With the fall of communism in 1989, theorists such as Francis Fukyama professed an end to ‘history’, a new era of politics for the twenty-first century, as humanity finally abandoned its expensive ideological struggle.
Whilst politics has typically been a struggle of world views, today’s politics seems purely to be capitalist-oriented, parties geared towards winning elections rather than abiding by their traditional principles.
Capitalism has almost become a truism in the twenty-first century, consequently gearing debate and government down one line of thought, rather than the open ideological channel of previous decades. This was clearly shown through the resurgence of the Labour party in the 1990’s, moderates such as Blair led the party towards a more centrist position, abandoning ideological hang-ups, and stripping all memory of the party’s socialist origins.
Whilst nations such as China and Mexico claim socialist roots, their circumstance and policy options are nevertheless shaped by the larger capitalist global market, an unavoidable consequence of accelerating globalization.
humanity has become transfixed on the relationship between the electorate and the political establishment
Though the abandonment of ideology has become increasingly apparent, these political passions have simply found a new home. In the arena of capitalism, humanity has become transfixed on the relationship between the electorate and the political establishment.
But what do we mean by the term ‘establishment’? To some, the word is associated with negative connotations of inequality and the ‘1%’, whereas others view it as being the necessary infrastructure required in order to cope with globalization. Ideological relaxation and the acceptance of capitalist principles has shifted the political focus of the masses, positioning liberalism against the crude Greek conception of democracy, and the people v the politicians.
This grievance is especially exposed within the current US election: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Whilst ideologically opposed to one another, both share common ground in their anti-establishment rhetoric, and their grassroots tactics. Both Sanders and Trump spread anti-establishment rhetoric, effectively pitting both ideological sides simultaneously against the established political power structure.
Furthermore, the surprising triumph of Brexit further highlights this is an emerging movement. The Leave campaign particularly capitalized on the promise of democracy to the people, pitched as the only opportunity to take back power from the ‘unelected bureaucrats in Brussels’. While the opposing campaign quickly highlighted the inaccuracies of their claims, it was clear that the EU referendum was never really about the EU.
the surprising triumph of Brexit further highlights this is an emerging movement
The suspected cause of this movement is believed to be based within feelings of inequality amongst the electorate. “Brexit is thus far the biggest electoral riposte yet to our age of inequality”, writes Michael Hartnett of Bank of America. It’s because the economic recovery of the last eight years has been unbalanced, he adds.
Decreasing living standards, skyrocketing living costs and deteriorating job prospects quickly amputate confidence, giving third parties larger shares of the vote, and projecting previously unknown figures into the public spotlight. Sound familiar?
Anti-establishment politics tends to manifest itself into three main policies across all positions of the ideological spectrum: regulate banks, increase wages, and combat corporate tax avoidance.
As a result, these frustrations bleed into policy, whether or not champions of alternative politics become mainstream. Alternative leaders do not even need to get elected, as their very existence on the public stage pulls debate into a certain direction. It encourages extremity even when its inhabitants are not warring against foreign ideologies. Like hypersensitive antibodies, it transcends the ideological spectrum and attacks capitalism with its own offspring. Conservatives calling for inclusionary policies, and the left for the redistribution of wealth: two crippling blows if manifested.