4
Dec

As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.

And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.

So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere. Read more…

by Stephen Hawking; Thursday 1 December 2016 ; theguardian.com

30
Nov

Yascha Mounk is used to being the most pessimistic person in the room. Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way.

His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.

Mr. Mounk’s interest in the topic began rather unusually. In 2014, he published a book, “Stranger in My Own Country.” It started as a memoir of his experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany, but became a broader investigation of how contemporary European nations were struggling to construct new, multicultural national identities.

He concluded that the effort was not going very well. A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper?

To answer that question, Mr. Mounk teamed up with Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. They have since gathered and crunched data on the strength of liberal democracies.

Their conclusion, to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy, is that democracies are not as secure as people may think. Right now, Mr. Mounk said in an interview, “the warning signs are flashing red.” Read more…

By NOV. 29, 2016

nyt.com

24
Nov

IR Club US Election Debate

Written on November 24, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights

ir-club-event

Written by Alejandro Pereda, MIR 2016/17 Student

The results of the US elections on November 8th were to many spectators and voters, especially among the young and middle aged constituencies, quite surprising and possibly even shocking. The so called ideological divide created during the campaign and the uncertainty of the policies of the new President-elect have created a vast confusion and left many of even specialist wandering how will the trajectory of the US politics both internal and that of the foreign affairs change in the wake of the elections and the new Presidency…Considering the still pivotal role of the US in international matters of security, trade, development and many others, how will the world in large respond, if it will react at all, to what seems to be (at least at face value) a turn back to the good old American isolationism and protectionism. Are we seeing a “right” turn in the moods of the US population following suit of the previous Brexit and other populist movements in Europe and elsewhere?

All these questions warranted comprehensive and critical analysis and in that sense, it was perfect occasion for the IE International Relations Club to organize its first event of the academic year in an attempt to start the dialogue among the IE community about the consequences of the US elections. The event which took place on November 15th at IE, asked the question of “what’s next” and also how we got there. It featured two keynote speakers – Dr. Daniel Kselman, Academic director of the MIR, who focuses in his research on democratization, economic development and political governance and Dr. Eliah Bures, who investigates intellectual conservatism as international movement. The panelist invited us to review the historical similarities of the populism’s rise in the US before with the current situation, the economic and social realities of the US in the last few decades, the overall change in global political attitudes, in an effort to understand the possible underlying causes of the results we saw. While further offering their expertise in the exploration of the practical policy decisions that the new administration will take, casting, for example doubt, on the possibility of immediate dismantling of trade deals already in place, however warning at the same time of the possibility of deterioration of the political tolerance and atmosphere in the US.  

The event then transformed rapidly into a very high quality debate with all the participants and spectators which allowed to really dig dip on the subject and review it from multiple perspective. The interest and the academic passions shown by all the participants carried the event well past the original scheduled one and a half hour and really made the conversation memorable. It was really amazing to see our fellow students and other invited guests to express unique and comprehensive perspectives and to engage with our distinguished panelist in a critical and truly collaborative discussion in not just trying to review the individual aspects but to build a holistic understanding of the issues revealed during and after the US elections and further to offer ways on how to address later what seems to become an immense field of policy debate and analysis.

IE International Relations Club would like to thank Dr. Kselman and Dr. Bures, all the guest and participants, the Campus Life team for not just making this first event possible, but making it a success! We hope this to be just first of many interesting and notable events to come from the IE International Relations Club!

21
Nov

“It looks like it is now just Germany and Canada holding down the Western world,” an elected politician from one of Germany’s prosperous western states told me over dinner this week. I started to laugh, but he put up his hand – he was being serious. He launched into a depressing tour of the countries once known as the Group of Eight, most of them sliding into chaos or extremism or long-term political paralysis.

At the head of the table, the United States is weeks away from falling off the political map, as far as its trade and military partners are concerned: Donald Trump’s administration will be, at best, unstable and untrustworthy; at worst, it will be a voice of toxic extremism to be shunned and avoided. Britain fell off in June, its Brexit referendum and harsh-edged new government limiting its relations with the world to a negotiated retreat, its future too uncertain for anyone to strike up commitments.

France is in deep crisis in advance of an election next year that could have frightening results: a victory by the race-hatred candidate Marine Le Pen or a lunge far rightward by conservatives to stave her off. Italy appears an oasis of sanity under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but his reforms are under attack and his government could be on the edge of collapse. Poland and Hungary have extreme, xenophobic governments that are withdrawing from international co-operation. Scandinavian countries are wrestling with coalition governments that include extremists.

And Russia, which has been lost for a long time, seems poised to establish a bloc of states with illiberal, authoritarian governments aimed against the liberal democracies – a bloc that could now come to include the United States. Scanning the horizon from Berlin in search of safe partnerships, there’s Canada. And, as Germans kept telling me this week, not much else. Read more…

Published on Nov. 19, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/, Doug Saunders

15
Nov

nov16-10-55948705

My father-in-law grew up eating blood soup. He hated it, whether because of the taste or the humiliation, I never knew. His alcoholic father regularly drank up the family wage, and the family was often short on food money. They were evicted from apartment after apartment.

He dropped out of school in eighth grade to help support the family. Eventually he got a good, steady job he truly hated, as an inspector in a factory that made those machines that measure humidity levels in museums. He tried to open several businesses on the side but none worked, so he kept that job for 38 years. He rose from poverty to a middle-class life: the car, the house, two kids in Catholic school, the wife who worked only part-time. He worked incessantly. He had two jobs in addition to his full-time position, one doing yard work for a local magnate and another hauling trash to the dump.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he read The Wall Street Journal and voted Republican. He was a man before his time: a blue-collar white man who thought the union was a bunch of jokers who took your money and never gave you anything in return. Starting in 1970, many blue-collar whites followed his example. This week, their candidate won the presidency.

For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful. Read more…

Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Published in the hbr.org on Nov. 10, 2016

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