Thomas Edsall: Status Anxiety Is Blowing Wind Into Trump’s Sails

Thomas Edsall thinks status anxiety is driving rightwing populism.

New York Times:

“What is the role of status discontent in the emergence of right-wing populism? If it does play a key role, does it matter more where someone stands any given moment or whether someone is moving up the ladder or down?

In the struggle for status, Michael Bang Petersen, a political scientist at Aarhus University, Denmark and the lead author of “Beyond Populism: The Psychology of Status-Seeking and Extreme Political Discontent,” argues that …

Education has emerged as a clear cleavage in addition to more traditional indicators of social class. The highly educated fare better in a more globalized world that puts a premium on human capital. Since the 1980s the highly educated left in the U.S. and elsewhere have been forging alliances with minority groups (e.g., racial, ethnic and sexual minorities), who also have been increasing their status in society. This, in turn, pushes those with lower education or those who feel challenged by the new emerging groups towards the right.

It is hardly a secret that the white working class has struggled in recent decades — and clearly many factors play a role — but what happens to those without the skills and abilities needed to move up the education ladder to a position of prestige in an increasingly competitive world?

Petersen’s answer: They have become populism’s frontline troops. …”

I suppose there is some truth to this.

If you are a rightwing populist, you might doubt that black people are “marginalized” in contemporary society – Georgia recently became a “Jim Eagle” state where “Jim Crow on steroids” is practiced – when the world seems to revolve around them. You might disagree with the notion that you possess something called “white privilege” when the phrase “It’s Okay To Be White” is defined as racism and hate speech by the ADL. You might laugh at the social justice hierarchy of victimhood which assigns high social status to “black trans” voices. You might doubt that the “science” shows that a man can put on lipstick and a dress and become a woman as the mood strikes. You might be overly dismissive of all the -isms and -phobias which supposedly make you a moral monster and our elites worthy of respect.

America hasn’t always been like this. It doesn’t have to be either. We really don’t have to order our society and assign social status as the woke professional class which lives on the coasts would like. We don’t have to support “equity” or topple statues of Thomas Jefferson or take Jim Acosta seriously as a “journalist” or self-flagellate ourselves for being cishet White men or join the crusade against heteronormativity. What’s more, if this group of people can make all of these radical changes to the social order to bring it more in line with their tastes, why can’t we? Why do we have to go on living with norms like this?

The Brahmin Left seems to be suffering from the delusion that only it is capable of turning the world upside down. It can trash the gender binary, the border, the Constitution, impeach the president twice and take for granted that the country will remain stable and swallow these changes. All those people who disagree will just have to deal with the “status anxiety” caused by all of these radical changes.

Does it ever work out that way in practice? We’re talking about massive changes to the social order like Joe Biden’s embrace of full blown Ibram X. Kendisim. Normally, when regimes move so rapidly to hack away at the roots of the social order like this, they lose legitimacy and stability. It is a fatal mistake. In the last days of the Weimar Republic or the Soviet Union, you can imagine the blinkered establishment looking out on the rising sea of discontent, wondering what was going on and attributing it to a rise in status anxiety.


  1. …but what happens to those without the skills and abilities needed to move up the education ladder to a position of prestige in an increasingly competitive world?

    Asks the guy who probably approves of importing a whole new underclass of mestizo peasants who will be, on average, worse off economically than the ‘white working class’.

    These people are such fucking morons.

  2. @ mr.edsall and his sorry class of people, eat because our class of people let them, mr.edsall and his sorry class of people bring very little too the table, they have little relevance, if any

  3. Brad, perhaps Edsall projects. Does Marjorie Taylor Greene really seem like she is carefully crafting her social reputation? Really?

    In contrast, the prestige television shows watched by PMCs during the last twenty years — Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Deadwood, Dexter, the Sopranos — share the same theme: in a world with vast inequality, signal your status in increasingly false and grotesque ways while hiding your power level to show you socially belong among the affluent. Who is having status anxiety here?

    A character from Game of Thrones expressed the PMC philosophy of life perfectly. “Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

    Those who engineered American liberalism — Dewey, Rawls, Rorty — assumed like good Anglo-Saxon Protestants that history converges, and converges to what is basically Star Trek. John Gray, a British philosopher who should be regarded as a conservative in the style of Santayana, observes that a progressive view isn’t even true of the majority of the United States, let alone the rest of the world. If anything, history is not going to converge; fragmentation is its default setting. It follows that it is the American elite that’s on the wrong side of history, and it is the American elite that’s losing its grip on power — economic, military, cultural — in a multipolar world. It is just non-stop panicky doom from these people, worse than any conspiratard kook on the right, which is an impressive feat.

  4. It’s nice to see a progressive who openly admits that “diversity” is a class war tactic they use to disempower working class Whites.

Comments are closed.