Long-term Livelihood Changes in Tanzania: Personal Reflections from Revisiting Villages after 20 Years

Of roads (and other big changes)

I open my eyes from a brief nap as our driver glides along a brand-new and shiny highway. I need to recollect myself for a moment to understand where I am. Can it really be the Songea-Tunduru-Masasi road, which used to be one of the most treacherous transport links in Southern Tanzania? And can it be that we left Mtwara this morning at 7am to arrive in Namtumbo well before dark, during the main rainy season? In the mid-1990s, this trip used to take two to three days, if one could come through at all. Namtumbo has grown dramatically, with brand new neighborhoods sprouting from fields that used to produce only maize. New guest houses, including the one we are staying, are everywhere – offering great value in accommodation for the equivalent of around USD 10 per night, including breakfast. There is electricity in most parts of Namtumbo town, and more strikingly, many houses have solar panels. The streets are filled with motorcycles and a substantial number of cars and trucks. From this angle, Tanzania looks more like Vietnam now than the rural Tanzania I remember from twenty years ago. My academic mind checks my potentially-naïve heart:  I tell myself, all of this probably does not make a difference to farmers in the small villages around the town, like Ligunga, a tiny village almost 100 Km south on the tarmac, where I will travel tomorrow.

I was analytically wrong.

The next day, we head to Ligunga, at the height of the rainy season. The last time I tried to reach the village in 2003, our car lost traction on the single lane dirt track and flipped over in a ditch, sending us back to the nearest big city, Songea – an experience I was keen to avoid repeating. The dirt road, however, is now in excellent condition, especially given that it had rained heavily the day before. Improved infrastructure and proper maintenance are part of the explanation. We arrive at the village in less than three hours, as opposed to a whole day, or not at all. In the mid-1990s, the stretch from Ligera to Ligunga was basically impassable from January to April. Today, mini-buses ply this road every day, from Songea or Namtumbo to Ligunga and then continue to Tunduru and the gemstone mines on the other side of the region. People can bring their crops to town, go to the hospital, and travel much more freely than in the past—all at relatively affordable prices. This is not just my own observation, it also emerged consistently from our respondents during interviews and focus groups in Ligunga village.

Of solar panels (and other assets)

Having returned to two villages in Morogoro last year which had been part of my PhD research in 1996, I expected to see some expansion of commercial activities in Ligunga, as well as better housing quality and local availability of pikipiki (Kiswahili for motorcycle) transport. I was also aware that changes may be less pronounced in this remote village than in peri-urban locations, such as Mlali village in Morogoro. Still, I was surprised to see how many small shops had sprung up in Ligunga, and at the number of pikipiki (both privately owned and for hire). The most obvious observation, however, was the marked improvement in quality of housing and the presence of so many solar panels on houses, even on some of those which still had a thatched roof.

In 1996, when I last visited Ligunga, most houses were built of mud or raw mud bricks, and only the richest households (by local standards) had houses made of baked bricks, with metal sheet roofs and cement floors. Now, almost all houses are built with baked bricks and have metal roofs and cement floors. Even though the electricity grid has not yet reached the village, on average half of houses have installed solar panels. Some are bigger, others are smaller – yet, night-time illumination has arrived to a village which used to be pitch-dark at night, or with only an occasional flame from a kerosene lamp. I found a similar situation in Lipaya, a second village I re-visited during this stretch of fieldwork, in Songea Rural District. Lipaya, however, is located only 15 Km from Songea town, and the trends I just highlighted are even more pronounced there.

In both locations, we conducted focus groups, talked to village leaders and elders, and re-visited some of the original households where I had interviewed people 20 years ago. Things are better now, most people say. It was ‘maisha magumu’ (hard life) then, now it’s ‘maisha bora’ (better life). I am aware of Robert Chambers’ observations on biases, and that the first people seen are always those who have the most. I am only scratching the surface on this short visit, and we will find a lot more diversity in people’s experiences as we conduct further fieldwork. Still, it is quite clear that the distribution of wealth (on the basis of assets) seems to be following the same trends I found in Morogoro a year earlier: a movement from a pyramid distribution in the 1990s (with most households stuck in the bottom tiers) to a ‘pointed egg’ currently (with a substantial proportion of households moving into the second and third highest of four or five tiers). While the categories of wealth ranking in the two Ruvuma locations differ from those in Morogoro, the overall distribution is approximately the same. Given the relative abundance of land in the two Ruvuma locations in comparison to Morogoro, less importance is placed on land ownership, and more on assets such as housing quality, solar panels, motorcycle ownership, and access to funds to purchase agricultural inputs. In both regions, the importance of off-farm activities is more relevant in peri-urban locations than in more remote ones, as one would expect. Yet, participants in focus groups and interview respondents insist that asset accumulation and housing improvements were funded mostly from crop sales. So perhaps farming is not such a poor investment after all.

Of tobacco (and other crops)

For good and bad, tobacco and maize have been the engines of the rural economy in Songea and Namtumbo districts for many decades. The fortunes and misfortunes of farmers have gone up and down with it. I documented this thoroughly in my 2002 book Farmers and Markets in Tanzania. My burning question in my visit 20 years later was: is this still the case?

The answer is: yes and no (a typical and irritating academic statement).

Maize is still the main staple crop in the region, and especially in Lipaya maize remains the bulk of cultivation both for self-consumption and sales. The landscape confirms this. Maize cultivation was promoted in the 1980s by the Tanzanian government as part of turning the Southern regions into the main food basket of the country. This attempt led to a series of crises, first because of mismanagement of centralized marketing, then as a result of market liberalization that made agricultural inputs hard to afford for farmers. It now has recovered, thanks to a recent introduction of subsidies provided by the government in the form of vouchers to purchase fertilizers, and the wide availability of hybrid seeds that allow higher yields. However, maize cultivation is not as dominant as it used to be in the 1980s and mid-1990s: rice, pigeon peas, soy beans, sunflower and sesame cultivation and sales have also become important.

The most worrying trend for farmers in Ruvuma is the current crisis in tobacco marketing. It is not the first time this happens (earlier instances took place in the 1980s and late 1990s), but the extent of the crisis now is far more accentuated. Fire-cured tobacco has long been the engine of the rural economy in Ruvuma. It also led to deforestation and to health problems for farmers (not so much from smoking, but from the smoke produced in the curing process, and from nicotine rub-off from leaves at the time of harvesting). For more than a decade, from the late 1990s to the early 2010s, export companies were allowed by the Tanzanian government to supply primary cooperative societies with inputs on credit, seedlings, and private extension advice – recovering the credit at the time of tobacco sales. Each company had an exclusive agreement with a cooperative society, so that side-selling of tobacco by farmers to other companies (to avoid repaying debt) was kept under control. Production recovered dramatically.

Under political pressure, in the early 2010s this system was replaced by one where the Songea and Namtumbo Cooperative Union (SONAMCU), on behalf of primary societies, was tasked with input procurement and provision on credit. Late input delivery, problems in recovering debt, and poor management affected operations – just like when a similar system was attempted two decades ago. Banks refused to extend credit for later seasons, farmers failed to get enough inputs, and production started to fall accordingly. Tobacco exporters found it difficult to maintain operations in Ruvuma with dwindling production volumes. In 2015/16, they pulled out completely from Ruvuma region, concentrating their operations in other, higher-volume, tobacco-growing regions of Tanzania. In 2016/17, a new exporter entered the Ruvuma market on a trial basis, but will be purchasing only 250 tons, down from the heights of 5,000-7,000 tons of yesteryears. Only a few farmers are continuing with tobacco cultivation in Ligunga, none in Lipaya. Given the externalities of poor health outcomes associated with tobacco, this shift may be positive.

The ongoing process of crop diversification is essential to provide alternative livelihood paths for farmers. The cashew revival (a remarkable trend in other districts of Southern Tanzania, such as Tunduru, Masasi and Mtwara) has just started in the locations I visited. In Ligunga village, many farmers are going back to abandoned cashew plots, clearing them from overgrowth, applying sulphur, starting to prune old trees and planting new ones. Good prices and a government-run voucher system for purchasing sulphur and pumps are facilitating this process. This is promising, but it is still too early to assess whether alternative sources of crop income (cashews, oilseeds, rice) will make up for the end of tobacco. But at the very least, the tobacco crisis will alleviate pressure over deforestation and poor health related to the crop. Agriculture remains the engine for livelihood improvements in Ruvuma region, but the kinds of agriculture and the processes of making it profitable are changing.

 

Stefano Ponte is Professor of International Political Economy in the Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School. He is interested in transnational economic and environmental governance, with focus on overlaps and tensions between private governance and public regulation. He analyzes governance dynamics and economic and environmental upgrading trajectories in global value chains — especially  in Africa. He is particularly interested in how sustainability standards, labels and certifications shape agro-food value chains, and in how different forms of partnerships affect sustainability outcomes.

Long-term Livelihood Change in Tanzania is a project coordinated by Prof. Dan Brockington at the Sheffield Institute for International Development, and funded by the DFID-ESRC Growth  Research Programme (DEGRP) (2015-17). Under this project, a dozen scholars who carried out fieldwork-based research in Tanzania in the 1990s are conducting re-studies of the same domestic units, and of relative wealth changes in the wider communities in which the domestic units are situated.

Power to the people: What happens when populists take office?

This post was originally published on the 6th of January, but for unknown reasons disappeared from the DBP blog. It makes its re-appearance in its original form, which will hopefully be of relevance – even as political commentators’ opinions concerning Trump are turning from bewilderment to bemusement: 

On the 20th of January 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Many political commentators’ main issue with Trump’s imminent presidency is that they simply do not know what to make of it. Not only did the vast majority of commentators fail to predict his election victory, they are also at a loss in terms of foreseeing what Trump will do with it: What can we expect of this business tycoon turned champion of the people? How will his populist slogans pan out in political practice?

The question is not only what Trump will do, but how he will do it; will Trump seek to circumvent the hallowed principles of checks and balances by populist means? And if yes, will he succeed? While there are certain indications that these questions might be answered in the affirmative, the aim of this post is not to speculate about the intentions of Mr. Trump nor to seek to predict the outcomes of his plans. Instead, I turn to an existing example of what happens when populists are elected, namely the case of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy.

Obviously, there are many substantial differences between the politics of Grillo and Trump, just as leading a movement that obtained roughly 25% of the votes in the most recent Italian general election and having been elected to the position that is often referred to as the most powerful one on the planet hardly amounts to the same thing. Yet, Grillo has pointed to an important similarity between the two:

The mainstream media has often spoken of Pannocchia [Italian slang for Trump] in the same way they speak of our movement. Do you remember? They said that we were sexist, homophobic, demagogues, populists. They do not realize that millions of people no longer read their newspapers or watch their TVs. Trump capitalized on all this.

Here, Grillo establishes the point of comparison between Trump and his own movement as having to do with the ways in which both circumvent mainstream media and find new ways of connecting with the people. In broader terms, both Grillo and Trump have benefitted from a perceived rift between ‘the people’ and ‘the establishment’. Identifying and amplifying this rift is arguably the key to their – and other populists’ – successful mobilization of an electoral platform, but once elected, (how) can this platform be used for gaining actual political influence?

As a starting point for exploring this question, I will first provide a general definition and characterization of populism, then look closer into the populist reasoning of the Five Star Movement. Finally, I will turn to the issues of how the movement has fared after being elected and whether the Italian case offers any lessons in terms of the Trump presidency – and for populist incumbents, more generally.

 

The rise of populism

It has become common place to link such political events as the UK Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump, and the establishment and electoral success of new parties and movements like Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, and the Five Star Movement in Italy, not to mention the continued increase in support for such right-wing parties as the Front National in France, the Danish People’s Party, and the Sweden Democrats, with a general rise of populism (Moffitt, 2016). But what is it that links all these events and actors together? What is populism?

Populism basically relies on the establishment of a dichotomous relationship between ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’. Based on this dichotomy, populists argue that current political institutions and procedures no longer serve (or never have served) the interest of the people as a whole, but instead are controlled by and cater to a small elite. In a final argumentative move, populists then propose to be able to serve the people better – in substantial as well as procedural terms. As Jan-Werner Müller (2016) observes, this argumentative strategy may be employed across the political spectrum. Thus, there really is nothing that unites the various populist voices, except their rhetorical style, which according to Müller always shares three traits: it expresses anti-establishment and anti-pluralist identity politics. That is, populists claim to be speaking against the powers that be on behalf of the people as a whole, constituting this people in the process.

Ernesto Laclau (2007) details the idea that populism amounts to a rhetorical style or a certain form of reasoning; one that relies on a universalizing construction of the category of ‘the people’ for its success. According to Laclau, such construction is a necessary condition of all politics, but populism is nevertheless particular in its establishment of ‘the people’ in opposition to ‘the establishment’ and, hence, its circumvention of the usual rules of representative democracy. Populists, in short, gain influence by rhetorically establishing a ‘public demand’, which they can subsequently claim to be impelled by.

 

On the street: Giving voice to the people

In continuation of the notion that populism does not have to do with a particular set of political views, but with a certain rhetorical style or form of reasoning, let us now look at the specific articulations of this form in the case of the Five Star Movement. Here, one point of particular interest is how the movement not only positions itself as the voice of the people, but also prefigures (Maeckelbergh, 2010) the reforms that it envisions for society at large. That is, the Five Star Movement already exhibits the political principles and practices that it believes will enable the voice of the people to become the voice of power.

Beppe Grillo in una recente immagine ANSA/ GIORGIO BENVENUTI

Three such prefiguring strategies stand out: first, the organization of so-called V-days (where V stands for vaffanculo, but also invokes the V for victory and vendetta) of protest and mobilization. These physical displays of protest in public squares mimic those of other social movements, most notably Occupy Wall Street, and signal that the sheer volume (in terms of the numbers of protesters, but also the actual loudness of the protests) is an argument in itself. Second, the use of online voting to not only elect the movement’s political candidates, but also to decide what these candidates’ political stances should be. This extensive use of new technologies as platforms for decision-making as well as for mobilization indicates commitment to direct democracy in the majoritarian rather than the pluralistic form. Finally, the commitment to non-cooperation with established parties; given that the movement aims to bring down the current system of political representation, it does not negotiate according to the rules of that system or with those who support it. Instead, if one wants to influence the movement, one has to join it.

 

In office: From protest to pragmatism?

As mentioned, the Five Star Movement has had significant electoral success, but it is nevertheless not in a position to govern Italy singlehandedly, meaning that especially the last of the three abovementioned strategies could prove an obstacle to rather than a lever of the movement’s influence. Online voting and urban protest, moreover, are not immediately compatible with parliamentary procedures for negotiation and deliberation.

Thus, Grillo and his companions continue to be successful when ‘the power of the people’ can be exercised directly, as most recently witnessed in the constitutional referendum held in December 2016; here, a clear majority of the voters rejected the proposed changes to the constitution, a result that has been widely interpreted as a victory for Grillo and a further boost for his movement. However, in the day-to-day dealings of the Italian parliament the 163 members of the Five Star Movement, who were elected to office in 2013, are having a harder time – to the disillusionment of the electorate as well as the elected.

The trials and tribulations of moving from a positon of immaculate protest towards a recognition of the murky necessities of pragmatism are detailed in a new Danish documentary, Tutti a casa. Power to the People, premiering on February 1st. By then we will also have heard Trump’s inauguration speech and witnessed his first acts as president, providing initial indications of where he is headed and how he plans to get there. While the political organization that Donald Trump prefigured in his particular articulation of populist reason is very different from that of the Five Star Movement, I venture to predict that Trump in the coming months and years will experience the same kinds of practical challenges and have to make the same kinds of pragmatic concessions as those undertaken by the Italian movement in its time in office.

 

References

Laclau, E. (2007): On Populist Reason. London: Verso Books.

Maeckelbergh, M. (2010): Doing is believing: Prefiguration as strategic practice in the alterglobalization movement. Social Movement Studies, 10(1): 1-20.

Moffitt, B. (2016): The Global Rise of Populism. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Müller, J.-W. (2016): What Is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Should Civil Society Be Political? The Political Role of Civil Society in Light of the Refugee Crisis

On the 17th of January, the CISTAS-project (Civil Society in the Shadow of the State, http://cistas.dk/) held its fourth practitioner-workshop at Vartov in Copenhagen. The Carlsberg- funded CISTAS-project has also received funding from the Danish Ministry of Culture to do a number of workshops with practitioners from civil society in order to bridge the research conducted at the university with the processes and practices of civil society actors, individuals, organizations and associations. Previously, in April, June and October, CISTAS has held three other workshops, (see more at http://cistas.dk/) dealing with subjects such as the provision of welfare services, civic education and voluntarism, values and welfare.

This workshop, however, focused on the political role of civil society. The workshop was motivated by the events in the wake of the so-called refugee crisis of the late summer of 2015 as a site of contestation about the future role of civil society. When the large stream of refugees reached Denmark, the many arrivals were met by a massive mobilisation from Danish civil society. Many individuals attempted to help the refugees by offering clothes, food, water and transportation to the arrivals, while many took the trip to Lolland and Falster and the Danish highways to offer help and transportation to Copenhagen and Sweden (where a number of people have subsequently been fined for smuggling humans) just as a number of civil society organizations helped and organized as well as  participated in the debate on how to handle the challenge.

On the one hand, it could be said that this was a massive demonstration of what civil society can do and what essential role it plays in society and democracy by mobilising and stepping in where the state cannot or will not. On the other hand, the mobilisation was met by a harsh critique from some politicians who believed that civil society and the civil society organizations and NGO’s went too far by criticizing the politicians and the conducted policy. Especially Naser Khader (Conservatives) and Inger Støjberg (Venstre) had harsh criticism of the ‘politicizing’ organizations and thereby implied that implied that civil society should stay in the category of civil society and not interfere in domestic politics.

This mirrors a longer trend or schism in the conception of the role of civil society. On the one hand civil society is seen as a sphere of communication, social critique, social cohesion and democratisation processes which is and has been central to mobilise not only to bring democracy to previously autocratic regimes, but also seen as essential to keep democracy in Western Europe vibrant. Civil society is on the one hand viewed as a driving force for democratization as well as a normatively privileged sphere of critique, contestation and dissent which it was essential to safeguard against both the policies of the state and the forces of the market. On the other hand, civil society has increasingly been seen as a resource that could be mobilised to help an ailing welfare state and provide the social and welfare services that the national welfare state could or would no longer provide. Civil society thereby increasingly also became a resource as a provider of welfare services for a welfare state increasingly challenged by the pressures of globalisation.

The question of refugees and the role of civil society organizations in the case of the refugee crisis and the refugee question is a highly contested and highly politicized field and the debate surrounding its political role could therefore be seen as a case in point and as a central struggling ground for the role of civil society in contemporary Danish democracy. To what degree should civil society be a political place – a place of critique, contestation and debate – and to what degree should civil society organizations stick to their role in civil society, voluntary work, provision of tasks outside the state and the political? Where is such a line drawn, and is it even possible to draw such a line – both theoretically and in practice? How do civil society organizations operating in a highly politicized field such as this draw such a line? It was to discuss these questions that CISTAS had invited representatives from a number of central civil society organizations and refugee movements (Danish Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (Actionaid), Refugees Welcome, Welcome to Denmark and Venligboerne) to discuss the political role of civil societal organizations and refugee movements, asking to what degree civil society can, should or must be political?

 

A Political Role For Civil Society?

After an introduction to CISTAS and the day, the workshop started with a session on the history, background and perspectives of refugee movements with talks by Jonas Toubøl, PhD-student at the Department of Sociology at Copenhagen University, doing a PhD on the refugee solidarity movement in Denmark, speaking on the history of the Danish refugee movement and Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, Assistant Professor at Global Refugee Studies, Aalborg University, speaking on the retraction of the state and the emergence of civil society in relation to the refugee question.

The second session featured some of the more established organizations in the field and those who receive (or up until now have received) large state or government subsidies, Danish Red Cross, Danish Refugee Council and Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke. These organizations have been criticized for working too closely with the government, thereby being part of the problem, but they all underlined that they saw their work as necessary and that they worked on the longer run, focusing on building institutional and political changes, and that taking a direct political stance in some instances was detrimental to the objectives, seeing that they rather focused on winning those over not already committed to the cause of helping refugees. Working on this level required giving up on some political discussions and immediate actions, but also allowed them to step into the vacuum left open by the state. Their focus was strategically on universal interests and human rights, building up help that lasted beyond political conjunctures and which alleviated the possible problems of relying on the spontaneous solidary springing from the immediate encounter. All organizations stressed the necessity of working in both areas: the long-term, juridical-institutional and as well as short-term, immediate action, debating and contesting concrete political developments.

Also Refugees Welcome, in the third session, highlighted that they focused on human and legal rights of refugees, and thereby saw themselves as not being explicitly political, also because being associated with a direct political (left-wing) agenda, could be more detrimental than aiding the project. Welcome to Denmark, started at a meeting organized by Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke in order to bring some of the movements, initiatives and organizations together working in light of the stream of refugees in the late summer of 2015. Not directly political at first, the movement was simply trying to do something where the state clearly was not, and it was only politicized when being hindered in helping, especially being hindered in being expelled from Copenhagen Central Station (Hovedbanegården) and handing out water, food and supplies to the arrivals. Venligboerne, originally founded in Northern Jutland with the aim of being kind (venlig) to neighbours and thereby refugees, organizes day-to-day initiatives such as running a café, making meals, meeting and discussing as well as helping each other (Danes and Refugees) with the practicalities of everyday life, while also working on changing things in society politically, and reserves their right to work and act politically (though explicitly not party-politically – as all of the organizations represented).

Generally, there was great agreement that the overall question of the workshop was redundant; civil society should indeed be a political place, a site of critique and contestation and that a critical and political civil society was essential to a well-functioning democracy. However, there were some disagreements as to what way this should practically unfold, what being critical and political actually meant and entailed, and that it also depended on the level on which one worked as well as the general strategy and objectives.

There was great agreement – a critical point also in the last session with MP Pelle Dragsted from Enhedslisten (which should have been a panel-debate, unfortunately hindered by a cancellation) – that the developments in recent years, with politicians criticizing civil society organizations and their work, were very troubling. Civil society organizations and movements should obviously have the possibility to do their work unhindered, even when that means criticizing the government and the conducted policies, or perhaps especially when that is the case. The question is then how to counteract this development. Here both established organizations as well as the different movements and initiatives – here specifically concerning the refugee question, but also in civil society in general – must work together and present a united front against the troubling developments.

 

 

 

Publish (or Perish) in Danish

dansk_fondshistorie_djoef_forlag
Author: Anker Brink Lund

This week I did the silliest thing: Published a research-based book written for the general public – in Danish. Doing so has taken me and my co-author, Christian Edelvold Berg, several years of hard work. Stupid of course. Just imagine how many extra hours we could have spent lecturing (and making the CBS board of directors proud) or producing journal articles in Pigeon-English (keeping bibliometricians and the other academic bean-counters busy).

The topic of our book is “dansk fondshistorie” – a hands-on and detailed account of outcomes and impact of public benefit foundation in Denmark 1901-2015. Reporting this in a foreign language only, would not only be pretentious, but also pose a number of obstacles translating and contextualizing the empirical data. Yet that is exactly what the current system of scholarly merits encourages us to do – not only in business schools but in Academia write large.

Pity me not, however. There are plenty of compensations in doing a silly thing like this: The book was well received and debated in the press, TV2/Business, and on social media. More than one hundred representatives from business and politics participated in the book launch taking place at Carlsberg Academy. Some of them probably came for the beer, but quite a few actually reflected on our findings, too.

In short, for the sake of legitimacy, I strongly recommend outreach by communicating in Danish now and again in order not to perish from the hearts of our core funders: The Danish tax payers.

Link to Anker Brink Lund on TV2 Business (in Danish)

An Atlas of Danish Power Structures

By Christoph Ellersgaard

Together with another assistant professor here at DBP, Anton Grau Larsen, I am finishing the work on our next book Magtens Infrastruktur – Et atlas over netværk i Danmark (The Infrastructure of Power – An Atlas of Danish Networks). We use updated data on almost 5,000 different affiliations – from government and corporate boards to NGO’s and foundations, to map relationships between Danish organisations. I the rest of this post, I will give a sneak peek on the results of the analysis, which will be out in late November.

centralitets

The 4,984 affiliation in the analysis, colored by their reach to other affiliations (the more blue, the better connected). As seen, the majority are connected in one large component, with some affiliations reaching out to more than 1500 other affiliations through the connections of their board members and senior management.

The powers that be are intensely interlocked

We have chosen to write about the Danish networks in a very different form than usually used in the social sciences. Normally, we write a lot of text, perhaps backed by a couple of tables or figures. Here we do the reverse. The book consists of commented figures and tables, but we leave it up to the reader to focus on particular relations. As in an atlas, we zoom in on some features. For instance we look at the connections of a particular affiliation, for instance the Council of Business Policy within the Confederation of Danish Industry or the organisation of ties within particular sectors, for instance business.

di-eu

The affiliations that are connected through the Council of Business Policy within the Confederation of Danish Industry. Not only are the largest Danish corporations part of this network, as are political commissions, foundations, think tanks and prestigious social networks.

While the book is an Atlas, we also offer some guidance on how to interpret these power structures in it. First of all, it is clear that many affiliations, spanning several sectors, are in fact very well connected. As such, an idea that society is organized in pillars or sectors that are highly autonomous is inaccurate, at least at the very top. Furthermore, central positions within one sector often mean that an affiliation is central within other sectors as well.

erhvervsliv

The network of the world of Business. The size of icons denote their reach within the sector, their color their reach to the national power network. The most established Danish corporations – the old, family owned industry – occupy the most central positions in the network.

The clustering of power

In network analysis, it is possible to create subgroups in the network based on the pattern of ties. If we perform such a cluster analysis, we identify nine separate clusters in the power network. It turns out that the different ‘continents’ the network ‘world’ of Denmark are not divided by sectors, but instead by a constellation of interests and alliances, that for instance pit business with classic bourgeois culture, or unions with economic policy expertise. These clusters also reveal who is not part of the alliances of power. We do not find a cultural elite uniting organisations of media and culture, nor a united front of academics or experts. Rather academic affiliations are divided by their usefulness for the power that be. Institutions of economical or technical expertise have close ties to other central affiliations, while expertise in arts or humanities are isolated in the network.

In short, presenting the relationships of power as an atlas allows us to challenge several myths on the distribution and relations of power within a nation state like Denmark. Of course, such an analysis also has many blind spots – both on the actual workings of these relations and of all the relations who have not been institutionalized in boardrooms. Nonetheless, it offers the public a unique opportunity the see the sediments of the power that be, as they are revealed by the network analysis. It allows the critical public to ask: Is this how the relationship of powers should be. Voters and organisation members can challenge their representatives on their alliances and thus help redraw the maps through democratic practices.

You can read more about the book, and even help crowd fund its publication, at our homepage (in Danish). The book will be launched at a public talk here on CBS on November 24th.

Studying Public Policy Management and Social Development in a Danish Environment in China

On September 5th, the fifth cohort of Master students in Public Management and Social Development (PMSD) embarked on their two-year studies at the Sino-Danish Center for Education and Research (SDC), carried out at the UCAS Zhongguancun campus in Beijing. The programme is quite competitive with a rejection rate of 50 and up to 70% of the applicants. This year, 29 students were admitted, 14 Chinese and 15 international students.

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PMSD cohort 2016

SDC is an ambitious educational initiative. It was formally established in 2010 in form of a Partnership Agreement between the University of the Chinese Academy of Science (UCAS) and all eight Danish universities, initiated by the Chinese and Danish government. Since then, SDC has been growing, both in research and educational activities, in five focus areas, offering seven different Master programmes as well as PhD education.

SDC is also rather unique as it is the first educational initiative in China that is not just ‘dumping education’ in its host country but engages in a true collaboration and partnership, resting on the principle of parity. This means that both sides, the Danish and the Chinese partners, take equal ownership and responsibility for the success of SDC. The conditions that made this ambitious initiative possible can be referred back to the high level of support and commitment of both governments as well as the collaboration of the Danish universities and the same enthusiasm and facilitation by the Chinese university partner. In addition, the donation of the Danish Industry Foundation helped to make this project possible. Next year, the House of the Danish Industry Foundation at Yanqihu Campus will open its doors as the new home for SDC’s educational activities. The building was designed by Danish architects Lundgaard & Tranberg and will provide the possibility to study and conduct research in China within a Danish-inspired environment.

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Model of the House of the Danish Industry Foundation at Yanqihu Campus

Amongst the seven Master programmes offered at SDC, PMSD, which is administered at CBS, attracts the most applicants from Denmark and other European countries. Each year, we admit about 30 students, 15 Chinese and 15 who apply through CBS. Teaching is also shared by Chinese and Danish professors. Teachers and supervisors at SDC are recruited from all Danish universities as well as UCAS and some other Chinese universities. For PMSD, about 40% of the Danish-based teaching staff is drawn from CBS with even more supervisors for projects, internship reports and Master theses.

The programme aims at educating young people who can handle and address the challenges of a changing economic, political and social environment. More specifically, graduates will not only acquire knowledge about theories and research at the interface of government, public service and business in different parts of the world, but will also develop transferrable skills in methods of comparative investigation and analysis as well as learning and problem-solving teamwork in an intercultural environment. Given the tasks that modern societies are facing currently, such a profile, i.e. training people with regard to how to deal with these challenges and provide social innovation, is of high relevance.

Across the first three PMSD cohorts, we have in total admitted 68 students, 40 of which have finished their studies (16 more are scheduled for their final exams this month) and have found jobs in the public and private sector. The table below gives you a more detailed picture of admission and graduation numbers across the first three cohorts.

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PMSD Graduates across cohorts

* These students have finished their Danish MA thesis. (Chinese students have to write an extra thesis and do 3 years.) / ** 16 more thesis defenses are scheduled for September 2016.

Within its sixth year after signing the Partnership Agreement, SDC has recently been evaluated by an international assessment committee (IAC) appointed by the Danish Board of the SDC. The evaluation report points out that SDC now enters the phase of institutionalization and consolidation. For the social sciences, already today a lively research environment has emerged with cross-regional research projects between Europe and China, which in turn feed into the programme through research-based teaching and supervision. For the future, the report states that “… SDC carries a tremendously positive long-term perspective in terms of creating benefits for both countries.” (p. 3)

 

 

Degrowth in Budapest

I am writing this blog post on the train to Copenhagen, having spent a week in Budapest where I participated in the biannual degrowth conference (30 August – 3 September). I will use the opportunity to say a few words about growth, degrowth and the conference itself.

 

What is degrowth?

For one thing degrowth is an emerging paradigm in the social sciences. This paradigm is centred around the notion that instead of pursuing endless economic growth, it would be desirable if the (over)developed countries of the world (including the OECD countries) began shrinking their economies – i.e. initiated planned degrowth transitions. The end goal would be a steady-state economy, i.e. a non-growing economy functioning within ecological boundaries. The notion that a non-growing economy would be desirable is not exactly new. In Principles of Political Economy (Book IV, Chapter VI, 1848), classical liberal thinker John Stuart Mill remarked that such an economy

 

“…would be, on the whole, a very considerable improvement on our present condition. […] It is scarcely necessary to remark that a stationary condition of capital and population implies no stationary state of human improvement. There would be as much scope as ever for all kinds of mental culture, and moral and social progress; as much room for improving the Art of Living, and much more likelihood of its being improved, when minds ceased to be engrossed by the art of getting on.”

 

Aside from being an academic paradigm, degrowth is also a political project inasmuch as various policies and instruments that can be implemented to limit production and consumption so as to bring about smaller and non-growing economies are proposed. These relate for instance to the promotion of work sharing, social enterprises, localised production, eco-communities, community currencies, debt audit, time-banks and job guarantees. Caps on resource extraction and minimum limits of income and maximum limits on income and wealth are other proposals. For more details, see for instance this book. Finally, degrowth can be thought of as a “movement”, “network” or “community” that brings together growth-critical academics, organizations, grassroots and citizens.

 

Why not endless growth?

Evidently, degrowth goes directly against the zeitgeist. Today a pro-growth discourse prevails. It is considered common sense among policy-makers, business people and most economists that endless economic growth is desirable. Growth is good, more growth is even better. A growth rate of 6 % is by definition better than a growth rate of 3 %. To argue that instead of pursuing economic growth, the (over)developed countries really ought to be exploring ways of shrinking their economies, is thus to put yourself in a position where you are likely to be considered a village idiot or lunatic – or at very least someone who does not understand “political realities”.

 

So why question the desirability of continued growth in our part of the world?

 

We live on a finite planet and humanity’s environmental impact has now reached a level where 1.6 planets would be needed merely to sustain it. The ecological overshoot is widely expected to continue growing: already in 2030 2 planets would be needed if we continue down the current path. Such overshoot figures obviously conceal that whereas massive overconsumption takes place in the overdeveloped countries, the populations of a number of underdeveloped countries have a real and pressing need to increase consumption to meet basic human needs. For each day the ecological overshoot continues and is intensified, current and future living conditions for human beings and other species are undermined.

 

Population growth contributes to exacerbate the situation. The Earth’s total population is projected to increase from the current level of 7.2 billion to somewhere between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people in 2100.

 

Almost everyone can agree that this situation is alarming. So what is the solution? Many academics and policy-makers believe in “sustainable growth”. They express hope that climate change and the escalating destruction of the environment are problems that can be solved by means of growth in renewable energy supply and green innovations coupled with various forms of regulation.

 

A massive decoupling of economic growth from its negative environmental impact is necessary if this solution is to work. Unfortunately, the developments so far give little reason to think that this will actually be possible. It is safe to say that, at the moment, sustainable growth on the necessary scale is no more real than are unicorns, gnomes and angels.

 

The future is of course not predetermined and as such it cannot be ruled out that revolutionary novel technologies at some point make possible the necessary decoupling. But it seems like wishful thinking and it is in any case one heck of a gamble to make.

 

In Budapest

Degrowth challenges the (sustainable) growth discourse and offers ideas for alternative ways of organising the social world. The movement is still relatively small but it is on the rise, not least in Southern Europe and Germany. Around 3500 academics, activists and others participated in 2014 degrowth conference in Leipzig. For logistic and other reasons, the organisers of the Budapest conference decided to keep the number of attendants down. Still, around 600 people from all parts of the world – but mainly Europe – participated in the conference. In parallel with the conference an open “Degrowth Week” festival gathered a large number of people. This festival took place in various parts of Budapest and for instance involved workshops, panel discussions and concerts.

 

It was an exciting conference with many interesting presentations and discussions. A summary of these will not be provided here, but issues that frequently came up were how degrowth could actually come about and what it would involve in practice (what will it for instance mean for everyday life?). This shows that degrowth is still very much in the process of being developed, both as a social scientific paradigm and as a political project.

 

One thing I found particularly encouraging about the conference was the large number of young participants. After all, degrowth is a project for the present and the future. I will however end this blog post by quoting someone not-so-young. Even though he was not (to my knowledge) in Budapest, and although I am not a religious person, I give the final words to Pope Francis:

 

“…if in some cases sustainable development were to involve new forms of growth, then in other cases, given the insatiable and irresponsible growth produced over many decades, we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late. We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity. That is why the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.”

 

Much more than annual summits – a backgrounder on the G20

In the upcoming weekend (September 4-5) the G20 meet in Hangzhou in China for the annual summit of the leaders of the 19 most important economies in the world plus the EU.

These events normally get broad media coverage. But reporting tends to focus on a few headlines from final communiques and on diplomatic encounters taking place outside of the official agenda, for instance: who spoke with Putin and about what? And when leaders make comments to the press, they often are targeted towards their home audiences, emphasizing issues and results that make them look good in the public eye. This is natural and probably unavoidable, but it means that the nature of what I prefer to call the G20 process is largely underreported and little understood by the wider public. The G20 is much more than annual summits for state leaders.

G20 members account for about 85% of world GDP two thirds of world population. In 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis, they ‘designated G-20 to be the premier forum for our international economic cooperation.’ These facts alone testify to the significance of the forum. And since 2009 the work has evolved. The agenda has been broadened, and although not formalized in any legal sense, there are standard procedures that are followed regularly basis.

The work is coordinated by a rotating chair. China took over from Turkey after the 2015 summit in Antalya, and after the Hangzhou summit the baton will pass to Germany, up until the Summit in Hamburg in July 2017.

Between summits the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG for short) have several meetings where they develop the agenda, prepare decisions, and coordinate several working groups at lower levels. All such groups have dual chairmanships; one from the emerging economies and one from the old industrial powers.  And while the G20 grew out of meetings at the FMCBG level initiated in the 1990s, the agenda has been broadening so that other policy areas also are involved in the process. Under the Chinese chairmanship there have been meetings for ministers of labour, trade, agriculture, and energy.

The latest addition to the agenda is public health which, however, still is in early stages. The 2014 summit noted that the Ebola crisis had shown a need for better international coordination of the fight against infectious diseases. In 2015 leaders agreed to pay more attention to global health risks in general and they stated that the 2016 summit should discuss ‘the terms of reference’ for further work in this area.  There are indications, however, that this process has not moved much forward under the Chinese chair – thus both illustrating the expansion of the agenda and the fact that it can be a slow process.

One could ask how effective the G20 can be since it is not a formal organization and does not have a permanent staff to rely on. The first part of the answer is that the process is supported by the government machineries of the members. But the second and probably more important answer is that the G20 draws heavily on key international organizations (IOs) such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the OECD who all possess considerable expertise and capacity for analysis.  Thus, for instance, the latest communique from FMCBG lists more than 30 appendices with reports and analyses from the IMF, OECD, the multilateral development banks, the Financial Stability Board, the Bank of International Settlements, and the UN system. Interestingly, some of them are from ad hoc inter-organizational working groups, where for instance the OECD, the IMF and the World Bank have joined forces to develop a particular policy issue. In this manner the G20 countries, collectively having a controlling influence in the IOs, orchestrate cooperation among them and make extensive use of this considerable pool of expertise and analytical capacity.

The most developed part of the process is in the economic area. A detailed account is provided by Creon Butler in a 2012 article[i]. It is based upon several rounds of discussions among the members where they first agree on an overall policy goal, then report their individual plans to deliver on the goal, have these  analysed and assessed by relevant IOs, typically the IMF in the economics area, and then subjected to peer critical peer discussions with proposals for revisions. But then implementation is entirely up to the individual members, although they have to report back on their achievements.

This of course shows the weakness in the system. Everything depends on individual country compliance and the only sanctions are political pressure from other countries. Clearly there is not full compliance with commitments, but in Creon Butler’s words, the glass is half full rather than half empty. This picture is confirmed by the systematic ‘compliance scores’ produced by the independent G20 Research Centre at the University of Toronto.[ii]

The G20 also engages with non-state actors, especially from the international business community. In connection with the annual summits there are Business-20 or B20 meetings where business leaders issues comments and recommendations to the policy-makers, sometimes on the request of the G20. The Seoul Summit in 2010 was perhaps a high point in this regard, taking place at a time where G20’s economic agenda was still being shaped. At the request of the Korean chair more than a hundred CEOs from transnational companies participated in twelve working groups that produced input to the G20, and the groups’ recommendations were welcomed and taken on board in further policy decisions.

Labour is also represented. The international Trade Union Confederation ITUC organizes the L20 and participates in some working groups but is probably less influential than the B20. The same, and even more so goes for the C20 – Civil Society 20 – that involves coalitions of NGOs. They are not, however, included in workings groups, a fact they have vocally criticized.

Looking to the upcoming summit, it is worth noting that the official G20 website, presently run by the Chinese government, aside from being annoyingly slow is rather silent on civil society participation. The list of participating NGOs is still blank a few days before the summit, whereas the B20 policy recommendations already are published.

To complete the picture, there is also a W20 for women’s and gender issues, a Y20 for youth organizations, and a T20 for think tanks.

In sum, my core argument is that the G20 process as a whole, with its established mode of operation, heavy involvement of major IOs, and ongoing dialogue with non-state actors, should be taken seriously as an important site for global policymaking across a growing range of issues. The question is, of course what comes out of this process. In a later blog at this site I will discuss some of the outcomes of the Hangzhou summit.

1) Butler, Creon. 2012. “The G-20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth: Glass Half Empty or Half Full?” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 28 (3): 469-492.

2) http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/analysis/index.html.

Is Donald Trump a fascist? A historical perspective

Trump is most likely more about Trump than about the US and its citizens. Do we really need Plato and Aristotle to remind us that democracy in its correct form (‘polity’) means rule by the many in the interest of the many, while oligarchy means rule by the few in the interest of the few?

 

The campaign of Donald Trump has overwhelmingly confirmed Godwin’s Law which famously stated that ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one’.[1] The internet overflows with allegations and denials. Is Trump a fascist? ‘Yes’ says the New Republic; ‘no’ says The Economist.[2] Fascism: a distinct political movement during the interwar years, pegged to a unique historical context, in which Germany was home to the most notorious fascist regime of them all, commanded by a circle of reckless, simple-minded monomaniacs who ran their totalitarian regime by a combination of oppression and propaganda. If ‘fascist’ simply becomes another word for ‘bad guy’, we not only short-circuit the political debate, we also deprive ourselves from making useful historical comparisons, in other words, learn from the past.

Maybe we should rephrase the question: Would it make sense to label Trump a fascist? It wouldn’t be the first time the Republican Party was accused of housing adherents of the cause: already in 1966, Republican senator Thomas Kuchel pointed to “A fanatical neo-fascist political cult in the GOP, driven by a strange mixture of corrosive hatred and sickening fear, who are recklessly determined to either control our party, or destroy it.” So, let’s take a look in the rear-view mirror. If we want to bring Germany’s troubled history into the equation for the sake of comparison, there is a twisted irony in the fact that this year’s US presidential elections will take place on one of Germany’s ‘fate dates’: on 8 November 1923, Adolf Hitler staged an inept and unsuccessful Putsch in a Munich beer hall. On 8 November, 16 years later, he escaped Georg Elser’s assassination attempt. On 8 November 1937, the anti-Semitic exhibition Der ewige Jude (‘The Eternal Jew’) opened in Munich. Racist policies and attacks on central government: lots of symbolic currency there.

While it is easy to see why the question arises – is Trump a fascist? – it is just as clear that an answer in the affirmative would shed little light on the Trump case. To be sure, to the extent that we can actually detect anything coherent from Trump’s politically oriented statements, his authoritarian, right wing populism does harbor similarities with Fascism as we know it: the bashing of minorities that are not considered legitimate members of the nation (Latinos, immigrants), appraisal of the strong leader (Putin; himself), radical nationalism, an ambiguous attitude towards guns and violence, hateful attacks on ‘Washington’, the elite, the establishment, ‘the political class’, experts, intellectuals, etc.; the intense rhetoric against things as they are, complemented by a blurred longing for things as they were and a great past. ‘Make America great again’ smacks of Hitlerist revanchism.

But does it make Trump qualify as a fascist? Not necessarily. Radical nationalism, for instance, was never a prerogative of Fascism. Restoring the nation to its former position and strength has always been a predominant theme in conservative thinking, and when expressed by a potential leader of a global player like the US, there is good reason to be on the alert: in an extraordinary February 2016 edition, featuring a cover photo of Trump accompanied by the headline Wahnsinn (‘insanity’), internationally recognized German weekly magazine Der Spiegel commented that  ‘[Trump’s] bid for the White House, long ridiculed, is a fight for a ruthless, brutal America. Behind his campaign slogan “Make America great again!” is the vision of a country that no longer cares about international treaties, ethnic minorities or established standards of decency.’[3] In addition, Trump’s authoritarian populism and minority bashing should probably be seen against the backdrop of a serious economic crisis and the disadvantages of globalization, comparable to what Germany faced in the thirties. The social decline of the German middle class caused by the depression was something Hitler cleverly exploited to the full. So again, there are similarities with fascism.

But it doesn’t make Trump a fascist. Radical nationalism often surfaces in the political culture of great powers on the decline and may turn such states into dangerous players, including the US. But contrary to post WWI Germany or Russia today, the US is running on a democratic legacy that informs and legitimizes political decision-making and is hard to get rid of. You may insist that Trump has little respect for democratic rules and values,[4] and that even though he has to abide by them in his quest for power, so did Hitler – that was, after all, his lesson of 1923. Wasn’t Fascism about replacing democracy by dictatorship? Certainly. Still, even Trump’s lack of respect for democratic procedures does not make him a fascist. You don’t have to be a fascist to dismiss parliamentary democracy. Actually, it‘s not uncommon among business leaders to promote some sort of authoritarian government. After all, big business is not governed by consent but by dictate.

It’s true that Trump has ‘(…) launched an uprising of the indecent, one that is now much bigger than he himself, a popular movement of white, conservative America that after eight years under Democratic President Barack Obama, yearns for a leader who will usher in the counter-revolution’ (Spiegel). But the American ‘white, conservative movement’ is the kind of movement that unfolds in front of the TV. Unlike the fascist movements of the interwar years, Trump is not in charge of a uniformed, obedient and violent, totalitarian mass movement. Instead, he temporarily represents a diminished and split Republican Party that cannot wait to get rid of this joker when it’s all over in November.

And this is not the only crucial difference. Even more importantly, Trump’s regular attacks on the ‘government’ – not the Obama administration alone but the federal state as such – shows him as a true conservative, super rich who, like so many others of his kind, happens to think that because he has been (relatively) successful in business, he will make a terrific statesman too. As a right-wing populist he is well aware that a one-sided program of serious cut-downs on public social spending won’t get him anywhere near the White House, and so he recently ticked a few boxes on the social side of his economic ‘agenda’: daycare should be cheaper; Social Security and Medicare should be protected from savings. Tax cuts, however, still define the greater part of his ‘program’. The populism may resemble that of German Nazism, yet while Hitler’s party propagated and actively worked for a Volksgemeinschaft – ‘people’s community’ – by superficially abolishing class contradictions and excluding ‘second rate people’, and by intervening in social reform and job creation, Trump seems to think that social improvement can happen almost by itself. Fascism, being a totalitarian ideology, needed a strong state. Trump seems to think that you can have strong leadership and a weak government at the same time. German Fascism arranged for a gelenkte Wirtschaft (‘organized economy’), centralizing resource allocation and controlling foreign trade and the labor market. In Trump’s vision, the state will be at the service of capitalism – not the other way ‘round. Hitler had no sympathy for neither big business nor world capitalism which enriched the Jews and had Germany in an iron grip of financial dependence. Trump stands for everything Hitler hated about Liberalism and stock markets. In addition, the Lebensraum imperialism of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy, or the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh for that matter, are hard to pin on Trump (although he seems to surround himself with advisors who are not so cautious; Joseph Schmitz, a Trump advisor on foreign policy, reportedly stated that ‘the ovens were too small to kill six million Jews’[5]). Again, Trump lacks both totalitarian ideology and a militant, uniformed party or movement to qualify as a true fascist.

In Trump’s one-man-show there’s no one to back him up, which leaves him wholly dependent on his own funding and vulnerable. Should his business fail, he would immediately exit the stage. In that sense, Trump is more of a classical oligarch. He will not be elected president. But the Trump phenomenon points to a danger which is far greater than the ambitions of some politically incompetent real estate tycoon. Trump seems to confirm the fact that the US may be on its way to something different than a democracy; perhaps it’s already passed into oligarchy, as a recent Princeton paper suggested.[6] If wealth and power have effectively replaced arguments and dialogue as stepping stones to Capitol and the White House, we are there already.

On 9 November this year, when elections are over and American voters have finally referred Trump to the dunghill of history, we will still need to ask ourselves what it is that makes a presidential candidate like him possible in the first place (my esteemed colleague, Edward Ashbee, provided an excellent analysis on Trump in the DBP blog last week).

The old thinkers knew that a democracy which had long since passed into aristocracy, oligarchy or something else would for many years still speak of itself as a democracy, praising its citizens for their republican virtues. Power seekers of that society would, however, completely set aside the willingness to devote their abilities to the Republic, replacing it by personal ambition and greed. Wrote Montesquieu about such people: ‘Great success, especially when chiefly owing to the people, intoxicates them to such a degree that it is impossible to contain them within bounds. Jealous of their magistrates, they soon became jealous likewise of the magistracy; enemies to those who govern, they soon prove enemies also to the constitution.’[7]

Had they been alive, politically shrewd thinkers Montesquieu and Tocqueville would probably regard the Trump case as final proof that American democracy has definitively ended. There may be good explanations for this. Good reasons, however are few.

 

[1] http://www.wired.com/1994/10/godwin-if-2/

[2] https://newrepublic.com/minutes/124205/yes-donald-trump-fascist; http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2016/05/trump-and-1930s

[3] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/donald-trump-is-the-most-dangerous-man-in-the-world-a-1075060.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-is-a-unique-threat-to-american-democracy/2016/07/22/a6d823cc-4f4f-11e6-aa14-e0c1087f7583_story.html?utm_term=.12ad1068cae4

[5] https://newrepublic.com/minutes/136150/trumps-foreign-policy-adviser-allegedly-denied-holocaust-made-anti-semitic-remarks Apart from seemingly tapping into Holocaust denial, the sentence makes no sense in several ways: Contrary to a widespread American misconception, Jews were killed in gas chambers, not in the ovens (which were used for cremation). Gas chambers killed three not six million Jews.

[6] http://countercurrentnews.com/2016/01/princeton-study-u-s-no-longer-an-actual-democracy/

[7] Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, 1752 (1748), Book VIII.Hitler right arm Trump right arm

South Africa’s Elections: Who captured the ANC votes?

Authors: Mogens K. Justesen and Louise Thorn Bøttkjær

On August 3rd South African voters went to the polls to elect new local governments across the entire country. The outcome of the elections was historic: The African National Congress (ANC) – the party of Nelson Mandela – suffered its worst election result since the end of apartheid and the first democratic elections in 1994. The ANC managed to capture 54 percent of the nationwide vote, but lost 8 percentage points compared to the last local elections in 2011 and stands to loose office in several of the big cities.

Before the elections ANC held absolute majorities in seven of the eight largest cities – the so-called Metros. After the elections, ANC only holds a majority in three of the Metros. The Democratic Alliance (DA) re-captured Cape Town – the only Metro not under ANC control before the elections – with a staggering 67 percent of the vote. In the remaining four Metros – Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria), Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elisabeth), and Ekurhuleni – no party achieved an absolute majority. Negations of coalition formation are therefore ongoing as we write.

Media reports portrayed the election result as a landslide victory for the DA, even though the ANC remains the largest party in South Africa. To some extent, this is justified: The DA is the largest opposition party and is neck to neck with the ANC in large cities that have always been under ANC rule. However, the DA nationwide vote share of 27 percent is only a three percentage points improvement compared the local government elections in 2011. Even in the most hotly contested Metros – Tshwane and Johannesburg – the DA only increased its vote share by around 4 percentage points compared to 2011.

While this may be enough to elevate the DA into power in some of the large cities, it is less clear who captured the votes from the ANC and whether ANC’s loss of electoral support can attributed to the DA’s success. In fact, attributing the ANC’s electoral backlash to the DA may be premature.

The DA is a broadly centrist party that is often portrayed as the party of South Africa’s “white and coloured” population. Opinion polls prior to the elections showed that almost 80 per cent of the white population and over half of the “coloured” population would vote for the DA. In contrast, only four percent of South Africa’s black population – who constitute around 80 percent of the population – said they would vote for the DA. While we do not yet have post-election data to verify this pattern, it raises the question of why the ANC experienced their worst election in history, when the DA seemingly has massive problems attracting the votes of the majority of South Africans.

Data on the distribution of votes across parties released in the days after the elections by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa hints at an answer. The DA might have come out of the local elections as the big winner, but it was the ‘new kid on the block’ – the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – that appears to have captured most of the dissatisfied ANC voters. Indeed, the data suggests that the EFF – and not the DA – is largely responsible for ANC’s poor result at the polls. Below we show two figures that support this interpretation.

Figure1

For South Africa’s eight Metros, Figure 1 displays the relationship between the change in the ANC’s vote share from 2011 to 2016 along the Y-axis and the EFF vote share along the X-axis. The local government election on August 3 was the first of its kind for the EFF, and therefore the ‘change’ in vote share for the EFF is just the difference between zero and its vote share in the 2016.

Figure 1 shows a strong negative correlation, meaning that in the cities where EFF got at higher vote share, ANC lost the most votes. And conversely, in cities where the EFF did less well, ANC lost fewer votes.

EFF has positioned itself as a fairly radical alternative to the ANC with a leftist agenda emphasizing land reform and redistribution from rich to poor. This agenda was rewarded with eight percent of the nationwide vote. EFF – lead by the former president of ANC Youth League, Julies Malema – achieved its best result in Malema’s home province, Limpopo. But as Figure 1 shows, EFF also made inroads in the big cities, capturing more than 11 percent of the votes in Johannesburg and Tshwane. This did not only contribute to the ANC’s electoral defeat, but also effectively elevates EFF to the kingmaker of a new ruling coalition in those cities.

In Figure 2 we show the relationship between the change in the ANC vote share from 2011 to 2016 and the change in the DA vote share from 2011 to 2016.

Figure2

This figure shows a very weak relationship between the change in the DA and ANC vote shares from 2011 to 2016. If anything, the DA seems to have gained most in strength where the ANC has lost the least. In other words, the DA’s electoral gain does not correspond to the ANC’s loss.

These preliminary results suggest a reason why the DA came out of the elections as the big winner – but the reason is not what supporters of the DA had hoped for. ANC seems to have suffered in the elections because of EFF’s ability to capture the votes of black South Africans from the ANC – and to a much lesser extent because of the DA’s ability to attract new voters. In other words, the DA is now able to contest ANC power in the large cities because the EFF captured a large part of the former ANC voters – enough for the ANC to loose its majority in most of the big cities. For those hoping for government change at the national level, the local election results carry an important lesson: An ANC defeat at the next national election in 2019 will require that the DA becomes much better at attracting the support of broader parts of the South African population.