Society & Culture

Beyond Populism

Donald Trump’s political success dramatizes the nature of today’s politics.  On  one side we have denationalized ruling elites with absolute faith in their own outlook and very little concern for Americans as Americans.  On the other we have an increasingly incoherent and corrupted populace that nonetheless retains for the most part the basic political virtue of siding with America, meaning the actual American people organized politically.

Our rulers, who view “America” as an instrument and imperfect prototype for their vision of world order, have the support of all that is respectable.  They do what they can to promote a sort of industrial organization of the world that suppresses centers of power with no place in such an order—family, religion, inherited culture, local government and community.  The mass media and major political parties line the people up behind the project and find ways of dealing with points of resistance, whether by stepping up propaganda, creating diversions, or fine-tuning and repackaging policies.

The academy and what’s still sometimes called the world of high culture claim to offer an independent critical perspective.  But career is everything in such circles, certainly among those who rise to prominence, and success comes when one aligns with organized wealth and power.  Also, there is no longer a substantive independent moral...

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