Hungarian Conservative

Globalization, Democracy, and Discontent

J. M. W. Turner, The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire (1817). Tate Modern, London
In the wake of a global pandemic, Western democracies have become hugely indebted, weak, self-loathing riven by incessant migration and beset by an identity crisis. What went wrong?

At the end of the Cold War, Western democracies emerged as the wealthiest and most powerful states the world had ever seen. Four decades later, in the wake of a global pandemic, they were hugely indebted, weak, self-loathing societies riven by incessant migration and beset by an identity crisis. What went wrong?

One answer might be hubris. In 1989 successful Western democracies and their business, academic, and political elites assumed the globe was en route to a secular, socially just, international order. Tony Blair, one of the more enthusiastic architects of this project, observed in 2010 that ‘for almost twenty years … the West set (this) agenda’.1

Following the collapse of Soviet-style communism, it was all too easy to believe that the West’s model of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism, supported by a clear set of US-sponsored international rules, would spread to the four corners of the earth. Ultimately, however, ‘this proved to be nonsense’.2 How did this nonsense unravel, and what remains of this universal project in the wake of both financial meltdown and the massive debt which democracies have accumulated during the pandemic that locked these once open societies down in 2020?

The Globalization Myth

At the turn of the millennium, the Washington consensus held that the democratization of technology, finance, and information would drive a universal homogenizing process.

Globalization was also creating a new power source in the world, the ‘Electronic Herd’. The herd comprised ‘the faceless stock, bond and currency traders’ pioneering exciting new financial products. It rewarded, with investment capital, countries that put on a ‘Golden Straightjacket’ of deregulation and ‘kept it on’.3

Western capital went in search of cheap emerging-market labour from the ‘most efficient low-cost producers’, mainly in Asia.4 The best way to achieve rapid increases in living standards was to follow market liberalizing norms. This ‘was the mantra’ of the globalization era.5 States either got on board the global highway to a borderless, liberal democratic future, or found themselves consigned to failed statehood, where only crime and terror flourished.

The consequences were staggering, but not quite what the globalizing visionaries anticipated. The lazy assumption that, with the Cold War over, the rest of the world would embrace supposedly universal truths associated with liberal democracy proved an illusion. By the second decade of the twenty-first century, many countries, notably China and Russia, had done no such thing.

The geo-political consequences of the US sub-prime crisis of 2008–2010, followed by the fiscal attrition of the eurozone crisis between 2010 and 2018, indicated that history was far from over. Globalization revealed an uncomfortable dark side. After 2008, millennial capitalism went on trial.

The Rise and Fall of Neo-Medievalism

The emerging politico-economic structure at the millennium was ‘neo-medieval’: distinguished by overlapping jurisdictions and cross-cutting allegiances where the transnational character of global exchanges undermined the traditional territoriality and allegiances of the nation state, de-concentrating loyalty as it deracinated identities.6

The global division of labour sounded the death knell of the blue-collar working class in the developed world

At the same time, millennial capital, driven by wide, deep, and increasingly global financial markets, undermined social democratic, state based, or regionally focused, capitalism. Globalization shattered the post-1945, Ford era contract between capital and the nation state, upsetting in the process the presumed harmonious convergence between capitalism and democracy. It recast socio-economic relations, party behaviour, and political conduct. The global division of labour sounded the death knell of the blue-collar working class in the developed world, creating in their place a new and insecure ‘precariat’ class.

The political impact of millennial capital had already diminished assumptions about the equitable and wealth-enhancing character of globalized currency and trade flows leading to harmonious convergence in a borderless world. The financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath dramatically intensified the inegalitarian, anomic character of this anxious, paranoia-inducing global condition. How Western democracies subsequently conceived both membership and security required a range of responses that have only come into focus since the global financial crisis and the panicked return to big state regulation and lockdown during the global pandemic of 2020.

The Collapse of the Millenial Market State Order, 2008–2018 

The 2008 crash was a credit crisis, where liquidity dried up and banks with low deposit bases, dependent for lending upon the international money market, went bust (as was the case with Northern Rock, the UK lender or, small, open economies, like Iceland and Ireland).

The US, regardless of the financial meltdown Wall Street induced, could maintain its financial credibility by printing dollars. This notwithstanding, the scale of the ‘grave new world’ of global trade and finance emerged, courtesy of the unregulated, electronic herd.

Cheap interest rates, deliberately kept low by the US Federal Reserve after the trauma of 9/11, had fuelled a consumption-driven, asset price boom. It also made possible a new range of financial products designed to offset risk, notably the synthetic derivatives that mixed Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) and Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) in an ultimately toxic blend. Investment banks like Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Sterns became mortgage-based money machines vending leverage and securitization. In 2008, there was an estimated US$ 684 trillion in debt-related, credit-backed, derivatives in the global market—some twelve times the size of total global gross domestic product.

The cumulative actions of the US Federal Bank and the Bush and Obama administrations succeeded in stabilizing the financial system and recapitalizing megabanks, like Citi group, that were ‘too big to fail’. The Fed, ‘without public consultation of any kind’ became the lender of last resort to the world.7

The provision of liquidity, Tim Geithner, Obama’s Treasury Secretary, averred, upheld the stability of ‘the financial system’.8 If the ultimate test of the policy of stabilization was the health of the banks, then the result was impressive. The eighteen biggest banks doubled their capital requirements whilst dramatically reducing their risky wholesale funding.9

However, saving that system came at a price. The financial crisis revealed that national economic policy was ultimately subordinated to the needs of the financial system. The crisis also intensified a burgeoning conflict between the interests of financiers and those of taxpayers. To save the global financial system, national taxpayers paid ‘to bail out what were, in some cases, global institutions’. With much higher levels of government debt as a consequence of the financial crisis and now the lockdown, they would have ‘to do so for many years to come’.10

Fragmenting Europe 2010–2020

The eurozone crisis evolved differently from the US subprime crash, but more damagingly for the prospect of ever closer political union. Millennial Wall Street was a North Atlantic, as well as a North American system. The City of London hosted 250 foreign banks prior to the crisis. RBS, Deutsche Bank, and BNP were the three largest banks in the world by assets. In 2007, the balance sheet of each came close to matching the GDP of its home country.11 In Ireland, the banking sector was seven times greater than its GDP.12 The eurozone crisis that began in 2010 followed directly upon the Wall Street crash.

The City of London hosted 250 foreign banks prior to the crisis

The fact that the zone was a work in progress dragged the crisis out. Between 1992 and 2001 the EU created a single market and a shared currency, but lacked a common budget, fiscal transfers, and a banking union. As housing bubbles burst in Spain, Ireland, and Portugal, governments found themselves financially exposed. Despite their federal pretensions, Northern European creditor states, reinforced by the ‘Troika’—composed of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF—demanded that the ‘borrower nations’ shoulder the burden of adjustment.

The dominance of the German economy within the European Union dictated the course of the eurozone.13 The unified Germany that emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall had become the Union’s indispensable nation. A German penchant for fiscal rigidity and a reluctance, prior to 2015, to let the European Central Bank’s Director, Mario Draghi, ‘do whatever it takes’, through quantitative easing and operating as a lender of last resort to troubled Southern European bond markets, exacerbated the crisis.

As the eurozone unravelled,14 Europe’s economies diverged, intensifying a North-South divide. Germany’s export surpluses grew between 2010–2018, while the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) endured recession, budget deficits, and mass unemployment.15 Europe’s largest economies, France, Germany, and the UK, did not suffer the extreme inegalitarian distributional effects of the US sub-prime crisis. Instead, they off-loaded them onto the weaker states of Southern Europe.

The Troika’s byzantine management of the crisis between 2010 and 2018 also undermined the conduct of democratic politics within the eurozone. The experience of the Greek populist party, Syriza, between 2012–2019 exposed still further the democratic deficit at the heart of Euroland.16

The crisis revealed the single currency, like the European Union itself, to be a half-finished construct. The eurozone possesses some aspects of statehood: a single currency, and a single (although incomplete) market.

Yet it lacks a common fiscal policy. It has no common border force, and a common European defence policy has proved, as shown since 2014 in the Ukraine saga, a matter of words rather than deeds. Post-crisis Europe, rather than being the harbinger of a post-national constellation,17 has become ‘the object of other people’s corporatist capitalism’.18

Debt and Discontent

The magical monetary medicine of quantitative easing facilitated a bull run on equities between 2009 and 2019. It disproportionately rewarded the top 10 per cent of households that owned 90 per cent of the total value of financial assets. The contrast between Wall Street and Main Street could not have been starker. Liberal progressive ideology, committed to social justice and the idea that all social ills were amenable to state-engineered technocratic remedies, had paradoxically achieved this inegalitarian outcome.19 The 2011 Occupy movement slogan, ‘The system isn’t broken. It’s rigged’, captured the emerging popular mood.20

After 2012 the US economy began to recover, but inequality increased across the West and the progressive political vision increasingly assumed an elitist character

Although the distribution of costs and benefits benefited the wealthiest, American crisis management nevertheless worked. After 2012 the US economy began to recover, but inequality increased across the West and the progressive political vision increasingly assumed an elitist character. The spirit of inequality, Montesquieu observed, corrupts democracy. It ‘arises when citizens no longer identify their interests with the interests of their country, and therefore seek both to advance their own private interests … and to acquire political power over them’.21 This corruption of the democratic spirit began in Silicon Valley and spread. The virtual economy advanced the pursuit of indubitably progressive but artificial intelligence-driven disruption after 2008, with devastating democratic consequences.

AI and the Great Disruption

Quantitatively easing the supply of money made it attractive for companies to borrow to buy out their competitors. After 2008, American capitalism recast itself in a more monopolistic mould. Information technology companies, with their growing global footprint, were the major beneficiaries. In the process they built a new, intangible, economy. The emergence of the GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple) tetrarchy that escaped anti-trust, data protection and intrusive tax investigation distorted the free market, corrupted the understanding of liberty and free speech, and fractured, perhaps irreparably, the relationship between individualism, property rights, and political democracy. As recent scandals involving Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other networks demonstrate, the new media now surpasses traditional mainstream media as a medium to influence voter behaviour and democratic outcomes. An unaccountable technocracy mines personal data and acts as the universal arbiter of political speech.

The fourth industrial revolution has had transformative and profoundly inegalitarian social and economic outcomes. In practical terms, the new technology companies have achieved immense financial and virtual power. Amazon, PayPal, and Google (restructured as Alphabet in 2015) launched after 1994, g-mail first appeared in 2004, as did Facebook. Twitter began tweeting in 2006, Airbnb renting rooms in 2008, Tesla making driverless cars in 2003, and Uber ride hailing in 2009. Apple launched in 1976, but its founder, Steve Jobs, reinvented it with the iMac (1996) the iPad (2004) and the iPhone (2007). Silicon Valley hosts the corporate headquarters of Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, Uber, PayPal, and Airbnb. The valley engineers the future, and the future is algorithmic.

By 2017, eight of the world’s most highly valued companies were technology businesses. Of these companies, five (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook) are based in the US, two (Ali Baba and Tencent) in China and one (Samsung) in Korea. Europe is notable only by its absence. The techtopians assume they are ‘the solution, not the problem’. They want ‘one global community’, but to build it, they must first ‘disrupt’ the old.22 What does disruption involve?

Silicon Valley imbibed the libertarian idealism of 1960s California. Steve Jobs, its founding father, was a counter-culture dropout. A progressive, anti-establishment worldview informed the Valley’s mutation from counter-culture to cyber culture.23 Libertarian in its foundations, the creators of the virtual world conceived it as an anarchic space, along hippie, communalist lines. Yet, big-tech behaviour came to disavow its libertarian roots. The economic strategy of the new media leviathans encourages ‘creative’ monopoly, not competition.

Under monopolist conditions, the GAFA impact on print and mainstream media has been economically and politically transformative. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are essentially media platforms that mine data and generate profits through advertising. In 2017, Google and Facebook received 63 per cent of all US digital advertising revenue.24

The Intangible Economy

One consequence of this is an intangible economic order. Major developed economies now invest in intangible assets—design, branding, R&D, and software—rather than in tangible assets, such as physical machinery or buildings. These intangible assets have determined the key economic changes of the last decade, from economic inequality to stagnating productivity.

The intangible economy is fundamentally different from the pre-tech, tangible one, as the shuttered retail outlets on UK high streets since lockdown eloquently testify. Its characteristics involve ‘scalability’ of product design, especially through the new global communications environment, spillovers into other products in the same domain, and synergies where design and development hubs create dynamic clusters, whilst, at the same time generating greater inequalities in wealth across the wider society. As intangibility flourishes, the old economy stagnates.25

Intangibility also facilitates the rise of super-dominant companies, removed from political or fiscal oversight. The oligopolist character of the intangible economy means that since the 2008 financial crisis, the Gini coefficient has widened in all developed economies, fracturing a critical link between capitalism and democracy. Vilfredo Pareto showed, at the start of the modern democratic age, that society always reverts to a mean where 20 per cent of the population own 80 per cent of the wealth26—a distribution seemingly confirmed by the pattern of wealth distribution since the 2008 financial crisis. Intangible capitalism confirms the Pareto principle.

The intangible economy favours not global convergence, but an ‘iron law of oligarchy’ in a twenty-first century networked form.27

Social media companies already offer platforms to target voter preferences and facilitate extremist ideologies

The new media platforms increasingly gather data to produce information that influences decision-making, disrupting the political relationship between the individual citizen, the constitutional order, and the market. Paradoxically, the anarchic space of virtual freedom offers the most valuable weapon for political control, manipulation, and the dissemination of non-information. Social media companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter already offer platforms to target voter preferences and facilitate extremist ideologies that render democratic processes open to manipulation by alien powers. Putin’s subversive propaganda campaigns have been successful because all he needed ‘was social media’.28 These developments raise issues for maintaining an open, plural society.

After 2012, a semi-detached, transnational, big tech, hedge fund and investment banking elite promoted intangible capitalism, divorced from the concerns and values of their tangible democratic nation state containers. ‘Woke’ capitalism pursued an increasingly disruptive, emancipatory, green, virtual, but still progressive, global vision.

Somewhat differently, the European project, once envisaged as the harbinger of a more enlightened, socially just regional order, found—through more conventional fiscal policy—a route to inegalitarian and illiberal outcomes that divorced its cosmopolitan elites from their disenfranchised masses.

The Revenge of Politics

Stendhal’s bewildered ‘young hero’, caught in the thick of the action at Waterloo, memorably enquired ‘is this a real battle?’29 By 2020 many pondered an ideological version of Fabrizio del Dongo’s question. The desire of the eurozone elite and Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful head of state, to keep the eurozone together whatever the cost, engineered precisely the nationalist backlash that ever closer union was intended to avoid.

In Greece, the UK, across Western Europe, and in the US an unanticipated and inchoate popular reaction to the financial crisis questioned the progressive assumptions that had informed the end-of-history project.

Much to the bewilderment of the transnational elites in politics, academia, finance, and the mainstream media, the second decade of the twenty-first century witnessed a resurgence of nationalism, irredentism, and populism on both the left and right of the political spectrum and on both sides of the Atlantic.

The financial crisis of 2008 and the decade of bank bailouts and austerity that followed, created a mounting sense of unease about the governance of Western Europe and the United States. It fed a loss of confidence in established political parties. In 2016, the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, and the rise of nativist and radical socialist political movements everywhere, announced a wave of angry populism crashing on the rapidly eroding shore of Western progressive orthodoxy. Trump and Brexit signalled a revolt of the masses30 against the progressive commitment to the transnational. The pandemic lockdowns of 2020 only reinforced this growing predilection for national solidarity.

Across Europe, parties have either emerged from nowhere or chased electability from the political fringes. Populism finds the new social media particularly congenial for transmitting its message, bypassing established party systems that acted as filters to limit its appeal. Social media enabled the electoral success of previously fringe movements, such as Syriza in Greece or the Five Star Movement in Italy, as well as the hijacking of mainstream parties. Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination for the 2016 US presidential election against the wishes of the party establishment, whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party leadership victory in 2015 lit a bonfire under Tony Blair’s third way, progressive vanities.

The Revolt of the Masses and the Decline of the West

After 2012, financial recovery promoted a technology driven, transnational, progressive elitism, presaging even greater economic and political division. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the gilets jaunes in France, and the growing ‘antivax’ protests in the West against lockdown since 2020 have exposed a burgeoning divide between two ‘subterranean value blocs’ across the modern West.31 As J. D. Vance explained, Silicon Valley represents a ‘dystopian view of what middle America sees in the future. Two fundamental subsets of the population […] completely separated by culture and wealth [who] don’t really interact with each other or feel any kinship.’32 David Goodhart termed these subsets in the UK ‘Anywhere’ and ‘Somewhere’, whilst in France, a Parisian, urban, bobo elite that dominates media, business, and finance inhabits a different world from those who live in ‘lower France’ on the périphérie.

It is the economic and cultural gulf between these worlds and worldviews that accounts for the rise of Western populism. Vance considers himself a rare ‘cultural migrant’ who discovers that ‘the wealthy and powerful are not just wealthy and powerful, they follow a different set of norms’.33

These norms are the antithesis of the hillbilly, redneck culture of the Midwest, lower France, or North East England. Vance’s memoir traces how a white, working-class culture disintegrated, as they watched manufacturing jobs that once supported stable family life disappear overseas. A similar chasm accounts for the gilets jaunes, who like their hillbilly equivalents looked on, powerless, ‘as the implacable law of global markets asserted its authority everywhere’.34 Within a few decades France became ‘an American society […] inegalitarian and multicultural, […] polarised and seething with tension’.35

The Road to Nowhere

Meanwhile, in the UK, Goodhart estimates that metropolitan elites represent 20–25 per cent of the population, whilst the periphery constitutes more than half the population. By wealth and education they correspond to a similar divide across the US and Western Europe. Peripheral ‘somewheres’ are socially conservative, political ‘outsiders’, uncomfortable with mass immigration, and ‘an achievement society in which they struggle to achieve’.36 Forty years ago, across the West, their values prevailed. Brexit in the UK, Trump in the US, the Liga di Nord in Italy, the FN in France, the AfD in Germany, and Vox in Spain represent the reaction of this excluded middle, an instinctive response to the failure of the progressive agenda.

By contrast, the ‘double liberalism’ of the progressive elites is market friendly and pro-globalization in economics ‘combined with state enforcement of greater racial and gender equality’.37 This is a worldview that places a high value on mobility and novelty, and a much lower value on national social contracts, tradition, and group identity, except those of excluded minorities.38

This global elite, moreover, is comfortable with mass migration, European integration, and the spread of universal human rights, all of which dilute national citizenship. Although meritocracy is the official creed, this new, and increasingly non-domiciled elite are ‘almost always born into the wealthy or professional classes’.39 Education at elite universities and inter-marriage reinforce this transnational, multicultural caste’s shared values. Before Brexit and Trump, their viewpoint prevailed in the mainstream media and set the agenda of the mainstream political parties across the West.

The baleful consequences of this agenda, however, were all too evident by the second decade of the twenty-first century. Britain in the mid-1990s was a multi-racial society with a settled minority migrant population of around 4 million or 7 per cent.40 By 2016, 18 percent of the UK’s working age population was born overseas and Britain’s official immigrant and minority population had trebled to about 12 million or over 20 per cent. This was not an ‘unstoppable force of nature’,41 but official European, Labour, and progressive Conservative policy.

The major group that has lost out from the most recent wave of migration are poorer people in rich countries. Thus, in the working-class towns of North East England, young white males aged between eighteen and twenty-four, without education or training, enter a twilight world of low-status jobs. Significantly, the North East, like once industrial South Wales, voted Brexit in 2016. Similar constituencies in the USA, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and France support, inter alia Trump, the AfD, Syriza, the Liga di Nord, Vox, the Swedish Democrats, and the Rassemblement National.

By contrast, London, which dominates the UK economy, has become an economically, and ethnically polarized cosmopolis. It functions like a caste system based on extreme wealth and income stratification, where a largely migrant, menial class services a free-spending, transnational oligarchy. By the 2011 census, London had become a ‘majority minority city’. Across Europe the move to ever closer union and the emphasis on the free movement of labour has exacerbated the burgeoning gap between bobo cosmopolites in London or Paris and the peripheral precariat that mainstream political parties have ignored since history ended.

By the 2011 census, London had become a ‘majority minority city’

In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx assumed that the affluent bourgeoisie would be more invested in nationalism than the proletariat, because they formed the ‘executive committee’ of the modern state.42 Ironically the intangible global economy transformed the haute bourgeoisie into the new Internationale. This rich, transnational elite now ‘have more in common with each other—regardless of their respective national, racial, or religious identities—than they have with everybody else’.43

The universal values, minority entitlements, and social justice that the new class embraces serve as a substitute for national identity. The abstract equality of all is taken to mean that national borders have become irrelevant and that partiality for fellow nationals is flawed, even racist.

This progressive Internationale passionately believes that European states must dissolve into a single political entity. Yet the pursuit of integration and immigration has resulted only in stagnant growth and high unemployment. The free movement of labour, and the removal of borders following the Schengen Agreement of 1985 meant that by 2008, 26 eurozone countries had relinquished border controls. This only exacerbated immigration flows, dramatically symbolized by the Syrian refugee crisis of 2015.

The European political class’s migration fixation made three interlinked assumptions. Firstly, that mass migration was an economic boon rather than a cost to overstretched European welfare states. Secondly, that an ageing Northern European population needed to be replaced by new and culturally very different people from countries like Pakistan, sub-Saharan Africa, or the Middle East. Thirdly, that this new population would somehow integrate or, alternatively, contribute much-needed diversity to an otherwise stale and pale European identity in urgent need of a multicultural rejuvenation.

These assumptions proved delusional. The combined endeavour of the European Union managerial class and the neutral state fashioned a new politics that accorded special group rights to minority identities. In the process it fragmented any shared sense of national identity, or attachment to a political community, whilst unintentionally facilitating minority ghettoes in cosmopolitan cities. Without any political incentive to integrate, these often very different minority cultures developed separately, often freely exhibiting violently illiberal enthusiasms.

Failed interventions in Libya, internecine conflict in Syria, and the attacks of the Islamic State on European cities only exacerbated post- financial crisis angst and increasingly bitter identity politics. Even after its disastrous failure to manage the 2015 refugee crisis, then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker could still presume ‘that borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians’.44

By contrast, Thomas Hobbes, observing the progress of the English Civil War from Paris after 1642, argued that a social contract establishing an abstract, sovereign state, must afford its members peace and protection, otherwise ‘solitary, poor, nasty (and) brutish’ conditions necessarily prevail. Hobbes would have predicted European federalism and Schengen’s open borders leading inexorably to well-meaning doom.45 The failure of the European project between 2010 and 2018, and the lockdowns of 2020, saw former nation states across Europe scrabbling to reclaim their borders, undermining one of the four ‘essential’ freedoms on which the European Union uncertainly rested.

A new realpolitik has begun to eke its revenge on the hubristic assumptions of the progressive West

Liberal democratic trading states, led by the US, built the international architecture that governed globalization: the IMF, the World Trade Organization, and the European Union at the end of the Cold War. However, the unintended consequence of the huge increase in cross-border capital flows from the early 1980s rendered these institutions increasingly impotent. This shift, together with the financial crisis it generated and the intangible economy it facilitated, undermined the democratic legitimacy of globalization as well as its claims to advance emancipatory and shared universal norms. In the US it has fomented deepening divisions on ethnic and class lines that threaten its constitutional foundations. Meanwhile, the ‘turbulent and mighty continent’ of Europe, that Lord Giddens celebrated, looks ‘exhausted’, and the European Union itself resembles a vanishing kingdom.46 History has far from ended. A new realpolitik has begun to eke its revenge on the hubristic assumptions of the progressive West. It takes the form, internally, of a haemorrhage in the Western body politic, and externally the rise of revisionist powers.


1 Tony Blair, A Journey (London: Hutchinson, 2010), 664.

2 Stephen D. King, Grave New World: The End of Globalization and the Return of History (ibook, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 295.

3 Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (London: Harper Collins, 2000), 340.

4 King, Grave New World, 243.

5 Adam Tooze, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crisis Changed the World (London: Allen Lane, 2018), 574.

6 See Philip G. Cerny, ‘Plurality, Pluralism and Power: Elements of Pluralist Analysis in an Age
of Globalization’, in Rainer Eisfeld, ed., Pluralist Developments in the Theory and Practice of Democracy (Opladen and Farmington Hills: Barbara Budrich, 2006), 81–111.

7 Tooze, Crashed, 203.

8 Tooze, Crashed, 297.

9 Tooze, Crashed, 316.

10 King, Grave New World, 290. 

11 UK, Germany, and France.

12 Irish banks’ liabilities added up to 700 per cent of GDP. Tooze, Crashed, 110.

13 In 2009, the federal government introduced a constitutional amendment, the schuldenbremse restricting borrowing to no more than 0.35 per cent of GDP. See Tooze, Crashed, 287–289.

14 It almost broke up in a disorderly and potentially globally damaging fashion in 2012. Tooze, Crashed, 17. 

15 King, Grave New World, 139.

16 See Yannis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room. My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment (London: Bodley Head, 2017), 49.

17 See Jacques Derrida and Jurgen Habermas, ‘What Binds Europeans Together’, Constellations, 50/3 (2003).

18 Tooze, Crashed, 16–17.

19 Tooze, Crashed, 459.

20 Tooze, Crashed, 458.

21 See Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirt of the Laws, Vol. 1, (Glasgow: David Niven, 1794), 132.

22 See Jamie Bartlett’s documentary, The Secrets of Silicon Valley, b0916ghq.

23 John Thornhill, ‘Big Tech v Big Brother’, The Financial Times Weekend (19–20 April 2017).

24 See James Titcomb, ‘Google’s Growth Heads for the Cliff-edge as Amazon Primes for Advertising Attack’, The Sunday Telegraph (21 July 2019).

25 Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake, Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 21.

26 Vilfredo Pareto, ‘Cours d’Économie politique’ (Lausanne, 1896). See also Richard Koch, The 80/20 Principle (New York: Doubleday, 1998). Robert Michels formulated ‘the iron law of oligarchy’ in 1911.

27 Robert Michels, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (Kitchener: Batoche Books, 2001).

28 Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair (November 2017).

29 Stendhal (Henri Beyle), The Charterhouse of Parma (London: Penguin, 2006), 48.

30 See José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (New York: Norton, 1957).

31 David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics (London: Hurst, 2017), 253; J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis (New York: Harper, 2018); Paul Collier, The Future of Capitalism (London: Penguin, 2018); Christophe Guilluy, Prosperity, the Periphery and the Future of France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).

32 Josh Glancy, ‘JD Vance’, The Sunday Times Magazine Interview (16 July 2017).

33 Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, 253.

34 Guilluy, Prosperity, 37.

35 Guilluy, Prosperity, 38.

36 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 5.

37 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 63.

38 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 5.

39 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 61.

40 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 124.

41 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 123.

42 Freidrich Engels and Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848, marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm.

43 King, Grave New World, 145. See also Vance, Hillbilly Elegy.

44 King, Grave New World, 258.

45 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London, 1650), 47.

46 See Anthony Giddens, Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? (Cambridge: Polity, 2014); Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (London: Penguin, 1998); Douglas Murray, The Strange Death of Europe (London: Bloomsbury, 2018); Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms (London: Allen Lane, 2012).

In the wake of a global pandemic, Western democracies have become hugely indebted, weak, self-loathing riven by incessant migration and beset by an identity crisis. What went wrong?