The last four months have been deeply interesting, politically speaking. The last year, which featured the great Brexit drama on the other side of the pond, along with the coming years which will feature, among many unforeseeable issues I am sure, the French elections and further fissures in the EU resulting from the banking crises in Italy and Germany and the relentless unemployment in the southern European countries, may very well turn out to be the defining moments of the World in this century. One might look at the current political climate and shake their heads in bewilderment, but the general outline of how the events have unfolded appear, at least to me, more or less logical and capable of being explained. I think there are two main lines of thoughts with which to wrap one's head around these.
The first is economic and the main culprit here is technology. It is no secret that there is a deep economic aspect to the rise of nationalistic sentiments in the US and Europe. The manufacturing jobs have been decimated in these places, a phenomenon which has been accompanied by the hollowing out of entire towns, cities, cultural institutions, and ways of life. I refuse to take seriously the argument that the reason is the outsourcing of jobs to places like China. The argument, if true at all, only serves to delay what is truly inevitable. And the inevitability is the replacement of all or most of human labor by technology and automation. This is the reason why Trump will not be able to bring back a majority of the jobs which have been lost and this is the reason that contemporary economic nationalism is fundamentally misguided if it believes that the world can return to some sunny day in the past when there were good paying jobs galore which provided a sure shot way into a decent middle class life. The future is most certainly one of decreasing human jobs. It will also be one of increasing inequality unless something is done about it. That literally nothing has been done about this eventuality is a major reason why we have the current political climate. It is time to ditch the idiot who continues to insist that there is something inherently worthy about hard-work and that one's right to live comfortably should be linked to it. It is time to take concepts like Universal Basic Income seriously.
The second is religious and the culprit is atheism. Even though I am an atheist, I see very little of value in it. In fact, it is my opinion, that the rise of logic and rationality has had an overall deleterious effect on humans. It has destroyed religious institutions and with them it has destroyed the grounding that people could find in the past in the absence of material success and well being. It has created, in Nietzsche's words, the last man, completely defined by market forces. Nietzsche thought that the life of such a man would be akin to death itself. He did not envision what might follow. What has followed is a sense of abundant and wide-spread cultural irony and mockery, a sense that literally nothing is sacred and that nothing is inherently of much value. In the sustained absence of material success and in the most important broken promise of capitalism, a deep cultural desperation has set in and no religious institution is now strong enough to serve as an anchor.
In the economic and religious roots of current social crises, Marx and Nietzsche again loom large in this new century.