Social Issues

Loneliness fueling surge in populism: economist Noreena Hertz

By Enrique Rubio

London, Nov 26 (EFE).- What is fueling a rise in populism? Why are people drawn to divisive rhetoric? According to English academic Noreena Hertz, a lack of community, rising levels of loneliness and out of touch institutions are to blame.

We are in the midst of what the economist has labeled “the lonely century,” the eponymous title of Hertz’s book published in September 2020 which gathers myriad interviews and a hefty bibliography.

“To assume that we are inherently self interested, that we inherently don’t care about others, that we are inherently selfish. I think that’s a mischaracterization of human nature,” the author told Efe.

“What is true, of course, is that over the last few decades, valleys of selfishness, competitiveness, self interest, or those that have been valorized, whilst qualities like thinking about other people, kindness, civility, have been diminished,” the 54-year-old added.

Whilst Hertz agrees that determination and competitiveness are necessary, society needs to also value kindness, compassion and collective interests.

“What my research clearly uncovered (…) is that people who vote populist are more likely to be lonely. Lonely, in the sense of having fewer friends, and fewer acquaintances (…) and in the sense of feeling disconnected from the state, from their fellow citizens,” Hertz said.

Men are more likely to feel isolated and are, according to Hertz, driving the populist surge.

The author of The Silent Takeover (2001) added that the decline of trade unions has likely contributed to men feeling more disaffected.

“In recent years there has been a rise of politicians who are saying, look, nobody was caring for you. And I care for you,” Hertz explained.

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