As liberals backed away from the hard politics of material redistribution, they found themselves trying to redistribute the honorific resources of society. Instead of dramatically expanding day care, you could talk about single mothers as heroes. Instead of integrating recent migrant communities in Europe, you could preach the end of the old national cultures as a liberation. Instead of building an economy that provided the material basis for family formation, you could praise nontraditional households and identities. Decades ago, it was the greedy plutocrat or boss who was the enemy. Now the enemy was the stultifying old culture that honored men who “worked hard and played by the rules.”
The results are everywhere to see. Almost anywhere that there is economic stagnation or deindustrialization — East Germany, Northern industrial towns in Britain, southern Italy, Appalachia — there is a populist politics that wants to reverse, slow down, or at least tame the economic and social consequences of globalism. Will there even be a center Left in five years?