The vast, entrenched inequality caused by globalization has created a deep sense of alienation within electorates suffering from social breakdown, fractured realities, and a loss of faith in the democratic process. Into this gap have jumped uncompromising strongmen who seek to tear down institutional checks and balances of power through a coherent set of anti-democratic tactics that appeal to maligned and disaffected populations. As a result, the transformative changes that numerous democratic societies are undergoing will render them less capable of dealing with the overarching global challenges presented by both the coronavirus pandemic and accelerating climate change. This article seeks to build upon a well-established line of thought within sociology around reasons for the backlash against globalization by offering analysis of how the resulting economic and social change in democratic societies everywhere has followed a practiced, over-arching strategy—one that leverages hyper-individualist views of reality. For evidence, it weaves together a range of intellectual commentary, cultural theory, research reports, journalistic accounts, statistics, and current affairs. The article ends with a call for citizens and scholars alike to connect disparate forms of struggle with one another as a means to rebuild the collective empathy and imagination necessary to solve shared problems.
populism, democracy, globalization, inequality, immigration, social media, climate change, morality