How the ‘Places That Don’t Matter’ Fueled Populism

Leonid Bershidsky:

British writer David Goodhart’s “somewhere versus anywhere” framework, pitting those who are left behind by modernity versus globalist cosmopolitans, has worked for many people as an explanation of recent populist successes throughout the Western world. But what if the places in which rooted “somewheres” live explain the populist phenomenon better than any other problems these people face in adapting to what passes for progress these days?

That, in a nutshell, is the idea London School of Economics professor of economic geography Andres Rodriguez-Pose puts forward: in other words, that populist ballot-box successes are a “revenge of the places that don’t matter.” Interpersonal inequality, he argues, isn’t the driving force here. Territorial inequality is.

“Lagging or declining regions voted differently to prosperous ones,” Rodriguez-Pose writes, in the Brexit referendum, the 2016 U.S. and Austrian presidential elections, the 2017 French presidential and German parliamentary elections — as well as, for example, in Thailand’s 2011 election.