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Rage-Fueled Politics Threaten Latin America's Business Haven – BNN



(Bloomberg Markets) — One evening in August, Gabriel Boric sat outdoors on a bench, listening and taking notes. A light jacket covered the tattoos on his forearms, but his thick beard and full head of unruly hair betrayed him as the rabble-rousing student protester he was not long ago. In a working-class neighborhood of Santiago, the capital of Chile, he represented the vanguard of a fast-­rising left-wing political movement.

At 35 years old, Boric has become the front-runner in the race to become president of Chile. His ascent, part of a broader shift to the left across Latin America, is rattling international corporations and investment firms, which have long favored Chile as perhaps the most market-friendly developing economy in the world.

One of the voters flocking to see Boric that day complained of long waits and poor care at public hospitals. Boric, who can be bookish, looked down, gathering his thoughts. Then he released them, like steam from a kettle. “This has to fill us with rage,” he said, clenching a fist. “And transform that rage into action.”

Rage helps explain why Boric consistently polls at or near the top of the seven candidates vying to lead Chile. It’s rage over inequality, as is evident from the hammer-and-sickle Communist Party flags that flutter nearby in solidarity with his movement, Frente Amplio, or Broad Front. As the name suggests, the rage also derives from something bigger, a growing generational shift in cultural attitudes about gender and sexuality along with economic views on wealth and taxes.

The political choices of the 19 million inhabitants of Chile—a country with a $253 billion gross domestic product, roughly the size of South Carolina’s—have an outsize influence on world commerce. For half a century, Chile has been the poster child for how free markets can spur growth and lift people out of poverty—an approach sometimes described as neoliberalism, a term the left tends to hurl as an epithet.

Chile’s business-friendly climate dates back to the 1970s, when the dictator General Augusto Pinochet reduced trade barriers and slashed regulation to stimulate foreign ­investment. As Chile turned toward democracy after 1990, courts documented the torture, extrajudicial killings, and other human-rights abuses under Pinochet. Yet his economic approach survived leaders and parties of all political leanings.

Many economists credit these pro-market policies with what has been called the Chilean Miracle. Chile has Latin America’s highest credit rating and attracts more direct foreign investment as a percentage of GDP than such powerhouses as Brazil and Mexico. Chile’s central bank projects that the economy this year will grow as much as 11.5%, more than any developed or emerging-­market country tracked by Bloomberg. Chile reigns as the world’s biggest copper producer and a major supplier of lithium, essential for smartphones and electric cars. From 1990 through 2000, average incomes doubled, poverty fell in half, and the country’s stock market soared fourteenfold.

Recent investment results have been less robust, in part because of rising production costs for copper. In gritty neighborhoods where stray dogs fight for scraps next to tire repair shops, Chile’s success story can feel like a cruel joke. Despite years of steady economic growth, the country has one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor among nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), whose members are 38 democracies with market-based economies. In other words, much of Chile has benefited little from its status as an investor favorite. Now, Boric and his movement argue that there’s been, in a sense, no change in the country’s economic fabric since the dictatorship.

In late 2019, street demonstrations exploded over a minor increase in public transit prices. Participants trashed major subway stations and demanded changes in national priorities, including the treatment of Indigenous groups, the distribution of water, and the management of pensions.

The Covid-19 pandemic then further exposed, and intensified, societal inequality. In May the country voted for representatives who will rewrite its constitution, left over from the Pinochet dictatorship. Those elected for the task lean heavily left.

Today, in a head-spinning shift, Boric is running to succeed a pillar of neoliberalism: the conservative billionaire Sebastián Piñera, a Harvard-educated economist who made his fortune in credit cards and airlines.

A new generation, bucking the country’s traditional cultural views, dominates public discourse. At the August campaign event, a voter who said he was transgender described violence and discrimination at work and home. Boric recounted a conversation he’d had with a gay Chilean poet and essayist who railed against the strictures of a society that discriminated against people like him.

One of Boric’s closest rivals, center-right candidate Sebastián Sichel, is, like Boric, young and tattooed. The 44-year-old lawyer opposes upending the current economic order. But Sichel favors same-sex marriage and increasing aid to the poor. 

Boric’s coalition is calling out economic inequality and supporting gender fluidity, green industries, minority rights, and the creation of a tax-and-spend state where market forces are no longer revered. As Boric has said on more than one occasion, “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave.”

With almost 660 million inhabitants and several dozen ­countries, Latin America can’t be easily categorized. But there are patterns, and it has swung in waves from left to right.

Two decades ago, what’s often described as a pink tide swept into power leftists such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil. Lula in particular seemed to offer an alternative model for development, fueled by a commodity-price boom and more social spending. Like the market-based approach, it pulled tens of millions from poverty.

Another pink tide now seems to be under way. A likely reason: The right had the bad luck to be in power when Covid crushed the region’s health system and killed more than a million people. Latin America has 8% of the world’s population and 20% of its deaths. In 2020, Latin America’s household wealth per adult dropped 11.4%, more than any other region in the world, according to Credit Suisse Group AG.

The current pink tide swept first into Peru. Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher and union activist from a Marxist party, squeaked past the pro-business candidate on a campaign promise of “no more poor people in a rich country.” Investors ran for the exits, and Peru’s currency plunged more than any other, except Afghanistan’s.

Colombia has elections next year. Its markets-friendly president, Iván Duque, can’t run again because of term limits and is deeply unpopular, posing a challenge for his party’s successor. Leftist Gustavo Petro, who promises a “green economy,” leads the polls.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, is expected to face a stiff challenge from ex-President Lula of the previous left-wing wave. The victors in this round will face a tougher ­challenge than 15 years ago because of empty coffers and steeper ­government debts.

Some analysts reject the concept of a pink tide, saying it reduces the complexities of countries with their own stories. “Boric is clearly a product of very particular circumstances in Chile,” says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy organization promoting democracy and social equity in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Any comparison with other leaders is difficult. I don’t think he’d be particularly close to Castillo in Peru.”

Much of what Boric is proposing isn’t entirely different from the approach of many European social democracies or even what Democrats are advocating in the U.S. He says he would redistribute wealth to fight poverty and push for workers’ rights, such as mandating shorter workweeks and promoting collective bargaining.

Boric calls for raising taxes on large fortunes and incomes and cracking down on tax evasion. He’s also proposed a levy on mining royalties and “green taxes” on fuel and industrial emissions. Overall he’d raise taxes, as a percentage of GDP, to 29.5% from 21% over the next decade. That would be closer to the 34% average of OECD countries, and 5 percentage points higher than the U.S.

“We need a new model of development,” Boric says during a 45-minute interview via Zoom in August, “where the creation of wealth is not limited to extraction, the distribution of wealth is not based on trickle-down.”

Beatriz Sanchez, a journalist and former Broad Front presidential candidate, says Boric represents a return to the values of Salvador Allende, Chile’s first socialist president, who was elected in 1970 and overthrown by the Pinochet-led military coup three years later. “Allende is someone who marks a path of change and social justice for Boric and the Broad Front,” she says.

This comparison with Allende, who nationalized the copper industry, alarms some businesses, which are already pulling back. Consider Lundin Mining Corp., a publicly traded company based in Toronto with operations around the world. After spending $1 billion upgrading its copper operations in Chile, Lundin is holding off on more.

“We’re going to wait and see before we put too much money into it, and I’m sure everybody else is doing the same,” says Chairman Lukas Lundin. “If there is too much uncertainty in the next year, year and a half, obviously we won’t push the button.”

Australian mining and oil giant BHP Group Plc owns three copper mines in Chile, including Escondida, the world’s biggest. BHP executive Carlos Avila has testified in the Senate against new mining royalties proposed by several left-wing lawmakers, an approach Boric strongly supports. Avila said the levies would derail projects and Chilean mining would be less competitive.

Inmobiliaria Oriente, a family-owned real estate firm, halted two residential projects and a strip mall in the north of Chile and put a commercial center in Santiago on hold. Chief Executive Officer Javier Chadud says Boric’s plans “may affect the local investment environment and make it difficult for us to find new opportunities and clients.”

Wall Street is skittish, too. In June, UBS AG analysts recommended that investors reduce their exposure to Chilean stocks before the November election. In September, Bank of America Corp. suggested no holdings at all. Guido Chamorro, a portfolio manager at Pictet Asset Management in London specializing in emerging-market debt, said Chile’s region-­topping credit rating—single-A from S&P Global Ratings—could be at risk. New mining taxes from a leftist government, he says, “would erode the long-standing positive international sentiment that has been built up over many years.”

Boric grew up in Patagonia at Chile’s southern tip, a rugged windswept area of sheep farming and glaciers. A tattoo on one of his forearms represents “a lonely lighthouse” set “among the stormy and mysterious seas of Southern Patagonia,” he once wrote on Instagram. “There I’m going to live one day. But for now, it lives with me.” His invocation of the country’s periphery, rather than the capital, has added to his appeal as an outsider unafraid to take on the moneyed urban elite. His father, who supports the center-left Christian Democrats, is a chemical engineer. Boric attended law school in Santiago. While helping to lead student protests over the cost and quality of education, he was elected president of the student federation.

Boric, who’s unmarried, lives in a Santiago apartment, surrounded by well-worn, graduate-student-style shelving and books. Those volumes, especially works of political science and literature, left an impression on a politician who describes himself as “part of a tradition of the Latin American left.” He cites Alvaro García Linera, a Marxist sociologist and former vice president of Bolivia often described as one of that country’s leading intellectuals. He also has European influences, including the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, known for his theories of how the capitalist class stays in power through cultural hegemony rather than violence. Boric, who speaks fluent English, reads history books on the British welfare state and at times sounds as much like a Northern European social democrat as a Latin American firebrand.

In his view, society has two choices: remedy inequality or devolve into chaos or extinction. “We’ll save ourselves together or sink separately,” he says. “The climate crisis is the best evidence of this, as is the pandemic.”

Boric’s natural allies include supermarket workers on strike at a major grocery chain, demanding better pay and health coverage. “The fact that he’s taken the time to speak about the strike, to draw attention to what’s going on up north, that means he’s very human. That means that, yes, he has the potential to be a great president,” says Priscilla Fernandez, a union official. He also has academics’ support. “You can’t create a new society without changing the economic model,” says Manuel Antonio Garretón, a Chilean sociologist.

But bankers, business leaders, and even some former left-wing government officials are pushing back. Sergio Lehmann, chief economist at Banco de Crédito e Inversiones in Santiago, says Boric’s plans could trim the longer-term annual economic growth rate to about 1%, from 2.5%. René Cortázar, a former minister under the center-left presidencies of Michelle Bachelet and Patricio Aylwin, says higher taxes will drive away investors.

“Neither foreign nor domestic investors are obligated to bring their resources to Chile,” Cortázar wrote in the El Mercurio newspaper. “When they decide where to put their money, they analyze the rules of the game in each country to see where it’s most convenient to go.”

In an interview, Sichel, Boric’s center-right opponent, describes both populism and proposals to overhaul the nation’s economic model as “cancers” that he intends to excise. He’s also condemned the conduct of street protesters, whom Boric supports. “You shouldn’t give up one of the government’s main obligations, which is maintaining order and controlling violence,” he says.

Neither candidate embodies Chile’s extremes. A former social development minister under President Piñera, Sichel’s running as an independent, though representing Piñera’s right-wing coalition, Chile Podemos Más (Chile We Can Do More).

Along with supporting gay marriage, Sichel, like Boric, attacks Chile’s tradition of cultural secrecy that has long hurt the disadvantaged. In an unusual decision for a politician in Chile, he’s spoken openly of his own struggles. He was raised by a single mother, who got pregnant at 17 by a father who disowned them. In a Sábado magazine column, he wrote of his mother’s psychiatric challenges and alcoholism and of living at times without water and electricity. In his late 20s, Sichel searched for his father and met him. In a poll this week, Sichel slipped to No. 3, behind Jose Antonio Kast of the right-wing Republican Party.

For his part, Boric defeated a communist and seeks to distance himself from the socialist policies of Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela. In his view, they’re authoritarian and benefit only the government’s allies. He also wants to reassure international investors.

“Those willing to pursue a model of development that is environmentally sustainable, with good labor practices, and that generates technology transfer and a fairer distribution of wealth will be more than welcome,” he says.

Boric acknowledges the concerns of business leaders that his victory could damage investment in Chile, hurting the economy. “Of course, I’m worried,” he says. “But I believe that everybody understands—even the investors—that if you have a broken society, there are no expectations of having long-term investments. Public faith is lost, and you end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.” If he wins, he’ll have to solve the riddle of fighting inequality without ending the Chilean miracle.

Thomson is bureau chief for Bloomberg News in Santiago, where Fuentes is a reporter and Malinowski is an editor. Bronner is a senior editor in New York.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Canada’s Trudeau to unveil Cabinet amid push to fight climate change



 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who fell short of a majority in last month’s election, will introduce a Cabinet on Tuesday that analysts say should hone in on the fight against climate change.

Trudeau’s Liberals gained four seats to 159, but fell short of the 170 needed to pass legislation without the support of an opposition party. Minority governments normally last about two years instead of a full, four-year term.

Trudeau, 49, has promised to spend tens of billions of extra dollars over five years to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. But analysts said Ottawa should narrow its focus and make fighting climate change a clear priority.

Peter Donolo, a political strategist at Hill+Knowlton who was communications director for Liberal former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, said the campaign had “a very ambitious agenda.”

“I would simplify it … on how to position Canada as a winner in the greener global economy over the longer term, and then on how to ensure that those benefits are shared more equitably,” he said by phone.

One option Trudeau is considering is a climate portfolio that pulls together some policies normally handled by several ministries, according to one Liberal source.

The new Cabinet will be sworn in at 10:30 a.m. (1430 GMT). Trudeau says it will be composed of an equal number of men and women, a pattern he set when first taking office in 2015.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will keep her job, Trudeau said shortly after the vote, and has begun to reduce COVID-19 support programs as the economy recovers and inflation hovers at an 18-year high.

Last month’s vote marked Trudeau’s third win as Liberal leader. Unhappiness over his decision to call an early election during the pandemic left him short of a majority.

Trudeau’s priorities are managing COVID-19, bolstering healthcare, fighting climate change and fostering a green economy, supporting economic growth, delivering national childcare and affordable housing plans, and following through on reconciliation with indigenous Canadians, a separate source with direct knowledge of the Cabinet said.

“This is only an 18- to 24-month government, so the idea that you can address all four or five or six or seven of those issues … is preposterous,” said Ian Lee, a business professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

Lee said growing the green economy should be a priority and merited a U.S.-style climate czar “with gravitas and with skill, and who has sharp elbows and is not afraid.”

Liberal officials say Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand, who played a major role in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines, is set for a promotion, and Tourism Minister Melanie Joly also might get a more important role.

Anand could replace Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who has been widely assailed over what critics say has been a lackluster effort to address allegations of sexual assault in the military, two Liberal sources said.


(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Class Politics in America Is Far From Dead – Jacobin magazine



Class Politics in America Is Far From Dead

A venerable theory about people’s political values is making a comeback: the theory of “postmaterialism.” But despite what you may have heard, the theory doesn’t say class politics is doomed in rich countries — and neither did the scholar who created it.

If the Democrats’ very existence as a governing party depends on reversing at least some share of their losses with working-class whites, how should it go about trying? But more fundamentally — is it even possible? (Brick Broadcasting / Flickr)

In his much-talked-about New York Times profile of Democratic data scientist David Shor last month, Ezra Klein dropped a G-bomb. That’s right. Götterdämmerung.

The word — which comes to us from the composer Richard Wagner and means “cataclysm,” basically —  is an apt summary of the long-term disaster now looming for Democrats in the Senate,  a threat Shor has been warning about for some time.

Klein relayed the jaw-dropping figures: If the Democrats perform as expected in next year’s midterms and then win 51 percent of the vote in the 2024 Senate elections — not an easy feat given the list of states that happen to have Senate elections that year — the party will walk away with just forty-three of the 100 Senate seats, seven less than they have now.

The cause of the Democrats’ brutal math has to do with the geography and demography of the world’s greatest — if, by greatest, one means sixth-most-malapportioned — deliberative body. The chamber’s one-state-one-vote scheme of representation (or two votes, in this case) vastly overrepresents the inhabitants of the states with the smallest populations — populations that happen to comprise far more “noncollege whites” (in pollster patois) than the general population.

Since this is a demographic group that’s been trending away from the Democrats for decades — once at the pace of a trickle, but growing into a flood since the emergence of Donald Trump — the upper chamber is rapidly becoming hostile, if not impermeable, terrain for the Democrats.

The problem is serious: Shor is basically suggesting that, barring some impossible-to-foresee twist in history, one can reasonably question whether the Democrats will ever obtain a governing majority again.

As the implications of this predicament have dawned on Democratic-aligned commentators and political operators over the past year, it’s had the notable effect of sparking a mini-revival of the hoary “white working class” debate, which, in its modern form, might be said to date back to George W. Bush–era books like John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira’s The Emerging Democratic Majority and Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas.

The question has suddenly gained urgency: If the Democrats’ very existence as a governing party depends on reversing at least some share of their losses with working-class whites, how should it go about trying?

But more fundamentally — is it even possible?

Immaterial Politics

Enter science. In a long article last month, New York magazine’s Eric Levitz, who has made a beat out of covering the Democratic Party’s numerous dilemmas and conundrums, riffed on an academic paper titled “Morals as Luxury Goods and Political Polarization” by political scientists Mattias Polborn of Vanderbilt University and Benjamin Enke and Alex A. Wu of Harvard. A symphony of equations and model-building, with a wan kazoo’s worth of empirical evidence thrown in, the paper is meant to advance the authors’ hypothesis that, as the title suggests, “moral values are a luxury good” — that is, as their incomes rise, the “relative weight that voters place on moral rather than material considerations increases.”

This was how the authors proposed to explain the puzzle of a rising tide of rich Democrats and poor Republicans in the US electorate. Although not true to the same extent for all Americans (poor Americans are still poorer than rich Americans, after all), as a group, the authors argue, Americans have reached such a pitch of affluence that they can afford not to care any longer which party or policy would benefit them in grubby material terms. They have slipped the surly bonds of kitchen-table concerns and now float freely in that rarefied stratum of the political universe — the Greater Bannon Cluster — where politics is pure culture war.

And there’s no going back: Since per capita income, the authors’ preferred proxy for affluence, is what’s driving this trend, and since, in the long run, per capita income almost always rises, it means the era of class politics — at least in the traditional sense of those at the bottom struggling to wrest wealth and power from those at the top — lies permanently behind us, extruded from history by the workings of an iron law.

But, as Levitz notes, and as the paper’s authors acknowledge, the underlying idea here is not new. It’s an extension, or application, or revision, of one of the most venerable research traditions in the past half-century of social science: the theory of postmaterialism.

Levitz wrote:

The political scientist Ronald Inglehart put forward a similar theory of why voters had started to prioritize “postmaterialist values” decades ago. And the World Values Survey has consistently substantiated Inglehart’s theory: In any given year, rich survey respondents tend to report greater concern with values and rights than with material security, while poor respondents evince the opposite preference. Further, as average incomes have increased over time, the American population as a whole has grown more post-material in its concerns.

The “Morals As Luxury Goods” paper’s original contribution is to show that post-materialism can explain a wide variety of oddities in contemporary politics.

Levitz’s article is just one example of a noticeable uptick in invocations of postmaterialism that has accompanied the resurgence of “white working-class” political discourse. For those who want to argue for the permanent irrelevance of class politics — whether as something to regret or as something to celebrate — it can serve as a tempting crutch, a supposedly scientific basis for the claim that politics is destined to descend more and more into a permanent culture war.

There are two major problems with the use of postmaterialism as a theory of the inevitable disappearance of class politics. The first is that it gets the theory wrong. But that’s just my non-expert opinion, so it’s not nearly as important as the second problem, which is that Ronald Inglehart himself —the political scientist who originated the postmaterialism thesis — thought it gets the theory wrong, too.

Time Out of Mind

When Inglehart developed the idea in the 1970s, his starting point was the observation that, thanks to economic growth on the one hand, and the expansion of welfare states on the other, the postwar baby boom generation had spent their formative childhood and teenage years in a material environment far more comfortable and secure — that is, sheltered from primal, physical threats to life and limb, like malnutrition or intercommunal violence — than any previous generation.

If you coupled that observation with the predictions of Albert Maslow’s famous hypothesis about a “hierarchy of needs” — the idea of a universal sequence of human priorities, with “higher” needs, like self-actualization, that individuals only start to care about once the “lower,” more basic needs, like food, have been satisfied — you could be led to suppose that the postwar generation’s ideas and assumptions about politics and society would be substantially different, in predictable ways, from those of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

That’s just what Inglehart found in the survey data of the 1970s: an accumulation of evidence that younger cohorts born in the rich countries after the war were, in relative terms, less focused on issues related to mere “survival,” like the cost of living or street crime — and therefore less accepting of “survival-oriented” values like loyalty and conformity to the norms of one’s group — and more preoccupied with issues of individual autonomy and self-realization, like the rights of sexual minorities or environmentalism.

Postmaterialism was one of the great success stories of postwar US social science. Starting with his 1971 article “The Silent Revolution in Europe: Intergenerational Change in Post-Industrial Societies,” Inglehart — the quintessential academic entrepreneur — defended, refined, extended, and restated his theory in dozens of books and reports and hundreds of articles, aided by regular infusions of data from the massive World Values Survey, which he founded in 1981. By the end of his life — he died in May of this year — he was the most-cited living political scientist in the English-speaking world.

Although Inglehart regarded postmaterialism as having broad implications for a range of questions in the social sciences, citations to his work (in my impressionistic judgment) tend to focus disproportionately on just one narrow application of the theory: its use as an explanation for the unraveling of traditional class-party alignments in Europe amid the emergence of the “new social issues” and the rise of green and right-wing populist parties in the 1970s and 1980s.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that postmaterialism has at times been mistaken for a universal “theory of the death of class politics,” wherein the demise is shown to be the inevitable outcome of some law of history whose inner workings Inglehart laid bare. In reality, the theory, in itself, makes no fixed predictions one way or the other about future prospects for class politics. Inglehart himself was very explicit about this, as I’ll show in a minute.

But even without an appeal to Inglehartian authority, there are achingly obvious reasons to question the logic of such arguments. For one thing, the logic of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that it’s a hierarchy: It predicts that people will not prioritize the higher needs unless the lower needs are taken care of — not that people will ever stop caring about the lower needs.

One could easily imagine a world in which people become more, rather than less, sensitized to threats to their economic security — the foundation all their “higher” pursuits depend upon — once they’ve tasted the emancipatory fruits of affluence. That was, more or less, the dynamic said to be at work in another golden oldie of postwar social science — the “revolution of rising expectations,” also known as the “J-curve” hypothesis, which posited that rapid economic growth and modernization in developing countries were intensifying class-based politics centered around material demands.

And then, there’s, like — actual history?

Even the most fleeting consideration of the historical record — pick any country you like, whichever time period you prefer — should leave you in a state of bafflement that anyone could think there was ever some era in the past when politics focused on material issues because the polity was too poor to indulge a taste for culture war.

I mean, where does the term “culture war” come from? It comes from the German Kulturkampf of the 1870s, the Imperial campaign of state repression against German Catholicism, a social bloc whose insistence on “traditional values” and opposition to political and social reform was seen by Prussia’s liberal middle classes as an obstacle to every kind of moral and material progress, whether concerning education, artistic and intellectual freedom, the status of women, or the freedom of conscience. (Otto von Bismarck, who launched the campaign, was not himself a liberal, of course, but he waged it in part to solidify the liberals’ support for the new German Empire and for himself personally.) The German Catholic masses, predictably, took political shelter in a confessional Catholic political party, the Zentrum.

You may be unfamiliar with the old cliché about Whigs and Tories in postreform Britain — that theirs was a clash “between Church and chapel” (i.e., Anglicans and Dissenters). But maybe you’ve heard of the Dreyfus Affair?

If none of those ring a bell, there’s literally the whole political history of the United States before the advent of the New Deal to consider. Though it hasn’t been a hot topic in academia for decades, the dominant school of thought among historians who study nineteenth-century parties and elections — basically the only school of thought, inasmuch as no one any longer challenges its main empirical claims — is called “the ethnocultural interpretation,” and when summarized (the summary below is by the labor historian Richard Oestreicher), it refutes the premise of “Morals as Luxury Goods” point by point.

Here’s what politics was like, according to a broad consensus of historians, in a country where the per capita GDP for 1880 is estimated at $7,600 in today’s dollars, less than in today’s Guatemala, Jamaica, or Vietnam:

Americans, contrary to consensus theorists, were bitterly divided about basic values and loyalties. But until the 1930s cultural issues aroused voters more consistently than economic issues or class interests. Class identities did not determine votes for most voters in most elections. . . .

Political parties, nonetheless, symbolized “irreconcilable belief systems” and resembled “political churches” mobilized around diametrically opposed reactions to the “strident Yankee moralism” of pietistic Protestants. . . . The Republican party, the political vehicle for that crusade in the late nineteenth century, could depend on the support of the overwhelming majority of northern native Protestants as well as immigrant Protestants with a similar theological orientation. Workers, farmers, and businessmen of such ethnocultural backgrounds supported the Republicans in similar proportions.

Arrayed against these cultural imperialists was a Democratic coalition of the targets of pietistic wrath: slaveholders and later most white southerners, Catholics, nonpietistic Protestant immigrants . . . drinkers, and the wider urban subcultures of plebeian sensual pleasures. . . .  Immigrant and Catholic businessmen were just as ready as their working-class neighbors to man Democratic barricades of cultural defense.

I’ve run through these examples not to score cheap debating points, but because they cut to the heart of the issue. If it turns out that history isn’t, in fact, a one-way march from the politics of scarcity to the politics of self-expression, pushed along by rising GDP — if it drifts back and forth between conflict over the material demands of the dispossessed and arguments about the symbolic and the sacred — then we’re left with no particular reason to accept the insistently proffered brief for the futility of class politics (unless we choose to commit the Journalist’s Fallacy of deducing the future from the present).

Back to the Future

And this was Inglehart’s view, too. From Silent Revolution (1977), his first book about value change, he was at pains to emphasize that, while he believed his theory could explain the ongoing scrambling of class-party alignments in Europe — and, in part, the gradual decentering of class issues that went with it — one could not draw a straight line from the 1980s indefinitely into the future, for two reasons.

First, the declining centrality of class was caused, in his theory, by the rise of a competing dimension of conflict, the materialist/postmaterialist divide. But if current trends continued, and the number of postmaterialists kept growing, eventually there would be too few materialists left to have a conflict with.

Second, while it might, arguably, be a safe bet that per capita GDP would keep rising indefinitely, the theory never held rising GDP per se to be responsible for the rising share of postmaterialists.

“Per capita income and educational levels are among the best readily available indicators of the conditions leading to the shift from materialist to postmaterialist goals,” he and Pippa Norris wrote in 2016, “but the­ theoretically crucial factor is not per capita income itself, but one’s sense of existential secu­rity — which means that the impact of economic and physical security is mediated by the given society’s social security system.”

It can’t be stressed enough that the public opinion data Inglehart analyzed in his initial works, in which he discovered the existence of a sharp and growing materialist/postmaterialist cleavage in rich countries, reflected the divergence in values between a generation that had been raised in the most cataclysmic era of modern history and a generation raised in what was, on average, probably the least threatening of all time.

But that is no longer true today. The end of rising security has, as Inglehart’s theory always predicted it would, brought the postmaterialist tide to a halt in country after country. In Inglehart’s cowritten book on the Trump-Brexit populism phenomenon, again with Pippa Norris, the authors trace out the underlying reasons for the reversal. They note that while

intergenerational population replacement is still taking place, in recent years it seems to have been offset by powerful period-effects linked with declining economic security. Millennials face greater risk of unemployment, stagnant wages, welfare cuts, and growing levels of student debt, so they are no longer growing up under dramatically more secure conditions than their elders. The declining strength of organized labor, economic liberalization, and the opening of borders to the free flow of labor, goods, trade, and services, has brought falling real income and the loss of job security to unskilled workers and the less educated populations in Western societies.

And what would a true believer in postmaterialism expect to happen under those conditions? What else, if not a return of class struggle?

In a 2016 article in Foreign Affairs, Inglehart laid out the reasons he believed the political shifts caused by postmaterialism’s ascent, which he’d been documenting uninterruptedly for virtually the whole of his long career, would go into reverse.

What had happened, he explained, was that

the success of the modern welfare state made further redistribution seem less urgent. . . . Globalization and deindustrialization undermined the strength of unions. And the information revolution helped establish a winner-take-all economy. Together these eroded the political base for redistributive policies, and as those policies fell out of favor, economic inequality rose once more.

Today, large economic gains are still being made in developed countries, but they are going primarily to those at the very top of the income distribution, whereas those lower down have seen their real incomes stagnate or even diminish. The rich, in turn, have used their privilege to shape policies that further increase the concentration of wealth, often against the wishes and interests of the middle and lower classes.

The “crucial questions for future politics in the developed world,” he reflected, were “how and when that majority develops a sense of common interest.” Would a sufficient number of “today’s dispossessed” come to “develop what Marx might have called ‘class consciousness’” and transform themselves into “a decisive political force?”

It wouldn’t happen overnight, he suspected, given how “crosscutting cultural divisions still exist and can still divert attention from common economic interests.” But Inglehart saw clear signs that cultural issues were already losing their potency — pointing to the unexpected implosion of the anti-same-sex-marriage crusade, whose comprehensive defeat no one would have predicted just a few years earlier.

Moreover, this time the fight would be “between a tiny elite and the great majority of citizens,” so that “the more current trends continue, the more pressure will build up to tackle inequality once again.”

“The signs of such a stirring are already visible,” wrote the father of postmaterialism, a few years before he died, “and in time, the practical consequences will be as well.”

This might seem sudden and unexpected; just a few years earlier, the idea of class struggle returning to the center of politics would have seemed absurd. But the story Inglehart tells is a tale as old as time.

“Postmaterialism,” he concluded, “eventually became its own gravedigger.”

Well burrowed, old mole!

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Edward Rogers saga involving Ujiri extension a reminder politics is intertwined in sports –



Despite the prolonged negotiation of Toronto Raptors vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri’s contract, the real drama behind the scenes has reportedly come to light.

The Toronto Star exclusively reported on Monday that Edward Rogers, former chairman of Rogers Communications Inc., had “actively fought plans” to re-sign Ujiri, feeling as though he was not worth the amount offered to him.

Rogers Communications Inc. owns 37.5 per cent of the Raptors organization.

On the latest episode of CBC Sports video series Bring It In, host Morgan Campbell is joined by panellists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin to discuss what Ujiri has meant to the Raptors, as well as taking a closer look into the deep-rooted issues that led to Rogers’ stance on Ujiri.

WATCH | Bring It In panel discusses Edward Rodgers saga involving Ujiri:

Edward Rogers attempted to force Masai Ujiri out of Toronto | Bring It In

7 hours ago

The Bring It In panel reacts to The Toronto Star’s report that MLSE executive Edward Rogers did not want Masai Ujiri to return as Raptors president. 10:41

Regarding the situation, Rogers had reportedly referred to Ujiri as being arrogant and not wanting to share his vision for the Raptors franchise. Campbell made note of Rogers’ admiration for Donald Trump and how he’s similar to that of the former U.S. President.

“All of these machinations seem Trumpian. You don’t really have a plan, someone rubs you the wrong way, or questions your authority, ‘fire him, fire him, fire him, fire her, hire a bunch of people who are going to be loyal to me whether or not they know how to do the job,'” Campbell said.

Zirin noted that although he should be aware of what his words mean, Rogers knew what he was doing when making that statement and also exhibited his own arrogance.

“When you have people born on third base and think they hit a triple, they tend to be arrogant themselves and say and do things that are not in the best interest of the franchise.

“If you’re willing to give Masai Ujiri the stiff-arm after all we’ve seen over the last couple of years, you really don’t belong in any position of authority of an NBA franchise.”

McPeak went on to highlight Ujiri’s foundational work that has helped elevate the franchise and league as a whole.

“I think the most obvious one, the elephant in the room if you will, is the 2019 championship run,” McPeak said, highlighting everything he’s done on and off the court, for and with the team.

“You think of all his philanthropy that he does off the court through Giants of Africa … people within MLSE and the Raptors organization are a lot of the people who help him on the Giants of Africa trips that he takes.”

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