A new worldview is emerging! Worldviews have been on my mind lately. I am just finishing up a short book entitled Five Worldviews: The Way We See the World. In this book I describe five worldviews that I have been writing about and formulating for some time now—indigenous, modern, fundamentalist, globalized, and transformative. But a new one is taking shape right under our noses.
A worldview is a way of understanding or a lens through which one explains events, phenomena, and actions that happen in our everyday lives. It refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it. The following is a brief description of each worldview:
1. An Indigenous Worldview is where people share a similar ethnic identity and usually inhabit a geographic region with which they have had an early historical connection.
2. A modern worldview traces its history to the expansion of Western European power and influence around the world. It upholds scientific reasoning, praises individualism, commodifies nature, promotes liberal political traditions, separates church and state, encourages industrial capitalism, and places faith in technology.
3. A Fundamentalist Worldview is a strict belief in a set of principles that are often religious. Many supporters defend what they see as traditional religious beliefs of the past, which they claim give them comfort and security in a rapidly changing and complex world.
4. In a Globalized Worldview “time has speeded up” and the pace of economic growth and development has spread to the farthest reaches of the earth. It affects all aspects of society and individuals’ daily lives.
5. Supporters of a Transformative Worldview say a different worldview or a different story is needed to make sure our human species and life as we know it on earth continue. They support curbing economic inequality, creating greater well-being, and welcome diversity.
I have confidently thought that these five worldviews encapsulated prevailing thought in the 21st century, in what I call the Global Wave. But with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the U.S. in 2016, I have had to rethink my ideas on the five worldviews. Donald Trump doesn’t fit into any of the five worldviews very comfortably. Perhaps he needs his own worldview category!
I am tentatively calling this emerging worldview a Populist Worldview. From all indicators, it is gaining steam in the U.S. with the election of Trump, in the United Kingdom with the pro-Brexit vote, the popularity in France of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, and other European countries. In this blog I will mainly concentrate on the Trump agenda, but note that his agenda is not being carried out in isolation but follows similar patterns that are emerging throughout the world.
First of all, I would like to give some context to this emerging Populist Worldview. Since the 1980s, the U.S. has led a globalization agenda guided by neoliberal principles. Economic globalization, in particular, has quickly spread around the world. This globalization/neoliberal process has been characterized by four major shifts in the U.S.: 1) national corporations shifting their operations to low-wage countries to increase profit margins, 2) the government loosening immigration quotas or ignoring illegal immigration in order to have a supply of cheap labor at home and a bulwark against unions, 3) rapid technological changes creating greater efficiencies in the workplace that have eliminated many jobs and disrupted everyday life, and 4) the changing nature of the nation-state and patriotism caused by the influx of immigrants and an allegiance by the global elite/educated class to a global rather than local/national agenda.
The results from these four major shifts have been 1) historic levels of income inequality and concentration of wealth at the very top 2) technological advancements that have been celebrated by Silicon Valley but disrupted jobs and the social fabric 3) a shrinking middle/working class (non-college educated) who have experienced stagnant wages and fewer opportunities 4) a disruption of shared, core values revolving around a shared love of country and a fraying of the social fabric (social institutions) that binds our country together.
These four global forces have hit all of us in many ways but arguably the group hit the hardest in the U.S. is the white working class who hold less than a college education. Their wages have stagnated for decades and opportunities for well-paying jobs with non-technical skills have also declined. These four forces have occurred in many core countries (Western, industrialized countries) in Europe with similar results. As the middle class grows in Asian countries and other emerging economies, the middle class in core countries is shrinking.
The frustration of this group at the political class for ignoring their plight has been building for years.
The Democratic Party, long a champion of the working class, has turned to the globalizers and technology industry as a core constituent, and hasn’t found a way to blend the working class agenda into their platform of contending constituents: the young, immigrants, people of color, LGBT, urban, and college-educated. The left with their embrace of immigration, even illegal immigration, has angered this working class group who experience competition from these low-wage workers for a shrinking pool of good manufacturing and well-paying but low skill jobs. None of these disparate groups resonate with the needs of the working class (mostly white).
The Republican Party, long the party of the globalizers, has also melded a diverse constituency into a tension-filled mass. Their core group, evangelicals, holds the party together despite the fact that Republicans haven’t implemented much of their agenda. The Reagan Democrats, many of the white working-class who switched to Republicans with the Reagan election, can switch back and forth between the two parties depending on the candidate and agenda.
For many years now, I have thought that the political parties in the U.S. have drawn a line with a permanent marker between their ideologies. If any particular member of the Democrats, for example, strayed from the “established” stances on same sex marriage, abortion, health care, immigration, trade, taxes, foreign policy, or a host of other issues, then their constituents would spring into action to challenge their views. Same with the Republicans. Even though both parties did share views on a globalized economy and appeasing the corporate world, grid-lock still resulted.
With all these bubbling tensions simmering in a cauldron, along comes the 2016 presidential election. Just a year ago, no one would have imagined that the forces of globalization would be challenged from both the left and right. The Populist Worldview was taking shape.
Part II of this blog will post on Tuesday, February 28.
- 1. What do you think are the major shifts in American and world society that are creating such tension and division among Americans?