Ronald Inglehart gave the lecture “Modernization and Inequality: Trump, Brexit and Populism”
On Thursday, July 28, within the framework of the 6th International LCSR Summer School Professor Ronald Inglehart gave the lecture “Modernization and Inequality: Trump, Brexit and Populism.” The lecture addressed the acute problem of economic inequality, discussed its possible solutions, in particular, within the context of the increasing support of populist parties.
Inequality reflects the distribution of power between the masses and elite. Even agrarian societies with the small dominant class of landowners were sharply divided. In industrial societies these were the industrial-commercial elites who owned most of the resources. However, the growing urbanization and mass literacy led to a drop in inequality throughout the 20 th century. Since the early 1970s, economic inequality, triggered by the formation and development of the artificial intelligence society, has increased dramatically. At present, advanced economies do not have a conflict between the middle class and the working class, the real clash exists between the 1% of population with the most resources in their hands and the remaining 99% of population.
It is important to note that the aforementioned cleavage did not divide the electorate. As Professor Inglehart explained, since the early 1980s, most political parties have proposed postmaterialistic rhetoric and agenda. They focus mainly on non-economic issues such as environmental protection or sexual minorities rights. At present, the support for populist parties and politicians is rising. In particular, populists support traditional social values, nationalism, oppose immigration. Populists are able to shape the policy process. For example, in June 2016, the populist UK Independence Party initiated the EU Brexit referendum. As a result, the most voters supported the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Professor Inglehart considers populism rise as a reaction against the value transformation. Populism reflects the cultural backlash against postmaterialist values. Populists are attempting, without any success, to find solutions to the new challenges arising from globalization and artificial intelligence society. The responses by Donald Trump are predominantly xenophobic and authoritarian. The other American politician Bernard Sanders emphasizes the acute problem of economic inequality, but unfortunately his reforms are potentially ineffective.
Professor Inglehart finds it important to reallocate resources and create new jobs in health, education, environmental protection, arts, research and development. As he noted, people should focus on maximizing the quality of life instead of maximizing GDP.