Letter From Italy

I apologize for the delay in my answer. I agree with your analysis. And yes, people who voted for Trump are not our enemies. They are the enemies of the liberal left. By the way, we are their enemies as well.

There is an increasing sense of dissatisfaction with the present that manifests in terms of people’s anger, anxiety and the loss of faith in any rational account of the present-future. I wrote a few years ago something about the asynchronicity of the temporality of the financial market and the one of the state. I thought that the state’s attempt to synchronize out-of-synch temporalities would have pushed the state to accelerate its decision-making processes and therefore to introduce new forms of authoritarianism.

Trump’s victory makes me think that there is something more. The nation state, whose original function was to reduce uncertainties and control the instability of the market, is no longer able to fulfill its role. Clinton claims that everything is under (rational) control and the state can (rationally) provide for a better future. People who lost their jobs and houses during the crises are angry, afraid, and know that the state is like a small boat in the storming ocean of financial markets. And they feel that nothing is rational in our present.

Trump does not say that the nation state is going to fall apart. He accuses the politicians and the establishment instead, and he seeks to keep the state alive by strengthening and concentrating its primordial functions: control of the borders, national identity, security in terms of police… In order to do this, Trump mobilizes not the ideal of a better future, which is empty and uncertain, but the huge emotional energy of the past: let’s make America great again! The alternative to Trump was not Clinton. And the alternative to Clinton was not Trump. They are the two sides of the same problem. That is the crisis of the nation state and people’s increasing dissatisfaction with representative democracy—a dissatisfaction that Trump can temporarily orient towards the establishment. The current crisis, I think, opens up a new field for political experiments beyond the false alternatives, which Trump and Clinton represent.

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