Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Anglo-Saxon World Rejecting Neoliberalism

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Anglo-Saxon World Rejecting Neoliberalism

Article excerpt

Britain has unexpectedly chosen to leave the European Union (EU). It would appear to be merely due to blind loathing. We visited the Paris home of Emmanuel Todd, an astute observer and historical demographer, to find out what he thinks about the situation.

Synchronicity of two nations

Britain has chosen to leave the EU. When viewed by socioeconomic status, support for "leave" was strong in lower income brackets, and viewed by age it was strong among the elderly. The majority of young people supported "remain," so paradoxically this means that it was the elderly who pointed the way to Britain's future.

I believe the EU will move toward breakup. The departure of Britain is the beginning of a breakup. The eurozone economy is collapsing. The member states are unequal. The Greek people can demonstrate their will in an election, but the referendum has no significance whatsoever. The policies are decided not by them but by Germany.

But that is not what I am most interested in. What interests me is that Britain's departure from the EU and the Trump phenomenon in the United States -- populism, in other words -- are moving forward synchronously. [Presumptive Republican presidential candidate] Donald Trump's core supporters are poorly educated whites, while the core "leave" supporters in Britain are also poorly educated.

Both these countries are Anglo-Saxon countries and true democracies. Primarily in the 1980s, under British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the two countries carried out a neoliberal revolution, making history. France, Germany and Japan, despite their reservations, tried to go along. The rise of populism would seem to be a result of neoliberalism.

[Neoliberalism emphasizes market mechanisms and aims for small government. Among the main neoliberal policies are deregulation, privatization and financial reform.]

In the final analysis, neoliberalism amounts to the idea that "countries do not exist, only individuals do." You could look upon it as ultra-individualism. My thinking has been that it is precisely because Britain and the United States could tolerate this that they adopted neoliberalism and forced it upon other countries, too. Anthropologically as well, the Anglo-Saxons are distinguished by their individualism.

But in Britain and the United States, societal division and collapse from within have advanced, the cost of this has been borne by the lower income brackets, and society -- even the middle class -- has become unstable. Even in Britain and the United States, people are no longer able to stand the idea that only individuals exist. The dream of neoliberalism, an open world where capital, products and people can move freely, is turning into a nightmare. Trump advocates national rebuilding and protectionism. It seems to be a mutation that goes against the course from the '80s onward.

Societal rift

What Brexit and the Trump phenomenon have in common is opposition to immigrants. Britain fears primarily immigrants from Poland, which is within the EU, while in the United States, the issue is immigrants from Mexico. A psychology of xenophobia seems to be at work. I am surprised that immigrants have come to be looked upon as a problem in the United States, a nation of immigrants, but it is a fact that the flow of immigrants into the United States and Britain has reached a level that makes the citizenry uneasy. People have a right to domestic tranquility. The irresponsibility of the ruling elite in blindly believing in globalization -- of which freedom of movement is a pillar -- and paying no attention to the domestic tranquility has brought on this anxiety on the part of the people.

The ruling elite, however, hold a faithlike conviction that they are acting in the people's best interest, and even if their good intentions may plunge the people into anxiety, they have no intention of looking reality in the face. …

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