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Trump and the ascent of the spiralists

In a recent article, Michael Burawoy warned about what he termed the spiralists. These are “people who spiral in from outside, develop signature projects and then hope to spiral upward and onward, leaving the university behind to spiral down”. While he was concerned with university leaders, I observed at the time […]

Post-Truth as Personal Incapacity

The evidence would suggest I’m not alone in being somewhat gripped by Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury. One of the central themes of the book is how no one, including the candidate himself, expected Trump would win and what we have seen since then has been a rapid […]

Trump as a tactician of post-truth

This observation by the journalist David Cay Johnston in the recent channel 4 documentary Trump: An American Dream stood out to me: Donald understands that most reporters accurately quote what they’re told but they really don’t know what they’re writing about. Once his story is out there then anything else […]

Brand Corbyn and Brand Trump

What do Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have in common? On the face of it, two people could not be more dissimilar but I’m curious about what might be their analogous position in relation to mainstream political culture. After all, in a sense Corbyn came from outside party politics, albeit not in […]

The disruptive presidency of Donald Trump

One of the more irritating framings of Donald Trump’s rise to power has been to stress his ‘disruptive’ credentials*. Such accounts often focus on the role of Jared Kushner, who has been granted a dizzying array of responsibilities in the Trump Whitehouse, prompting Gary Sernovitz to observe the overlap with recent […]

Defensive Elites

This New Yorker feature on Robert Mercer is a fascinating insight into what I’m come to think of as defensive elites: self-congratulatory yet paranoid billionaires who are prepared to use their wealth to stave off what they see as unwarranted social attack. The analysis offered by David Magerman, formerly a senior manager at […]

Donald Trump: Everyday Tactics of Post-Truth

In The Making of Donald Trump, David Johnston identifies the tactics used by Trump to deflect inquiries into his many shady dealings and questionable decisions. Sometimes this is a matter of outright threats, with an enthusiasm for litigation (1,900 suits as plaintiffs)  coupled with an explicitly articulated philosophy of vengeance proving a […]

Social media and populism 

This excellent essay by Jan-Werner Müller in the London Review of Books raises an important issue about the forms of political mobilisation facilitated by social media:  Trump has called himself the Hemingway of the 140 characters. He has ‘the best words’. He loves Twitter, he says, because it’s like having […]

The epistemology of democracy’s death

In the last few weeks, I’ve written a few times about the epistemological questions posed by post-democracy. This notion put forward by Colin Crouch sees transitions within mature democracies as involving a hollowing out of democratic  structures rather than a dramatic shift to non-democracy. As he described it in a […]

No longer praying at the altar of virality

An important idea offered by Mike Caulfield. The embrace of frictionless sharing and the relentless pursuit of engagement have created the problems which are now being naturalised by the emerging ‘did Facebook lead to Trump’ discourse: We have prayed at the altar of virality a long time, and I’m not sure […]

A vicious circle of reprisals and hostility

From this week’s Economist leader. I suspect they’re underestimating the extent to which Trump will largely enact the Ryan-ist mainstream in economic policy. However they’re surely correct about the underlying dynamic: Trump’s policies intensifying the conditions which gave rise to him, creating more anger and encouraging the ethno-nationalist channeling of […]