James Morrison

Bound to Not Lead: 2016 as Unexceptional Americanism

From the vote for Brexit to the election of Donald Trump, 2016 has brought an apparent backlash against globalisation in general and the post-war Anglo-American order in particular. The conventional liberal diagnosis follows in the tradition of Karl Polanyi: as social safety nets have become threadbare, the disenchanted working class has sought to “re-embed” markets into the state. This paper challenges this analysis by placing the events of 2016 in a broader theoretical and historical context. It shows that many of Trump’s promises — while expressed less tactfully, less mellifluously — align with the policies embraced by the left and right from the American founding to the present. This movement is deeply rooted and has evolved independently of the level of US foreign engagement. Instead, this paper shows that Trumpism follows from the same nationalistic mercantilism that defined the 2nd and 3rd Reichs in Germany. And it argues that Trumpism is all the more dangerous because it neglects the two principal failings of the postwar international regime complex: the overconfidence that comes with the stability it brings; and the unmoderated pursuit of growth at the expense of global sustainability.

Link to paper full paper here.