THE FUTURE OF POPULIST NATIONALISM IS VISIBLE TODAY
There is no need to go far into the past - only to the previous decade - when the vast majority of researchers and social commentators were of the opinion that populist nationalism is a transient phase in history that will inevitably disappear, as globalization progresses and the fruits it produces are distributed to all nations. In light of today's evidence, it is obvious that nothing is further from reality.
The idea of nationalism was created by industrialization and modernization a couple of hundred years ago. It is driven by the desire of the people to identify themselves in a larger entity. For the first time, populist movements began to significantly increase in the previous century, especially in Latin America, for example, as Juan Peron rose to power in Argentina in the 1940s. Later, the movement has spread in various forms and ideological frameworks to the US, Europe and Russia.
The populist movement is primarily guided by either the idea of a counter-force against the elite or the attempt to prevent immigrants from other countries from grabbing the same benefits as the citizens of the country. The essence of our time is that nationalism and populism are deeply intertwined and interlinked. All the major populist movements around the world today in both developed and developing countries are gaining power by combining these two factors.
The study of this, perhaps the most significant political force of our time has progressed surprisingly slowly. Only a few weeks ago, the first decent comparative work on populist nationalism emerged, Nationalism in Europe and the Americas (Routledge 2019) by Professor Fernando López-Alves of the University of Santa Barbara and Professor Diane E. Johnson from Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania . At the same time, we are clearly dealing with a phenomenon that noisily raises its head around the world. Not only Trump, Brexit and Putin, but also the examples of Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Venezuela, as well as Sweden and Finland, are telling about the accelerated growth of populist nationalism around the world. Here we are talking about the prospect of a future megatrend from the perspective as a futures researcher.
We have to ask what really explains this phenomenon? Why is this happening right now? And what is the future of these movements?
First of all, I see that there are many reasons for the development of the phenomenon, but the most serious of these is probably the inevitable development of globalization itself and the subsequent redistribution of wealth. This was an issue raised by Thomas Piketty some years ago in his “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” treatise. Together with the relocation of industrial and, more recently, service jobs to Asia, this has meant a completely new type of uncertainty for middle-class people who may have felt more secure in the past
At the same time, with the advent of globalization that is another major factor, the growing number of refugees and the issue of immigration has fueled the growth of populist nationalism. In particular, the war in Syria and growing unrest in the Middle East have contributed to significant successive consequences, especially for Europe. Europe was by no means prepared for the human tragedy that has followed this tragic development.
In other words, there has been a call for populist nationalism. New leaders have been rising, many of which performs very patriarchal features. Donald Trump, of course, is a great example of this. Also here in liberal California, where I am currently visiting, you can find people who are quite serious about the need to build a wall on the southern border in order to prevent people from entering the country, to live with the help of the citizens taxes as they claim. This is ironic considering that most of the manual work seems to be undertaken here in central California by Mexicans.
On the other hand, the researchers also found a model example of a country in which constructive politics transforms a significant population into a multicultural identity of the nation without the rise of populist nationalism in its politics. This model country is Canada, which has not really experienced a populist upheaval like the USA has. The country is a really interesting exception to the rule that our political leadership should learn from.
Populist nationalism has apparently come to stay. As a movement, it is dynamic, strengthening and weakening according to political cycles. And, with a few exceptions, it does not create long-term leaders. But it is clear that in the future we need to learn to understand much more deeply the reasons that have produced the most influential political movement of our time.
As a futurist, I see that the rise of populist nationalism challenges us to ask how we should organize our society so that such internal or external threats do not play such a significant role in the political system. There is a lot of critical research to be done as we need to understand much better where this movement stem from and derives its energy. However, it is not easy for society to organize in such a way that no internal or externalthreats in the political system are as important as they are today. But unless we are successful here, populist nationalism will be strengthened and tensions will increase.
In this case, startling changes can occur. Who would have thought a few years ago that at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon, normally well and stable and predictable in the world - in the United States and Britain - predicting political development only for months is impossible.Now, however, we are facing the following: no-one knows what the British political situation will be like when Brexit is over and no one knows if Trump is still sitting as president of the US at the beginning of April.
The world has gone crazy.