Rise of the Global Right : reactionary politics in the Information Age

Since the 1990’s, almost all major political societies in the world have witnessed the gradual rise in popularity and intensification of right-wing political movements. This trend might be reaching its apogee now. Right-wing politics has gained popularity in the USA, in India, in Russia, Japan and China and, very visibly, in the pan-Islamic wider Middle East. Together these regions account for over 70 percent of the world’s population. There is a wide variance, at least on the surface, in the political systems of these countries, ranging from the democratic USA to the single-party People’s Republic of China. India, Japan, Russia and the various countries of the wider pan-Islamic world, fall in between this spectrum. But right-wing tendencies are very evident and observable in all these countries, and they share certain core characteristics.

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Firstly, almost all right-wing politics in the 21st century is ultra-nationalistic, structured by the national-territorial (over the local) and is intensely geo-political. Secondly, 21st century right-wing ultra-nationalism has its support base in a reactionary middle-class which continuously Tea Partyprioritizes its national identity over other cultural, ethnic or syncretic associations. Thirdly, this middle-class ‘feeds’ on the power, in terms of discourse, of closed, shared networks of association, especially in cyber space. Fourthly, national right-wing politics feeds on international right-wing political opponents on the international stage, but, curiously, often makes international alliances against domestic liberal/progressive opponents.

All these five characteristics of the international right-wing warrant discussion and examination, which I will give time to in future essays, but for now let me focus on this international nature of ultra-nationalist right-wingism. To frame its time and space, right-wingism has its roots in the immediate post-Soviet era, consider Reaganism and Thatcherism and the rise of Wahabbi Islam during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. These trends formed the base on which right-wingism would feed in the post-Soviet era. The beginning of the post-Soviet era also overlapped with China’s shift to state-led neo-liberal capitalism, followed by India’s ‘opening up’ to global markets by the mid-1990’s. So, by the mid-1990’s, the world was almost wholly capitalist, except for the few islands of socialism like Cuba. This new era of capitalism is called neo-liberal capitalism because of its shift, in key areas, from classic capitalism, especially concerning the trans-national movement of capital, typified by large multi-national corporations.

The rise of neo-liberal capitalism led many thinkers to believe that ideologies would follow business practices and, like them, also become international. So, many writers spoke of a borderless flat-world, where borders and boundaries and national identities wouldn’t matter any more. But while these writers were thinking up their visions the world was moving in a whole new direction. With the opening up of the globe to trans-boundary flows of capital, amother trend was emerging, people were identifying more and more with their national identities. Some of these ‘national’ identities began to take a religious garb, as in the rise of fundamentalism Islamic world, in India, and perhaps even the USA. Other identifications, such as in Japan and China, would resort to a renewal of patriotic fervour, and, with that, of ancient hatreds, regarding unresolved historical debts. china-vs-japanWhy did this happen? Perhaps the new world, with its new technologies, new work routines and new demands alienated people, and they, in turn, began to look for comfort in other groups, where they could share in some common glory, whether historical or current, just like one shares the joy of victory with a sports team one supports. In truth, this demands an indepth psychological analysis. But, in my view, the rise of right-wingism portrays another trend. In the 1990’s humanity entered what we, and future generations will call the ‘first’ Information Age. In this era more information than ever is available to every individual literally in the palm of their hands. But, this proliferation of information creates an sort of overload. Information needs to be understood, and structured, before it can be used in new ways, to create new idea, new realities and new visions of the world. This, is what the world lacked. Neo-liberal capitalism is geared towards the profit-making orientations of the market, and absolutely everything must suit the needs of the market. This applies not only to legal and infrastructural systems, but also to social systems. When everything is streamlined to serve the needs of the market, so too are individuals. Our education systems are designed to produce individuals who can become cogs in the market machine. They do not equip us with the intellectual tools required for making sense of the world, ourselves and for ourselves. And since we cant make sense of the movements of history ourself, we are forced to rely on the explanations of others, our so-called leaders, with their political authority and rhetorical abilities refined by modern techniques to wow us, and subdue us, and keep the production lines running. In the Information Age, we can know about more things than ever before, but we have, sadly, not developed the capabilities to understand them. So, we are forced to rely on second-hand visions of the world, and that is just what almost all right-wing ideologies are.

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3 thoughts on “Rise of the Global Right : reactionary politics in the Information Age

  1. How much of this is a consequence of people feeling intensely threatened and powerless? In America, the middle-class is eroding, and globalization is moving much of the power into fewer and fewer hands. We’re caught between hope, on one hand, and fear, on the other.

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    1. You have just so succinctly described the essence of my argument. The fact is that we have been made powerless, by the entire capitalist political system. Look at how our education systems are fashioned. We are not taught to think, only to perform certain, specified activities. Unless, of course, we can pay exorbitant amounts to get a ‘proper’ education. What sort of society is this where billionaire corporations get multi-billion subsidies and poor folk don’t have access to the fundamentals of human existence? And, this unjust system is rationalized by the politics of fear – like you say. When, we, the ‘normal’ person realize that fear is a political construct, which serves the interests of the ruling class, only then can we challenge this system that uses fear to reduce us into cogs in the capitalist machine. The global 1 percent have made us afraid, irrationally, of each other. We need to challenge this fear to defeat them.

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