The 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent global recession were nowhere nearly as painful as the Great Depression. But the effects are similar. The heady growth of the 2000s led Europeans and Americans to believe they were on firm economic ground; the shattering of banks, real estate markets and governments in the wake of the crash left tens of millions of people at sea, angry at the institutions that had failed them, above all the politicians who claimed to be in charge.
Why, voters ask, did the government allow so many bankers to behave like criminals in the first place? Why did it then bail out banks while letting car factories go under? Why is it welcoming millions of immigrants? Are there separate rules for the elites, defined by a hypermodern liberal worldview that ridicules the working class — and their traditional values — as yokels?
In America and Europe, the rise of anti-establishment movements is a symptom of a cultural shock against globalized postmodernity, similar to the 1930s’ rejection of modernity. The common accusation by the “masses” is that liberal democracy has somehow gone too far, that it has become an ideology for an elite at the expense of everyone else. Marine Le Pen, chief of the French National Front, calls these normal folk “les invisibles et les oubliés,” the invisible and the forgotten.