The two polarizing groups of “extremist populism” in contemporary American politics, namely, “MAGA politics” on the “Far Right” (more in the “red states” than in the “blue states”) and “ANTIFA politics” on the “Far Left” (more in the “blue states” than in the “red states”), have stressed out the “moderates” and “independents.” But their populism endures as long as the American political system is still painfully adjusting to two fundamental changes of social structure in the 21st century (i.e., the decline of white-male dominance and the decline of American dominance). So a challenging question in our time is, What is to be done?
The first fundamental change of social structure in the 21st century is the decline of white-male dominance in the United States, which has radicalized the “excessive” demand for rights across the board from minorities and women. Surely, there can be other causes of ANTIFA politics, but this essay focuses on social structure in the 21st century. Consider a few important statistics on domestic social structure below.
In regard to women, by 2019, women’s labor force participation in the United States was 57.4%, when compared with 69.2% for men. Full-time female workers on average earned 82% of what men earned in 2019. This has come a long way from the old tradition of women staying at home in the 18th century.
In regard to non-whites, by the 2040s, whites in the U.S. will lose their “majority” status, as they will become one of several minorities (together with Asians, Blacks, Latinos, and others), partly due to the continued impact of immigration and partly due to the trending decline of birth rates among native-born women. By contrast, the white share of the U.S. population in 1920 was 90%.
When the social structure of a country changes, so does the struggle for power among different social groups. One important outcome in contemporary American politics is an “extremist” group known for “ANTIFA politics” (more in the “blue states” than in the “red states”) with its “anti-fascist” and “anti-racist” ideological orientation on the “Far Left” (with messages like “Cancel Culture attacks on the white-male Founding Fathers,” “reparations for slavery,” “defunding the police,” etc.).
To put things into a proper perspective, many “moderates” and “independents” do not identify themselves with “ANTIFA politics” for a good reason, as the latter is “extremist” in demanding nothing less than a radical “egalitarian” change of society and culture across the board for minorities and women, on the basis of “anarchism,” “communism,” and “socialism,” as the term “antifa” is often represented by the logo with the two “anarchist” and “communist” flags.
Historically, “ANTIFA politics” in America gained popularity during the Trump administration as a reaction to “MAGA politics,” another “extremist” group, this time, on the opposite end of the political spectrum, namely, the “Far Right.” When two extremist groups on opposing sides clash, the fight cannot be anything like a romantic dinner between two lovers; on the contrary, things can easily turn ugly and violent. So, what is “MAGA politics”?
The second fundamental change of social structure in the 21st century is the decline of American dominance in global relations (with the rise of China as the dominant superpower), which has radicalized the “wishful” (“nostalgic”) call to “make America great again.” Of course, there can be other causes of MAGA politics, but this essay focuses on social structure in the 21st century. Consider a few important statistics on global social structure below.
In 2014, China overtook the U.S. as the largest economy in the world (GDP in purchasing power parity), and by 2020, China’s GDP (PPP) already reached 25.36 trillion dollars, whereas the U.S. took the 2nd place with 19.49 trillion dollars. In 2018, China surpassed the U.S. and became the world’s top trading partner (in 128 of 190 countries), as calculated by the IMF. In 2020, China had the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves (with 3.4 trillion dollars), whereas the U.S. had the mind-boggling total debt of 30.49 trillion dollars in 2022, so this means that China is now the world’s leading creditor and that the U.S. is the world’s largest debtor.
In 2021, China was the world’s top manufacturing powerhouse (with a 30% share of global manufacturing output, followed by the U.S. with a 16.6% share), according to the UN Statistics Division. In 2020, China had the world’s largest navy (with 355 ships), followed by the U.S. with 293. In 2019, China knocked the U.S. off the top spot by being the world's top international patent filer in the PCT ranking (as a measure of “scientific innovation”) and “is already” (not “will be”) the world’s science and technology powerhouse.
When the global social structure changes, so does the struggle for dominance among different nation-states or power blocs. One important outcome in contemporary American politics is an “extremist” group known for “MAGA politics” (during the Trump administration), which means “Make America Great Again.”
To put things into a proper perspective, many “moderates” and “independents” do not identify themselves with “MAGA politics” for a good reason, as the latter is “extremist” in demanding nothing less than a radical “inegalitarian” change of society and culture across the board, as about 90% of MAGA supporters are Republicans.
MAGA supporters are quick to blame China for the decline of America abroad and feel threatened at home by the growing demand for rights and entitlements by minorities, feminists, and immigrants, especially in those “red states” (with a higher rate of poverty and a decline of agricultural and manufacturing jobs), so they favor the “Great Wall of America” to stop immigration, “decoupling from China” to evade competition, an “ultra-conservative Supreme Court” to strike down liberal laws like Roe vs. Wade, and so on).
What then is the future of these two groups of “extremist populism” in contemporary American politics? On the negative side, their historical impact is limited and temporal, because their solutions are “extremist” (meaning that they are “impractical” and “unreasonable”), so they cannot last long in history. But on the positive side, their populism endures as long as the American political system is still painfully adjusting to the two fundamental changes of social structure in the 21st century (i.e., the decline of white-male dominance and the decline of American dominance), so they will continue to draw attention from crowds everywhere.
So now, a more challenging question is, What constitutes a “practical” and “reasonable” solution to the grievances loudly spoken of by both MAGA and ANTIFA supporters, even if their “extremist” solutions will not last long in history? A good answer is what I already originally proposed long ago as “post-capitalism,” “post-democracy,” “post-civilization,” and other visions on how to resolve the fundamental dilemmas about “freedom” and “equality” in their multifaceted interactions which have thrown society and culture around the world so much into turmoil since the modern era.
These visions of mine were long ago explained in detail in the 2-volume work “The Future of Human Civilization” (1999), “The Future of Capitalism and Democracy” (2002), the 2-volume work “Beyond Democracy to Post-Democracy” (2004), “Beyond Capitalism to Post-Capitalism” (2005), “Beyond Civilization to Post-Civilization” (2006), and “Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order” (2007).
Visions, by definition, are untimely (or ahead of their time), until one day when social structure changes for their long-awaited relevance to historical transformation.
About the author:
Dr. Peter Baofu is an American visionary and author of 176 scholarly books and numerous articles (as of June 2022) to provide 142 visions (theories) of the human future in relation to the mind, nature, society, and culture -- and had been in 120 countries around the world (as of July 2022) for his global research on humanity. He was interviewed on television and radio as well as by newspapers around the world about his original ideas and visions of the human future. He was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in the Far East and had taught as a professor at different universities in Western Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Balkans, Central Asia, South Asia, North America, and Southeast Asia. He received more than 5 academic degrees, including a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), was a summa cum laude graduate, and was awarded the Delta Sigma Pi Scholarship Key for being at the top of the class in the College of Business Administration, with another student.
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