Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fascist Economic Anxiety

The "economic anxiety" narrative of the Trumpian moment is back under the microscope this week thanks to a NYT op-ed that cited some new research in Politics & Society.. The article and the op-ed alike are riddled with the sort of neoclassical assumptions that have hampered the discussion of fascist political economy and its role in elevating Trump to the White House.

One of the cardinal sins of neoclassical political economy is to assume total myopia. Thus, the only way to experience "economic anxiety" within the neoclassical framework is to be subject to or imminently subject to personal economic calamity. By this logic, those suffering from economic anxiety should be low income or better have dropped in income level recently. Thus, the debate is reduced to demography rather than attempting to understand shifts in economic worldviews. Moreover, the neoclassical view presumes that people do not in fact have economic worldviews beyond the sense of their own immediate well-being.

In actuality, people are concerned economically for more than just themselves. The 2007/2008 global financial crash and the resulting recession demonstrated forcefully that one's well-being is tied to the health of the economy overall when one seventh of the working population went unemployed. The recession demanded people come up with a theory of the economy on which to base their electoral decisions when it came to economic matters.

Fascists understand the cause of economic outcomes quite differently than those from other political tendencies. For fascists, economics is a secondary result of cultural causes. For fascists, the economic health of a nation depends on its leadership's cohesiveness and decisiveness. That, in turn, depends on the cultural cohesiveness of the nation.

This manner of viewing economic causality is not something that can be inferred from demographic statistics, although those statistics might be able to aid us in ferreting out what motivates these alternative economic theories.