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.