Philosophers on politics in the age of Trump
If you're someone who cherishes liberal democracy and its traditions of rights, robust civic institutions, and cool-headed, enlightened leadership, it might have felt like the world was coming to an end in 2016. It was the year of Donald Trump's election, of the Brexit vote and the murder of British MP Jo Cox by an apparent white nationalist, and of surging populist movements across Europe, many of them openly xenophobic or outright racist.
Disgruntled voters embraced demagoguery, rejected mainstream political parties, and delivered an uppercut to so-called elites. It may have been creative destruction, rolling the dice with inexperienced politicians who had little more than a passing acquaintance with facts and the workings of government. Or it may have been merely self-destructive, risking harsh economic consequences or slipping toward nativist, authoritarian rule.
Political analysts were confounded and have since trotted out an endless stream of books, magazine articles and op-eds purporting to explain the crankiness and mercurial behaviour of the electorate.
It was because of economic anxiety. It was because of racism, xenophobia and white nationalism. It was because of Facebook and Twitter. It was because political elites don't care about them. It was because of fake news. It was because of misogyny. It was because of Russia.
But for a number of philosophers the events of 2016 were disturbing but not surprising. They had already detected a combustible distemper in the political culture of western liberal democracies.
On this edition of The Enright Files, some of North America's most astute political philosophers discuss the perplexing and troubling political trends of our times.
Guests in this episode:
- Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University.
- Michael Sandel, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University host of the BBC series, The Global Philosopher.
- Harry Frankfurt, Professor Emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University.
- Joseph Heath, Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at University of Toronto and author of Enlightenment 2.0.