the Orban,
Orban, Orban regime. So I fear that this
is an instance when we have too much faith
in supranational national organizations. On the other point, very briefly
if I may, so I, of course, am bound to say
that, no, I don’t think populism is
entirely fuzzy, because I was trying to convince
you that it has a somewhat more precise meaning. What I would agree
with in a sense– and, again, this might be a
slight quibble between us– is that, at least for me, it’s
indeed, just as you said, not associated with any
substantive policy position or a philosophy. So it’s true that right wing
populism and nationalism have a kind of elective affinity. It’s not an accident that
right wing populists today are usually also all nationalists. But for me it has no particular
affinity with highly specific anti-globalization stances. And even within
that, one would have to disaggregate, just as much
as Donny Roderick has also disaggregated, and said, for
instance– has, for instance, pointed out that northern
European right wing populists, yes, are very xenophobic. But, of course, they’re
not anti-globalization when it comes to markets. And in the south of Europe,
it’s the other way around. So Syriza, or if you think
of Podemos as a left wing populist movement,
they have a big problem with financial
capital moving freely. But they have no problem really
with people moving freely. So I think we
always have to be– forgive the pedantic point– very precise about where we
sort of see the opposition. And even then I would
not say, oh, it’s populism because of that. It’s populism because
of the anti-pluralism. AUDIENCE: Hey. Thank you both for being here. I appreciated that
you both spoke to two different
characterizations of populism. The first as a self-stylization
for political leaders and movements. And the latter as a reaction
to the economic discontents of globalization. And I’m curious to
get your thoughts on another characterization,
such that defenders of populism often describe it as a
return to the common sense of common people. And I’d like to hear your
thoughts on whether you think there’s room on possibly
describing populism as culturally
reactionary movements to the ideological excesses
of the progressive movement in sentiments such as
political correctness. SUZANNE BERGER: So the question
of whether populism culturally is kind of the common
sense of ordinary people. There’s a wonderful book by a
woman called Arlie Hochschild, who spent several years
in Louisiana trying to understand how some
ordinary people thought about government. And she sort of sums it up as
people imagining that they’re poor people advancing
slowly, slowly down a road towards the American dream. And suddenly they realize
that they’re in a line. And the line is not only
not moving very fast towards the American dream. In some ways it seems
to be moving backwards. And even worse, it
seems that there are some people
cutting into line ahead of those who are standing there. And the people cutting
into line, who are they? They’re women. They’re African-Americans. They’re immigrants. They’re cutting in
ahead of others in line. And, in fact, the US
government is even helping them cut in line
ahead of the rest of us who really somehow deserve to
be getting to the American dream faster. In fact, in this
very vivid image of people’s resentment in
feeling that the government is actually promoting the
interests not of real citizens, not of the real people,
but of these folks, really the immigrant, the woman,
the African-American– these are not really quite the real
people, in Jan-Werner’s sense. It’s promoting other people. And then her image
ends with at the head of the line there is a big
brown pelican stained with oil. So the government even has put,
in response to the Deepwater Horizon crisis, it’s even put
the protection of birds ahead of the welfare of those
of us here in Louisiana who are just working. So I think the
idea that there is a kind of anxiety
about status loss, about the interests
of other people who are not really quite
real people, or not really the real
people being advanced as a component of what you
might see as the common sense. And I think this, of course,
shades off into racism. This shades off into
some of the things that we find most dangerous
in our own culture. RICHARD SAMUELS: Thank you. SUZANNE BERGER: I think
Jan-Werner had a– RICHARD SAMUELS: Oh, I’m sorry. JAN-WERNER MUELLER: Since
you asked both of us. AUDIENCE: Yeah. Please. Please. JAN-WERNER MUELLER: So
just two quick things. So first of all, there is
no more ideological term than common sense. And just as much as common
sense is not really given, neither are grievances
necessarily given. I’m not saying that, oh, this
is all manipulated, constructed, and so on. But we often tend to forget that
the nature of the public sphere and the media play an
important role in how people perceive their
interests, but even their basic identities. And if nowadays in
this country there’s so much lamentation about,
oh, we’re so divided, and we’re so polarized, and we
need a presidential candidate who is a healer, and
so on, people sort of assume this image of the
deeply divided country. It’s just sort of what
naturally spontaneously emerged between the bi-coastal liberal
elites and flyover country. And then it, furthermore, leads
to a sort of guilt complex, especially among
liberals, who said, yes. We were disrespecting
all these people. And this is so wrong, and so on. But I daresay, many
people actually don’t really experience
this kind of disrespect in their normal lives. What they do experience is
being told by talk radio and certain television
stations day and night that they are
being disrespected. And this is not just
impressionistic. Some of you may have
followed the story, that because The Sun,
the British newspaper, maligned the supporters
of Liverpool FC, so the soccer club for
complicated historical reasons at a certain point, nobody
bought The Sun in Liverpool for a long time. And guess what happened. Euro skepticism plummeted. So it’s not true that one
day people in Britain wake up and they say, ah,
bloody European Union. That’s the thing to hate. Again, I’m not saying it’s all
manipulated and constructed. But it’s also not
just as much simply given as some of our
commentary sometimes suggests. AUDIENCE: Thank you. RICHARD SAMUELS: We have about
7 to 10 minutes remaining. So what I want to propose
is we take sharp questions from two at a time. And we’ll see what
we can get in. OK? AUDIENCE: OK. Well, as the last
question intimated, there’s nobody on the
panel to defend populism. So it’s a little one sided. But at least your
key takeaway that it is the elites that have
destroyed democracy, it tends to stand out. It’s also the
elites who destroyed Iraq, that destroyed Libya,
that destroyed Yugoslavia, and many other places. And I think you have to give
some credit to populists, don’t you, for their
non-interventionist instincts, and for following
through on them? Trump just fired Bolton. And Trump, unlike
his predecessors, hasn’t started any new
wars in 2 and 1/2 years. And he’s doing his best
to wind down the existing wars, unlike Obama who
created a surge in Afghanistan and so forth. So I think a large
part of this can be traced to foreign policy
and the way in which the elites think they can remake or
impose democracy or nation building from outside. And nationalism, if it’s a
force for non interventionism, can actually be a very positive
innovation in foreign policy and among people that have
to pay the price for being the foot soldiers in those
futile and destructive wars. Can’t it? RICHARD SAMUELS: And
let’s take one more. AUDIENCE: Yeah. Hi. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I am former minister
of defense of Armenia and currently a fellow at
the Sloan School at MIT. I wanted to congratulate
you for the very good panel, and Jan-Werner for
publication of your book in Armenia a couple
of days ago, which was presented to the public. And I want to raise
two brief questions. First is about a
statement in your book that the best way to fight
populists is to talk to them. So my question would be,
how do you talk to populists without slipping into populism? And how do you really
withstand that debate without really finding yourself
in that famous Mark Twain debate with idiots,
where they pull you down to the level of their
ignorance and [INAUDIBLE] their experience there? And the second is, in
our current situation where we have a movement in
power which insists that they don’t believe in isms– and a key concept of
their populist theory is that they react to whatever
the right people, as you mentioned, want at
that very moment. I think it’s a very interesting
form of legitimizing whatever policy you want to adopt
on go, without proclaiming in advance what your
stance is on the issue. So I would add it to
the list you said. But you said in
your presentation you address the issue whether
populists can govern or not. But when you were
speaking about that, you mostly spoke about can
they survive a political cycle by manipulating it. You didn’t really answer. Can they achieve
and deliver results of their governance or not? RICHARD SAMUELS: OK. So pick and choose
among these questions. JAN-WERNER MUELLER: Yes. Sorry. You said three
more hours we have? Yeah? [LAUGHTER] So should we talk to them? First of all, I would say
it’s important to underline that not everybody who votes for
a populist politician or party is necessarily populist, i.e. anti-pluralist. We know it about the leaders
because they tell it to us all the time. But about many people who vote
for them, we don’t know that. And we shouldn’t just
assume and generalize. I mean, I will not
yet again go back to you know which speech
by Hillary Clinton. But I think the truly
scandalous word was actually not deplorable. The scandalous word
was irredeemable, cause she basically said
it’s not worth talking to these people, as if she
could assume that every Trump supporter was necessarily
exactly like this, and you couldn’t possibly
have a conversation with. So I think that’s just
the wrong conclusion to jump to in terms of
conversation is pointless. But in terms of even
talking to the leaders, I think a good
politician, somebody with good judgment, let’s say,
can basically, on the one hand, have an open debate
about many policy issues that we can disagree
about in a democracy. Including questions
of immigration where we would
defend one position. They would defend another. But I think it would
be wrong to say, oh, that other position is, in
and of itself, undemocratic, can’t be uttered, and so on. But the trick then,
or the art even might be to distinguish between
that normal, quote, unquote, policy debate, and then moments
where populists specifically reveal themselves as populists. Example. Somebody says that Angela
Merkel has a secret plan to replace the German
folk with Syrians. This is a real world example
from a party that was mentioned earlier on tonight. It’s, of course, very important
that a politician then says, look, now we’ve left
the territory of debates about refugees,
immigration, and so on. Obviously the leader of the IFD
is not going to say, oh, sorry. I didn’t realize I was
propounding a conspiracy theory with French origins. But that’s not the point. The point is that hopefully
enough people see this and say, wait a minute. Even if I like some of
their policy stances, I don’t want to be in the same
boat with crazy conspiracy theorists, and so on. Maybe it’s a pious hope. But precisely
because we shouldn’t assume that all these people
are totally sold on post truth and so on, because empirically
that’s certainly not true, I think there is some hope
in terms talking to them. RICHARD SAMUELS: Suzanne. SUZANNE BERGER:
Well, I mean, I think that within our
own population it’s incredibly important
for people to be talking to other people who have
different points of view on the direction in which
the country has been going, what should be our
priorities in public life. And I think that one
of the things that has made what I do think is this
kind of polarized environment such a dangerous one is that
many of the places where people used to talk to
each other, let’s say, within unions,
within various kinds of civic associations, that
those associations have lost a lot of their strength. And so some of the places
in which people did talk to each other in the
past no longer really are arenas in which much
conversation is taking place. RICHARD SAMUELS: Do
either one of you want to respond to the first
questioner’s connection between populism and
non interventionism in foreign policy,
which I thought was a very interesting observation? SUZANNE BERGER:
Well, I mean, I think it all depends
which of the leaders you decide to look
at as populists. If you look, for
example, at Putin, we could hardly describe
his foreign policy as non-interventionist. Trump, it’s hard to know
really what Trump has in mind, let’s say, for
Iraq, or for Syria. He’s reversed
himself so many times on basic issues of
US foreign policy. I really don’t know that I
could clearly characterize him as non-interventionist. And as for getting rid
of John Bolton, I mean, the fact is that the policies
that Bolton expressed before he ever was chosen as a
national security advisor were the very policies that
he argued for in his office. So I can’t really believe
that the selection of Bolton didn’t mean at least some
kind of potential sign on for those policies. RICHARD SAMUELS: OK. We are at the
witching hour, but let me give you the last question. But please try to make
it short and sweet. Thanks. I apologize to the others
who’ve been waiting. But we’re going to have to
make this the last question. AUDIENCE: Yes. So I’m Chase. I’m a sophomore here at MIT. And I have, I
suppose a question. And so, first of
all, thank you guys for giving your thoughts
and remarks on populism. My question is with regards
to kind of globalization, you see a lot of
social fragmentation as a result of
globalization, particularly with wage stagnation,
economic anxiety. And even in the last,
I guess, year or so, we’ve seen suicides at an all
time high among the rust belt, higher than they were in 1972. So my question is,
what policies do you advocate for to kind of cool
this social fragmentation that comes as a result
of globalization? And another question would
be, as a populist would say, do we have even a
moral imperative to kind of stand
for globalization? Shouldn’t we be for, of
our own, for our local rather than being
for the global? SUZANNE BERGER: Well, I think
for the rust belt, I mean, what we really need to do is
bring new jobs and new skills into those areas. And what we are
beginning to see is that in some parts
of the rust belt, in places like Pittsburgh, for
example, that lost the steel industry, but now
has re-created itself with a new set of industries,
where universities have also played a role in trying to
actually stimulate and work with local industries,
there are real potential for rebuilding jobs and
manufacturing jobs in the rust belt. I mean, just to mention that
as part of this MIT project I mentioned on
work of the future we’ve gone back to 30 Ohio metal
working companies that we had first visited seven years ago. And we found, amazingly,
that in every one of them there were more people
employed than they’d employed seven years ago. Incidentally, we were
looking to see if robots were eliminating jobs. And we only found
one robot purchase in one of the 30 companies. So the idea that
robots are coming and eating up the
jobs very quickly, I think the robots
really better get a move on if this scenario
has any plausibility. RICHARD SAMUELS: Jan-Werner, you
get the last word, if you wish. JAN-WERNER MUELLER: Maybe I
could just come back to the I think very important
question from the gentleman from Armenia. Can they really govern? So I would stick with
the point that it’s wrong to assume that
by definition they’re all going to be incompetent
and irrational somehow. Some of them will be de
facto very pro-globalization, very neoliberal, if I
may put it that way. But in a sense, given that
their political business model, despite all the talk
about unifying the people, is de facto polarization
and division, I think we can also safely
say that they create problems down the line if there
ever is a transition back to a real democracy. And I think this is something I
would also implore you that we don’t think enough about. We’ve sort of finally woken up
to this idea that, oh, well, god forbid there are
autocracies emerging and so on. But we also simply can’t go back
to the playbook of the 1970s and 1980s about how
they might possibly end. Nobody has any idea how
Erdogan’s reign could possibly end, let alone
Putin, and then also how you would deal
with a legacy in terms of kleptocratic economies,
including also maybe not something that’s at
the forefront of your mind, but also important, the kind of
symbolic landscape they left. They reshaped cities profoundly. They build monuments. They built all kinds of stuff. What’s going to happen? And I think this is something
we should think much more about than we tend to do. RICHARD SAMUELS: Right. Well, join me in thanking both
speakers for a very stimulating conversation. [APPLAUSE]

Danny Hutson

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