Reconfiguration of Neoliberalism

Domestic Sources of American Foreign Policy under President Donald Trump

This article describes how the public’s huge discontent with neoliberal reforms led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. These reforms originated in the 1970s and generated initial successes. The economy overcame the mounting problem of stagflation and the United States returned to economic growth. In addition, cultural change from materialism to post-material values initially supported the neoliberal reforms. However, these early successes proved to be overly expensive. The social inequality of society grew substantially. Broad sections of the American society were exposed to high risks against which they were not effectively protected. The financial crisis of 2008 revealed the full misery and led to heightened disillusionment, uncertainty, and broad discontent with neoliberalism.

Donald Trump promised his voters to eliminate these calamities. However, rather than initiating domestic reforms of neoliberalism he focused his plans on foreign affairs. He uses American structural powers in international affairs in order to reduce the societies’ exposure to risk and to alleviate the burden globalization allegedly put on the American people. This is in essence Trump’s reconfiguration of neoliberalism.

The article further shows that under existing conditions of high levels of interdependence international relations consist of irreconcilable conflicts among desirable foreign policy goals. Pursuing some goals of political priority must necessarily lead to some disadvantages in pursuing conflicting goals. The article uses the example of U.S. foreign policy to demonstrate that the willingness of a society to accept risks and/or to adjust to pressures deriving from international interdependence is the key domestic driving force for the making of foreign policy.

The article (available in German language only) can be downloaded here.

On “How Democracies Die”

On “How Democracies Die”

The United States under the Trump presidency along with other democracies led by authoritarian leaders raise concerns that even consolidated democracies do not live forever. This article starts with a recently published book titled “how democracies die” and demonstrates how seemingly stable democratic systems might erode, how such processes develop and how erosion might be stopped.

Moreover, the article argues that not only authoritarian leaders such as Donald Trump jeopardize democracy. Some studies also point to the corrosive effects of wealthy elites who are in a much better position of pursuing their interests than ordinary citizens. These analyses raise doubts about democracy as government of for and by the people.

The article starts with the scholarly debate on the book “how democracies die.” It continues describing what other deficiencies impair American politics. Finally, it evaluates the findings in light of democratic theory. It uses an interdisciplinary perspective by invoking insights from comparative democracy research, international relations, economics and development research.

The full text (in German only) is published in: Politische Vierteljahresschrift Vol. 60, No 2, 2019.

Who are the conservative supporters of Donald Trump and what do they think?

Who are the conservative supporters of Donald Trump and what do they think?

West Europeans and Germans minimally shake their heads when asked what they think of Donald Trump. He is even less popular than George W. Bush in Europe. Without doubt, Trump damaged the global reputation of the United States as a world leader. Continuous public opinion surveys demonstrate that America was never held in a regard over 50% of the people interviewed internationally. However, during the Obama presidency the number of those who approved American leadership was consistently higher than those who disapproved it. In the United States, Trump reaches similarly low approval ratings. In the mid-term elections of November 2018 his Republican Party suffered a severe setback as it lost the majority in the House of Representatives. Given the strong opposition against his presidency it is extremely puzzling how Donald Trump retains political power and maintains his most controversial style of conduct undisturbed. In order to understand his grand standing it is important acknowledging that a group of extremely loyal supporters stand behind him and his presidency. This article (available in German only) sheds light on this loyal group of supporters and shows what they think.

Solidarity with Losers of Free Trade

Solidarity with Losers of Free Trade

Grossman, Gene M./ Helpman, Elhanan (2018), Identity Politics and Trade Policy: National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Papers 25348 Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. This paper argues against the dominanting view in the literature on international trade that people perceive trade relations first and foremost as determined by clear cost-benefit calculations. Instead the growing popular scepticism against free trade (particularly in the United States) is driven by a strong solidarity with the losers of international trade. The social environement pressures its members not to deviate too far from the community they live in.

Immigration and National Voting

Immigration and National Voting

Moriconi, Simone/ Peri, Giovanni/ Turati, Riccardo (2018), Skill of the Immigrants and Vote of the Natives: Immigration and Nationalism in European Elections 2007-2016. National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Papers 25077, Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. This working paper analyses the impact of migration on voters’ decisions in Europe. These decisions vary according to how voters perceive migration as an asset or as a liability to the society. Older and less educated voters perceive migrants differently and migration does not just mobilize former non-voters but changes the voting behavior of broad sections of the society.

Financial Crisis and Polarization of Politics

Financial Crisis and Polarization of Politics

Funke, Manuel/ Schularick, Moritz/ Trebesch, Christoph (2015), Goeing to the Extremes: Politics after Financial Crisis, 1870-2014: Center for Economic Studies & Ifo Institute, CESIfo Working Papers 5553 München: Center for Economic Studies & Ifo Institute. This publication shows how financial crisis historically generated political polarization and a drift of voters to far right parties. Moreover, polarization and fragmentation of politics decreases the much needed ability to govern after a financial crisis has hit.