Us vs. Them | Ian Bremmer

Summary of: Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism
By: Ian Bremmer


In ‘Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism’, Ian Bremmer examines the negative consequences of globalism and its effects on society and politics worldwide. Focusing on economic and cultural impacts, Bremmer outlines how the disenchantment brought about by globalism has given rise to populism in multiple regions. The book investigates how populist politicians from both left and right are using ‘us vs. them’ narratives in response to globalization, driving changes and influencing cultural and national identity.

The Rising Populism of Us vs. Them

In recent decades, globalism has been promoted by Western leaders, leading to economic efficiency by shifting production and operations where people and materials are cheaper. However, this has resulted in job loss, economic insecurity, and decline in the middle class. Dissatisfaction has fueled populist movements, with politicians tapping into a sense of frustration with an “us vs. them” message. This message sets the working and middle classes against elites and immigrants. This sentiment can be seen in the campaigns of leftist politicians like Sanders and Tsipras and rightist ones like Trump and Le Pen. The “us vs. them” paradigm is not merely about jobs, but about culture and nationality as well.

Immigration and Populist Politics

Immigration is a rising concern in developed nations, and it is driving political upheaval, particularly the rise of the populist right-wing parties. Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric on immigration warned France of cultural dilution as a result of the influx of foreigners. This concern is widespread, as there has been a doubling of the UK residents born outside Britain due to the European Union’s system of free movement for people. Hostility toward immigration and foreigners has risen, and this trend is likely to continue. Combined with an economy and society that feels more fragile than ever, populism is on the rise in Europe, the United States, and other developed nations.

Globalization Fuels Rising Anger

Despite China’s effective measures to suppress protests, official records show that protest numbers had risen from 8,700 in 1993 to over 127,000 in 2010, driven by economic, environmental, and political grievances. Globalization has resulted in industrialization with the accompanying negative consequences of environmental pollution, causing citizens worldwide to be increasingly disgruntled. Emerging nations have been unable to fulfill the expectations of their expanding middle class, leading to protests against inadequate public services. Citizens frustrated by inequality feel a profound sense of anger, which will be further explored in the next section.

The Consequences of Economic Inequality

Economic inequality is a global issue that is prevalent in various countries. Wealth distribution gaps between the rich and poor are wider in countries like Russia, where the wealthy elite has grown extraordinarily wealthy at the expense of the less privileged. This wide income gap triggers frustration and often motivates unrest. Economic inequality has also been linked to hate crimes, which have been found to be more prevalent in states with a higher level of disparity in wealth distribution. As the world becomes more globalized, the potential for further economic inequality increases, making it a global threat.

The Automation Impact

The rise of automation and technological advancements are fast making many jobs obsolete. A study predicts that by 2035, almost every large American city will see half its current job opportunities replaced by automation. Although economic theory indicates that automation will create new jobs that pay higher wages, evidence shows that automation is indeed taking over jobs and not creating new opportunities fast enough. With the loss of jobs comes an urgent demand for higher levels of education, increasing tuition costs, and the possibility of a bleak future for those that cannot afford it.

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