Interview with Andreas Herteux, the director of the Erich von Werner Society, an independent research institute for contemporary issues, on the reasons for Donald Trump’s high approval rating in the 2020 presidential election, the theory of milieu struggle as a cause of social conflict, and the future of election campaigns
Mr. Herteux, how could many media observers and opinion pollsters be so wrong as to expect a clear victory for Joe Biden?
Election forecasts in the 21st century have often proved to be fuzzy. There are various reasons for this. One of the main reasons, however, could be that the principle of milieu struggle has not played a role.
What is meant by a milieu struggle?
First of all, it must be said in advance that society does not exist. Rather, in the 21st century it consists of many different milieus, each of which has its own world views, patterns of action and attitudes. That these do not necessarily always fit together or even compete seems logical.
Milieu struggle therefore means that conflicts arise between the realities of life (milieus) of a society (or several societies), which are either actively or passively fought out. In the USA, it is therefore not a matter of two groups that are irreconcilably opposed to each other, but rather of many realities of life that all pursue their very own interests.
By 2016 Trump had clear advantages over the modern mainstream, consumer materialists, traditionalists and the old establishment. It is a natural reflex to now group these groups together as tending to be conservative, but dangerous because each reality of life has its own motivation, identity and way of thinking that must be considered separately in order to win them over permanently. In addition, there have also been notable electoral successes among the modern high achievers in American society, who no longer want to fit into the classic pattern.
How was Trump able to win over these milieus?
Trump did not woo them in the classical sense, this was only done for individual but existing milieu conflicts. These are conflicts that arise when the needs of the milieu formers remain partially or completely unfulfilled or when the self-image of the reality of life is attacked. Depending on the power a reality has, this will – to put it simply – either accumulate or manifest itself in political actionism. Intellectuals, who predominantly vote democratically, generally find a hearing for their positions and also bring them to the media. The traditionalists do not. They have no voice and only limited influence. Their fist remains in their pockets. Trump has succeeded in letting the conflicts of individual milieus unload themselves and using that for their own benefit. However, this is not a homogeneous mass, even if there are overlaps. It is also not a split, but a fragmentation.
2020 the same game as 2016?
No, because the discharge process took place over the entire term of office. It is also possible that the analyses after the 2020 election will show that there will be shifts within the realities of life. For example, it is conceivable that the sensationalist milieu, which in 2016 was still electing democratically to a large extent, will have made a shift: Their criteria of truth are very much influenced by their inclination towards hedonism and entertainment. Whether Trump was – very casually expressed – entertaining enough to have won a majority here, however, will be shown by later studies. However, the example should show that there were different reasons for choosing Trump. The joy of spectacle rarely plays a role in the media, but it is fundamental to this reality of life.
The key to a successful election campaign is therefore the consideration of milieu struggles and milieu conflicts?
It would be a single key. However, the pressure of the change of times is eroding the realities of life, while at the same time individualism is playing an increasingly important role. In the next elections behavioral capitalism will play an even greater role and homo stimulus could be the dominant form of voter. We now live in the age of collective individualism. This requires dynamic adjustments. Methods from the 19th and 20th century are simply obsolete.
Andreas Herteux, born in Lohr am Main in 1981, is an economist, social researcher, philosopher, publicist and founder of the Erich von Werner Society, an independent research institute for contemporary issues. His latest book “Grundlagen gesellschaftlicher Entwicklungen im 21. Jahrhundert – Neue Erklärungsansätze zum Verständnis eines komplexen Zeitalters” (Erich von Werner Verlag, ISBN 978-3-948621-16-2, DOI10.5281/zenodo.3932359) deals with new interdisciplinary approaches to interpreting the dynamized present and analyzing prognoses for the rest of the 21st century. It is currently only available in German. An overview of his theses can be found in the article “SOCIETY IN THE 21st CENTURY: THE THE THEORY OF THE AGE OF COLLECTIVE INDIVIDUALISM” (DOI 10.46609/ijsser.2020.v05i06.008) as well as in other English-language publications and books.
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