Etnoantropološki Problemi (Apr 2022)

Trump, Johnson and New Primitivism - The Manifestations and Causes of Major Crisis in the USA and the UK

  • Ognjen Pribićević

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 17, no. 1


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Over the past few decades, major changes have taken place in the two most influential Western countries – the USA and the UK. These changes found political expression in Trump’s presidential victory and the triumph of Brexit in 2016. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the changed political reality in these states and explain its causes. In the first part, the author provides a theoretical framework and discusses the old and new categories to provide explanation for the changes in these states. In the second part, he analyzes the main changes in political life in the USA and UK embodied in Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In the third part, he points to the basic causes of the crisis in the USA and UK that led to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 and UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The countries that were beacons of civilized dialogue among political opponents now harbor growing intolerance, lack of accountability and ruthless mudslinging campaigns against political opponents. The radicalization of political life in the USA culminated in former President Trump’s supporters storming the Congress which left five people dead. In the second most influential state of the Western world, during the pro- remain or pro-leave the EU campaign, a British MP was killed while the politicians were stoking fears of impending wars, genocide and even invoked the politics dating back to Hitler and Napoleon. The policy of exclusiveness pursued by Trump and Brexiteers brought about the social polarization in the USA and the UK unprecedented since the Second World War. The author proceeds from a hypothesis that deep social and ethnic divisions, rising poverty, less access to higher education for broader social strata, lack of trust in democratic and supranational institutions, obsession with one’s own cultural identity, fear of large-scale immigration and domination of reality culture set the stage for the changes in political life in these countries, making it possible for Trump and Brexit to prevail. The paper provides a critical analysis of previous attempts to account for the victory of Trump and Brexit, particularly the theory of cultural backlash by which US political analysts Norris and Inglehart explain the rise of authoritarian populism in the USA and the UK. The author is of the view that following Biden’s presidential victory in 2020 the situation in the USA will not change significantly since it is not just the politicians that create the political environment but rather the social and economic situation which has deteriorated even further in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK has managed to avoid significant radicalization in political life since the divisions over Brexit did not follow partisan and ideological lines as was the case in the USA.