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Insider Interview

Navigating the New Abnormal


The Trump administration lacks both a global strategy and anyone who could formulate and implement one. And unless anti-populists in general – and the center left, in particular – face up to some hard realities, the menace of a rogue US will only grow.

Columbia University’s Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, discusses the failings of liberal democracy, the politics of immigration, and geopolitical threats with Sławomir Sierakowski, founder of the Krytyka Polityczna movement and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw.


SS: You’ve written that Brexit and Trump are the same phenomenon. Do you think the populist wave that lifted both will spread further?

JS: I think societies everywhere are very divided. Whether it’s 51-49 or 49-51, we are not seeing landslide wins for populism, but rather a reflection of deep social divisions. And, yes, I think we’re going to see more of this, because there are so many anxieties that we don’t seem able to overcome.

Even the foundations of foreign policy are giving way. The Middle East crises are the result of America’s failure and fading global power, which are part of the social anguish many voters feel. Likewise, Brexit reflects a collapse in belief in the postwar order in Western Europe, which was forged during the Cold War but has now basically disintegrated.

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    The Metric God That Failed

    • Over the past few decades, formal institutions have increasingly been subjected to performance measurements that define success or failure according to narrow and arbitrary metrics. 

    • The outcome should have been predictable: institutions have done what they can to boost their performance metrics, often at the expense of performance itself.
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    • For the time being, concrete evidence of policy success in countries like China and India may well be the most effective way to buttress the case for applying non-Western perspectives to national development strategies. 

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    • But recent research finds that a comprehensive systems-based approach provides reason for hope.