A Comparison of FDR and Trump: Dictatorial or Democratic Presidencies?

Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump poses before the start of the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder

The ascendancy of Donald Trump into the United States presidency has not proven to be a simple change of administration, but the equivalent of political midlife crisis for the collective American psyche. The arrival of Trumpism has many fearing that the United States has ceased to be the global bastion for liberal democracy and descended into a form of competitive authoritarianism. I disagree with this assertion and tend towards the perception that President Trump, despite his strongman politics, is simply acting within his presidential powers. By way of comparison, I would argue that the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) did not result into American despotism but would be open to the same assertions of competitive authoritarianism. The current state of affairs is not indicative that the Trump Administration represents a permanent change of US affairs towards despotism but is actually a presidency comparable with other presidencies such as that of President Roosevelt.

In order to understand to what extent we can define the Trump presidency as authoritarian or despotic, or simply working within the constitution and traditions of the office, this paper will adopt the methodology of an overtime comparison by looking at the political decisions of Presidents Roosevelt and Trump within their own contexts. Although I am not submitting that there is a direct contextual equivalence between the two presidents and presidential eras, I do argue that despite the unique contexts that they both operated under, there are parallels to their eras that produced similar policy outcomes. In particular, although FDR presided in much more isolated world, he still had to deal the Great Depression and World War II. While Trump has come to power within a globalized world and has been charged with a duty to respond to the issues of the demise of American global economic dominance and the spectre of Islamic terrorism. Accordingly, this paper has three sections: firstly, an investigation into how the American Republic theoretically operates in terms of democracy and thus how the US has arrived at its current circumstances where the Trump presidency is seen to be authoritarian and unilateral. Secondly, I will offer an analysis into the questionable nature of the Roosevelt Administration, which sought to pack the Supreme Court and the issue of the forced internship of Japanese-American citizens during the early parts of the Second World War. And finally, an examination into the short history of the Trump Administration, which has already overseen the return of economic nationalism and the Muslim Travel Ban. I conclude with a short synthesis of the comparison to bring out the argument that both Presidents were working within constitutional boundaries that nevertheless, stretched the meaning of democracy as it is ideally understood.

The United States of America as the Ideal Democracy

Inspired by Enlightenment idealism, the early American worldview was an essential disavowal of the beliefs of the Old World of statism, mercantilism, classism and the noblesse obligeof a monarchy so as to embrace the principles of liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and capitalism.[1]There was the deep fear of creeping governmental centralization and that made the Founding Fathers, along with their successors, produce a vigilant system of government that guarded against the possibility of a demagogic tyranny taking hold over the United States. It was this fear that contributed to the type of governance that characterized the American democratic republic. This initial system saw the American Constitution and the later Madisonian system of separation of powers, checks and balances and the representation of the democratic will of the people had functioned well in preventing the type of government overreach, the rise of tyrants and political infighting that was known to destroy previous democracies.[2]This history upheld American democracy for many years instilling the belief that Americanism could naturally hold back any tide of authoritarianism.

The Slow Erosion of Ideal Democracy?

However, as explained by Steven Levitsky’s How a Democracy Dies, such self-assurance is not guaranteed as all democracies can be eroded over time. As Levitsky goes on to explain, the ways of death for a modern democracy are no longer achieved by the hard power tactics of violent revolution, but are now attained by soft power of anti-Liberalism cloaked within the democratic process itself. This newfound method of anti-liberalism allows the manifestation of a veneer of democracy,such as the existence of constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions, the ability to vote to operate, behind which the evisceration of liberal-democracy takes place so as to accumulate more power to usually the centre or to elites.[3]If an authoritarianism emerges, the nation faces a crossroads: either the democratic system will stifle the autocratic leader or the autocratic power will subvert the democratic institutions. If the latter prevails, institutions becomes political weapons by packing the courts and other agencies, buying or bullying the media and the private sector and rewriting the rules of politics to permanently disadvantage their rivals.[4]Furthermore, there is also the demonization of partisan rivals by no longer accepting their existence as legitimate opposition, but as enemies or traitors and by doing so, the use of constitutional power to undermine the spirit of opposition.[5]

In regard to the America brand of authoritarianism, it is important to note that it is not akin to the type that visited Germany in the form of Nazism, but the more subversive brand known as competitive authoritarianism that as mentioned emerges from within the demoractic liberal system itself. Competitive authoritarianism combines the two systems of democracy and full-scale authoritarianism. For instance, the characteristics of the universal franchise is allowed to exist, such as the election of representatives and the regime is not under any outside influences like the military.[6]But the authoritarian aspect restrains the development of a true open society by covertly violating the democratic rules, like repressing the media, the likely use of bribery, collusion, and more subtle forms of persecution, such as the use of tax authorities, compliant judiciaries, and other state agencies to harass, persecute, or extort cooperative behaviour from opponents and critics.[7]

When applying these concepts to the Trump administration, Levitsky has stated that no other major-party Presidential candidate, except Richard Nixon, met one of the abovementioned criteria. Although the US has not has followed the footsteps of Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany, he asserts that the Trump Presidency does possess authoritarian tendencies. Although Trump has attempted to undermine democratic institutions and governmental referees such as the Justice Department, law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, the news media and the opposition party, the American constitution has managed to stifle his power. However, the gradual undermining of such democratic norms and treating any resistance to his programs as being an enemy of the US gives rise to the accusations of authoritarianism.[8]Although I agree with the assertion that the American system has restrained the power of the Trump presidency it needs to be seen in a comparative light with other Presidencies to really gauge the extent of authoritarianism. To this end I compare Trump with the Presidency of FDR who also possessed authoritarian tendencies but like Trump was working within constitutional boundaries however elastic. Furthermore, American democracy has manged to recover from his decisions and still remain the champion of freedom and liberty. I claim that we are not seeing the slow erosion of American democracy under the Trump Presidency but rather two Presidencies that had to deal with crises, and extraordinary domestic and international denouements.

A New Deal for America

The argument that FDR, the man who oversaw the US recovery from the Great Depression and the defeat of Nazi Germany, being an advocate of authoritarianism may be considered controversial but I argue that following the very same abovementioned fears and concerns that have afflicted to the Trump administration can be recognized within the FDR Presidency. For instance, the two major examples brought forward to argue that FDR’s America was momentarily operating under a form of competitive authoritarianism was the combination of manipulating the Supreme Court with his plan of court-packing and the internment of Japanese-American citizens.

Arriving to his 1933 inauguration, Roosevelt faced the challenge of not only national economic recovery, but the restoration of hope and confidence to American idealism and thus a positive alterative to the seduction of authoritarianism that was offered from Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.[9]It is my argument that in pursing such causes, FDR had operated within the context of his times and that those required appropriate policy actions that may not have been relevant at any other time.

By condemning the ‘money changers’ as being responsible for the economic breakdown FDR declared that America required a ‘New Deal’ to oversee the restoration of social values over profit.[10]In doing so, FDR saw seen as ‘a traitor to his class’ due to belonging to the wealthy, political Roosevelt dynasty.[11]Despite any contradictory nature, his initial First Hundred Days saw his New Deal program provide relief, recovery and reform. This took the form of the Emergency Banking Act that saved and strengthened the nation’s private banking system, the Agricultural Adjustment Act that supported farmers and the National Industrial Recovery, Farm Credit and Railroad Coordination Acts, all aimed to rehabilitating these economic sector and group interests with direct government aid.[12]It was during this period of time that Roosevlet could be considered to be yet another President, albeit highly proactive and these policies addressed the crises the nation was facing. However, it was when his program encountered not only criticism, but resistance that the arguable authoritarian side of his administration began to reveal itself.

Packing the Courts

Due to the centralized nature of the New Deal, the economy was not only restarted but the very functioning of the entire American system came to be reformed. Prior to Roosevelt’s agenda, the traditional role of the federal government was to mostly regulate the economy but the Roosevelt administration these responsibilities had become significantly enlarged.[13]In response to this outcome, the conservative US Supreme Court declared that Roosevelt had extended his power beyond his proper jurisdiction by enhancing presidential power, furthering legislative control over the economy and the granting of discretion to administrative agencies.[14]

In attempting to counter such judicial opposition, FDR began to develop a plan to nullify the resistance of the Court by threatening its institutional integrity and thus force its compliance. Although he had the options of seeking a constitutional amendment that expanded the commerce clause or seeking the decrease of the judicial authority by obtaining two-thirds majority of the Court to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional, FDR rejected these options as he felt an amendment would take too long to pass and was not confident it would pass both chambers of Congress.[15]Instead, after attaining a landslide win in the 1936 re-election, FDR sought to pack the court. Taking advantage of use of the Office of President to reorganize the Supreme Court, he increase its size with six more justices, although he sought to appoint up to the maximum allowed total of fifteen with ideological sympathetic justices, thus ensuring the halt of any legitimate resistance to his programs.[16]

This battle of power continued into the following year when the Supreme Court supporting a state minimum wage law and thus ended the opportunity for the president to advance his court-packing bill. However, the authoritarian nature of his actions was not lost on Roosevelt, who felt that he had to clarify his motives by stating: I made it clear that my chief concern was with the objective – namely, a modernized judiciary that would look at modern problems through modern glasses. The exact kind of legislative method to accomplish the objective was not important. I was willing to accept any method proposed which would accomplish that ultimate objective – constitutionally and quickly.”[17]I assert that the act of clarifying his actions, FDR had conceded that he did possess an authoritarian nature and thus offered an excuse for his actions that reflected the sea-change moment in American history.

The Japanese Interment

With the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, suspicion towards Japanese countrymen became rampant within American society. In declaring war on Japan, Roosevelt went on oversee the forcibly relocation of hundreds of thousands of Japanese-American citizens and immigrants. In reaction to the presence of Japanese-American citizens, FDR declared martial law in Hawaii and other areas with large Japanese Americans populations. As soon as this came into effect, the military instituted an immediate curfew and began rounding up ‘suspicious’ Japanese.[18]By signing Executive Order 9066 FDR was responsible for the forcible removal of 120,000 Japanese-American citizens forced to evacuate their homes and settle outside prohibited defence zones. This also saw all adult males of Japanese ancestry to be registered with given numbers and incarcerated into internment camps.[19]Their civil rights were further assaulted by the substandard living conditions of lacking running water, a lack of bathroom facilities and decent schools, within camps that were surrounded by barbed-wire fencing, machine gun installations and guard towers.[20]Although a case for their treatment as Japanese-American citizens was taken to the Supreme Court, it was ruled unanimously in FDR’s favour. One dissenting voice of Supreme Justice Frank Murphy’s stated that the US has for the first time sustained a restriction of personal liberty of its citizens by accident of birth.[21]Once again, the Roosevelt Administration had once again descended into authoritarianism by attacking the civil rights of fellow American citizens but in this period of World War that either testifies to the operability of democracy or the subversion of democracy. It has been my case that these policies and actions testify to the operability of democracy to meet various challenge to the primacy of democracy itself. This view is based on the belief that there is a force that brings the pendulum of democracy back to the centre which is evident in the last one hundred years of American political life.

Making America Great Again

The world that Trump inherited upon his inauguration was one of economic stagnation and a fear of the dangers of Islamic terrorism. By coming to power under such circumstances Trump, like Roosevelt, also faced the challenge of restoring hope and confidence back into the American system. According to Peter Morici, it was within the aftermath of World War II that the US adopted the concepts of neoliberalism and economic interdependence that would discourage conflict owning to increasing international economic relationships and contain the spread of communism. Once the collapse of the Soviet Empire occurred, the West further encouraged democratic and market-based reforms within the newfound unipolar world.[22]Although this practice saw a vindication for the capitalist system, it also saw the unintended consequences of the US amassing large trade deficits and the offshoring of manufacturing and agriculture jobs from small American communities and the promotion of technologically intensive pursuits overseas. This saw an increase of unemployment, downward pressure on wages and social well-being.[23]These problems were further exacerbated by rising economic powerhouse of China, which operated under its own rules of mercantilism by closing its markets to support industries it wanted to protect and develop, forced foreign companies to transfer technology or steal it outright and has come to account for 60% of the US trade gap.[24]

The incoming Trump Administration has attempted to remedy this situation by announcing a ‘America First’ platform, which embraced economic nationalism and saw the rejection of the established neoliberal consensus. In an attempt to equalize the terms of trade between the US and China, Tump announced a 30% tariff on solar panels and 20% tariff on washing machines, a 25% for steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminium imports. This was followed by a $50 billion tariff on Chinese produces and products after Trump denounced China’s theft of American intellectual property with respect to the technology in flat-screen TVs, medical equipment, airplane parts and batteries. Although China has attempted to counter such measures by applying a $50 billion of tariffs on soybeans, automobiles and chemicals, Trump appeared unrelenting and announced a possibility of an additional $100 billion in retaliatory mercantilist economic policies.[25]

Although the controversial ‘America First’ economic program challenges the neoliberal norm, unlike Roosevelt, it did not challenge the functioning of the government. In fact, the policy of economic nationalism was actually a return to the form of capitalism that was adopted by the American Founding Fathers. What may therefore seem unilateral is in fact an economic policy that is true to America’s isolationist tendencies.

The Muslim Travel Ban

In light of the success of ISIS in the Middle East, the Global War on Terror, in January 2017 President Trump issued Executive Order 13769 that ordered the banning the entry of nationals from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. It saw to the indefinite postponing of admission of Syrian refugees and gave preference to ‘refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual was within a minority of that person country of nationality, along with suspending the Refugee Admission Program for 120 days.[26]   

The reaction of this decision was one of condemnation.  The travel ban was seen as being xenophobic and a possible violation of First Amendment rights. Many states, such as Washington and Minnesota, challenged it in the US District Court, where it was ruled in favour of the challenges. Unlike FDR, the response of the Trump administration was not to undermine the integrity of the court, but a revision and replacement of the original order that kept the 90 day ban for 6 original counties but removed Iraq and the 120 day-suspension of refuges but removed the indefinite ban of Syrian refuges and specified that it was inapplicable to law permanent residents, persons with valid visas or refugees scheduled for travel to the US before the effective date of the Revised Order and authorise Homeland Security to make case-by-case exceptions to the refugee suspension.[27]

By June 2018 it has been reported that the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision had upheld Trump’s travel ban, stating that it ‘was squarely within the scope of Presidential authority’. Furthermore, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Presidents had that presidential power can regulate immigration and the current president has undoubtedly fulfilled that requirement. Roberts went on to say that President Trump ordered an evaluation of every nation’s compliance with the risk assessment baseline and then issued the findings and thus he found that restricting entry of aliens who could not be vetted with adequate information was in the national interest.[28]

Upon reviewing the decisions and behaviours of the between the two US Presidents, it becomes apparent that the argument that America has descended into competitive authoritarianism is not completely accurate. Although Levitsky was correct that it is possible for a President to be elected to only used the apparatus of government to enforce their will upon the nation, I argue that it is the context of the times that dictate the use of presidential power and this perhaps is one of the strengths of American democracy. For instance, despite being a champion of liberal-democracy, Roosevelt had no qualms about stacking the Supreme Court, as it acted as an obstacle to his path for economic recovery. Ironically it was Trump, despite his heavy-handed approach and rhetoric, that abided by the rules of the Court and altered his Muslim-ban legislation to make it more palatable. Overall, the democratic system of the US carries an elasticity that allows the President to momentarily adopt democratic authoritarianism, but not to the point of transforming the nation into a tyranny.


In conclusion, despite the idealism and the American system of governance of the United States, this paper has shown that Presidents have come to power and have indulged in authoritarian behaviour. However, the strength and ability of American institutions and systems to halt competitive authoritarianism must be acknowledged. Assertions and claims that the Roosevelt Presidency and the Trump Presidency are dictatorial are unfounded. As seen with the two Presidents, they enacted policies within the boundaries of constitutional democracy for their times which were exceptional while simultaneously the American values and the American system came into play and prevented any permanent erosion of American style democracy.


Arkansas Business, “A Trump Tariff Timeline”, Arkansas Business, Vol. 35, No. 16 (2018) 11.

Jennifer Lee Barrow, “Trump’s Travel Ban: Lawful but Ill-advised”, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy(2018) 691-717.

Jamie L. Carson, A Switch in Time Saves Nine: Institutions, Strategic Actors, and FDR’s Court-Packing Plan, Vol. 113, No. 3/4 (Public Choice, 2002), pp. 301-324.

CBS, Supreme Court upholds Trump Travel Ban, CBS News Online,


Nicholas Kristof, Trump’s Threat to Democracy, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/opinion/trumps-how-democracies-die.html

Kuznick P (2012) The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books, United States

Lispset, Martin, S (1996) American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, Norton & Company, United States.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die(New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2018), pp. 1-10

Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 3-24.

Peter Morici, How wise is Trump’s economic nationalism?, Dayton Daily Newshttps://www.cbsnews.com/news/travel-ban-upheld-supreme-court-decision-tuesday-trump-2018-06-26/

Romasco, A (1983) The Politics of Recovery: Roosevelt’s New Deal, Oxford University Press, United States.

Robinson, G (2001) By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans, Harvard University Press, United States.

Jamie L. Carson, A Switch in Time Saves Nine: Institutions, Strategic Actors, and FDR’s Court-Packing Plan, Vol. 113, No. 3/4 (Public Choice, 2002), pp. 301-324.

[1]Seymour Martin Lipset, “American Exceptionalism Reaffirmed,” in Is America Different? A New Look at American Exceptionalism, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 8.

[2]Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, Crown Publishing Group, (United States, 2018), 19.

[3]Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, Crown Publishing Group, (United States, 2018), 18.

[4]Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, Crown Publishing Group, (United States, 2018), 18.

[5]Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, Crown Publishing Group, (United States, 2018), 22.

[6]Steven Levitsky, The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism, Journal of Democracy 13.2 (2002) 5.

[7]Steven Levitsky, The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism, Journal of Democracy 13.2 (2002) 6.

[8]Nicholas Kristof, “Trump’s Threat to Democracy” The New York Times. Last Modified January 10, 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/opinion/trumps-how-democracies-die.html

[9]Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books (United States, 2012) 45.

[10]Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books (United States, 2012) 46.

[11]Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books (United States, 2012).

[12]AlbertRomasco, The Politics of Recovery: Roosevelt’s New Deal, (United States, 1983), 29.

[13]Jamie L. Carson, “A Switch in Time Saves Nine: Institutions, Strategic Actors, and FDR’s Court-Packing Plan”, Public Choice, Vol. 113, No. 3/4 (2002) 302.

[14]Jamie L. Carson, “A Switch in Time Saves Nine: Institutions, Strategic Actors, and FDR’s Court-Packing Plan”, Public Choice, Vol. 113, No. 3/4 (2002) 303.

[15]Jamie L. Carson, “A Switch in Time Saves Nine: Institutions, Strategic Actors, and FDR’s Court-Packing Plan”, Public Choice, Vol. 113, No. 3/4 (2002) 303.

[16]Jamie L. Carson, “A Switch in Time Saves Nine: Institutions, Strategic Actors, and FDR’s Court-Packing Plan”, Public Choice, Vol. 113, No. 3/4 (2002) 304.

[17]Jamie L. Carson, “A Switch in Time Saves Nine: Institutions, Strategic Actors, and FDR’s Court-Packing Plan”, Public Choice, Vol. 113, No. 3/4 (2002) 314.

[18]  GregRobinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans,Harvard University Press (United States, 2001) 74.

[19]Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books (United States, 2012) 153.

[20]Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books (United States, 2012) 154.

[21]Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books (United States, 2012) 156.

[22]Peter Morici. “How Wise is Trump’s economic nationalism?, Dayton Daily News. Last Modified November 24, 2017, https://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/opinion/opinion-how-wise-trump-economic-nationalism/0qE3YTFacfg1eAbt3Y64MK/

[23]Peter Morici. “How Wise is Trump’s economic nationalism?, Dayton Daily News. Last Modified November 24, 2017, https://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/opinion/opinion-how-wise-trump-economic-nationalism/0qE3YTFacfg1eAbt3Y64MK/

[24]Peter Morici. “How Wise is Trump’s economic nationalism?, Dayton Daily News. Last Modified November 24, 2017, https://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/opinion/opinion-how-wise-trump-economic-nationalism/0qE3YTFacfg1eAbt3Y64MK/

[25]Arkansas Business, “A Trump Tariff Timeline”, Arkansas Business, Vol. 35, No. 16 (2018) 11.

[26]Jennifer Lee Barrow, “Trump’s Travel Ban: Lawful but Ill-advised”, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy(2018) 692.

[27]Jennifer Lee Barrow, “Trump’s Travel Ban: Lawful but Ill-advised”, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy(2018) 692.

[28]CBS News. “Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban” CBS News Online. Last Modified June 26, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/travel-ban-upheld-supreme-court-decision-tuesday-trump-2018-06-26/


Is the World Experiencing a Crisis of Democracy?


The current state of geopolitics has recently descended into a chaotic state of affairs with a nationalist/anti-political sentiment finding mainstream support across the western world. This trend has led to some observers to conclude that the globe is now facing a ‘crisis of democracy’ (Armingeon, 2013, 423). However, I argue that this perspective is a misunderstanding of events. I submit that the reason as to why such turmoil is occurring, is due to the world order undergoing a grand transition of the transformation of a world based on post-national liberalism to a return to realist-nationalism. This change has not been a spontaneous occurrence. It is the result of the citizenry of their respective countries, enacting their will via the democratic process, to support populist political parties, movements and individuals in response to global liberalism. In reaction to this development, I contend that this has resulted into two crises: the established norm of representative democracy has become a universal ideology that appears as the final eschatological movement in politics and yet verges on a universality that is technocratic and nearly totalitarian. In becoming an established norm an inversion of reality has taken place, leading to the second crisis, with populist democracy becoming viewed as authoritarian. The double crisis represents a paradox. Representative democracy has become the norm when in fact participatory democracy that has become maligned is the true democracy where the human being enact their democratic will not as a process but as a way of life.

In order to explain this paradox, the paper will be separated into three sections: Firstly, in order to understand the current rise of anti-establishment or anti-populist politics, the definitional foundations, development and dynamics of democracy along with the influences of geopolitics that shape the instantiation of democracy will be investigated. Secondly, the twin case studies of this phenomenon occurring will be examined, in the form of Donald Trump ascending to the White House and the 2017 French National Election, which saw two anti-establishment candidates advancing into the Final Round of the election. This will be achieved by investigating the history and political system of each nation and how each country experienced the phenomenon of mass support for populist-nationalism. And finally, by adopting a comparative analysis, it can be understood how two democratic-republics, each possessing their own unique political history, systems of government and culture have come to walk such similar paths and arrive to their respective political destinations. My thesis is that populist or participatory democracy is the real democracy and the double crisis or paradox is that true democracy is continually marginalized while representative democracy has become the standard when in fact it is driven by universalist and totalitarian ideologies which appears as ideologically sound but leaves no space for democracy.

The Clash of Democracy Defined

Due to the complexity of the democratic crisis, an understanding of its various theoretical aspects are required. Although democracy is not a monolithic concept, I submit that its foundation consists of two intellectual strains of Hellenic thought: Aristotelian philosophy and Platonic thought.

As reflected in Aristotle’s Politics, the concept of democracy was to assist in the Hellenic pursuit in achieving a societal order based on virtue and harmony that a people could achieve ‘the Good life’ (Aristotle 1.1.1a). This was to be articulated by Thucydides when he wrote:

Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people…everyone is equal before the law…so long he is in service of the state, no one is kept in political obscurity because of poverty…our political life is free and open…we are tolerant in our private live…each individual is interested not only in his own affair but in the affairs of the state as well… (Hansen, 1992, 15)

The revealing aspects of this passage can be surmised that democracy was to be applied to all citizens of Athens, that the demos held sovereign power to engage in the destiny of their city-state by participating directly into the affairs of government. More specifically, it required civic virtue to be embraced as it would promote the dedication to the republican city-state and the sacrifice of personal power for the attainment of the public good (Held, 1987, 17). As indicated by Plato’s Republic, democracy treats ‘all men as equal, whether they are equal or not’ (Held, 1987, 29). It was argued that a life of freedom, inevitability results in anarchy and it is in that state of affairs, the people will demand order and thus will openly welcome the ushering in of a tyranny. Therefore, in order to govern society justly, democracy was best instituted when controlled by an elite minority[1] in a form of a group of Philosopher Kings, for they are the only ones’ capable harmonizing humanity under the ‘rule of wisdom’ (Plato. 9.1.4a).

It was the legacy of Athenian democracy that inspired much of the political-thought of the modern Western world. Over time, many different interpretations of democracy have been developed, but the two basic forms are known as representative and direct and have been manifested in various electoral systems. For instance, representative democracy operates under the idea of a group of people will select a representative via elections (Held, 1987, 17). Direct democracy is an offshoot of representative democracy, where the citizenry can directly decide on the decisions of government, laws, electing representatives and usually takes place via referendum (Held, 1987, 17). Although these two systems both uphold the citizenry to be sovereign, they are subject to many different political influences, such as elitism and populism.

Echoing the words of Plato, elite theorists propose whenever there is a democratic system in place, the rule of nature would dictate that an elite minority would inevitably rule (Dryzek, 2009 57). This applies culturally and politically, as it defines the common masses as disorganized, generally uneducated and excluded from effective influence of government. And with unique individuals, who come to positions of power and control economic, social and political influences via their social status, intelligence, wealth and economic/political guile (Dryzek, 2009 58). The role of the ladder, as explained by Cas Mudde, operates as a philosophical instrument for other worldviews to operate under in order to gain public support (Mudde,2004, 543). Another common aspect of populism is the rise of the ‘charismatic leader’. These individuals are described by Max Weber as creative agents that possess extraordinary personal attributes and usually appear during times of great uncertainty to provide leadership and solutions. By doing so, they usually form new collectives that are in conflict with the prevailing order of the day. They usually view themselves as political conduit between the voiceless common people and the political establishment. However, in order to appeal to the many sections of society, populists tend to adopt simplistic language and offer simple solutions to complex problems (Pappas, 2016, 379). Interestingly regardless of which side of the political spectrum is being championed, when in combination with populism, a Manichean outlook is adopted that separates society into two antagonistic groups: the pure people versus the corrupt elite (Mudde, 2004, 543).

Although these notions have been simply regarded as details of democratic theory, the recent polarization of politics has forced the Aristotelian-Platonic democratic foundations to spilt and be adopted by the two main antagonistic worldviews that is being contested today: French representative democracy, which upholds the current world order of postnational liberalism versus American populist democracy, that champions the return to realist nationalism.

The End of History and the Return of the Nation State

It was due to the horrors the Great War that the old order of national-realism came to be rethought and the idea of liberal idealism onto the forefront of international affairs. It was President Woodrow Wilson that championed the concept of a world interdependently linked across economic, political and culturally lines, in the common goal of attaining world peace. It was to make nation states obsolete by binding them to international law and operate under transnational/global institutions and organizations (Quigley, 1966). For a time, this worldview was considered to be highly successful as the world seemed to have recovered and began to enjoy ‘the good life’ once again. However, when the Great Depression occurred, the idea of an interconnected world fell into dispute and the advocates of nationalism were eventually ushered into power and the world experienced another global war.

It was the rise of Hitlerite Nazism that provided the greatest warning of history for those advocating the worldview of liberalism, as it has acted not only as an example of how the democratic system could be abused by demagogues as a way to gain political legitimacy, but also the dangers of the populist-nationalism coming to power. For example, the German Weimar Republic was a champion of liberalism and representative democracy (Snyder, 1966 40). The political structure of the Republic dictated that the President was to be chosen via direct election, for a term of seven years with the possibility of re-election (Snyder, 1966 41). For a period of time, it looked like the Weimar system was a success, leading to a golden period of stability along with a bourgeoisie lifestyle (Kershaw, 1998 258). However, once the Great Depression occurred, the radical ultrarational populist Nazi Party, which argued the political class only represented liberalism and internationalism (Kershaw, 1998 136) and democracy only acted to divide society (Kershaw, 1998 136). But it was only when the charismatic leadership of Adolf Hitler was promoted, that the party was eventually elected into power (Kershaw, 1998 136). When in power he used direct-democracy to establish a dictatorial one-party state by using referendums to merge the two offices of President and Chancellor to into the supreme head-of-state of Führer (Kershaw, 1998 525).

It was with this historical lesson in mind that the world set out to avoid from ever happening again.  When the Cold War ended with the victors being the liberal-democratic West, thus the liberal-capitalist system achieved the ‘end of history’ (Fukuyama, 1992). Therefore, it was believed that the world elite should readopt international liberalism and therefore multinational institutions such as International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU). It was due to the representatives of democratic states remembering the rise of Nazism and wishing to see world peace that contributed to them embracing the notion of post-national liberalism and ultimately developing a Platonic mindset, that they were the natural elite and could dictate the destiny of nations to ultimately reach the geopolitical equivalent of the good life: achieving of world peace.

It is my contention that it was the rise of Hitler that has provided the greatest argument for those who are currently upholding the liberal world order and representative democracy to combat the current rise of populism. However, by doing so, they have unintentionally transformed into representatives of totalitarian democracy and have actually contributed to the very creation and rise of its democratic-rival. Due to the global nature of liberalism, the phenomenon of the democratic principle being turned against itself, has transpired in many nations, but it was due to the historic national culture of each particular country that produced drastically different reactions. The two nations that best exemplify the results of the civil war of democracy has been the United States, where the populist-democracy have claimed victory and France where the representative democracy has been completely embraced by its people.

Making America Great Again

It was the ascent of Donald Trump to the White House has been viewed as a legitimatization of the fears of populist-nationalism attaining power. However, I disagree with this interpretation of events as I argue that the American Creed has always represented a form of exceptionalism. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the US would reject the ideals of international liberalism and rebel, ironically via the ballot box, against their newfound masters.

According to Seymour Lipset, American Exceptionalism can only be understood when a comparative analysis is implemented, as the United States becomes the exception to the rule when contrasted with other nations, especially Europe (Lipset, 1991 1). The Founding Fathers sought to create a New World and thereby rejected the worldview and thus political structures of the Old World. For example, unlike Europe that upheld the notions of feudalism, monarchy and imperialism (Lispset, 1996 39), the American Republic adopted the federal republicanism, democracy, a competitive two-party system, individualism, capitalism, nationalism and an isolationist foreign policy (Lispset, 1996 1).

Being that the American ethos based on a suspicion of concentrated power, the US electoral system was founded on checks-and-balances. For example, the American system operates under the separation of powers, where the President is held to account by the Senate and House of Representatives as well as an independent High Court (Us.gov, 2017). Furthermore, there is the aspect of dual federalism, where political power is separated between the federal and state level, where the local government hold their own autonomy and elections (Us.gov, 2017). In regard to the Presidential electoral system, the President is elected by the citizenry of each state via the first-past-the post system. This allows the person who win the most votes is declared the winner. These votes are to be processed through the Electoral College. This works by the member states will collectively send a representative to cast the vote of each state at the College and thus each state will be equalized in participating the in election (Us.gov, 2017). This type of system is usually used by two-party system and thus frustrates any third party or independent of ever attaining power. This is compounded by the issue of ballot access, where the two major parties can easily registration in all states, third parties often find it hard to equal national representation due to lack of funds or support (Us.gov, 2017). I would argue that this system has assisted from any radical political movement or party, such as the American Nazi Party of the Communist Party of the USA, from ever gaining a foothold in American politics.

It is due to the American Creed representing such humanitarian ideals, I argue that the fact that the US has spearheaded international liberalism is was the beginning of the inversion of democracy, as those who were of a nationalistic mindset were dismissed and more importantly the American political class that was elected during this period adopted a form of totalitarian democracy, which as defined by J.L. Talmon, that society’s elite grows to believe that they hold exclusive attainment of absolute truth and thus the right to power, regardless of a lack of support from the citizenry and thus the right to suppress dissent (Tamon, 1952). I would add that the two-party system has also played a hand in the support for populist parties and individuals of the public, for they have eventually realized that they enjoy representative democracy in name only due to the consensus of those who supposedly are supposedly representatives of the democratic decisions of the people. It was in reaction to this perception that Donald Trump came to be supported by the mass American populace and chose to filter his presidential campaign through the US Republican Party.

It was by declaring ‘Nationalism, not Globalism, will be our Credo’ (Trump 2016), Trump had made it known that his populist campaign will be a return to traditional Americana. By running on his ‘America First’ campaign, he stated that by adopting international liberalism, true American Exceptionalism is dead and therefore he intended to restore the nation’s greatness. However, although I concede the superficial similarities to Hitler, in wanting to restore his nations’ greatness and that Trump does possess charismatic leadership qualities, it is wrong to equate his brand of nationalistic populism as Hitlerian National Socialism, as his agenda has no bearing on the platform of Adolf Hitler. For instance, Trump had never spoken of transforming the structure of government itself into a highly centralized government. This was reflected in his inauguration speech, he openly spoke about returning that nation to its people (Trump 2017).

Viva France

The history of modern France has been the attempt to re-establish their quest of pursuing Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Being of the Old World, the French nation have experienced many different forms of government and adopted many worldviews. However, as explained by Gordon Wright, it was not just the experience of battling Hitler that influenced their political class to uphold the notions of international liberalism, but also the fact that they were also under the collaborative, fascistic Vichy government (Wright, 1995, 396). In its pursuit to prohibit the opportunity of such a system from ever regaining power, postwar France embraced the worldview of its liberator, Charles de Gaulle, saw to rewriting their constitution and political system and is now living in its Fifth Republic (Wright, 1995 410).

The Gaullist Doctrine was an attempt to transcend partisan politics and attempt to simultaneously unify the nation and return it to the prestige of being a major power. This saw establishing a strong state and power executive branch of government (Hartley, 1971 2). However, there existed strong strain of liberalism present in its attempt to be ‘good neighbor’ by joining the European Union (Hartley,1971 213). In regard to its electoral system, the Fifth Republic adopted the ‘two-round system’, where the top two candidates are allowed to run on the second ballot. Under this concept, a multiparty system emerges, where many parties can compete in the first round. Although it is possible for a candidate to win the first round, it is highly unlikely given the level of competition that would take place. (Me ́ny, 2017 270).

The 2017 Presidential Election

The 2017 Presidential Election had become one of the most unprecedented in French history for a number of reasons. As Raymond Kuhn explains, the political instability began when the socialist Present Hollande decided not to seek re-election, making him the very first President refusing to run a second term (Kuhn, 2017 361). Furthermore, it was the first time in history where to Second Round was contested by two political outsiders: the pro-European liberal progressive Emmanuel Macron and the Eurosceptic populist-nationalist Marie-Le Pen of the National Front.

What was particularly interesting was the reconstituted National Front, that came under the leadership of Marie-Le Pen. According to Daniel Stockemer, the three main differences between the revamped National Front and its older model was: the state was elevated to protector of the common people against liberalism and immigration. The people of the lower/middle socio-economic class became the key target demographic. By adopting populism, Marie’s FN positions itself as the anti-party by opposing the established political, social and economic norms of the Fifth Republic. It appears that Marine Le Pen’s revival strategy, by mixing the traditional issues of immigration, security and national identity with her strong populist message of sovereignty and re-nationalization, proved to be successful both internally and electorally. For instance, during the 2012 National Election, the Front gained 18.03% of the vote and saw a total of 13.77% support in the Legislative elections and won two seats in the National Assembly (Stockemmer, 2017 24). By the 2014 European Elections the National Front winning 25% thus passing two moderate parties and sent 24 deputies to the European Parliament. (Stockemmer, 2017 5). It was with this momentum that Marine Le Pen’s National Front headed into the 2017 Presidential Election and had many contemplating the possibility of mimicking the upset victory of Donald Trump and actually see Le Pen enter the Élysée Palace.

Emmanuel Macron was also case of populism coming to the forefront of French politics. He was the personification of everything that populists loathed: possessing a background in finance, supported President Hollande, embraced of globalization and possessed a strong commitment to the European Union. It was as recent as 2014 that he began to form the foundations of his own political grouping known as En Marche! to be a people’s movement and reach voters the unpopular government would fail to do (Plowright 2017 107). When he announced his movement to the public, he described it as being a bit radical, full of positive energy but neither left nor right (Plowright 2017 109).

As for the actual election itself, the First-Round saw had a total of 11 candidates and unlike previous elections where it was clear who the realistic final candidates would be, this Round ended with distinct four leaders: Macron’s pro-European liberal progressivism, the Eurosceptic anti-liberal populist Le Pen, the conservative Fillon and the Eurosceptic progressivism of Mélenchon, with each scoring 20% in support (Kuhn 2017 362).

I would submit that this loss of faith of the establishment made many commentators fear that the parallels of Weimar Germany was beginning to take place, especially with the revamped National Front looking to fill the role of the re-established Nazi Party waiting in the wings. The Second Round of the Presidential Election was also unusual, as the electoral logical of the Fifth Republic would have produced the norm of a runoff between two representatives of the traditional Left and Right, but this time it ceased to function and concluded with the breakthrough of Macron, who triumphed over the socialists and the radical right of Le Pen (Kuhn 2017 368).

The result saw Emmanuel Macron win a divisive victory over Len Pen by winning the election by 66-33% and became the country’s youngest president ever. It was reported that by defeating the revamped National Front agenda, populist nationalism was defeated (2017).

The Comparison Analysis

Due to the global nature of liberalism, it is unsurprising that both countries are facing the same threat of erosion of national sovereignty and democratic legitimacy, regardless of their political system. However, the outcome of the US/French Presidential elections is an indicator of which civilization is willing to accept the belief that populism is authoritarian and ironically be willing to live under a form unofficial technocratic governance.

As mentioned above, American idealism was the antithesis of the worldview of ancient Europe and therefore it is unsurprising that populism have managed to become widespread and saw the election of an outsider to the Presidency. However, the fact that liberalism held bi-partisan support by the representative officials of the American government, the US had become seduced by globalism and thus its representative political class had turned towards platonic thought and therefore transformed American democracy into an aristocracy. However, with the American people by choosing to support the Trump agenda, which represented a return to the worldview of the Founding Fathers by advocating economic nationalism, isolationism and the national republican system of government, they had instinctively remembered their founding principles and therefore decided to elect Donald Trump to the Presidency. I argue that by embracing populism, they were essentially restoring American exceptionalism.

In contrast with the American experience, it would appear that the French people are more comfortable in living under a system of democratic elitism. By rejecting the superficial populist-nationalism of Le Pen, the French people have decided that they may be content in living under an end of history. This entails support for the notion that populist-nationalism equates creeping authoritarianism and the liberal idealism that is shared by the majority of their elected officials is the correct action to take. The reason of this decision could be found in the fact that France is of the Old World and thus possesses the natural affinity for a centralized government. This statement is supported by their political history of living under royalty, possessing a tendency to gravitate towards collectivist ideologies such as Jacobinism and socialism, Emperors and the creation of Vichy France. Furthermore, even under Gaullist republicanism, the Fifth Republic possess a centralized government and an extremely strong executive branch. Although this may appear unfair, I submit that the 2017 Presidential Election results has confirmed this perception. By electing Macron, a creature of the establishment and thus a founder of a pseudo-populist movement, the democratic model of France is no longer about upholding the Athenian ideal of participatory action. For instance, since coming to power, Macron has spoke of  himself as a ‘Sun King’ and holds direct correspondence with the transnational European Union, thus further ingraining the totalitarian brand of democracy into French politics.

The pattern that emerges from comparing the Franco-American case study has been that democracy is not a static concept, the geopolitics force of international liberalism has dictated the course of action that elected officials will take. By this happening, both countries have experienced the same phenomena of having their elected political class dictate the course of the nation. However, the reaction of both countries has been radically different, with the US citizenry embracing populism and the French equating it with another rise of authoritarianism and thus rejecting it. This indicates that, although both systems allow populism to emerge, it is dependent on the culture on whether it will flourish. It is the American system that allows populism to be accepted and therefore the true democratic will of the people to be reflected in their politics. This is a reminder that there is a limit to platonic thought and the inevitable pushback of Aristotelian democracy will eventually occur. I would argue that it was the formation of totalitarian democracy worked to remind the American people of that they possess the power to vote and therefore can change the destiny of their nation.

However, due to France being plagued with the memory of living under its own brand of fascism, has become willing to participate in the ritual of democracy and have become content in living under a technocratic government.

The true crisis is not that populism is rising in support, but it is the pretense of allowing it to occur, but then demonize it as authoritarian and thus allow further erosion of true democracy under the pretense of uphold its principles.


In conclusion, it appears that the crisis of democracy thesis is an inaccurate position to uphold as it is an inversion of reality. By examining the multi-dimensional concept of democracy, I have come to understand that although there are many variants, the two dominate versions that have emerged are the representative and populist variety. However, the true crisis that has been manifested in modern international affairs is when representative democracy comes to dominate the system of government. As seen in the Franco-American case study, depending on the culture of a society, it is possible for populism to be a factor in deciding the destiny of the nation. However, the true crisis emerges when the political class interpret populism, not as a reflection of the will of the people, but as a form of creeping authoritarianism that it ironically turning into a totalitarian form of democracy.


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Held, D (1987) Models of Democracy, Standford University Press, United States.

Henley J 2017, ‘Macron beats Le Pen in French presidential election – as it happened’, The Guardian Online, 19 May, viewed 12 November, https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/may/07/french-presidential-election-emmanuel-macron-marine-le-pen

Kershaw, I (1998) Hitler: 1886-1936 Hubris, Penguin Group, United Kingdom.

Lispset, Martin, S (1996) American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, Norton & Company, United States.

Yves Me ́ny (2017), ‘A tale of party primaries and outsider candidates: the 2017 French presidential election’, Palgrave Macmillan, Vol.15, 265–278

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Mudde, Cas (2004) ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition, 39(4): 542-63.

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Plowright, A (2017) The French Exception: Emmanuel Macron – The Extraordinary Risk and Risks, Icon Books Ltd, United Kingdom.

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Wright, G (1995) France in Modern Times, Standford University, United States.


The Two Faces of American Exceptionalism



There has always existed the narrative that the United States had be blessed by providence and thus held a special role in the development of humanity. However, by accepting the notion of being exceptional, the American mind became burdened with the turmoil of deciding how to best serve their divine mission. The consequence of possessing such an indecisiveness, two simultaneous worldviews developed which resulted in an almost perpetual war for the soul of America. This has been catastrophic for world peace and security. In order to end this battle and thus enable a more peaceful existence, American Exceptionalism must be understood.

In order to understand the concept of Exceptionalism, this thesis will take an historical overview to its origin, meanings and repercussions of the duel-identities of America, this thesis will be separated into four sections. Firstly, the foundations of Americanism will be understood by examining how the US came to the realization of their uncommon destiny. Secondly, the predecessors of what would later create two distinct worldviews will be investigated. Thirdly, the two current brands of exceptionalism, Neoconservatism and the Old Right will be deconstructed. And finally, the current climate of American Exceptionalism will be examined to see if the United States is any closer in becoming the Shining City on the Hill.

What is Exceptionalism?

It was within the aftermath of the American Revolution that the existence of America came to be universally regarded as a watershed moment in human history. According to Seymour Lipset, this conclusion can only be reached when a comparative civilizational lens is used in contrasting the attributes of the Old World of Europe and the New World of Americanism[1].

As stated by G.K Chesterton, the US was the only nation to be founded on a creed. This faith espoused the ideas of liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and capitalism. It was essentially a rejection of the norm found in Europe, such as Tory conservatism, statist communitarianism, mercantilism and noblesse oblige of the monarchical, state-church-formed cultures[2]. It was these values that was reflected in the foundations of the young nation, with the Founding Fathers deciding to embrace the republican system of check-and-balances, limited powers, separation-of-powers, decentralization, competition and the rule of law.[3] Furthermore, unlike the Old World, where the traditional source of authority came in the form of a monarch, the it was the Constitution that dictated the law of the land[4].

It was this uniqueness, in combination with the civilizational foundations of Christianity, that enabled the belief that the American Way of Life possessed messianic qualities. As asserted by Sanford Kessler, Tocqueville thought that Christianity was ultimately responsible for the revolution, as it upheld the principle that ‘all members of the human race are by nature equal and thus the American Revolution was divinely ordinated to establish democracy as the governing force in world affairs’[5]. This analysis resonates with Robert Bellah, who states that it was believed that by submitting to the Will of the Lord, the actions of the American civilization would ultimately be doing God’s Work[6]. I content that this mindset was steeped in biblical overtones, as it made Americans view their nation as the ‘New Israel’ and therefore themselves as the new ‘Chosen People’. This tendency became no more evident than during the Civil War, where biblical parallels were superimposed upon the Northern perspective: the war came to be viewed as necessary to attain redemption for indulging in the sin of enslavement, the fratricidal element was seen as following the steps of Cain and Abel and the death of President Lincoln was him being martyred for the restoration of the relationship between America and the Grand Architect[7]. I submit that this interpretation of events saw the American narrative transform from espousing Enlightenment ideals into a civil religion. The consequences of such a philosophic transformation will help explain the transformation of the nationalist American Republic into the global American Empire.

Interestingly the notion of American Exceptionalism has modern origins. It was stated in Marxist thought that the most industrialized capitalist economies would be the first to fall to socialism. However, unlike the Russian example, the United States proved itself to be the exception to the rule by refusing to collapse. Given the alleged undisputed logic of Karl Marx, the fact that the US was the embodiment of capitalism and showed no signs of a communist revolution, perplexed communists everywhere. However, it was concluded by the leader of the American Communist Party, Jay Lovestone, that due to the combination of a lack of radicalism and a political system that frustrated any third party from gaining momentum the traditional tactics of communism will not work. This was condemned as hearsay by the Kremlin and Lovestone was expelled[8].

The Two Faces of America

Although the ideology of Exceptionalism was instinctively felt among the hearts-and-minds of the American people, I argue that it was not until Americanism was put into practice that the division of the American worldview became apparent. In order to comprehend how this occurred, I have selected the Administrations of George Washington and Woodrow Wilson.

‘…Beware of Entangling Alliances…’ – George Washington[9]

The Presidency of George Washington was extremely important to the history of the American Republic, as it set the precedent for all future presidents. I would state that the decisions made by President Washington established exactly which brand of Exceptionalism was to be adopted and therefore how America should act upon the world stage.

It was soon after the birth of the American Republic that Washington found himself at yet another historical crossroads. It was Revolutionary France that found herself at war with Great Britain and sought the assistance of America. He was faced with the choice in participating within the geopolitical affairs of Europe or to seek neutrality. It was Thomas Jefferson who urged that America should assist France in their hour-of-need and thus repay them for helping America gain independence from Great Britain. This was countered by Alexander Hamilton, who warned that to side with France would open a Pandora’s Box and ultimately make America a satellite of France by entangling it with the further contests, broils and wars of Europe.[10] Unknown to Washington at the time, his decision would establish the definition of Americanism for centuries to come. It was the fear that was expressed by Hamilton that made Washington confirm his natural instinct to remain neutral. He essentially walked a centrist path between nationalism and internationalism, which advocated self-interest yet upheld the right of self-determination of others.[11] As he further explained during his Farewell Address, he did not seek an isolationist America, but an independent one. This could only be achieved by adhering to his warning against ‘entangling alliances’ and seeking ‘good faith and justice towards all nations…and to have as little political connection as possible’.[12] I would add, although Washington adopted non-interventionism, the Hamiltonian-Jeffersonian clash revealed that the twin destinies of America that are still being fought over today.

Another point-in-time that fortified the definition of Americanism was found in Independence Day speech of John Quincy Adams. As Secretary of State, he declared that since being admitted into the assembly of nations, America had consistently spoke the language of liberty, justice and equality and had always respected the independence of others while asserting and maintaining its own[13]. By choosing to abstain from interfering into the affairs of others, Adams essentially stated that America chosen to act as a beacon of inspiration and therefore had no ambition to go aboard searching for monsters to slay[14]. I contend by echoing the advice of Washington, Adams had fortified the idea that the Jeffersonian worldview would result in the United States becoming pulled into foreign wars and ultimately turn fall to the temptations of tyranny.

“The world must be made safe for democracy” – Woodrow Wilson[15]

Although the policy of non-interventionism had guided America for the first two hundred years, it was not until the rise of Woodrow Wilson that saw the US adopt a radicalized form of Jeffersonian-interventionism. It was Thomas Jefferson that envisioned America spearheading an international ‘Empire of Liberty’.[16] This idea was revealed by his urging an alliance with the Revolutionary France. By initially inferring the French Revolution as another example of humanity rebelling against the Old World, he saw Washington’s stance of neutrality to be a betrayal of American principles[17]. However, as France transformed into the Napoleonic Empire, Jefferson abandoned his idea for a worldly utopia and declared neutrality[18]. However, I argue that the idea of America adopting global imperialism had not died with Jefferson’s change of mind, but found new life President Woodrow Wilson’s brand of liberalism.

This argument finds agreement with Vibeke Schou Pedersen, who states In Search of Monsters to Destroy, that the alternative America was indicated when Wilson declared that the ideas that America espouse were not confined to a single nation, but were universal in nature. Therefore, America had the divine duty to spread its message across the world.[19] Interestingly, Pedersen points out that this type of Exceptionalism would lead to the nothingness of the United States. By recreating the world as a Pax Americana, the distinct characteristic will be no longer considered ‘American’ but ‘global’ and therefore America will virtually cease to exist.[20] By upholding such a worldview, Wilson gave the civil-religion of Americanism an evangelical-missionary quality, where the sacred mission was no longer to act as an inspiration to others to follow, but forcibility convert them into believing the American Dream. By entering and winning the Great War, Wilson later argued that in order to make the world safe for democracy, America had to abandon its national interests for global needs and thus embrace its providential destiny.[21] Although his ideas were persuasive, the US Congress retained its belief in realist republicanism and voted against such a prospect.

It was during the interwar period that saw the swansong of traditional Exceptionalism. With the memories of WWI fresh in the collective psyche, when Hitler ravaged Europe the majority of Americans saw fit to stay out of another European war. However, after the Battle of Britain began, FDR slowly moved towards the Wilsonian outlook. In response to this, the American First Movement was born. Its principles on national defense, that American democracy can be only be preserved by keeping out of the European war and aiding warring nations weakens national defense and threatens to involve America in war abroad.[22] However, once the Attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, any dispute about participation vanished.

By the end of the Cold War, having firmly consolidated itself as the undisputed champion of freedom and liberty, the US faced yet another historical crossroads: either return the its foundations or be seduced by the opportunity to create a world empire. It chose the ladder.

A House Divided

With the collapse of the godless Soviet Union, it was believed that America proved itself worthy of its divine mission and thus was allowed to reach the ‘End of History’.[23] By arriving to this conclusion, Wilsonian-liberalism was embraced by the entire political spectrum and any argument for non-interventionism was dismissed as reactionary.

“You Are Either with Us, or with the Terrorists” – George W. Bush[24]

 Although Neoconservatism is known as a variant form of conservatism within the Republican Party, it would be inaccurate to regard it as an outright Republican stance, as its origins can be found within the liberalism of the Democratic Party.

Although Neoconservatism had come to prominence during the George W. Bush Presidency, its roots can be traced back to the 1970s with the split within Liberalism. As Justin Vaisse explains, its origins can be traced back ‘The Vital Center’ doctrine of Arthur M. Schlesinger, who combined social liberalism and anticommunism, which functioned to offer a left-wing alternative to conservatism and international socialism.[25] In the fight against communism, this brand of liberalism supported the notion of possessing military superiority at all times.[26] It was this period that saw Middle America become disillusioned with liberalism and saw Richard Nixon ascend into the White House. This event saw the dual reaction that would eventually cause a split within liberalism itself: The Democratic Party moving increasingly to the left and rise of a new group of liberal intellectuals becoming formed.[27] It was not until the mid-1970s where these intellectuals moved rightward and supported the conservative movement which accumulated in abandoning their own President Carter for the Reagan Revolution. They quickly occupied key foreign policy posts and advocated winning the Cold War via military assertiveness and moral clarity as it would validate their worldview in the pages of history.[28]

With the collapse of the USSR and the declaration of the ‘End of History’, it appeared that that Neocon outlook had won the contest of ideas with President Bush Snr declaring the ‘Big Idea’ of an interconnected world based off the values of Americanism such as: liberal-capitalism, democracy, complex interdependence and security.[29] However, when Bill Clinton onto the political scene, the Neocons were initially pleased, due to viewing Bush as having been weak on Iraq. This was reflected by some helping draft speeches for Clinton, attacking President Bush for ‘coddling dictators’ and spoke greatly about universal human rights.[30] However, when Clinton entered the White House, they quickly became disillusioned when he did not use full force in Bosnia and in the Balkans. Such shades of national independence drove them to look for another administration to enact their idealism.[31] By taking their ideas of globalism forward, it was decided that democracy was not only to be supported everywhere but, via military interventionism, it must spread across the globe. The reason for this was the fundamental belief that realism allowed tyrannical regimes to exist, therefore America would indirectly sin by allowing their existence to continue.[32]

I would argue that the civil-religious aspect of American Exceptionalism became more pronounced after the 9/11 Terror Attack. With the perpetrators being religiously motivated, a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ dimension entered the equation of maintain world peace. The attacks acted as the flashpoint of the next ideological world war: A conflict that pitted the Christian-inspired global hegemon against the international threat of Islamic terrorism.[33] Furthermore, these attacks seemingly vindicated their criticism of isolationism, as dismissed the signs of a growing threat. I would submit that upon discovering its new raison d’etre of fighting the War on Terror, with the zeal of the recently converted, Neocon-America went to espouse its Exceptionalism with any form of dissent was condemned as being unpatriotic and thus heretical. With American now completely under the consensus of interventionism, in order to destroy the alternative worldview of Islamic terrorism, Vice-President Dick Chaney declared that “We have to work, though, on the dark side…” This saw the Bush Administration authorize constructing detention centers outside the US, where torture and other inhume interrogation techniques would be enforced and a policy of extreme rendition was also sought[34].

“…it is the constitutional position, it is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy…”

– US Congressman Ron Paul, Republican Primary, 2007[35]

Although the Washington brand of Exceptionalism was driven underground for a period of time, it was still being advocated by those who were predominately considered to be on the paleoconservative branch of the Republican Party, with the two main advocates being former presidential contenders Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul.

It was Buchanan who reminded America of their traditional outlook during the times of the 1990s where he challenged both fellow Republican, President George Bush Snr and later President Clinton, during the Presidential Campaigns of 1992 and 1996. It was in his detailed book A Republic, Not an Empire that traced the history of US foreign policy. By doing so, it came obvious that the true face of American Exceptionalism was one that attempted to live up to its ideals of nationalism, republicanism and enlightenment-idealism through example. In representing the legacy of Washington, Buchanan condemned the Neocons as usurpers of the Republican Party and the American identity: He branded the Neoconservatives of the 1970s being advocates of Trotskyism that later matured during the Regan years.[36] I find agreement in this assertion given their universal outlook echoes the intentions of World Revolution. Furthermore, it appears that the Buchanan analysis vindicates the warnings of Hamilton, where he says that the Neocon Agenda seeks to ensnare the nation into a series of wars that are irrelevant to America’s national interest. However, the cries of Buchanan went unheeded and when his presidential aspirations came to a close, the mantle of the isolationism passed onto fellow Republican, Congressman Ron Paul.

It was during the 2007 Republican presidential primaries debate that Ron Paul not only reasserted the criticisms and stances of Pat Buchanan, but inserted the element of the Jeremiad into national conversation. The Texas Congressman, echoing the redemptive story of Christianity, preached that America had been seduced by the prospect of world empire and began to interfere into the internal affairs of others. This was eventually met with the punishment of blowback, which resulted in frequent geopolitical failures, increased anger and resentment towards America. Therefore, only by returning to adhering to the council of the nation’s Founders and return to being a non-interventionist republic that America can redeem itself from the sin of lusting after world empire. According to Jason Edwards, this worldview was essentially the position of internal nation-building and seeking the impossible feat of achieving an ever-perfect union. Although, perfection cannot be attained in this moral world, despite the objections of the utopian advocates of Wilsonian-liberalism, the United States can once again fulfill its true role being exceptional and lead the world by representing the potentiality of Man.[37]

Another 2008 presidential candidate that also spoke of another America was Senator Barrack Obama. According to Phillip Gorski, the brand of Exceptionalism does find agreement with the traditionalist mindset, such as the Revolutionary War as a struggle for a political freedom, the founding documents were imperfect given that slavery was allowed to exist[38]. It was during Democratic primaries, like Ron Paul, he managed to distance himself from the conventional approach of supporting the Neocon agenda by indicating a return to isolationist policies such as withdrawing from Iraq, investing into military spending in order to uphold the notion of ‘strength through peace’, spearheading an international effort to destroy all weapons of mass destruction and that championing the self-determination of all nations.[39] However, this proved to be inaccurate as Obama had even admitted that his worldview was predominately of the tradition of the bipartisan outlook of Bush I, Kennedy and Reagan[40]. I would submit that this was essentially 21st Century Wilsonianism, and explained that his legacy was to at the very least contain the American Empire rather than deconstruct it. The neoliberal Obama Presidency basically represented the continuation of the Neocon Bush Doctrine. This saw this expansion of the War on Terror, which resulted in supporting the concept of regime change and the assassination of Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi. This also saw.[41]

“Make America Great Again” – Donald Trump[42]

The status of American Exceptionalism today appears to be slowly returning to the Washingtonian definition.  With the election of Donald Trump, Buchanan-Paul worldview, that America has indeed overextended itself and must return back to its nationalist foundations, seems to be in a position of power. Furthermore, as indicated by his Presidential campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ he had shadowed Ron Paul’s Jeremiad argument. By claiming that America needs restoration, I would surmise that the US has been punished by the burdens of empire and thus must readopt its republican ethos.

In regard to the concept of Exceptionalism itself, Trump has been very public in condemning the very term, stating that it immediately insinuates the America is better than other countries and thus creates insult and resentment within the minds of others.[43] Furthermore, he has gone so far to state that even if America was exceptional, the American Dream has been dead for many years, and was killed by the unofficial neocon-neoliberal alliance.[44] It appears that Trumpism, by putting ‘America First’ can make America exceptional once again. This will be achieved by adopting the abovementioned principles of the America First Movement. The political manifestation of these ideas has come in the form of an agenda that recalled the advice of the Founders: Hamiltonian economics, returning to the realist foreign policy of national alliances and thus a halt the US from upholding the current liberal world order[45].


In conclusion, the American Exceptionalism concept has constantly plagued America. It appears that the two worldviews have battle for the soul of the nation, with each side attaining a temporary victory of the other. Although the brand of Americanism that seeks to impose itself across the world has succeeded in replacing the isolationist consensus, it appears that the momentum has swung back to the Founders worldview. Given the unintended consequences that results from attempting to achieve the Jeffersonian utopia, I argue that a return to the nationalism of Washington would pacify geopolitical tensions and thus achieve a relative amount of world peace.



Adams, Q J 1821, ‘She Goes Not Abroad in Search of Monsters to Destroy’, 4 July, viewed 1 October 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/repository/she-goes-not-abroad-in-search-of-monsters-to-destroy/

Avlon, J (2017) Washington’s Farewell, Simon & Schuster, United States.

Beier, I 2010, ‘A Critical Perspective on Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy during the 2008 Presidential Election’, Masters thesis, University of Nevada.

Robert N. Bellah, “Civil Religion in America” (1967), sourced from http://www.robertbellah.com/articles_5.htm

Buchanan, P 1993, ‘The Old Right and Future of Conservatism’, viewed 3 October 7, 2017,


Buchanan, P (1999) A Republic, Not an Empire, Regnery Publishing Inc., United States

George H. W. Bush, President George H. W. Bush’s Address on the Invasion of Kuwait September 11 1990, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia (Online/YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iUX3yP9M8g

George W. Bush, Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the United States Response to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, The American Presidency Project (Online) http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/youtubeclip.php?clipid=64731&admin=43

Jason A Edwards, “Debating America’s Role in the World: Representative Ron Paul’s Exceptionalist Jeremiad.” American Behavioral Scientist 53, no. 3 (2011) 253-269.

Ehrman, J (1995) The Rise of Neoconservatism, Yale University Press, United States.

Fukuyama, F (2006) End of History and the Last Man, Free Press, United States

Philip S. Gorski & William McMillan (2012) Barack Obama and American Exceptionalism, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 10:2, 41-50.

Immerman, R (2010) Empire for Liberty, Princeton University, United Kingdom.

Stefan Kessler, (1977) ‘Tocqueville on Civil Religion and Liberal Democracy’, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 119-146.

Kuznick, P (2012) The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books, United States.

Laderman, Charlie (2017) Donald Trump: The Making of a Worldview, Endeavour Press, United States.

Lispset, Martin, S (1996) American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, Norton & Company, United States.

Excerpt from Seymour Martin Lipset, “American Exceptionalism Reaffirmed,” in 
Byron E. Shafer (ed.), Is America Different? A New Look at American Exceptionalism, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 1-45.

Ron Paul, Ron Paul Courageously Speaks the Truth, Republican Presidential Candidates Debate, Cover Centre (Online/YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7d_e9lrcZ8

Vibeke Schou Pedersen, “In Search of Monsters to Destroy? The Liberal American Security Paradox and a Republican Way Out”, International Relations 17, no. 2; 213–232.

Donald Trump, Trump say he doesn’t believe in “American exceptionalism, (Online/YouTube)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72wM6cqPS-c

Donald Trump, Trump American Exceptionalism, (Online/YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRgEaJ7dbQw

Vaisse, J (2010) Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, United d Kingdom.

[1] Seymour Martin Lipset, “American Exceptionalism Reaffirmed,” in Is America Different? A New Look at American Exceptionalism, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 1.

[2] Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism, Norton & Company, (United States, 1996), 31.

[3] Seymour Martin Lipset, “American Exceptionalism Reaffirmed,” in Is America Different? A New Look at American Exceptionalism, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 8.

[4] Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism, Norton & Company, (United States, 1996), 39.

[5] Stefan Kessler, “Tocqueville on Civil Religion and Liberal Democracy”, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 39, No. 1, (1977) 128.

[6] Robert Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” Robert Bellah Archives, http://www.robertbellah.com/articles_5.htm,

[7] Robert Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” Robert Bellah Archives, http://www.robertbellah.com/articles_5.htm, p. 7

[8] Seymour Martin Lipset, “American Exceptionalism Reaffirmed,” in Is America Different? A New Look at American Exceptionalism, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 2-3.

[9] John Avlon, Washington’s Farewell, Simon & Schuster (United States, 2017) .

[10] John Avlon, Washington’s Farewell, Simon & Schuster (United States, 2017) 191.

[11] John Avlon, Washington’s Farewell, Simon & Schuster (United States, 2017) 195.

[12] John Avlon, Washington’s Farewell, Simon & Schuster (United States, 2017) 184.

[13] John Quincy Adams, “She Goes Not Abroad in Search of Monsters to Destroy,” The American Conservative, Last Modified July 4 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/repository/she-goes-not-abroad-in-search-of-monsters-to-destroy/

[14] John Quincy Adams, “She Goes Not Abroad in Search of Monsters to Destroy,” The American Conservative, Last Modified July 4 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/repository/she-goes-not-abroad-in-search-of-monsters-to-destroy/

[15] Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books, (United States, 2012) 7.

[16] Richard Immerman, Empire for Liberty, Princeton University (United Kingdom, 2010) 5.

[17] Patrick Buchanan, A Republic, Not an Empire, Regnery Publishing Inc., (United States, 1999).

[18] Patrick Buchanan, A Republic, Not an Empire, Regnery Publishing Inc., (United States, 1999).

[19] Vibeke Schou Pedersen, “In Search of Monsters to Destroy? The Liberal American Security Paradox and a Republican Way Out”, International Relations 17, no. 2: 219.

[20] Vibeke Schou Pedersen, “In Search of Monsters to Destroy? The Liberal American Security Paradox and a Republican Way Out”, International Relations 17, no. 2: 220.

[21] Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books, (United States, 2012) 7.

[22] Patrick Buchanan, A Republic, Not an Empire, Regnery Publishing Inc., (United States, 1999) 271.

[23] Francis Fukuyama, End of History and the Last Man, (Free Press, 2006).

[24] George W. Bush, Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the United States Response to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, The American Presidency Project (Online) http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/youtubeclip.php?clipid=64731&admin=43

[25] Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, (United d Kingdom,2010) 7.

[26] Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, (United d Kingdom,2010) 12.

[27] John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, Yale University Press, (United States, 1995) 33.

[28] Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, (United d Kingdom,2010) 188.

[29] George H. W. Bush, President George H. W. Bush’s Address on the Invasion of Kuwait September 11 1990, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia (Online/YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iUX3yP9M8g

[30] Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, (United d Kingdom,2010) 233.

[31] Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, (United d Kingdom,2010) 232.

[32] Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, (United d Kingdom,2010) 224.

[33] Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism, Harvard University Press, (United d Kingdom,2010) 239.

[34] Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books, (United States, 2012) 504.

[35] Ron Paul, Ron Paul Courageously Speaks the Truth, Republican Presidential Candidates Debate, Cover Centre (Online/YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7d_e9lrcZ8

[36] Pat Buchanan, The Old Right and the Future of Conservatism, buchanan.org, achieved antiwar.com, viewed 3 October 2017 https://web.archive.org/web/20081008152357/http://www.buchanan.org/pa-00-0225-raimondo.html

[37] Jason A. Edwards, “Debating America’s Role in the World: Representative Ron Paul’s Exceptionalist Jeremiad.” American Behavioral Scientist 53, (2011) 256.

[38] Philip S. Gorski & William McMillan (2012) Barack Obama and American Exceptionalism, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol.10, no.2, 46.

[39] Ian Beier, A Critical Perspective on Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy during the 2008 Presidential Election (University of Nevada, 2010).

[40] Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books, (United States, 2012) 566.

[41] Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Gallery Books, (United States, 2012) 600.

[42] Charlie Laderman, Donald Trump: The Making of a Worldview, (United States, 2017) 87.

[43] Donald Trump, Trump say he doesn’t believe in “American exceptionalism, (Online/YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72wM6cqPS-c

[44] Donald Trump, Trump American Exceptionalism, (Online/YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRgEaJ7dbQw

[45] Charlie Laderman, Donald Trump: The Making of a Worldview, (United States, 2017) 7-10.

A Culture War Forever?



The United States has always been viewed as a strong and confident country, with its people united in their self-identity and idealism. However, in the wake of the Trump Presidency, the nation has experienced violence, strained relations and even calls for secession. Although this is a disturbing trend, I contend that this apparent battle for the soul of the United States is not a new occurrence. On the contrary, it appears that this development is simply another chapter of a culture war that can be traced back to the US very founding.

In order to explore this thesis, I will analyse the history of this philosophical war and the issues of division. However, due to the vast history of America, it will be impossible to discuss the culture war in its entirety. Therefore, this essay will be split by two eras, the Founding Fathers along with the Civil War and the Era of Civil Rights and the End of History. I will then proceed to categorically scrutinize the points of socio-political contention of that time. It will became apparent that America have always been in a culture war and therefore the current period of hostility will come to pass as the ideological civil war subsides and transforms once again.

 The Founding Fathers Divided

What made about Americanism unique was its fundamental ideals. However, over time the interpretation of these ideals became ever changing, therefore it has been difficult to pinpoint the exact battlelines between the two Americas. Although the agenda of the modern culture war is vastly different, its origins can be traced to the First Party System.

The earliest example of a cultural division was between the disagreement between Hamiltonian Federalism and Jeffersonian Democracy. It was Alexander Hamilton’s philosophy that held humanity being pawns of passion and thus incapable to true self-government. Therefore, he leaned towards order and stability, the protection of the weak and the restraint of those in power[1]. His economic ideas and support for a strong federal government for national development represented this belief[2]. In regards to race, he stated that Negros ‘natural faculties were as good as our own’ and that America must overcome racial bigotry and raise about prejudices and self-interest[3].

In contrast, Thomas Jefferson possessed the worldview that mankind being endowed by moral sense and saw the American Revolution as a rebellion against the old order of monarchical and aristocratic rule and opted for people governing themselves.[4] In regards to race, he viewed blacks were slow, lazy, oversexed, less capable than whites of reasoning and thus required some parentalism from White America[5].

This ideological debate is extremely important to understand, as it would lay the foundations of the culture war for generations to come. For instance, I would argue that Hamilton had won the battle with Jefferson, but his America did not bring about unity, but took battle into the dynamics of the 1815 Market Revolution. According to Sean Wilentz, Americans were still a rural people that mostly lived and worked on family farms, which operated on the barter system and held the notions of communalism and middle-class values in high regard[6]. With the innovation of technology, it allowed transport, trade and settlement easier and thus industrialization to occur[7]. This saw the rise of the professional class, which saw the creation of new careers such as manufacturers, merchants and lawyers. This brought the unintended consequence of community and family life going to the wayside for a new value system of careerism and a depersonalized society[8]. But this was not a monolithic experience, as the concepts and fruits were predominantly embraced by the Northern States. In contrast, the South was still content to operate in rural conditions, acquired the Cotton Kingdom and Plantation economics[9].

This culture war would not only go from economics and abstract notions of government responsibility and race to a violent Civil War, but it also contributed to the demographic formations of the war itself. I submit that the Democratic South had unintentionally adopted Jeffersonianism with its views of race and role of government and the Republican North had gone the way of Hamilton in supporting manufacturing and anti-slavery.

 The Cultural War turns into the Civil War

By the time of President Lincoln the politics had dramatically changed. For instance, the Republican Party represented the culture of the North that supported free labor, antislavery, economic nationalism and the Protestant work ethic[10]. The opposition was the Democrats, what were the party of the South and advocated free trade, slavery, Catholicism and social hierarchy[11]. This is an important development, as it determined the culture of the North and South and thus defined the battlelines of the Civil War. This war is particularly interesting, as it transitioned from being about one aspect of the culture war, the role of government and economics into being about race and slavery.

It was in response to Lincoln’s Presidential victory, and his public distaste for slavery, that seven slave states withdrew from the Union with others contemplating doing the same. The Lincoln Administration responded by asserting their federal authority over the Southern states[12]. It was initially debated the role of government: the possibility of the federal government imposing its will upon the states. When the tension escalated into a hot war, Lincoln initial response was to preserve the Union, even if that meant maintaining slavery[13]. However, as the war progressed, Lincoln changed his casus belli from being about preservation of the Union to being about freeing slaves and living up to the American ideal about freedom and liberty[14]. The Emancipation Proclamation exemplified this, as it freed many slaves and thus closed the possibility to the South re-joining the Union with their Slave Power intact, and sought ending slavery throughout the land[15].

I will argue that it was during the aftermath of the Civil War, that the US had the opportunity see an America unified under a singe ideology, in this case the Northern mindset, and ultimately end it cultural war with itself. However, the South rejected their reality and sought to re-establish their way of life, and did so, with the implementation of the Jim Crow Laws. This saw to the maintenance of racial segregation in military units, federal workplaces, public schools and transport, restrooms, restaurant and drinking fountains[16].

This system lasted until the 20th century, which came with the second major upheaval of American history with the Civil Rights Movement and was still felt during the 1990s. 

The Great Society flows with Goldwater

It was not until the 1960s that this cultural disagreement fundamentally transformed yet again. Although it still echoed the debates of the past, a social dimension came to the forefront of the public discourse. This generation saw three distinct characteristics form: mass protest movements, rethought liberalism and the rise of American conservatism[17]. I would add that this period was further complicated by the traditional politics swapped political parties with the Democrats advancing Hamiltonian economics and government intervention and the Republicans representing Jeffersonian democracy and civil libertarianism.

This ‘new politics’ saw the rise of the New Left that was the ideological home for Marxist dogma, student protest, alternative lifestyles, social activism, liberation movements and civil rights[18]. By possessing a radical streak, the New Left alienated Old Liberals and turned the Middle Class apathetic or into the arms of the New Right. The promised Great Society of Lyndon Johnson sought to see initiatives of Kennedy’s New Frontier come to fruition: ending racial segregation and civil rights, war on poverty, social security, welfare environmental protection, rural development and winning the Vietnam War[19].

Countering this narrative was the development was the New Right and the rise of Barry Goldwater. What made Senator Goldwater the champion of conservatism was his authentic idealism of constitutionalism, republicanism, civil libertarianism, liberal economics and anticommunism[20]. This movement, consisting of libertarians, traditional conservatives, suburban middle class and an affluent working class becoming increasing resentful of an increasing interfering government[21]. However, with the death of Kennedy, the cultural war intensified when the torch of JFK was passed to the Johnson, who sought to passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was viewed that Goldwater opposed the Act was due to him being a reactionary and insensitive to the needs of race and the poor[22]. But this was not the case. Being a strict constitutionalist, Goldwater had voted for many local ant-discriminatory laws, as he viewed them as moral and appropriate[23]. It was his belief that racism was a fundamental problem of the heart and not the law and that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional, as it allowed the federal government to interfere with not only State rights but also the individual[24]. But the combination of the assassination of JFK along with the perception that he represented the far right with his objection to the Civil Rights Act, resulted in a crushing defeat for Goldwater. So devastating was the defeat, that the nation’s most esteemed scholar of the presidency to state that ‘this is surely a liberal epoch as the late 19th Century was a conservative one’[25].

An important example of how the culture war exhibited itself during the ‘long decade’ of the Sixties and Seventies was seen with the implementation of affirmative action. Dennis Deslippe describes how this affected the cultural norm of traditional Americana and led to a white backlash by using the example of the 1970s Detroit Police Department. When this police was implemented, it resulted in mass protests and riots by the predominate white male working class. They echoed the Jefferson-Goldwater argument that affirmative action represented the interference of big government into private industries and the local and national politics[26]. They went on to state that such liberal polices as being oppressive and that they were the oppressed classed. They saw liberals as trying to reorder society by sacrificing working class whites for the crimes of the past, while the white middle class were not inconvenienced[27]. They perceived Blacks were getting more than what rightfully belonged to them. Although they agreed with the idea of job creation, but not to take from those and create anger and resentment. By doing so, the Hamilton-Jefferson dynamic remerged with the debate of individual merit being the determining factor in the hiring process and jobs and promoting being distributed across the collective for the greater good.[28] Although race relation did somewhat improve, Detroit policemen remained frustrated due to the perceived ‘reverse racism’ as it demoralized people seeking promotion, test taking and seeking the highest score as opportunity was denied due to identify politics[29].

 It appears that the Silent Majority politically rebelled by supporting two Republican landslide victories under the centrist Richard Nixon and eventually saw to conservatism gaining the White House under Goldwater’s protégée Ronald Reagan. It was at this stage that the culture war saw the liberal side subdued with Reagan denouncing affirmative action as ‘discrimination to cure discrimination’ and that saw to the repeal of many of its legislation[30].

However, once again this cultural stability proved to be elusive and the cultural war resumed once again during the 1990’s between the Clinton Administration and social-conservative Pat Buchanan.

 Slick Willie and the Buchanan Brigade

 By the time of the 1990s, America experienced a major realignment and polarization in politics and culture. This political stage was battled predominately between the children of the 1960s. It was this stage that the cultural war acted as the forerunner of today with the issues echoing the contentions of the past along with modern social issues such abortion, role of government, immigration, homosexual rights, censorship, drug use and censorship. There could be no better representatives of the cultural war in the form of President Bill Clinton and social-conservative Patrick Buchanan. Their battle during the 1990s was essentially the battle of the meaning of the 1960s[31].

Although being a champion of the values of the 60s, Clinton presented himself as a centrist and promised to lower the deficit, cut taxation, end welfare dependency, universal healthcare, opening admission to gays in the military and relaxation of drug use and sexual morality[32]. However, the polls revealed that although Americans were excited by the Clinton Presidency, they were disturbed by the unintended consequences from cultural liberalism: increased divorce, rise of single families, more female-headed families in poverty and the spread of sexual transmitted diseases[33].

In response to the Clinton Administration, Pat Buchanan in his now-famous 1992 ‘Culture War’ speech, he clearly defined the two political camps that were lock in battle for the soul of America. He declared that the change that Clinton wished to impose, such as radical feminism, abortion on demand, homosexual rights, women in combat units was not the kind of change America wanted or needed imposed in if it wanted to remain ‘God’s Country’. And finally, he reflect the origins of the culture war when he spoke of Clinton’s VP pick Al Gore stating that the central organizing principle of government was the environment and the Republican Party represented freedom[34]. When this speech was met with a hostile reaction, Buchanan stated that America’s history is also being assaulted and slowly America will ultimately forget what is stood for, namely family, faith, friends, country and lose the culture war[35].

It will become apparent that this battle was not healed and later explode onto the national stage with the Trump Presidency.

Trump Triumphant

By 2016 Election, the old divisions within American civilization revealed themselves once again. It was after the Bush-Obama Administrations that had Americans feeling demoralized and frustrated, this time by perceived political correctness and assault on their identity, immigration, race, economics and the role of government. Chris Arnade, who interviewed Trump supporters, discovered that the old culture war was still being fought, but this time, it was felt that the liberal left have dominated the culture and politics for some time and it was a time to ‘take the country back’.

Much like the abovementioned previous eras, the people who were complaining were ignored and taken for granted. For instance, Arnade encountered thoughts such as: there is no American Dream fro anyone who isn’t a lawyer, immigrant are taking all out jobs, that an outsider was needed[36].

 Although the history of Trump has yet to be written, it appears that he superficially represented an anti-establishment vote and therefore people are willing to fight back against the political left of the culture war.


In conclusion, it appears that America is destined to always be in conflict with itself.

The seeds of division were planted between Hamilton and Jefferson, it has continued transform over time to include the question of slavery and race and eventually social issues. It appears that the US will constantly sway from one ideological extreme to another, with the dominating agenda overreaching itself until a backlash occurs and the cycle repeats once again. This could be due to part of the American ideal of seeking the balance between the rights of man and their responsibility to one another.

 – 2517 words


Chris Arnade, ‘What I learned after 100,000 miles on the road talking to Trump supporters’ Guardian, 3 November, 2016


Mr. Conservatism: Goldwater on Goldwater 2006, DVD, Zeitgeist Films Ltd, United States. Directed by Julie Anderson.

Buchanan, Patrick. “1992 Republican National Convention Speech.” Patrick Buchanan Official Website. Last modified August 17, 1992.


Buchanan, Patrick. “The Cultural War for the Soul of America.” Patrick Buchanan Official Website. Last modified September 14, 1992.


Dennis A. Deslippe, “Do Whites Have Rights?”: White Detroit Policemen and “Reverse Discrimination” Protests in the 1970s, The Journal of American History Vol. 91, Issue 3. Dec 2004: 932-960.

Ferling, J (2013) Jefferson and Hamilton, Bloomsbury Press, United States.

Barbara Jeanne Fields, “Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America,” New Left Review I/181, May-June 1990.

Eric Foner, “The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln,” New York Times, December 31, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/opinion/the-emancipation-of-abe-lincoln.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labour, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War, New York, Oxford University Press, 1970, Ch 1(11-39)

Gillon, S (2008) The Pact, Oxford University Press, United States.

Michael J. Heale, “The Sixties as History: A Review of the Political Historiography,” Reviews in American History 33 (2005), pp. 133-152

LBJ 1991, DVD, PBS American Experience, United States. Directed by Unknown

Kuznick, P (2012) Untold History of the United States, Random House, United States

Perstein, R (2001) Before the Storm, Nation Books, United States

Trump D 2016, ‘Trump Gives Major Economic Policy Speech’, 08 August, viewed 15 April 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-1Dqz8Hj8g 

Sean Wilentz, “Society, Politics, and the Market Revolution, 1815-1848,” in Eric Foner, ed. The New American History, (Revised and Expanded Edition), Temple University Press, 1997, pp.61-84.

[1] John Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton, Bloomsbury Press (United States, 2013), 188.

[2] John Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton, Bloomsbury Press (United States, 2013), 220.

[3] John Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton, Bloomsbury Press (United States, 2013), 88.

[4] John Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton, Bloomsbury Press (United States, 2013), 131.

[5] John Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton, Bloomsbury Press (United States, 2013), 131.

[6] Sean Wilentz, “Society, Politics, and the Market Revolution, 1815-1848,” The New American History (1970): 64.

[7] Sean Wilentz, “Society, Politics, and the Market Revolution, 1815-1848,” The New American History (1970): 63.

[8] Sean Wilentz, “Society, Politics, and the Market Revolution, 1815-1848,” The New American History (1970): 64.

[9] Sean Wilentz, “Society, Politics, and the Market Revolution, 1815-1848,” The New American History (1970): 67.

[10] Eric Foner, “Free Soil, Free Labour, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War”, Oxford University Press, (United States, 1970), 12.

[11] Eric Foner, “Free Soil, Free Labour, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War”, Oxford University Press, (United States, 1970), 129.

[12] Eric Foner, “The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln,” New York Times, (2012): 928.

[13] Eric Foner, “The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln,” New York Times, (2012)

[14] Eric Foner, “The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln,” New York Times, (2012)

[15] Eric Foner, “The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln,” New York Times, (2012)

[16] Eric Foner, “The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln,” New York Times, (2012)

[17] Michael J. Heale, “The Sixties as History: A Review of the Political Historiography,” Reviews in American History 33 (2005): 138.

[18] Michael J. Heale, “The Sixties as History: A Review of the Political Historiography,” Reviews in American History 33 (2005): 139.

[19] LBJ 1991, DVD, PBS American Experience, United States. Directed by Unknown

[20] Mr. Conservatism: Goldwater on Goldwater 2006, DVD, Zeitgeist Films Ltd, United States. Directed by Julie Anderson.

[21] Rick Perstein, Before the Storm, Nation Books (United States, 2001), 146.

[22] LBJ 1991, DVD, PBS American Experience, United States. Directed by Unknown

[23] Rick Perstein, Before the Storm, Nation Books (United States, 2001), 363.

[24] Rick Perstein, Before the Storm, Nation Books (United States, 2001), 363-36.

[25] Rick Perstein, Before the Storm, Nation Books (United States, 2001), ix.

[26] Dennis Deslippe, “ Do Whites Have Rights?”: White Detroit Policemen and “Reverse Discrimination” Protests in the 1970s
,” The Journal of American History, 91(2004):934.

[27]Dennis Deslippe, “ Do Whites Have Rights?”: White Detroit Policemen and “Reverse Discrimination” Protests in the 1970s
,” The Journal of American History, 91(2004):940.

[28] Dennis Deslippe, “ Do Whites Have Rights?”: White Detroit Policemen and “Reverse Discrimination” Protests in the 1970s
,” The Journal of American History, 91(2004):951.

[29] Dennis Deslippe, “ Do Whites Have Rights?”: White Detroit Policemen and “Reverse Discrimination” Protests in the 1970s
,” The Journal of American History, 91(2004):960.

[30]Dennis Deslippe, “ Do Whites Have Rights?”: White Detroit Policemen and “Reverse Discrimination” Protests in the 1970s
,” The Journal of American History, 91(2004):959.

[31] Steven Gillon, The Pact, Oxford University Press (United States, 2008), 10.

[32] Peter Kuznick, Untold History of the United States, Random House (United States, 2012), 484.

[33] Steven Gillon, The Pact, Oxford University Press (United States, 2008), 275.

[34]Patrick Buchanan, “1992 Republican National Convention Speech.” Patrick Buchanan Official Website. Last modified August 17, 1992. http://buchanan.org/blog/the-cultural-war-for-the-soul-of-america-149.

[35] Patrick Buchanan, “The Cultural War for the Soul of America.” Patrick Buchanan Official Website. Last modified September 14, 1992. http://buchanan.org/blog/the-cultural-war-for-the-soul-of-america-149.

[36] Chris Arnade, “What I learned after 100,000 miles on the road talking to Trump supporters” Guardian, 3 November 2016.

McCarthy Rethought


The traditional narrative of history depicts Senator Joseph McCarthy as a demagogue, who used a conspiratorial anti-communistic worldview to justify an erosion of civil rights, political repression and risked an escalation of the Cold War. Being that McCarthyism went against the notions of American idealism and faded away with the end of Senator McCarthy’s creditability, it is thought to be simply a deviation of traditional American history and therefore cannot be considered applicable to modern politics.

Although this may be true, upon reflection I have come question this perception, as a conspiracy mindset has always been apart of America and McCarthyism was simply another example of this tendency occurring. Furthermore, I contend that it is inaccurate to view McCarthy as paranoid madman who had no reason to make the claims that he was making.

The American Inclination for Conspiracy

According to Richard Hofstadter, this ‘paranoid styled’ thinking has expressed itself under different guises throughout history, with the US being no exception. However, I would suggest that this national characteristic is not surprising, as the American Revolution itself was a scheme against the British Empire. I would add that by being born from a conspiracy, the psyche of America was imbedded with the possibility of subversion occurring is some form or another: Freemasons, Catholicism, international socialism or capitalism, the Illuminati and the Elders of Zion protocols (Hofstadter 1966, p.6).

An early example of the paranoid thinking gaining a foothold into America can be found in the Anti-Masonic movement. It was believed to be an international conspiratorial network that required a separate system of loyalty, jurisdiction and obligations and punishments (Hofstadter 1966, p.16) that went against the constitutionalism of the US Republic. In reaction to this perception, the rise of anti-masonry ascended into a national movement (Hofstadter 1966, p.15).

In order to explain how such thining could gain traction, it required seeing history as the motive force in historical events (Hofstadter 1966, p.29) and possess an apocalyptic streak and thus constantly living at the turning point (Hofstadter 1966, p.30). Therefore Man is locked into a battle for survival with an enemy that manipulates and profits from history by manufacturing crisis, depressions, wars and disasters (Hofstadter 1966, p.32). Interestingly, it would appear that this enemy is an ideological doppelganger to the patriot: the enemy is a cosmopolitan intellectual that is ruthless in persecuting its agenda and the patriot will need to outdo him in scholarship and information and will also act with zealotry in purging the nation of subversive influences (Hofstadter 1966, p.32). However, it is important to realize that actual secret societies existed that potentially threatened civil order, such as Freemasonry (Hofstadter 1966, p.36). Therefore it is very plausible that some conspiracies can be fact, not theory.

It would appear that Senator McCarthy was no different for his ant-Masonic predecessors in his paranoid thinking, as indicated by his speeches where he spoke of a ‘great conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any pervious such venture in the history of man (Hofstadter 1966, p.7).

McCarthy Rethought

The aftermath of WWII saw a sickly FDR sign over Poland to Stalin, Soviet Agent Igor Gouzenko defects and named 22 people in a spy ring that passed documents to Stalin. By 1949 China fell to Mao and America’s major ally, Chiang-Kai-Shek exiled (Buchanan 1990, p. 92). It was these events that persuaded McCarthy that a massive communistic conspiracy was afoot.

Once establishing himself as a force on Capital Hill, a chilling affect occurred within American government: departments downsized, diplomats feared their mail being opened, rumours flowered, telephones tapped, and due to low morale of the civil service, the quality and quantity of applicants became substandard (Schrecker 1999, p. 371). Furthermore, McCarthyism led to a hard-line attitude, which fostered dishonesty and unrealistic policies that narrowed the debate on forging policy (Schrecker 1999, p. 377)

However, the damage of McCarthyism was nowhere as extensive than in Hollywood the Civil Rights Movements. Being that Communism supported racial equality, McCarthyism was forced to assault Civil Rights Movement by anathematised individuals and destroyed institutions and thus the remaining groups were small and conservative and thus posed little challenged to the norm (Schrecker 1999, p. 390). On the cultural front, McCarthyism entered Hollywood and saw a purging and blacklisted talented personnel by denying them licenses to those who affiliated or sympathetic to communism. Furthermore, it dictated content and the genre took a conservative outlook: the good/bad guy Westerns, unthinking patriotism of war movies and Bible epics. Moreover, undesirable elements were suppressed such as sexual content and blacks, workers and uppity women were kept off screen (Schrecker 1999, p. 399).

However, I argue that if McCarthy had any doubt of his actions, they were dismissed and replaced with vindication by the Hiss case. State Department diplomat Alger Hiss was accursed being a Soviet agent and after he angrily and categorically denied the charges. After the press major political figures, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles public supported Hiss, it was Richard Nixon’s confrontation with Hiss and discovering documents found on his farm that proved him guilty (Herman 2000, p. 87).

Despite the suppression of civil rights and the constrained affects of McCarthyism, I assert that it is incorrect to state that McCarthy was a loathsome, isolated political figure. Evidence of this is reflected in that not a single Gallup Poll of that era showed even 1% viewed anti-communistic extremism as national problem. Even the apostles of American liberalism, the Kennedy Family, embraced him: Joe Kennedy supported him, Kennedy girls dated him, RFK worked for him and JFK walked out in disgust with a speaker stated that Harvard never produced a McCarthy or Hiss, stating ‘How dare you couple the name of Joe McCarthy with that of a Traitor!’ (Buchanan 1990, p.90).

I would state that McCarthy was a patriot that possessed the good intentions of ridding America of a hostile subversive force. But it appears that in his quest to do so, his paranoid thinking unheeded the Nietzschean warning about being careful in fighting monsters and became one himself. This is reflected in his embracement of the same authoritarian tactics and suppression that communism had adopted.


In conclusion, the idea of ‘paranoid thinking’ has proven to be a natural element to the American character. This explains how McCarthy gained and maintained so much support by the public and other key political figures. It appears that McCarthyism was not an anomaly to America, but was actually as American as Apple Pie.


Buchanan, P (1990) Right from the Beginning, Little Brown and Company, United States

Herman, A (2000) Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator, The Free Press, United States

Richard Hofstadter, “The paranoid style in American politics” The paranoid style in American politics, and other essays London: Cape, 1966.

Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America, Princeton University Press, 368-415

Recommended Viewing – 

The Truth About McCarthyism: Modern Parallels

Why did the American Republican North champion Anti-slavery and Free Labor?


The traditional narrative of history dictates that during the American Civil War, the Republican North sought the fulfilment of the founding principle of ‘All men are created equal’. While this is true, I view this as a simplified narration of history, as it omits the impact of the Market Revolution and the reasoning as to why the Republicans became the champions of natural law. This will explored by using the writings of Society, Politics and the Market Revolution 1815-1848 by Sean Wilentz and Eric Foner’s Free Labor: The Republicans and Northern Society.

The Transformational Power of the Market Revolution

The residuum of the Market Revolution cannot be understated as it fundamentally changed the economic, social and political makeup of the United States and ultimately set the battlelines of the American Civil War. I would argue that this is important, as the history of the Civil War was not a predestined occurrence and could have easily developed under alternative circumstances. For example, the beliefs of the Northern and Southern states or the political parties could have been inverted and thus history rewritten.

According to Wilentz, Americans were mostly a rural people who worked in agriculture with the majority working on small-time family farms (Wilentz 1997, p. 63). This carried a distinct way of life that upheld barter exchange, self-sufficiency and communalism as well as middle-class respectability and domesticity (Wilentz 1997, p. 63). It was with the innovative technology of transport that made land settlement and trade easier and therefore manufacture industrialization and commercialization could occurred, which intensified productive capacity (Wilentz 1997, p. 63) and allow the rapid increase of the output of raw materials and finished goods (Wilentz 1997, p. 63).

Interestingly, this economic revolution was not a national metamorphosis, as it materialized differently within the Northern and Southern states. The North seemed to embrace such changes and saw to the rise of professionalism with manufacturers, merchants, and lawyers. The aftereffect however saw the impersonality of work and the decline of family and communalism (Wilentz 1997, p. 64). However, the industrial revolution saw the rise of the Cotton Kingdom within the American South and thus the spread of plantation slavery with Southerners being reluctant or outright hostile to the Northern economic and social changes (Wilentz 1997, p. 66). By relaying on the plantation economics, the South adopted the raison d’être for slavery of civilizing black slaves (Wilentz 1997, p. 66). Therefore, they required the rejection of the northern notions of liberal individualism (Wilentz 1997, p. 67). In doing so, they saw to the creation of a social organization and understanding that saw white paternalism that entwined master-slave dynamics with familial rights and duties, which pacified slave rebelliousness (Wilentz 1997, p. 67).

The Party of Lincoln chooses sides

Due to wanting to differentiate themselves from the British counterparts, American idealism adopted the notions of republicanism and individualism. By doing so, the culture was based on protecting the commonwealth, exercising virtue and independence, maintaining a politically engaged citizenry and equal representation (Wilentz 1997, p. 71). However, it was the Market Revolution that saw the emergence of two distinct forms of American culture that were manifested in the political makeup of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Although the Republican Party was capitalistic, it supported a form of economic patriotism. As Foner argues, this meant they championed the notion of free labor and saw it as the reason for their rapid economic development as it was the source of all their wealth, progress, dignity, value and national unity (Foner 1970, 12). It was by upholding the ‘harmony of interests’ of supporting a protective tariff that safeguarded patriotic interests and the advancement of domestic labor along with protecting against cheap foreign workers (Foner 1970, 20). This contrasted with the Democratic free-traders who determined that competition with external forces would stimulate growth and avoid sluggishness (Foner 1970, 19). This was proven to be unfounded as the internal dynamics saw North Americans driven by the desire to improve their condition of life, supported and promoted the notion of social mobility and economic growth (Foner 1970, 12). Furthermore, the Republicans were also hateful towards the ‘Money Power’ of big business and economic concentration that they equated as a form of moneyed feudalism, which destroyed independence and freedom (Foner 1970, 22).

I believe this economic-social mindset of looking after their fellow Man, allowed the Republicans to be susceptible to the notions of the Second Great Awakening, which stated that in order for the Return of Christ to take place, humanity must purify itself by adopting the abolishment of slavery. I believe this was possible by Americans possessing the ‘Protestant work ethic’ that saw the Republican Party adopt the concepts of free labor and then eventually abolition. Given that the American people mostly came from Protestantism, their worldview became compatible with capitalism as it forced honesty, frugality, diligence and punctuality. By doing so, Northerners felt they were fulfilling their Christian duty by consuming the fruits of the Market Revolution (Foner 1970, 12-13). Once this developed, I suggest this worldview also allowed antislavery to be embraced, as seen with their political predecessor- the Free Soil Party. This ideological combination of Free Labor and antislavery eventually became part of the platform of the Republican Party (Wilentz 1997, p. 80). Contrastingly, the Democratic South interrupted that Man was divinely ordained and should be satisfied with his given role in life, and while under the static plantation economics, saw a hierarchical social order and fixed classes (Foner 1970, 13). I contend that it is unsurprising that the North and South had adopted their given ideological perspectives, given their religious fundamentals, economics and societal outlook.


In conclusion, upon reviewing the given sources, I have ascertained that it is a myth to believe the Republican North possessed an inherent moral superiority and that the South was intrinsically unethical. It was the benefits of the Market Revolution and the undercurrent of liberalism that took the North onto the path of prosperity and racial equality. If the tides of fate had been altered, with the fruits of the Market Revolution were distributed more evenly, American idealism may not have spilt and slavery may have died a natural death. Or the conflict may have occurred under different circumstances.


Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labour, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War, New York, Oxford University Press, 1970, Ch 1(11-39)

Sean Wilentz, “Society, Politics, and the Market Revolution, 1815-1848,” in Eric Foner, ed. The New American History, (Revised and Expanded Edition), Temple University Press, 1997, pp.61-84.

North-South Relations: Sharing Sovereignty Undermines National Sovereignty of the State?



The impact of shared-sovereignty upon nationalism is contested within academia, wondering if it undermines, increases or transforms nation states within a globalized world. It is my contention that non-state actors have ultimately undermined national sovereignty itself.

The Historical Narrative

In order to comprehend the concept, it is best to briefly understand its foundations and its connection to neoliberalism.

During and post-WWII the economic theory of Keynesianism was championed by many Western countries. However by the 1980’s, disillusionment with interventionism arose and was replaced by the creed of neoliberalism. The Reagan-Thatcher Administrations spearheaded it: this saw privatization, deregulating industries and international free trade.[1] This saw the redefinition of public-private spheres; with ‘public’ being considered to be government and ‘private’ are corporations.[2]

By 2000, the global market was skewed towards the interests of multinational corporations with its oligopolistic completion is often constrained and aimed at controlling national governments.[3] I would suggest that this established universal corporatism.

The Corporate World

The traditional role of the state has always been a source of governance, however this has seen its power slowly usurped by non-state actors.[4]

With no alternative available, it appears that the bi-polar world was replaced by a new post-liberal order.[5] This order originates in the West, it incorporates neoliberal principals. This implies this newfound ‘Corporate State’ has taken neoliberalism to the extreme, thus transforming it into authoritarian corporatism, working through multinationals such as the IMF and transnational entities like the European Union. This means that the neoliberal concepts became imposed from an international level.[6]

The implication of the Corporate State is that authority resides in offshore institutions. This private authority usurps national legitimacy and creates rules, principals, norms and regulations that must be adopted by governments.[7] It defines and prioritizes issues and present solutions to problems along with designed, adopted and implement their own rules and regulations.[8] Furthermore, they are motivated by the avoidance of activist and NGO scrutiny, appease investors and to create a standardized operating system.[9] The concern of lack of accountability is pacified by the promise of self-regulation that even extends between firms, governments and civil society via public-private partnerships.[10]

However, I would argue that the West is unfairly demonized as transgressions also fell upon Western countries. The abovementioned entities may be superficially thought of Western, but in reality they are no longer dependent upon their home counties. They are now manifesting within a transnational networks and sharing regulation and governance.[11]

The European Example

The Eurozone is facing a breakup due to the backlash by rediscovered nationalism by various countries due to rebelling against the sovereignty-killing aspect of liberal-corporatism. The bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Spain, accompanied interest rates paid by nations on their actions, cut in spending and increase in taxation.[12] These polices were applied by the transnational institution of the IMF which saw Euro institutions collapsed by 2011 which saw the Euro-commission appoint technocratic governments such as Italy and Greece.[13]

In conclusion, by non-state actors via neoliberalism appears to have transcend nationalism itself. Furthermore, it adopted authoritarian characteristics that created a hubris that made it believe that it could regulate and police itself. As seen in the European example, by having such freedom and power the nation state has become eroded by transnational entities.

– 537 Words


Elbra, A.D. (2014), “Interests Need Not be Pursued if they can be Created: Private Governance in African Gold Mining”, Business and Politics, Vol.16, No.2, pp.247-266.

Haufler, V. (2006), “Global Governance and the Private Sector,” in May, C. ed., Global Corporate Power, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Wilks, S. (2013), The Political Power of the Business Corporation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch.7.

[1] Virginia Haufler, (2006), Global Governance and the Private Sector, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 90.

[2] Virginia Haufler, (2006), Global Governance and the Private Sector, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 92.

[3] Stephen Wilks, (2013), The Political Power of the Business Corporation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch.7. p. 150.

[4] Ainsley D. Elbra, (2014), Interests Need Not be Pursued if they can be Created: Private Governance in African Gold Mining, Business and Politics, Vol.16, No.2, pp.247-266. p.249.

[5] Stephen Wilks, (2013), The Political Power of the Business Corporation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch.7. p.148.

[6] Stephen Wilks, (2013), The Political Power of the Business Corporation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch.7. p.149.

[7] Ainsley D. Elbra, (2014), Interests Need Not be Pursued if they can be Created: Private Governance in African Gold Mining, Business and Politics, Vol.16, No.2, pp.247-266. p.250.

[8] Ainsley D. Elbra, (2014), Interests Need Not be Pursued if they can be Created: Private Governance in African Gold Mining, Business and Politics, Vol.16, No.2, pp.247-266. p.255.

[9] Ainsley D. Elbra, (2014), Interests Need Not be Pursued if they can be Created: Private Governance in African Gold Mining, Business and Politics, Vol.16, No.2, pp.247-266. p.259.

[10] Ainsley D. Elbra, (2014), Interests Need Not be Pursued if they can be Created: Private Governance in African Gold Mining, Business and Politics, Vol.16, No.2, pp.247-266. p.255.

[11] Stephen Wilks, (2013), The Political Power of the Business Corporation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch.7. p.166.

[12] Stephen Wilks, (2013), The Political Power of the Business Corporation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch.7. p.160.

[13] Stephen Wilks, (2013), The Political Power of the Business Corporation, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch.7. p.160.

Is Economic Nationalism the Global Economic System of the Future?


The recent upheaval within modern geopolitics is a revolt against the promises of neoliberal globalism. With the West winning the Cold War, the world seemed to be on the precipice of achieving some relative world peace, but instead it created another unequitable economic global system. I submit that neoliberal capitalism shares the same goals of and international socialism: a world standardized under a single ideology. This may initially appear controversial, but I contend that the parallels have always been present. Therefore, I argue that current geopolitics is symptomatic of a totalitarian global economic system and the way to reform is returning to the notions of economic nationalism.

In order to prove my argument, this paper will carry four pillars. Firstly, I will explain how neoliberalism was destined to descend into the abyss of totalitarianism by following the model of Marxism. Secondly, I will analyse the reasoning and promise of a US inspired neoliberal world and why it is contemptuous towards protectionism.

Thirdly, I will underline the fact that Free Trade carries the undercurrent of tyranny and is ultimately destructive. And finally, I will show the reasoning for economic nationalism and why it is returning to the forefront to public debate via former Free Trade champions and the current Trump phenomenon. 

The Genesis of Globalism

The infancy of modern globalization can be found in 19th century intellectualism with the creation of Marxist socialism. It will quickly become apparent, in regards to the nation state and protectionism, that current proponents of free market fundamentalism actually echo Marxism and therefore were always susceptible of being seduced into despotism.

According to Marxist thought, the nation state is an artificial construction by the capitalist middle class, which acts as a tool for working class domination and thus stales the historical evolution towards world communism (Shafter,1955, 41). He went on to declare that the state did not liberate people, but actually offers a different set of shackles, therefore civil society is not enough to emancipate humanity (Kasprzak, 590). Furthermore, in order for his communist revolution to succeed, it must take place globally as it would allow socialism develop more quickly (Szporluk, 1988, 47). Once this occurred, the state will disappear and become replaced by a classless society that will usher in the end of history, as there will be no classes and no class struggle and therefore no need for the State (Quiguly,1966, 380).

In regards to the capitalist system, Marx believed that an unrestricted free economy is ultimately self-destructive and thus can be weaponized against the barrier to socialism, such as: the nation state, national culture and protectionist policies. This would discredit the notion of capitalism and allow socialism to take root and eventually achieve its own brand of universalism. Marx himself, when addressing the 1848 Democratic Association of Brussels, articulated this plan by stating:

” The Protective system…is conservative, while the Free Trade system works destructively. It breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie to the uttermost point. In the word, the Free Trade system hastens the Social Revolution. In this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, I am in favour of Free Trade.” (Marx 1848)

The notion of that Karl Marx being free trade capitalist may be shocking, but it exposes that the dialectic between the two competing systems is a myth. I would submit that after claiming victory over their ideological enemy, the West unwittingly came to the same conclusions as socialism and then set out to remake the world in their own image.

The Neoliberal Utopia

The idea of liberal-capitalism sharing the same worldview as socialism may go against conventional thinking, but I contend that this is the outcome of any unipolar world, regardless of ideology. However, in order to understand how such a transformation could transpire, a comprehension of the neoliberal worldview must be investigated.

It was Friedrich Von Hayek’s Road to Serfdom that warned that tyranny was a result of government intervention into the realm of economics via central planning. This inevitably leads to the loss of individuality, freedom and classical liberalism. This would result in an oppressive society and the rise of a dictator, with the people returned to serfdom (Hayek, 1994, 24). He went on to say that authoritarian ideologies all emerge from central planning as it grants the power of the state over the individual. (Hayek, 1994, 29). This brand of economics was later made by fashionable by Milton Freidman and his Chicago School of Economics, which transformed theory into economic reality. He promoted the program of lassie-faire capitalism, which imposed the shrinking size of state bureaucracy, eliminating tariffs, removing restrictions of foreign investment, discard quotas, privatizing state-owned industries, deregulating capital markets privatisation of public assets, mass deregulation of the financial and banking sector, the cutting of tax rates and social safety nets (2009). It argued that through freedom of choice, expressed via the free market, any failing entities would naturally correct itself or go bankrupt. Those units that are artificially propped up by tariffs would liquidate the human ambition of entrepreneurship and the good work ethic. (2009). Being that the ethos of capitalism and individualism was being challenged by collectivism, the Western world naturally gravitated to such a theory. This doctrine gained global success with the fall of the Soviet Union and the declaration of the ‘End of History’ (Fukuyama, 1992). Due to the Western world employing neoliberalism when the Fall of Communism occurred, it was believed that this was the ultimate economic system. Therefore in order to achieve world peace, neoliberalism must spread across the globe. So sure of its superiority, British PM Margret Thatcher declared the ‘There Is No Alternative’ (Jenkins, 2007, 168).

This philosophy was put into practice by following the teachings of Thomas Freedman who advanced the idea of the Golden Straitjacket. Essentially, in order to survive a globalized world, a nation must don the neoliberal Golden Straightjacket. This meant free markets, regardless of domestic issues, must be accepted as the only alternative left: One road. Different speeds. But one road (Friedman, 2000, 104). If there was any doubt of neoliberalism also wished to see the end of the state, International Banker George W Ball stated that he felt frustrated and unduly redistricted by the traditional nation-state system (Buchanan, 1998, 106). I argue that such absolutism reveals a totalitarian mindset and the existence of an agreement between classical capitalism and Marxism.

The Failed Promises of Neoliberal Globalization

According to Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, when Free Trade is regimentally applied it becomes a form of ‘economic shock therapy’. An example of this ‘therapy’ came under the pretext of aiding a recovering post-Soviet Russia. When President Gorbachev approached the US for financial assistance, he was informed that he would receive no help unless he accepted the neoliberal program (2009). Although Gorbachev was hesitant about accepting such an ultimatum, he was replace the much more compliant Boris Yeltsin, who enthusiastically championed the Chicago School and saw brutal capitalism inflicted upon his own people. The aftermath saw state industries cheaply sold off and by 1992 the average Russian consumed 40% less then in 1991. A third of Russians fell below the poverty line. Furthermore, wages went unpaid for months. The reaction to this program was mass rioting and demonstrations, uncontrolled corruption along with booming organized crime (2009). I would argue that this outcome vindicated Marx’s cretic of capitalism being self-destructive, as the legacy of Yeltsin economics saw the Russian Parliament dissolved and the will of the people wanting to maintain their safety nets dismissed once again (2009).

The example of Russia losing its governmental authority to a transnational ideology is not an exclusive affair. As Susan Strange explains, the disillusion with politicians is worldwide is reaching the same extant that brought down the Soviet Union. Populist contempt is now directed at capitalistic countries and institutions along with the decline of state power. Now that States are no longer master of the markets, due to neoliberalism, the markets are now the master of states (Strange, 1996, 4). I argue that this vindicates my thesis that neoliberalism is just as destructive to nation states as Marxism had previously had been. Strange goes on to state that established liberal-capitalistic governments are now suffering a rapid loss of real authority as cultural autonomy is being rediscovered (Strange, 1996, 6).

The Great Epoch and the Return of National Protectionism

In order to understand why Marxism and its neoliberal counterpart hold such contempt for protectionism and why the push for geopolitical reform resonates with economic nationalism is to understand the strength and benefits of national sovereignty.

In order to keep geopolitical aggression at bay, a strong economic structure is essential. It was US Founding Father and first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton who first to truly understand the relationship between economics and national sovereignty, and formulated the ‘National System of Economics’. It argued for protection, regulated trade, tariffs, subsidies and government intervention. By putting ‘America First’ the US saw its young industries protected from aggressive foreign powers and allowed time to strengthen, it created revenue generation and drove investment into infrastructure and internal improvements (Ferling, 2013, 214-215). By adopting Hamiltonian economics, the United States the prevailed as a global economic powerhouse from its Founding Fathers until the late 20th Century (Buchanan, 1998, 106). However, as previously stated, it was the battle with communism that saw US repudiate the very same brand of capitalism that ushered in its greatness. But with the creditability of neoliberal capital recently being declared bankrupt for reasons akin to the failed socialistic experiment of the Soviet Union, it appears that the current geopolitical world is now seeking a more reasonable economic system and thus gravitating towards a return to national sovereignty and protectionist policies.

The reconsideration of neoliberalism began during the aftermath of the Cold War. It was former United States Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and co-founder of the neoliberal theory of Supply-side economics; Dr Paul Craig Roberts is now a vocal critic of the dangers of stripping away the economic legacy of Hamilton. According to Roberts, Free Trade and globalization are guises of undeclared class warfare on the American middle class (Roberts, 2013, 99). This allows US corporations to dump their workers, avoid Social Security taxes, healthcare and pension provisions and offshore their factories to locations of cheap labour (Roberts, 2013, 99). It will essentially act as an instrument to deindustrialize America and recreate the horror of post-communistic Russia. Despite the best efforts by the American protectionists, their warnings were ignored. Although Putin’s Russia is an example of a protectionist nation being about to regain control of itself, being the US is still the world’s hyperpower, I would argue that the implications of American returning to protectionism is even greater. This possibility has only recently revealed itself within the 2016 President Campaign of Donald Trump.

By declaring his credo as ‘Americanism, not Globalism’, Trump exposed his sympathies for the Hamiltonian Economics. In doing so, he has mainstreamed both, patriotic capital and the cretic of Roberts, by promoting infrastructure building and attacking the apparent unfair international trade deals (Trump 2016). He declared that no longer would the US surrender it economic power and will seek renegotiating international agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trade Pacific Partnership. If talks fail, he would counter by withdrawing and imposing tariffs upon nations to protect domestic industries and keep jobs within America (Trump 2016).

I would argue that regardless if Trump wins the presidency or not, given the historical levels of support he has received by the American people, I would state that economic nationalism has returned and is being seen as the way to reform and thus pacify international system. By readopting the foundations of American economics, Trump could theoretically ensure the rejection of both brands of globalism and return America into being the Shining City of a Hill and economically lead the world through inspiration and example.


 In conclusion, not only is the global economic system capable of reform, but the type of reform that is gaining traction is not only a rediscovery of protectionist policies but ultimately a renewed faith of the system of nation states.

 – 2029 Words


Buchanan, P (1998) The Great Betrayal, Little, Brown and Company, United Kingdom

Ferling, J (2013) Jefferson versus Hamilton, Bloomsbury Press, United States

Friedman, T. (2000) The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Revised edition, London: Harper Collins, Chapter 6.

Fukuyama, F (1992) End of History, Free Press, United States

Hayek, Friedrich (1994). The Road to Serfdom. University of Chicago Press

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Recommended Reading 

Economic Nationalism Will Make America Great Again: Here’s How



Nigel Farage, Pauline Hanson, The Donald and Resurgence Nationalism


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The world is currently experiencing a state of geopolitical realignment, with nationalism reasserting itself as a credible alternative to the prevailing liberal-capitalist global order. This rise of neo-nationalism is a response to multiculturalism and global interdependence. Although such compunctions can be dismissed as being the fears of racist, xenophobic, authoritarian reactionaries, I argue that the renewed appreciation of the nation state is due to a reconsideration of the current socio-political orthodoxy that perceives multiculturalism and globalization as a subtle yet powerful form of forced cultural diversity and global political integration. I will argue that the resurgence of nationalisms around the world is a response to the dilution of national identity and the totalitarianism of a neo-Liberal form of globalisation. The way in which these ideas impact the world order is that the stronger the tide of globalisation the stronger the response towards fragmentation or plurality.

According to this argument this essay is separated into four sections: Firstly, in order to explain the reaction of nationalism, the stimuli of multiculturalism and the liberal world order will be examined. Secondly, the complexity of the concerns will be explored and therefore the reasons as to why the resurgence of nationalism can be understood. Thirdly, I will explain how radical populist nationalists managed to gain support by promoting themselves as champions of such ideological frameworks, as well the as the existence of a civic-national substitute that have also gained in support and could bring about an alternative world order to both globalism and ethno-nationalistic realism. Finally, the potential geopolitical world order of nationalism, born from the impact from the criticism of globalization, will be explored and how it may prove a superior principle of global order.

The Predominate World Order

Liberalism came to dominate the globe during the aftermath of the Great War. The conclusion was reached that realist-nationalism was the cause of international hostility and therefore in order to prevent further conflicts a transnational world state must be manifested. The greatest champion of this agenda was US President Woodrow Wilson, stated that all peoples are partners in world peace the creation of a general association of nations (Ikenberry 2009). History then took on two eschatologies in terms of the Soviet and American views of world order. With the fall of the Soviet Union and declaration of the ‘End of History’, a globalising Liberalism became the ultimate state of global human existence (Fukuyama 1992).

Cosmopolitan Globalism Rethought

Despite the promises of idealism, its true nature has brought a much different reality. What is driving the surge of nationalism across the world is that nations states are experiencing the multifaceted attack of geopolitical integration, the synthesis of domestic politics and internal cultural balkanization. I would argue that the combination of the loss of national sovereignty along with the dilution of domestic cultures has proven E.H. Carr correct: liberalism is utopian and therefore quixotic, as it fails to comprehend the workings of reality (Carr 1945, 20). In response to these challenges, the tenets of sovereignty are now in doubt and the reconsideration of monoculture and the nation state are now afoot.

The results of globalization have proven to be the erosion of the power and independence of the state. This has been discussed by Susan Strange, who has stated that political authority has shifted from nation states to both intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations (Strange 1996). She went further in The Retreat of the State that heads of governments have lost their power and thus no longer can truly offer solutions to problems that may concern their fellow countrymen (Strange 1996). She goes on to say that from the time of Thucydides, there was the assumption that domestic sovereignty would be regulated according to each state by their peers. Now it is believed that sovereignty is nothing more than a courteous pretence (Strange 1996). The conclusion reached by Strange is that a vacuum of power has now emerged, as international relations have now become a zero-sum game as the diffusion of authority away from national governments has left a yawning hole of non-authority and ungovernance (Strange 1996).

From a cultural standpoint, it also appears that nationalism has been pulled into a clash of civilizations. However, I would note that this battle consists of two fronts: by globalism and by multiculturalism. The artificial culture of globalism has been studied by George Ritzer, who has stated in Globalization of Nothing that the uniqueness of humanity has been stripped and replaced with ‘nothing’. This has seen five aspects that ‘nothingness’ impacting particular cultures: the lacking of distinctive substance, uniqueness being supplanted by the generic, local ties being cut, things of a specific time period are replaced by the timeless quality of nothingness and the dehumanization of human relationships (Ritzer 2003).

It was in The Disuniting of America by Schlesinger that the dangers of how multiculturalism could cause the disintegration of a society were put forth. These dangers come forward by those who denounce the ideal of the American melting pot and thus the idea of a single people (Oshinsky, 1992). This is achieved by the worship of a ‘cult of ethnicity’ by those who protect, promote and perpetuate separate ethnic and racial communities that nourishes prejudices, magnifies differences and stirs antagonism (Oshinsky, 1992). This erodes what made America unique, which was the ability to forge a single nation from peoples of remarkably diverse racial, religious and ethic origins. However, with the rise of cultural pluralism, despite its altruistic intentions, has assaulted nationalism to its core and twisted its meaning to solely represent imperialism, cruelty and ethno-superiority. Ironically, it has been the duel assault by the opposing forces of generic globalism along with the hyper-difference of multiculturalism that has led to nations rebelling and seeking a restoration of national sovereignty and their cultural heritage. Minor parties and movements surging in unprecedented support in various countries across the globe have reflected this non-violent revolt. However this neo-nationalism is not a monolithic creed, as I contend that there are two wings of this realist insurgency: the civic-patriotism and the nationalistic populism.

The Rise of Nationalistic False Prophets and the Patriotic Alternative  

Due to the all-encompassing nature of globalism, the revolt against liberalism has simultaneously taken place in various countries across the planet. It has been particular present in Anglo-Saxon nations as represented by Britain voting to withdraw from the European Union and the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump. This revolt even show signs in Australia with the political comeback of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

According to the in-depth research by Robert Ford in Revolt of the Right, the support base for this revolt is due to globalization creating a post-industrial economy that prioritized corporate jobs, training and professional qualifications (Ford 2014, 112). The residual affect has been the growth of a more financially secure, highly educated, socially liberal middle class and the adoption of new values such as environmentalism, human rights and social justice and the shrinking of the traditional working class (Ford 2014, 113). This liberal-agenda saw the abandonment of the blue-collar working class as their historic political parties faced the dilemma of representing the shrinking working class and face political oblivion or reinvent themselves and represent the metropolitan globalized world by making peace with neoliberalism, deprioritize worker rights for public services and adopt multiculturalism instead of upholding traditionalism (Ford 2014, 113). I propose that this saw the ‘end of history’ and proved Strange correct in her declaration that the synthesis of politics has left a power vacuum as there is no longer any true philosophical opposition available for the citizenry to contemplate. This led the working class to shift their support to nationalistic parties that represented their interest and concerns such as national identity and the loss of sovereignty (Ford 2014, 114). I contend this is much more nuanced than it appears, as citizens are willing to ‘hold their nose’ and even vote for extreme parties if there is no other moderate alternative available.

An example of this occurring has been the rise in support for the British National Party and UKIP. The BNP being the successor to the neo-nazi National Front and was grounded in its tradition of ethic nationalism. They argued that British nationalism consisted of race and ancestry and therefore people of other origins could never truly be British. Furthermore, they argued that non-whites and immigration was threats to the existence of the British race and that multiculturalism would mitigate the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race itself. In regards to foreign policy, they advocated Hard Europeskpticism and wished to withdraw from the European Union as it infringed on their autonomy (Ford 2014, 23). This brand of nationalism began to gain traction with the public with the BNP and peaked in the 2009 European Election with winning almost one million votes and elected two members to the European Parliament (BNP secures two European seats, 2009). However BNP support was quickly siphoned by UKIP as they began to gain support and mainstream exposure by offering a form of non-racist, non-sectarian of civic-nationalism and libertarianism and wished to protect the public from big government, support free market capitalism and wished to free the UK from the European Union and restore national sovereignty and their cultural heritage (Ford 2014, 7). This led to the BNP to rapidly decline in support and implode as a force in British politics and be ultimately returned to the far-fringes of public debate. (Ford 2014, 89). Moreover, so impactful was UKIP’s brand of nationalism saw them win the 2014 European Elections (2014), become the third party of UK politics by winning 12.9% of the domestic vote, (Election 2015 Results’, 2016) forced the holding of the Brexit Referendum and ultimately vindicate their existence by persuading the British people to leave the EU (‘Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU’, 2016). I contend that this reflects the nuance of rise nationalism, as many supporters may affiliate themselves with the ideas of sovereignty and culture, there exists a strong repulsion for racism and extremism would allow them to support parties who espouse these concepts if no other alternative is available, but will quickly abandon them once a moderate option presents itself.

The character of US neo-nationalism followed a similar path of UKIP. Just like their British counterparts, the American people are willing to support the Trump phenomenon as it also represents a populist revolt, albeit more so against globalism rather than multiculturalism. However, this ideological battle did not from a third party, but through the power dynamics within the Republican Party. Although I argue that Trump is deeply flawed, the momentous support he has gathered transcends his candidacy and has reduced him to a figurehead of populist support for a people that support American idealism. Once consolidating control over the GOP, Trump declared the credo of ‘Americanism, not Globalism’ thus indicating his support for nationalism. In a recent speech he echoed the concerns of Susan Strange by stating: “Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a government controlled by the American people… we are at a crossroads for our civilization that will determine if we reclaim control over our government…the establishment is responsible for our disastrous trade deals, massive illegal immigration and economic a forging policy that has bled our country dry… the global power structure has robbed our working class, stripped our wealth and gave it to global special interests…this election will determine if we are a free nation or only have the illusion of democracy and controlled by a handful of global special interests” (Trump 2016).

As analysed by James Curran’s The Power of Speech, Australia has always held ambivalence relationship with its role on the world stage and with multiculturalism. The initial stages of the Australian experience was based upon ethnic nationalism, as it nurtured their identity and instilled a sense of membership of a wider Anglo-Saxon community which allowed them to self-identify with Britain and the British Empire (Curran 2004, 4). This saw both side of politics support the notions of the White Australia Policy that sought to maintain the protection and preservation of racial homogeneity across the continent (Curran 2004, 5). This became socio-political orthodoxy until the dawn of the 1970s where Gough Whitlam introduced multiculturalism, which was carried on by Malcolm Fraser, under the maxim of ‘New Nationalism’. This rejected Anglo-conformity and called for a new sense of identity, one that combined the political and cultural (Curran 2004, 124-125). As expressed in March of Patriots, this eventually resulted in the rise of Pauline Hanson and One Nation. She represented a sector of Australians, who felt abandoned by both Labour and the Coalition. Much like the BNP, she exploited the anger and resentment by manipulating the grievances, exploitation or rural resentment and racism (Kelly 2011, 366). She attacked global capital, Aboriginal rights, multiculturalism and political elitism (Kelly 2011, 368). At one point she came close to destroying the Howard government at the 1998 election by winning eight per cent of the primary vote (Kelly 2011, 366). However just like the BNP, she rapidly fell from grace and was exiled to the political wilderness. But in this period of neo-nationalism, I argue that due to the non-existence of a moderate civic political movement or party allowed the opportunity for Hanson to back a comeback, although this time mimicking UKIP’s civic nationalist stance and Trump’s anti-globalist rhetoric. This tactic paid dividends at the 2016 election by winning four percent nationwide for the Senate and four senate seats (2016). Furthermore, she has recently reportedly increased her national support by fourfold and almost doubled in her home state of Queensland (2016).

Towards a Better World?

In the quest to bring order to an anarchical world, liberalism bred the unintended consequence of totalitarianism. This created the erosive affects of globalization by formulating an international power vacuum, the standardization of politics and the destruction of cultural heritages. The reaction that transpired is the pushback, via nationalism, by those who seek a return of sovereignty and the restoration representative politics and cultural traditions. However, regardless of which type of neo-nationalism that may rise to prominence, I contend its impact will not disappear. In fact, I would argue that the world is in a state of counter-revolution, where the liberal world order is being replaced with the geopolitical framework of the English School of International Relations. Furthermore, the societal norm of multiculturalism is being ousted, not for racial nationalism, but for the homogeneous Melting Pot.

Despite the anarchical nature of world politics, nations are not are not inherently warlike and therefore would not require the stifling nature of global interdependency. The splendid medium can be achieved, where the realist notions of maintaining the sovereignty of different cultures, government and ways of life are upheld, while avoiding the temptation to turn inward and become seduced by notions of superiority (Bull 1977, 8). According to the co-founder of the English School, Hedley Bull, a peaceful co-existence between nations and civilizations can be obtained without having to assimilate cultures into a world state or allow a clash of civilizations to occur. Instead, Bull envisions an international society that would self-regulate a geopolitical order, nation states as there exists common interests among nations, rules that dictate certain behaviour patterns and institutions that assist in enforcing the rules (Bull 1977, 65). He suggests that this is achievable by the use of Neo-medievalism. By creating layered geopolitical order of international, national and subnational institutions, overlapping allegiances would hold nations to account without the need for world government (Bull 1977, 254-255).

In regards to culture, I contend that the philosophical framework of the Melting Pot provides a greater opportunity for the manifestation for a peaceful diverse society. Although multiculturalism may enjoy and appreciate different cultures, as previously indicated by Schlesinger, it can devolve into identity politics and national self-loathing (Caravantes 1992, 57). This can be avoided by embracing the notions of the Melting Pot. The main difference between the two cultural diversity theories is that the former states that a society should consist if many diverse social a cultural lifestyles and any enforcement of traditional norms is viewed as xenophobia (Orosco 2016). Conversely, the Melting Pot mentality is adhering to one norm based on the parent culture. Essentially, all people will blend together to form one basic culture (Orosco 2016). The best example of this theory is the Americanization Model, which states that US American identity is not determined by ethnicity or origins, but the adoption of the creed that all people, regardless of race, deserves liberty, equality, justice and fair treatment. This was to be what bonds a diverse people, despite racial, ethnic or cultural differences (Orosco 2016). Immigrants would willing discard their native identities by interacting with fellow immigrants and native citizens (Orosco 2016).


In conclusion, the rise of nationalism can be attributed to the hubris of the current liberal world order. By believing itself to be the End of History and condemning the ancien regime of nation states and monoculture, liberalism fermented resentment. By demonizing legitimate concerns, it ultimately started a counter-revolution by the world populace. It is this reason that the ideas advocated by the likes of Trump or Hanson should not be dismissed as their brand of nationalism can gain power if a moderate alternative is not available. Furthermore, the consequences of resurgent nationalism may prove to be beneficial to world peace, as it would allow national cultures to express themselves without being infringed by external forces.

– 2913 Words        


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The Impact of modern Globalism



The most concerning issue within modern international politics has been the totalitarian nature of Western-universalism. This may appear controversial, but upon further scrutiny the most impactful event has been the rejection of global-liberalism and the resurgence of nationalistic-realism.

In order to explain this occurrence, this paper will be separated into three sections: Firstly, in order to understand why the current rejection of liberalism, its ethos and how it came to dominate must be understood. Secondly, the alternative of realism will show why liberalism is being rejected. And finally, I show how the recent Brexit result exemplifies the authoritarianism of liberalism and the nationalistic reaction.

The Liberal Utopia

The notion of idealism has been championed under many different authors and banners throughout history. The intellectual architecture can be found in the works of Dante’s De Monarchia: humanity can only fulfil its rational urges by working towards a single government, therefore the concept of national sovereignty must be forgotten (Wight 1987, 226). It was 20th century Wilsonianism that gave idealism another political identity in the form of American liberalism. It was this ideological blueprint that saw the eventual implementation of interdependence, international law, democratic peace theory and the establishment of transnational/global organizations such as the IMF, WTO, EU, ICC, NATO, International law and the UN (Ikenberry 2009). However, it was not until the end of the Cold War that America achieved the unipolar moment and declared the ‘End of History’, that saw liberalism enforced via globalization (Fukuyama 2006). Essentially, globalization is the utopia goal of World Revolution, given a Western guise.

This was a perplexing position to take, as Western notions condemned such a worldview. But being that the US had also envisioned a standardized world of their own, as championed under President Wilson, it was unsurprising that a globalized world was believed inevitable. For instance, Alexander Wendt points out that the number of nations has already decreased from 600,000 to only 200 political units, the existence of the European Union as a prototype for globalism and the growing trend of countries now seek authorization of the United Nations to use force (Wendt 2015). This echoes the work of Kenichi Ohmae, which states the modern nation state, is out-dated to understand the threats and opportunities of a globalized world (Ohmae 1995, 59-60). In order to enter the liberal world order, national economies must adapt to the new circumstances, just as it had done from advancing from 19th century labour, to 20th century production it must enter the 21st century of information services (Ohmae 1995, 135). In regards to society, globalization will see the homogenization of cultures and thus the elimination of differences between nationalities or civilizations (Drezner 2010, 212). Furthermore, a world of nation states cannot fight transnational threats, as they possess obsolete tools, inadequate laws, inefficient bureaucratic arrangements and ineffective strategies (Naím 2003, 30). By creating such a unified world, certain transnational threats can finally be fought such as terrorism, climate change, global economics as well as drugs, arms trafficking intellectual property, people smuggling and money laundering (Naím 2003, 29).

Despite the humanitarianism of liberalism, the dismissal of nationalism and the declaration of the End-State have proven to carry the underpinnings of authoritarianism. Thus the world populace have instinctively recognized this fact and has drifted towards realism once again.

Realism Revisited

It was E.H.Carr who recognized idealistic nature within liberalism, and condemned it as utopian, as it misunderstood the existence of the nation state itself (Carr1945,). According to Carr, nationalism allowed the Hobbesian notion of sovereignty to flourish; therefore liberalism dismisses reality (Carr1945). I propose that due to this fundamental ideological flaw, liberalism is susceptible to the tendencies of enlightened tyranny.

The parallels between globalization and World Revolution were not been lost on scholars. Even Fukuyma conceded this by stating his declaration was ‘a kind of Marxist interpretation of history that leads to completely non-Marxist conclusion’ (Drezner 2010, 211). As Daniel Drezner points out, the end result of the withering away of the state, albeit through neoliberalism, has eroded nationalism as it weakens the independence of state institutions and the democratic principle (Drezner 2010, 212). It has established a plutocratic global class and thus seeks to destroy the idea of ‘society’ (Gilman 2014).

It is these reasons that spurred the current geopolitical re-alignment of rejecting liberalism and re-embraced realism. However, it would be mistaken to view the national resurgence as a return to power politics. I submit that the world population are not seeking a return to classical realism, but are demanding the vision of a world society based on the English School of International Relations. This outlook acknowledges the anarchical world and the various cultures, laws, history, government and national sovereignty (Bull 1977, 8). However, it is open to the liberal goal of international order and accepts common interests, rules and institutions yet repudiate an interdependent world (Bull 1977, 65).

Leviathan Reborn

It was the EU that sought to enact liberalism and provide a regional model for globalism. It created a cosmopolitan-Europe; national cultures were assimilated into a monoculture, know as the ‘Europeanism’. This was achieved by usurping all the symbols of statehood: money, economic system, national flags, rule of law (Ford 2014). In order to maintain political integrity all dissention was crushed. For example, when Greek PM Papandreou proposed a referendum, the EU responded by removing him from power (Roberts 2013, 161).

The reaction to the ever-increasing powers of the EU, member states have come to the same conclusion of Susan Strange: that international liberalism has forced the surrender of sovereignty and redistributed the power across the European Union and other transnational institutions (Strange 1996,45). There has now been a political revolt against the Eurozone via the ballot-box in support of Euroscepticism. The most notable example has been Britain’s UKIP successfully spearheading the vote to leave the European Union to reaffirm themselves as an independent, self-governing and outward-looking Britain (Green 2016).


The impact of the liberal totalitarian nature of globalization has been the most pressing issue since the end of the Cold War. Instead of ushering in a new era of peace, it has perpetuated tension and rebellion. In doing so, liberalism has ironically proved that not only are the reports leviathan’s death are greatly exaggerated, but also seems to be stumbling back onto its feet.

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