Saskia Sassen: “Trump and the Brexit show us the mistakes of the political classes and the media”
By Gladys Martínez López and Pablo Elorduy – March 6, 2017
(Translated text) Sociologist Saskia Sassen (The Hague, 1949) has been one of the first essayists and critics of globalization. In the 1990s, his essay The Global City was set up as a reference to understand the transformation that neoliberalism has carried out in the world’s metropolis.
Some of his latest books, Territory, Authority and Rights or Expulsions (both published by the Argentine Editorial Katz), are inserted in the landscape that is leaving the XXI century of lack of hope and outbreaks of solidarity. The victory of Donald Trump in the United States, where Sassen resides, is the latest earthquake in a changing political landscape since 2008, when the fall of Lehman Brothers put an end to the unabated growth speeches that had been issued from the sector financial.
One of the first measures of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has been the extension of the wall with Mexico. Are we witnessing a change of epoch in how States relate to each other and to their populations?
Your formulation is almost generous if you see how Trump presents it, with that bombastic way “I will … and I will” (“I will, I will …”). Yes, changes are taking place. Something is happening, under different names, in different countries. The rise of an extremist right is alarming – it always existed, but it has gained a validity that long ago did not have: the Brexit and the victory of Trump are probably the biggest surprise in this sense. I do not think it should have been such a surprise to the conventional ruling classes.
Trump and Brexit show us the errors of the dominant political classes and television commentators and mass media: a total lack of knowledge or recognition of the growth of poverty in sectors that have been left without a political voice – as The unions in the case of the US, and a boom of nationalism confronted with a ‘liberalism’ of ‘enlightened’ elites who have turned their backs on everything that falls outside their circuit.
The Democratic Party’s arrogance in the US has to be noted here: when [Hillary] Clinton has stated that there is no need to go and campaign the rust-belt – the old industrial states in the Midwest – the Democratic Party has Gone falling They were also surprised when Obama won. Luckily we have party members like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Robert Reich, former Secretary of Employment with Bill Clinton, who became frustrated with the two Clintons and supported Sanders.
All of this goes way beyond Trump. He makes it visible with his neuroses and his ridiculous way of behaving, but it is happening everywhere – Marine Le Pen in France behaves much more like a traditional politics, like the Dutch, etc. – but they are an alarming indicator Of a liberal democracy that has collapsed as a practice and as a discourse. We must invent a new model of massive participation.
What are your main concerns about this new stage that begins with Trump?
I think there are several conditions that come together in this current period and generate an almost impenetrable mix. It also shows the decline of what has been called liberal democracy – which was never very much anchored in social justice, but worked for a good part of the working class and the modest middle class. This stopped working when large corporations became globalized.
There are many people who have lost a lot in the last 30 years of economic globalization – and I emphasize corporate economics – but this period with digital technologies has also allowed those who do not have power to organize internationally around very specific issues. For example, immigrant women from the Philippines who have formed an international network of mutual support – only possible because digital space exists – and who trace pimps and other exploiters.
On the other hand, these same digital networks have also strengthened the financial system, which in my view is an extractive system: it extracts and leaves behind destruction, such as mining or water companies (Coca-Cola, Nestlé); Who hoard land, expel indigenous residents and extract water, and when the water runs out, they leave behind and leave behind dead lands. I examined these issues in my book Expulsions.