3. The structural causes and politics of discontent

In five years, everything can change in Russia but in two hundred – nothing. (Aleksievich, 2016[1])

Chapter 2 identifies the insecurities, grievances and frustrations that provide the spark for discontent. However, it does not tell the whole story: as the example of Chile demonstrates (much as the Arab Spring did a decade earlier), unrest is not restricted to countries that are experiencing the most obvious difficulties. Nor do the macroeconomic trends analysed in Chapter 1 explain discontent in and of themselves. Discontent is a psychological and sociological phenomenon with important political implications: its proximate causes need to be examined within the broader social and political context, with which they inevitably interact.

These structural factors, which were in evidence during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, generate discontent of a different form, often originating more from dissatisfaction with the state of society than with a particular government. Questions of social cohesion, trust, identity and culture come to the fore; so too do matters of power and social justice. By drawing attention to these issues – infinitely complex though they are – this chapter demonstrates that responses to discontent that focus on the contingent causes without addressing social fractures and weaknesses in political systems will not provide a lasting solution.

This approach acknowledges that the specificities of a society are key to explaining the emergence of discontent but argues that many of the structural challenges that societies face today are common across countries and regions, consistent with a growing economic, social, cultural and, of course, technological interconnectedness. So while every unhappy country is unhappy in its own way, this does not rule out the existence of generalised discontent. Indeed, as Chapter 5 explains, these links are increasingly bringing civil society together across the world in protest.

How can you expect a man who is warm to understand a man who is cold? (Solzhenitsyn, 1963[2])

This chapter begins by addressing the question of inequality, which provides a bridge between the contingent and structural causes of discontent. Inequality is often cited as the driving force behind discontent, yet it embodies many of the complexities inherent to diagnosing and alleviating discontent. After all, inequality has been a feature of human social structures (and those of other species) for millennia: it has been tolerated in various forms by many successful (and peaceful) societies. Indeed, many people today are culturally disposed to approve of inequality – to perceive it as morally right – when it reflects just deserts for talent and hard work in a meritocratic society. Attitudes are likely it be highly contextual: Alesina and Giuliano stress the importance of “[historical] experiences, cultural factors and personal history as determinants of preferences for equality or tolerance for inequality” around the world (2011[3]).

To demonstrate the complexities of inequality, this section first considers the definitional challenges it poses then examines the phenomenon not only in economic terms but also from a psychological and sociological perspective. It contends that relative deprivation provides the link between inequality and discontent before discussing the interaction between absolute and relative inequality. Moreover, relative deprivation helps to explain the prevalence of protests among middle-income countries or the middle classes identified in the previous chapter: the concept not only captures people’s frustration at the advancement and advantages of others but also the frustration that emerges when people’s expectations are unfulfilled or their progress impeded.

Inequality is one of the defining economic challenges of our time. As the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs argues, it is not a megatrend itself but is inseparable from globalisation, climate change, digitalisation, urbanisation and migration (UNDESA, 2020[4]). It is also often cited as a critical factor behind discontent. Yagci, for example, shows that the occurrence and scale of protests linked to the Occupy movement around the world in the early 2010s were positively correlated with a country’s level of inequality (2017[5]). Yet inequality is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that can be understood and measured in many ways. It also falls under the purview of many different disciplines – from biology and anthropology to psychology and sociology, through to philosophy, political science and economics.

The first question to clarify when examining the link between inequality and discontent relates to the type of inequality. This report argues that income inequality should be considered alongside economic and social inequality more broadly, and that these in turn should be analysed in conjunction with political inequality. This approach echoes Sen’s lecture famously titled Equality of What?, which underlines the importance of examining individuals’ “basic capabilities” to understand the state of inequality in a society. These capabilities extend beyond “utility or primary goods” to “the ability to do certain basic things”, including “the ability to meet one’s nutritional requirements, the wherewithal to be clothed and sheltered, the power to participate in the social life of the community” (1979[6]).

In this context, focusing on income and wealth provides only a limited understanding of inequality. This is especially so when the measures used to analyse inequalities of income and wealth might not capture a society’s experience of these inequalities. Piketty argues that Gini coefficient for national income inequality shown in Chapter 1 (and widely used to analyse income inequality elsewhere) is not very intuitive (2014[7]). To capture the gulf between the haves and the have-nots (or the haves and the have-mores), he argues that it makes more sense to calculate inequality according to the proportion of income or wealth that accrues to different income groups, be it the top 1%, top 5% or top 50%.

Nonetheless, income inequality is widely shown to be negatively correlated with a range of well-being indicators. Oishi, Kesebir and Diener demonstrate how individual happiness in the United States fluctuated between 1972 and 2008 according to changes in income inequality (2011[8]), with the former declining as the latter increased, while Twenge, Campbell and Carter use similar data to show that interpersonal trust and trust in institutions are inversely correlated with income inequality (2014[9]). Yang and Xin record similar results for the People’s Republic of China (hereafter “China”) (2020[10]). Buttrick, Heintzelman and Oishi explain the specific psychological channels through which income inequality negatively affects well-being with reference to its impact on status competition, mistrust and optimism (2017[11]).

Yet income inequality does not invariably lead to discontent. Various reasons have been put forward to explain this. For example, people tend to underestimate the level of inequality in their country (Hauser and Norton, 2017[12]). It might also reflect acquiescence: Jost and Hunyady show that those groups poorest served by the economic system might still support it (2003[13]). The authors find that system justification is prevalent across income groups even amid high inequality because it reduces feelings of guilt, anxiety and uncertainty among rich and poor alike. In related work, Mijs argues that income inequality is tolerated because gains in income are considered fair reward for ambition and effort (2019[14]). The author also finds that people in advanced economies were more likely to believe their society to be meritocratic in 2012 than in the 1980s, even where income inequality rose over that period.

Under what circumstances does inequality lead to discontent? To answer this question, it is necessary to broaden both the unit of analysis and the temporal frame of reference. Our contention that discontent is a collective phenomenon means looking at inequality between groups rather than individuals; the argument that it is inspired by frustrated expectations or promises unkept means looking both backwards and into the future rather than staying in the present. The concept of relative deprivation is central to this broader analysis: it captures not only the sense of injustice people may feel when they see another group enjoying a better standard of living than themselves but also the dissatisfaction people experience when their lives have not turned out as they had hoped (a tendency Chapter 2 uncovers in every region).

Relative deprivation theory dates back to the 1940s and was highly influential in social studies. Relative deprivation has been proposed, for example, as the reason that average happiness did not rise in the post-war United States despite significant increases in gross domestic product per capita (Easterlin, 1974[15]). However, it was particularly prominent in the context of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s (Smith and Pettigrew, 2015[16]). Gurr brought the concept into political science, highlighting the importance of frustrated expectations in understanding civil unrest (1970[17]).

Runciman distinguished between relative deprivation felt by individuals and by groups: relative deprivation among individuals (which he termed “egoistic”) was likely to inspire introspective attitudes and self-serving behaviour; relative deprivation at a group level (which he termed “fraternal”) was apt to inspire collective action and diminish trust across population groups (1966[18]). While both forms are relevant to this report, fraternal relative deprivation is more useful for understanding how inequality might drive the increase in civil unrest visible over the past decade or so.

With reference to civil unrest in some 100 countries, Siroky et al. find that relative deprivation (which they describe as predominantly “psychological”) is a much better predictor of inter-group conflict than horizontal inequality (“structural and largely material”).

[Policy] makers may need to be more attentive to perceptions that groups have of being deprived, rather than relying solely on socioeconomic indicators of inequality, to identify groups that may be motivated to engage in violent collective action. While the results indicate that there is a clear need to unpack grievances, they equally imply a need to keep an eye on the groups’ relative capacity to mobilize. (2020[19])

Must and Rustad explore relative deprivation with reference to the Mtwara and Lindi regions in Tanzania, which have been marginalised from the country’s post-independence development but were promised by the government that the discovery of natural gas in the area would kick-start their economy (2019[20]). Riots broke out in the hitherto peaceful regions in 2012 and 2013 amid accusations that the national government had broken its promises. In explaining why the population mobilised then and not before, the authors argue that “objective group inequality is not sufficient to fuel unrest. Structural inequalities need to be perceived as unfair, and become grievances, in order to spark mobilization.” They conclude that “conflict studies should start to gauge perceptions and judgements, and how these are formed, in order to better determine when and how horizontal inequalities lead to mobilization.” They also find that individual inequality is not associated with the decision to mobilise, underlining the importance of group perceptions.

Hirschman’s famous account of the “tunnel effect” applies the complexities of relative deprivation and frustrated expectations to explain “development disasters” – instances where a country has achieved some success in developing but has suddenly undergone a swift reversal involving large-scale civilian unrest (1973[21]). He employs the metaphor of traffic in a tunnel: citizens are in one lane or another trying to pass through the tunnel, and one group might see the cars in the adjacent lane moving faster than themselves. For a while, they tolerate and even welcome this inequality in the expectation it will soon be their turn to advance; the longer it takes for this opportunity to materialise, the greater their irritation will grow. At the same time, those who have moved initially might now find their progress blocked by some or other unforeseen impediment to their fulfilling their expectations. In this situation, both groups have cause to protest against the status quo.

Social mobility (or lack thereof) is key. Groups might tolerate inequality if there are reasonable prospects of advancing but cease to do so when these prospects disappear and the system comes to be perceived as unfair (Rodrik, 2017[22]). As Becker shows, people’s attitudes towards income inequality change over time but their belief in the importance of equality of opportunity is constant (2021[23]). Using data gathered from more than 100 countries, Houle finds that countries with low levels of social mobility are “more likely to experience riots, strikes, demonstrations, political assassinations, guerrillas, and revolutions”, and that social mobility (or lack thereof) might be a more reliable predictor of unrest than inequality (2019[24]).

Promoting social mobility requires more than enhancing economic opportunity. Returning to Sen’s capability approach, people’s capacity to lead a fulfilling life is also determined by social, political and environmental factors. If structural limitations to social mobility are not acknowledged and addressed, a situation might arise whereby inequality is justified in terms of an illusory meritocracy in which elites see their status as due reward of their hard work and talent, while the precariat have only themselves to blame for their vulnerability and diminished prospects. This state of affairs is likely to further polarise society, generate resentment across a population and weaken democracy (Lasch, 1995[25]), (Sandel, 2020[26]).

The notion of relative deprivation, whether viewed in subjective or objective terms, is complicated by the fact that individuals have multiple group identities, relating (for example) to their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, economic status or political orientation. The complex and interlocking power dynamics that exist between various identities, commonly referred to as intersectionality, should be borne in mind when examining how a particular group is socially privileged or discriminated against (Overstreet, Rosenthal and Case, 2020[27]). It is also relevant when assessing whether and how broad coalitions might emerge in response to a particular grievance (Ayoub, 2019[28]).

These people aren’t starving; they’re being starved. (ICVA, 2021[29])

While relative deprivation helps explain the conditions and mechanisms whereby inequality leads to unrest, it does not necessarily tell us about the relationship between poverty – or absolute deprivation – and discontent. Chapter 2 shows that large proportions of the global population are not able to get by on a daily basis, a phenomenon it identifies as a contingent cause of discontent. However, poverty is also a structural phenomenon: self-reinforcing traps that prevent people escaping poverty might relate to the structure of the economy, regional factors or the impact of poverty on people’s belief that change is possible or their cognitive capacity (Mani et al., 2013[30]).

The sharp increase in global poverty caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic makes this an important time to consider the link between absolute deprivation and unrest. More specifically, the report focuses on food insecurity, which was worsening even before the pandemic; at the time of writing, some 34 million people around the world are on the brink of famine, and acute hunger is expected to soar in 20 countries (Hengel, 2021[31]). Periodic spikes in food prices over the last two decades represent a simultaneous, macro-level shock to people’s purchasing power, which most affected the people with the lowest incomes. In his study of unrest in Africa, Smith finds “convincing evidence of a causal relationship between changes in domestic food prices and the probability of unrest” (2014[32]). Abbs finds strong evidence that spikes in food prices increase the likelihood of protests and that these protests attract broad-based coalitions (2020[33]).

Newman explores the complex links between food prices and political instability in 79 countries where food protests or riots took place between 2005 and 2015 (2020[34]). While taking into account whether countries’ political environment was conducive to protests, the study finds evidence that absolute deprivation was indeed a factor. The frequency of unrest was negatively correlated with a country’s level of human development, social protection coverage and state capacity; unrest was more common in societies that were food insecure and where people spent a high proportion of their income on food. However, the study also reveals that unrest was not “disproportionately concentrated in the lowest income countries” or “in the societies with the highest levels of undernourishment”. It also shows that unrest tended to take place in “urban settings…and not necessarily in the poorest societies” and that “most events occurred in societies experiencing improvements in human development prior to the onset of food riots”.

Newman concludes by arguing that food riots are “an expression of broader frustrations in societies prone to contentious politics related to other social and political issues”: “food-related unrest is associated with partial democracy, social inequalities, and state fragility, key drivers of contentious politics more broadly.” The idea that food riots are “not necessarily about hunger” echoes Smith’s conclusion: “[to] think that food riots are simply about food is a dangerous reduction. Such a view could easily lead one to focus on controlling the cost of food while ignoring political or social injustices. But it is equally blind to ignore the possibility that the cost of food can be a driver of unrest that manifests in other ways or is directed at targets seemingly unrelated to the food system” (2014[32]).

As this section demonstrates, the relationship between poverty and inequality on the one hand and unrest on the other is highly complex. An important lesson for policy makers is that objective data on poverty and inequality (especially when narrowly defined in terms of people’s income) do not capture the subjective perceptions that are the principal driver of discontent. Nor do they reflect people’s tendency to assess their quality of life with reference to that of other people, against their own rights and expectations, or against what they perceive to be fair and just. Last, focusing on income or even economic factors more broadly does not capture the power inequalities that perpetuate poverty and inequality. As Box 3.1 illustrates with reference to gender inequality, discrimination cuts across all areas of life and has often worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the discussion of inequality shows, it is not possible to draw a straight line from the grievances identified in Chapter 2 to discontent. Discontent is an emotional state, so it is necessary to analyse the psychological impact of these grievances; it is also a collective phenomenon, which means a sociological lens is needed. People’s decisions as to whether and how they express their discontent reflects not only mental calculations but also their emotional state and the extent to which they identify with the other people involved (Stürmer and Simon, 2009[42]), (van Troost, van Stekelenburg and Klandermans, 2013[43]). Moreover, their attitudes and behaviour are strongly influenced by cultural factors, which in turn reflect the history and beliefs of their society. This report argues that discontent emerges from the interaction of these structural factors with the aforementioned contingent factors.

While these structural factors are highly contextual, this section contends that certain commonalities exist across countries and regions, which it links to the social fragmentation associated with development and modernisation. To make this case, it shows evidence of weakening social networks, declining interpersonal trust and worsening anomie, and it examines clashes between values (the so-called “culture wars”). In doing so, it touches on some of the megatrends discussed in the previous edition of Perspectives on Global Development (OECD, 2018[44]) that are changing the structures of society globally: migration, climate change and demographics. Another megatrend – digital technology – is dealt with at the end of this chapter.

We thought we could do without tribes and clans. Well, we can't. (Vonnegut, 1981[45])

Sociologists have long examined the impact of modernisation on the health of societies. By affecting our fundamental perceptions of space and time, modernisation is a catalyst for fundamental changes in our activities and social relations (Harvey, 1990[46]). Changes in the way we live and work break the close bonds of family and small communities; if modern life is to be tolerable, these bonds must be replaced by links of trust, reciprocity and solidarity with fellow workers or city dwellers, for example. If not, the individual’s well-being suffers. So too, argued Durkheim, would the entire country, which would become a “sociological monster” unless “between the state and the individual, there is interlaced a whole series of secondary groups near enough to the individuals to attract them strongly in their sphere of action and drag them, in this way, into the general torrent of social life” (1893[47]).

In explaining the health of democracy in the United States in the 19th century, Tocqueville emphasised the importance and breadth of associations, also known as secondary institutions.

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small…Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science to the most objects. (1960 [1835][48])

This idea has retained currency: some 150 years after Tocqueville was writing, Putnam attributed the decline of democracy in the United States to the demise of these associations (1995[49]).

Support networks are weakening in many parts of the world. The proportion of people globally who felt that they could count on the support of friends and family in times of need fell slightly from 79% to 78% between 2006 and 2018. This average covers considerable regional variation, with increases in East Asia, post-Soviet Eurasia and Southeast Asia offsetting a five percentage point fall in the Middle East and North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa and a three percentage point fall in Latin America and South Asia. Across all regions, individuals from the lowest income quintile are substantially less likely to feel that they have support from friends and family than peers with higher incomes (Figure 3.1). The disparity is particularly pronounced in East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia.

The secondary institutions that temper the impact of modernisation at a collective level are also weakening. This tendency not only exacerbates citizens’ feelings of isolation but also contributes to the weakening of citizens’ voices. It is generally not feasible for citizens to communicate directly with the state. They are better able to communicate their interests via institutions that serve as interlocutors between society and state, as well as provide citizens with a group identity.

Union membership is low across the developing world and has declined in countries at all income levels. In 1975, 33% of workers were members of trade unions in OECD countries, but that rate had halved to 16% by 2018. This decline was accompanied by a decline in the proportion of workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement, from 46% in 1985 to 32% in 2017 (OECD, 2019[51]). The rate of union membership in the public sector in OECD countries is around three times higher than in the private sector. Across all sectors, union membership is extremely low among low-skill workers, the young and those on part-time contracts (OECD, 2019[51]). There are thought to be many factors behind this decline, including changes to the structure of output (away from manufacturing, towards the service sector), the competitive pressures of globalisation and the growing prevalence of non-standard work contracts.

Time series data for union membership in developing countries are rare, but in countries for which data are available – and using the most recent data since 2010 – average rates of unionisation in non-OECD Americas, non-OECD Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are 15.4%, 16.0% and 15.8%, respectively (ILO, 2020[52]). Of those countries that also have data since the early 2000s, more than half have seen falling rates of unionisation. China is an example of a country where union membership has risen strongly in recent years.

Membership of political parties has also declined. Van Biezen, Mair and Poguntke demonstrate that membership of political parties declined in all but 4 of 27 European countries between the late 1990s and the end of the first decade of this century, by which time just under 5% of the electorate belonged to a political party (2012[53]). According to Katz et al., albeit using a smaller sample of European countries, average membership of political parties stood at almost 15% of the electorate in 1960 (1992[54]). There has also been a change in the nature of party membership: party members are nowadays more likely also to have a link to the public sector or state service. As a consequence, parties are becoming less representative of (and less connected to) civil society and more akin to “the outer ring of an extended political class”, with ever-weaker links to the grassroots level (Van Biezen, Mair and Poguntke, 2012[53]). Similar declines have been identified elsewhere around the world, although the United States is very much an outlier in this regard, since voting rights are closely linked to party affiliation (Whiteley, 2011[55]).

Trends in civic engagement outside the workplace vary by region. According to the Gallup World Poll 2019, individuals’ willingness to volunteer time in their communities fell between 2006 and 2018 in East Asia (-14 percentage points), Latin America (-5 percentage points) and South and Southeast Asia (-2 percentage points) but rose in the former Soviet Union (+9 percentage points) and sub-Saharan Africa (+5 percentage points) (2019[50]). Across all regions, civic engagement is lowest among the lower-income quintiles; globally, an average just 28% of those in their country’s lowest income quintile are able and willing to volunteer time in the community.

Religion remains an important part of the daily lives of people in developing countries and thus plays a prominent role in fostering identity and solidarity within groups. Some 47% of people in OECD countries said that religion was important to them in 2018 (Gallup, 2019[50]). In the United States, church membership has fallen by more than 20 percentage points in just over two decades: 47% of Americans said that they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque in 2020 versus 70% in 1999 (Jones, 2021[56]). More than 90% of people in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and more than 80% in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia said that religion was important to them in 2018. East Asia is an exception; just 20% of respondents ranked religion as important (Gallup, 2019[50]).

Trust in leaders outside government remains significantly higher than trust in politicians in many parts of the developing world. Across Africa, 48% of people professed to having a lot of trust in religious leaders between 2016-18, compared to 35% for both traditional leaders and the president. Logan and Katenda find that trust in traditional leaders has subsequently increased while trust in elected leaders has declined (2021[57]). According to the authors, citizens perceive traditional leaders as having a positive impact on democracy and as bringing development to their communities but are strongly opposed to traditional leaders playing a more active political role. In Latin America, 37% of respondents had a lot of confidence in the church in 2018 while only 6% had a lot of confidence in the national government (Figure 3.2).

Interpersonal trust is a fundamental indicator of social cohesion, an essential ingredient of social capital and critical for collective action. Defined as the extent to which individuals feel that people from outside their immediate circle of family and friends can generally be trusted, it tends to be very low across developing countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the Afrobarometer, 15% of people thought that others could be trusted in 2011, down from 18% in 2000 (2016[58]). The Latinobarómetro indicates that interpersonal trust increased from 15% to 21% between 2000 and 2011 but fell to 14% in 2018 (2018[59]). Interpersonal trust seems to be somewhat higher in Asia; the Asiabarometer indicates that it rose from 28% to 33% between 2002 and 2006 and then stayed more or less the same until the latest available data in 2015 (Inoguchi, 2016[60]).

Regional averages hide considerable country-level variation in interpersonal trust. Countries within the same region seem to have been on different trajectories since the early 2000s (Figure 3.3). Perhaps most striking, however, is that levels of interpersonal trust tend to be very low in developing countries; in no country outside of Asia do more than 25% of people think that others can generally be trusted. Trust is also low in many advanced economies. Pew Research Centre notes that 71% of Americans feel that inter-personal trust has declined in the past 20 years, with half of respondents thinking people are less reliable than they used to be (2019[61]). There is considerable heterogeneity within Europe (Ortiz-Ospina and Roser, 2016[62]).

Levels of interpersonal trust vary by demographic group but the absolute level of trust is low across almost all groups. Across Africa, for example, 34% of those with only informal schooling thought that others could generally be trusted in 2011, compared to just 13% of those who had completed secondary school (Afrobarometer, 2016[58]). In Latin America, 13% of those aged 15 to 25 thought that others could be trusted in 2018, compared to 18% of those aged 61 or over.

The determinants of interpersonal trust are a complex combination of social preferences, expectations and intrinsic motivations (Murtin et al., 2018[63]). It is nonetheless clear that the functioning of social, economic and political systems relies to some extent on people’s capacity to trust others; these systems are weaker where trust is weaker. At the same time, trust among actors within a society can be earned and trust can be generated by repeated positive interactions.

Rising stress levels underline the importance of support networks. The proportion of people who experienced stress rose across all regions between 2006 and 2018 (Figure 3.4). The highest increases were in Latin America (+9 percentage points), the Middle East and North Africa (+7 percentage points) and sub-Saharan Africa (+14 percentage points). An index of negative experiences on the day before the interview tells a similar story; the incidence of negative experiences increased everywhere except post-Soviet Eurasia and East, Central and Southeast Europe. This increase in negative experiences was particularly marked in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As this chapter explains later on, virtual networks are expanding fast but are a poor substitute for real-life interactions and not necessarily conducive to social cohesion or trust in government.

Isolation, declining interpersonal trust and economic marginalisation are widely considered to be defining characteristics of “anomie". Anomie is applied at a societal level to describe the fractures or malaise that occur when social regulation breaks down or when a large body of people lack the (legal) means to achieve goals that society considers to be desirable. The term is also applied to describe an individual’s state of mind and is associated with isolation, frustration and stress (Teymoori et al., 2016[64]). In both cases, anomie is linked to eras of change (be it political or economic) and has a profound impact on social cohesion and individual well-being; it lies at the heart of the “deaths of despair” that, according to Case and Deaton, expose the social cost of modern capitalism, especially for the economically disadvantaged (2020[65]). Anomie is thus an important input to discussions about discontent, not least because a popular movement might bring together individuals who had previously felt isolated and disconnected from society, for better or for worse (Kornhauser, 1959[66]).

Anomie is a structural phenomenon; it is not attributable to a particular policy, and no single institution is to blame for its emergence. At a societal level, it underscores the need for a broad range of policies to promote cohesion, inclusion, equality and voice. Reconciling societies structured around mass consumption with the urgent demands of environmental sustainability is emerging as a critical challenge. Anomie points to the need for significant investment in mental health services. More broadly, it underlines the point that individuals invariably view their own success not only with reference to that of others but also to what society as a whole expects; in a changing, unequal and increasingly interconnected world, the latter can be extremely difficult to identify and a source of discord in itself.

The third component of this structural analysis focuses on the relationship between culture and values. When analysing the drivers of discontent discussed so far in this chapter, it is important to bear in mind that their impact in societies will vary according to the attitudes of that society (or sub-group thereof). As Inglehart and Welzel demonstrated, values vary across both space and time (2010[67]): it is therefore impossible either to predict how a particular phenomenon will affect a society or to propose a single set of policies that will mitigate its impact.

According to Inglehart and Welzel (2010[67]), societies fit on two major dimensions of cross-cultural variation:

  • Traditional versus secular-rational values: traditional societies favour family values, deference to authority and national pride, while secular-rational societies are more likely to be accepting of divorce, abortion and euthanasia.

  • Survival versus self-expression values: societies exhibiting survival values put considerable stress on economic and physical security, while societies favouring self-expression values are likely to focus more on environmental protection, gender equality and political and economic participation.

The “map” from Inglehart and Welzel, which locates countries at different levels of development according to the prevailing values, demonstrates clear regional trends that reflect cultural and economic factors. Populations in less developed economies tend to exhibit traditional and survival values, while people in more developed economies are more likely to exhibit secular-rational and self-expression values. The authors also note that certain values, notably self-expression, are more conducive to democracy and an active civil society than others. However, there is considerable variation between and within countries. A number of Latin American countries, for example, exhibit values that are considerably more traditional than their level of development might suggest. Moreover, values within the same society will often vary by age group, place of residence and occupation.

A study of religious attitudes conducted in more than 100 countries by the Pew Research Center, for example, shows that young adults (aged 18 to 39) in almost every country are less religious than those who are older; the gaps are largest among Christian populations in the Americas and Europe (2018[68]). Jones points out that political differences are interacting with religious differences in the United States to heighten intergenerational divides (2021[56]).

The relationship between income and values highlights the consequences of economic inequality for social cohesion. A high degree of inequality can narrow the scope for consensus within a society: if groups within a society (or indeed globally) experience different economic trajectories – increases versus decreases in income, security versus vulnerability of economic status – their values are likely to diverge. This will not only exacerbate polarisation, but it might also lead to a divergence in how inequality might best be addressed: groups will display different attitudes not only regarding policies but also processes. Where vulnerability begets conservatism, support for radical change and collective action might wane, jeopardising structural reforms intended to lessen the vulnerability. This polarisation is magnified considerably if one or more groups feel that they do not receive the recognition they deserve, leading to what is colloquially termed a culture war. As the next section discusses, such conflicts are muddying ideological waters.

Differences in values have a profound impact on support for public policies. As Algan et al. show, attitudes towards the desired level of redistribution in France vary significantly across groups at a similar income level according to variables such as level of education and religious beliefs; moreover, individuals at opposite ends of the income distribution and the ideological spectrum can have similar attitudes towards redistribution (2019[69]). The authors also show that interpersonal trust is closely linked to people’s outlook towards major public policy issues, such as climate change and migration: individuals who are less trusting of others are less likely to accept migrants or support policies to address climate change.

Attitudes towards migration vary greatly across regions and income groups. Survey data indicated that individuals from the lower income quintiles were less likely to be accepting of migration in all regions in 2016 (Figure 3.5A). However, there are indications that national income is negatively correlated with acceptance of migrants: respondents in Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa are more accepting of migrants than those in OECD countries. This is likely in part to reflect a perception of respondents in OECD countries that they are the principal destination of migrants from countries in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Attitudes towards climate change also vary globally. Respondents in Asian economies are much more likely to believe that enough is being done to preserve the environment than those in other regions (Figure 3.5B). In Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa, the proportion of respondents who feel that enough is being done tends to decline with income, while in OECD countries (many of which are among the largest carbon emitters), attitudes do not vary much by income: close to half the population at each income level believe enough is being done. Kahan notes a “striking convergence” between perceptions of global warming and political outlooks, with individuals on the political right much less likely to believe in the phenomenon (2015[70]). He detects a strong cultural divergence between those who believe in the science on climate change and those who do not, which will not be easily shifted by public information campaigns, concluding, “whether people ‘believe in’ climate change, like whether they ‘believe in’ evolution, expresses who they are.”

In the cases of both migration and climate change, varying tolerance for different policies across groups means it will be challenging to gain consensus on the appropriate policy response either at a national or international level. Put simply, “best practice” on these issues will never be considered optimal by everyone. Even achieving consensus about the need to do anything at all might be difficult. The Pew Research Center shows that supporters of the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States agree on the extent to which migration policy is a priority for the government (Pew Research Center, 2021[71]). However, the two parties are far apart on whether or not the administration should act on climate change: only 14% of Republicans believe climate change should be a top priority versus 59% of Democrats.

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis and the public policies implemented to control the pandemic, the level of trust in government is particularly important. So too is trust in scientists, on whose guidance many of these policies were implemented. In most countries, only one in three people professed to have “a lot” of trust in scientists in their country in 2018 (Figure 3.6). The experience of the pandemic (and variable support for different public policy responses) is almost certain to affect these attitudes. It is notable that trust in governments rose in the initial months of the outbreak (between January and May 2020) but by January 2021 had reverted to the pre-pandemic level (Edelman, 2021[72]). The same survey showed scientists to be the most trusted group, although trust in scientists declined by seven percentage points from the previous year.

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis and the public policies implemented to control the pandemic, the level of trust in government is particularly important. So too is trust in scientists, on whose guidance many of these policies were implemented. In most countries, only one in three people professed to have “a lot” of trust in scientists in their country in 2018 (F). The experience of the pandemic (and variable support for different public policy responses) is almost certain to affect these attitudes. It is notable that trust in governments rose in the initial months of the outbreak (between January and May 2020) but by January 2021 had reverted to the pre-pandemic level (Edelman, 2021[72]). The same survey showed scientists to be the most trusted group, although trust in scientists declined by seven percentage points from the previous year.

Elgar, Stefaniak and Wohl analyse the relationship between different forms of trust and COVID-19 mortality in 84 countries (2020[73]). They find that mortality was negatively associated with confidence in institutions but positively correlated with social trust, a finding they suggest might be linked to behavioural contagion and non-adherence to social distancing regulations among closely-knit groups. The authors also find mortality to be positively correlated with inequality and negatively correlated with civic engagement. These conclusions suggest social capital (discussed in greater detail in Chapter 4) has played an ambiguous role during the pandemic.

A survey produced by Edelman in May 2021 showed that the pandemic has changed attitudes on issues that extend beyond public health or confidence in the government. Some 24% of respondents from 14 countries said that the pandemic had made them believe that climate change needs to be taken more seriously while 34% said it had made them believe that they are in the midst of an information crisis and 28% that their country is too reliant on products from other countries (2021[74]).

The rise of discontent reflects a political failure. It can also have profound consequences for national politics and international relations. The rise of ethno-nationalist and so-called populist movements, particularly in advanced economies, reflects this failure but is unlikely to address its underlying causes. This section examines how some of the trends identified in the first two chapters have affected politics, explores the growing tendency of political systems to aggravate rather than assuage discontent, and investigates the negative impact of polarised and exclusive political systems on inequality, social cohesion and efforts to improve lives.

The report’s interest in politics concerns its role in resolving contestation and fostering co-operation among groups in a society. This entails a perpetual search for compromise regarding who sets the rules that govern society and, as such, a continual tussle for power. An integral part of these power dynamics relates to the distribution of scarce resources: the question of “who gets what, how?” posed by Lasswell (1936[75]). Politics is both a contingent and a structural factor behind discontent: it changes day by day, but the power relations that lie beneath are well established and play a key role in determining political outcomes. The political parties whose rivalry provides the most visible manifestation of these power struggles are not the only component of political life but will nonetheless be the focus of this section.

As discussed in Chapter 2, lack of voice and an absence of representation are fundamental to discontent. Citizens are less likely to vote when they do not see their interests or their outlook represented by a political party, which in turn also diminishes their trust in institutions and their confidence in democracy (in a broad sense). They take to the streets to make their grievances heard because they lack alternative mechanisms. Where a political system excludes a large and (in many places) growing proportion of the population, it will not be able to fulfil its function of reconciling differences and fostering co-operation across society; social cohesion will weaken further as a result. Nor, at a structural level, will it enable a fairer redistribution of power and resources, which will in turn undermine efforts to reduce inequality.

These phenomena imply a loss of consent among civil society towards the state and the prevailing political, economic and ideational power structures. According to Gramsci, loss of consent thus opens the way towards new ways of organising society and implies that government authority is based no longer on leadership but instead on dominance, a weaker foundation (1971[76]). This situation does not necessarily result in revolution but does generate what he describes as “morbid symptoms” – a term that resonates with the discontent visible today.

Their discontent led nowhere, because, being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice. (Orwell, 1949[77])

The structural changes in the global economy outlined in Chapter 1 have had profound political consequences. In advanced economies, shifts in production and new forms of work organisation have contributed to a fragmentation of political identities that had coalesced into the left- and right-wing blocs that defined politics in the 20th century. As political landscapes fragment, “party identification has weakened and party membership has declined” (Foa and Mounk, 2016[78]). While they might initially have benefited from weakening of political ideologies, centrist parties are now suffering: support for social democratic parties in Europe has declined significantly during the 2000s (Zur, 2021[79]).

As fundamental questions of how to organise the economy – particularly the role of the state therein – became less important, the perceived performance of the economy in the hands of a particular party has become increasingly important in determining their electoral success. In this context, voters have proven more likely to change parties as they feel less loyalty to a particular movement. Crouch contends that “[voting] has become an experience closer to consumer activity, responding to advertising, rather than the expression of deeply felt social solidarities” (2020[80]).

Focusing on recent experiences in Latin America, Lupu attributes the collapse of around 25% of well-established political parties in the region between 1978 and 2007 to a dilution of party brands and a poor economic performance under their watch (2016[81]). As party brands dilute, their perceived competence in overseeing the economy becomes more important. Mainwaring finds that the institutionalisation of political parties in Latin America is positively correlated with governments’ economic success but not, surprisingly, with strong programmatic linkages, a strong state apparatus, ideological polarisation or partisan identification (2018[82]). The study also contends that measures of higher economic development are negatively correlated with party identification and participation in Latin America, and that party systems in the region are now converging with those in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where party institutionalisation and programmatic differentiation are limited. Barrera et al. emphasise the influence of personalist leaderships and historical cleavages over ideological divides in determining the evolution of political landscapes across the region (2021[83]).

Roberts explains the reconfiguration of political parties in Latin America with reference to economic and social realignment linked to globalisation (2014[84]). He argues that the end of import substitution models in the region represented a critical juncture for political parties. The state of the party system in a given country during the import substitution era had a profound influence on the fate of particular parties after its demise, with left-wing or populist parties suffering particular losses during the instability of the 1980s where these had previously been dominant. A country’s party-political landscape was then profoundly affected by whether it was left- or right-wing parties that led market reforms in the 1990s, which blurred traditional ideological boundaries and fractured constituencies.

As traditional ideological divides become less influential in the party-political landscape, issues associated with recognition (such as cultural identity and immigration) are becoming at least as important as the issues that previously defined the ideological divide, such as the role of the state and the degree of redistribution (Algan et al., 2019[69]). A working-class voter might thus prioritise recognition over redistribution and support a right-wing party (Häusermann, Kemmerling and Rueda, 2020[85]). In this context, ideological terms can be used to disparage political opponents even where this rivalry is not based on differing policy attitudes but on clashes of identity (Mason, 2018[86]).

There is also a professional-geographical dimension to political fragmentation. Service industries and advanced manufacturing techniques have very different geographical requirements to those of the industries predominant in the last century: firms tend to cluster in particular areas (usually primary cities), which become hubs for innovation and attract high-skilled labour from across the country. Both tendencies create large gaps between these hubs and old industrial areas, small towns or rural areas not only in terms of their productivity but also their prospects – gaps that are reflected in differing political attitudes (McQuarrie, 2017[87]; Weisskircher, 2020[88]). The decline in unionisation has compounded this process.

Chapter 1 identifies a large global constituency – characterised by its economic vulnerability and low prospects – that is likely to challenge the status quo of political systems. However, this constituency, termed the “precariat” by Standing (2011[89]), is not an organisation per se: it is characterised by marginalisation rather than being bound together by a particular identity, and it has various factions whose needs are diverse and might even be mutually exclusive. Nor does it possess a unifying ideology or a particular political agenda. This description resonates with “the masses” identified by Arendt, who sees a large group of atomised individuals as easy for totalitarian movements to exploit (1958[90]).

At the same time, the disaffected (and vulnerable) middle classes described in Chapter 2 are not bound to a particular political identity. Fromm explains how a loss of status and need for a group identity felt by the lower middle classes in Germany during the 1920s was essential to the rise of Nazism (1941[91]). The author warns that “nothing is more difficult for the average man to bear than the feeling of not being identified with a larger group….The fear of isolation and the relative weakness of moral principles help any party to win the loyalty of a large sector of the population once that party has captured the power of the state”.

In the absence of a political identity, subjective factors become increasingly important. In examining the French presidential election of 2017, Algan et al. find that supporters of the two candidates in the second and final round of voting – one a centrist, the other on the far right – were poles apart in terms of education and income (2019[69]). However, these differences did not manifest themselves in ideology – they shared similar views on redistribution, for example – but rather in subjective factors. Voters who displayed lower life satisfaction, lower interpersonal trust and felt anger more frequently were more likely to vote for the far-right candidate. The supporters of both candidates were more individualistic in outlook than the candidates from traditional left- and right-wing parties, suggesting a degree of atomisation.

The importance of subjective factors, in particular emotions, in driving political choices is having important consequences for the style of political messaging, which seeks to generate an emotional response rather than appeal to a voter’s reason. At the same time, political groups are working hard to differentiate themselves from each other linguistically and even creating rival versions of reality (Box 3.2). These tendencies make it difficult to establish a productive dialogue between opposing groups.

Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?

Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future. (Towne, 1974[98])

The inequalities emerging across a number of dimensions world wide that are documented in this report present a direct challenge to the legitimacy of political systems that might account for the growing discontent identified in this report. The equality implied by a democratic system, whereby one individual’s vote is never worth more or less than another’s, jars with the inequalities evident in many electoral democracies globally. Many countries are moving away from a situation whereby the political direction is broadly determined by the interests of the “median voter” towards a winner-takes-all politics that reinforces the advantages of an economic elite whose incomes and wealth have increased spectacularly over the past three decades (Hacker and Pierson, 2010[99]; Piketty, 2014[7]).

In this context, the term “winner-takes-all” should not be confused with first-past-the-post electoral systems, which, unlike proportional representation systems, confer considerable power on the party or politician who receives the most votes, even if they are not supported by a majority of the electorate. Rather, it is the idea that a small part of the population exercises disproportionate power over society – a sentiment that is widely held in Latin America, for example: according to Latinobarómetro, 79% of Latin American citizens believed that their country was governed in the interests of a few powerful groups in 2018, the highest level since Latinobarómetro began to collect this data in 2004 (2018[100]).

To begin this brief examination of the channels through which economic inequality interacts with politics, it is important to recognise the limitations of the median voter theory. This chapter has already shown the decline in voter turnout, a shrinking sample that makes it ever harder to identify the median voter. The fragmentation of political identities described above is also a challenge. Moreover, the approach places considerable emphasis on elections as the determinants of policy and thus risks overlooking how politics functions across the electoral cycle as a whole: citizens are constantly able to influence political decisions through a variety of channels, including (but certainly not limited to) the protests described at the start of the chapter.

At the same time, it is not possible to reject the median voter theory completely (Holcombe, 1989[101]): as Piketty demonstrates, many advanced economies significantly increased taxes and transfers to reduce inequality over the course of the 20th century, although this growth tended to level off from the 1980s onwards (2014[7]). However, Bartels finds that social spending in advanced economies, as reported by the OECD, tends to be significantly lower than it would be if policies were fully responsive to the wishes of the population as a whole, leading him to conclude that “political inequality is rampant in contemporary affluent democracies” (2017[102]). This resonates with the OECD, which reports that around 60% of respondents in 21 OECD countries believe that the government does not take their opinion into account when designing public policy, a figure which rises with age (2019[103]). Moreover, it is important also to look beyond redistributive policies (including minimum wages) when considering how policy makers influence economic inequality (Hacker and Pierson, 2010[99]).

There are various channels through which the better-off members of civil society – be they individuals, companies or organisations – can influence policies. The first is by direct lobbying – a catch-all term for the various ways in which private entities press policy makers for policies that directly benefit them, often in exchange for financial support. Although lobbying has attracted considerable attention of late, the practice has a long history; indeed, close relations between business and government are an integral part of state building and have been highly influential in international relations, as Chapters 4 and 5 discuss.

Lobbying legalises and institutionalises corporate influence in modern democracies, which allows these interests outsized say in public policy and inhibits collective action on issues as important as reducing inequality or addressing climate change.

In advanced capitalist economies, with strong formal institutions and rule of law, unequal access to political influence is found in lobbying systems, through which big corporations and interest groups can legally exercise overwhelming influence on policymaking. Because unequal access to political influence profoundly shapes the making of laws and policies, it affects inequality in all other realms: income, access to public services, exposure to risks. (Ang, 2020[104])

Where lobbying becomes institutionalised, Hacker and Pierson argue that “the art for policy makers is not to respond to the median voter; it is to minimize the trade-offs when the desires of powerful groups and the desires of voters collide” (2010[99]). This balancing act requires policy makers to avoid situations where a particular policy can clearly be seen to benefit a particular group; lobbyists will therefore focus their energies less on policy design and more on regulation or implementation. Policy makers can also satisfy interest groups passively, simply through inertia or drift. The decline in the membership and influence of unions, combined with dwindling grassroots political engagement, implies a lack of civil society as a counterweight to business organisations. It is also important to consider the demand side of lobbying: the changing nature of politics-as-spectacle requires that politicians spend heavily on media and advertising, which in turn requires them to raise funds from private interests (Hacker and Pierson, 2010[99]).

The capacity for elites to influence government is heightened further by the “revolving door” phenomenon, whereby individuals move between senior positions in the public and private sectors (Brezis, 2017[105]). Hemingway finds that “legislators from business backgrounds are more likely to support income inequality and small government, as well as less likely to consult with labour groups, than those from working-class and other backgrounds” (2020[106]). Yet it is not necessary for public servants to have worked in the private sector for them to represent the interests of the economically advantaged: if they themselves tend to come from the upper echelons of society, it is very possible they will be influenced by the ideas and interests of that group. According to Lupu and Warner, “[around] the world, legislators' preferences are consistently more congruent with those of affluent citizens” (2020[107]). They find this to be particularly the case with economic issues, noting that the values of poorer individuals tend to be better represented in cultural issues. Park and Hawley conclude that “elites are particularly likely to diverge from the rest of the population on issues related to economic and domestic policy” in the United States, but this is less the case on foreign policy (2020[108]). The gender imbalances in political representation and management positions discussed in Box 3.1 are likely to hamper efforts to promote gender equality across all domains.

The overall effect of these phenomena, which operate via a range of channels (structural and contingent, conscious and unconscious), is to reinforce economic inequality. Elections serve to regulate these tendencies to an extent but certainly do not eliminate them. Where a political system is strongly influenced by financial power, there is a clear path from economic to political dominance, especially if allied to control over the media. In general, constituents with outsized power have an interest in maintaining the status quo; a closure of political space is likely to ensue that prevents the kinds of reforms needed to combat profound inequality from even being discussed, which in turn diminishes the incentive for the disadvantaged to vote. The declining electoral turnouts documented in Chapter 2 are both a consequence of and boon for corporate capture of politics – corruption by another name.

Political scientists have labelled this new, narrow kind of politics as “post-democracy”:

[While] elections certainly exist and can change governments, public electoral debate is a tightly controlled spectacle, managed by rival teams of professionals expert in the techniques of persuasion, and considering a small range of issues selected by those teams. The mass of citizens plays a passive, quiescent, even apathetic part, responding only to the signals given them. Behind this spectacle of the electoral game politics is really shaped in private by interaction between elected governments and elites, which overwhelmingly represent business interests. (Crouch, 2000[109])

His object is to throw things into confusion that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind. (Hamilton, 1792[110])

While the social atomisation and contestation described in the previous section create a horizontal distance between people, the tendencies described in this section create a vertical distance between political systems and civil society, as well as between an economic and political elite and the rest of the population. In response, new movements are emerging that challenge the concentration of power and seek to represent the large constituency whose needs and values are not reflected in the prevailing political landscape. Populist parties, of the kind that have appeared in many advanced economies over the past decade, are an example of such movements, although it is also possible for an established party to take a populist turn. Populist movements can be from the ideological left or right, often depending on the context that gave rise to them. Mudde argues that it is often appropriate to ascribe to them a “thin” ideology that reflects their tendency to have specific opinions on a relatively narrow range of public policies and to use a “host ideology” (socialism or nationalism) to complete their agenda (2004[111]).

Elites can harness populist forces and populist forces can represent elite interests. Coalitions between the elite and the people can emerge where both favour deregulation or protectionism, for example.This coalition might prove short-lived: gains from deregulation are unlikely to persist (and may generate undesirable social and environmental externalities), while protectionism (either from trade or migration flows) does not constitute a policy that might ensure long-term growth in wages and employment in the sectors most affected by changes in technology or global trade patterns. To combat this coalition, progressive parties with strong social or environmental agendas would need to convince voters that they can create and sustain jobs for low-skilled workers.

While populist movements often share a number of characteristics, they are not homogenous. It is also not clear how meaningful the term is when analysing the politics of developing countries outside Latin America (Box 3.3). In most cases, populist movements represent a challenge to the political and corporate beneficiaries of post-democracies by giving a voice to the marginalised and challenging the elites. However, they can simultaneously represent “not an antidote to postdemocracy, but an extreme extension of it” (Crouch, 2019[112]). Despite the evolving complexities and definitional uncertainties around the term, three common tendencies among populist movements appear especially germane.

The first relates to the low likelihood of addressing the grievances of their supporters. As Rodrik points out, “the people” is a huge constituency with diverse and probably even conflicting demands that are impossible to reconcile through a detailed policy agenda (2017[22]). As a consequence, populist parties or politicians rally their supporters around stories, symbols and slogans that tell voters “here is what is happening, this is why, and these are the people who are doing it to you”. For right-wing movements, the most effective symbol for uniting this broad constituency is often the nation itself, which explains why many ethno-nationalist parties are populist and why both groups might vilify minorities and foreigners. In a context where social capital is deteriorating, inclusive political movements generate a sense of identity and group belonging that can be an important attraction.

The second point relates to potential damage to democratic institutions. Populist parties of whatever ideology challenge prevailing power structures, often implying that any group that threatens the direct rule of the majority is complicit in “anti-democratic” practices. Unelected democratic institutions, such as the civil service, judiciary or free press, risk being perceived as impediments to popular endeavours. Challenging institutions that represent vested interests might be a legitimate democratic agenda (Shapiro, 2011[113]), but undermining them removes an important restraint on the executive and can weaken a country’s capacity for collective action unless replaced by more responsive and representative institutions. According to Funke, Schularick and Trebesch, populist governments also tend to do substantial long-term harm to the economy (2020[114]).

Thirdly, the first two tendencies create a space between politics and civil society: people lack a strong political identity and politics becomes a game of elites. Populism exacerbates this divide by by-passing the secondary institutions that link individuals to political life. As Chapter 4 discusses, political systems need to be revived from the bottom up, but this cannot be done without a vibrant civil society that has space in which to function and to form its own institutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and associated social and economic crises, is exposing and exacerbating many of the factors behind discontent identified in this chapter. As the crisis maintains its grip in 2021, some regions – in particular, Latin America – confront massive loss of employment, an upsurge in poverty and inequality, and a collapse in public finances. The political impact of the pandemic on countries where discontent was already evident could be profound.

Yet the COVID-19 pandemic presents a rare opportunity to address a number of dysfunctions in a society, including its politics. As Crouch argues, crises can regenerate democracy

when enthusiasm for it is widespread [and] many diverse groups and organisations of ordinary people share in the task of trying to frame a political agenda which will at last respond to their concerns; when the powerful interests which dominate undemocratic societies are wrong-footed and thrown on the defensive; and when the political system has not quite discovered how to manage and manipulate the new demands. (2000[109])

Pushing back against populism will achieve little if it restores the narrow, distant politics that prevailed previously and spawned the upheavals of recent years. Political systems that operated according to a winner-takes-all logic have failed to take into account the interests and voice of the population as a whole or to encourage broad-based secondary institutions as intermediaries in the democratic process. While global economic forces played a key role in the rise of populism, for example through the deindustrialisation of many advanced economies, the consequences of trade liberalisation for working-class employment and industrial regions were foreseen (Meeropol, 1998[116]).

For better or worse, populism has fundamentally altered political attitudes. For example, protectionism might be strongly linked to populist and isolationist rhetoric, but it is increasingly accepted as a legitimate means of safeguarding livelihoods among those vulnerable to the forces of globalisation. A survey conducted by Tella and Rodrik shows that, contrary to what economics textbooks might say, a majority of people across the political spectrum believe that trade restrictions are a more appropriate response to economic shocks that threaten jobs than providing financial assistance to displaced workers (2019[117]).

Greater citizen engagement is a sine qua non of a healthy political system and more inclusive societies. As Chapter 4 explains, this engagement should not be limited to politics in the narrow sense of the term; the polarisation of societies by status, wealth and identity – a phenomenon exacerbated by new forms of technology – reflects fault lines across all aspects of modern life that can only be addressed by a holistic, consensus-driven approach that begins at the grass roots of society. Policies to address the contingent and structural causes of discontent will be important but so too will processes and the institutions that arise at every level of society to mediate these interactions.

These are the days of miracle and wonder (Simon, 1986[118])

Technology has been a driver of social change throughout history. It changes the way we live and work, how we communicate and interact with each other, and the nature of our co-operation and conflict. It evolves in response to our demands, but our demands also change according to the technology available. As Sterne argues, ‘”[technologies] are structured by human practices so that they may in turn structure human practices” (2003[119]). As this section demonstrates, the technologies of the third and fourth industrial revolutions are inextricable from the contingent and structural causes of discontent discussed in this report through their impact on the economic, social and political spheres.

It is possible to forget that the old skill and the new almost always were the perquisite of different people. The rewards of the ‘march of progress’ always seemed to be gathered by someone else. (Thompson, 1966[120])

Uneven access to digital technology is a major driver of inequality across a number of dimensions, both within and between countries. The so-called “digital divide” not only renders certain groups within society less productive economically but also less able to access public services or interact with public authorities. In OECD countries, the digital divide has shrunk over the past decade. By 2019, 70% to 95% of adults used the Internet in OECD countries and were spending more time on line. However, clear gaps in usage remain: only 58% of individuals aged 55 to 74 used the Internet frequently in 2019 – up from 30% in 2010 but still well below the nearly 95% share of daily Internet users aged 16 to 24. In 2018, only 40% of adults in OECD countries with low or no formal education used the Internet to interact with public authorities, compared to 80% of those with tertiary education. E-commerce accounted for 24% of economic turnover in large firms in 2019 but only 10% in small firms (OECD, 2020[121]).

Internet access in developing countries tends to be lower than in the OECD and with large within-country differences. These gaps have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, depriving firms and households of the digital services that could support them during the crisis, such as economic support, health, education and social protection. Internet access in Latin America and the Caribbean is strongly linked to household income: on average, there is a gap of almost 40 percentage points between the proportion of the total population that uses the Internet in the richest quintile (75%) and the poorest (37%), a much bigger divide than in OECD countries (less than 25 percentage points). Internet coverage in some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is four times higher in urban areas than rural areas (OECD et al., 2020[122]).

In Africa, meanwhile, only 22.7% of the poorest 40% of the population has access to the Internet, up from 10.3% five years before but still below the level in Asia (33.6%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (45.4%). Some 47% of urban residents in Africa use the Internet regularly versus 27% in rural areas; 58% of salaried workers use the Internet regularly versus 16% of the self-employed; and 87% of large firms use the Internet to communicate with clients versus 50% of small firms (AUC/OECD, 2021[123]). In Asia too, differences in education, income and age group are associated with large gaps in Internet usage; there is also a large gender digital divide. Coverage also varies across countries in Asia: in the least developed countries, such as Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar, a large proportion of the population still had no stable Internet access or no Internet access at all, with Internet penetration rates of 50% or lower as of August 2019 (OECD, 2021[124]).

Relative deprivation, an important factor behind discontent described earlier in this chapter, is magnified by modern communications technology, which makes the consumption gap between different groups (not only within the same country but also in different countries, possibly at very different levels of development) more visible than ever before. This in turn exacerbates the phenomenon known as “anticipatory socialisation” identified by Merton, whereby individuals take on the standards and values of groups that they aspire to join. Individuals who have begun to adapt themselves to the goals and lifestyles of wealthier or more privileged groups are likely to feel discontent if their assimilation into those groups is blocked or occurs more slowly than expected (1957[125]). Insofar as individuals record only the best versions of their lives, social media can make the gap seem even larger than it is in reality. The scale on which this is occurring might well have been unimaginable 20 years ago: more than 2 billion people use Facebook each month, almost the same number use YouTube, and one-quarter of a billion use Twitter (Hootesuite/We Are Social, 2021[126]).

Sabatini and Sarracino examine the links between social networks and individual feelings of frustration in Western and Eastern Europe (2016[127]). They find that social network users in Western Europe are more likely to feel frustrated with their economic situation than non-users but note the opposite trend in Eastern Europe, where social network users are encouraged by the knowledge that people within their network are able to attain higher living standards, recalling the “tunnel effect” discussed earlier. In a separate study, the authors find that social network use in Italy has a direct negative effect on users’ well-being and also affects well-being indirectly by increasing people’s tendency to meet others in person (which has a positive effect) and by reducing trust (which has a negative effect) (Sabatini and Sarracino, 2017[128]). Castellacci and Schwabe show how social media use among different age cohorts is associated with a steepening of the U-shaped relationship between age and well-being (2020[129]). Social media users become less satisfied with their lives at a faster rate than non-users in early adulthood but, in later years, the life satisfaction of social media users recovers from its lowest point faster and earlier than among non-users.

Social media networks are not necessarily a substitute for the support that “real-life” friends and relatives provide. The question of whether social media use increases or decreases loneliness, depression and self-esteem has been much analysed, but the evidence is mixed (Seabrook, Kern and Rickard, 2016[130]). The impact is mediated by numerous factors, including whether the social media experience of the user was positive or negative, their level of self-esteem, the strength of their offline social support networks and the time they spend on social media or the number of people in their network. People’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented people from spending time with each other physically, are also likely to change the way social media is perceived and used.

Social media has not only changed the way people interact but also the way they receive information. The transmission of news through social networks has created what is known as an echo chamber effect, whereby people receive information from (and discuss it with) people with similar demographic or socio-economic characteristics and/or who share common values or political beliefs. As Lewandowsky, Ecker and Cook find, the effect is to compound fragmentation and polarisation (2017[131]). The same tendency also exacerbates the tendency for individuals to think that people who do not belong in their group possess more extreme opposing views than is the case, as shown by Haidt and Graham when analysing the conflicting moralities of liberals and conservatives (2007[132]).

More damaging still is the use of social media to proliferate misinformation. Misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly damaging to public health campaigns to prevent the spread of the disease (Ahinkorah et al., 2020[133]; Loomba et al., 2021[134]). This tendency is particularly concerning when it is part of a deliberate strategy by foreign powers attempting to disrupt the domestic politics of another country (Pomerantsev, 2019[135]).

The shift towards consuming news through social media and tailored platforms rather than through traditional channels coincides with a crisis of trust in the media. In some countries, this is reaching critical levels: according to Edelman, only 18% of people who voted for President Trump in the 2020 presidential election said that they trust the media – a 15 percentage point drop from the month before the election (2021[72]). An international survey carried out in 2020 found that the average level of trust in the news in general was 38%, down four percentage points from 2019. Within the developing countries surveyed, levels of trust were highest in Brazil (51%) and lowest in Malaysia (25%); less than half of respondents (46%) said that they trust the news media they themselves use (Newman et al., 2020[136]).

In today’s world, news is diffused constantly and through innumerable (and mostly unregulated) channels. Closely associated with the growing tendency for people to receive their news via social media is a trend for people to use their mobile phones to access news. According to Newman et al., the proportion of people receiving their news this way more than doubled in leading economies between 2013 and 2020 but remains highest in countries in the Global South, such as Kenya and South Africa, where more than 80% of people receive news via their mobile phones due in part to lower coverage of fixed-line Internet (2020[136]).

While the number of channels through which news is conveyed has increased exponentially, the sources of news have not become similarly diverse, and certain “traditional” media organisations have become considerably more powerful in recent years, allowing them greater power to determine what constitutes “news”. Winseck draws attention to the fact that “[while] new media, especially the Internet, open up unprecedented opportunities for people to access and distribute information, the emergence of a powerful nexus between both ‘old’ and ‘new’ media means that the character of media ownership and markets still matters greatly” (2008[137]). His finding that there is “within countries, regionally and globally – greater concentration at the level of ‘source diversity’”, is echoed by Vizcarrondo, who finds a significant increase in media concentration in the United States from 2000 onwards (2013[138]). These trends are not driven by multinational media enterprises alone: Stetka records the growing tendency for business elites in Central and Eastern Europe to invest in the media, which is leading to “constrained editorial independence and increasing intertwinement of the systems of media, politics, and economy in the region” (2012[139]).

This media concentration must be considered in conjunction with broader concerns about the market power of the most prominent digital platforms (Calvano and Polo, 2021[140]). The cumulative outcome is that information is, to a significant extent, controlled by a relatively small number of individuals or corporations: a sense of “public ownership” of the news is, in most parts of the world, gone, and with it perhaps the sense of a shared understanding of the world. For better or worse, the diffusion of information takes place outside political institutions, which are no longer ahead of the message but rather trying to keep up. This lack of political mediation in the spread and consumption of news creates a disjuncture between social and political life.

Some politicians have identified opportunities in this new media environment. Social media closes the gap that has emerged between politics and citizens by allowing politicians to communicate directly with the electorate. This creates a sense of responsiveness to (and interest in) the views of ordinary people that might diminish the popular perception discussed in this chapter that politicians belong to an aloof elite class. It also allows politicians to tell their side of the story quickly and via an unregulated medium, which is a boon for the types of charismatic leader described in Box 3.2. While such techniques might not foster trust in government across the population as a whole and this type of transparency might not foster proper accountability, they can be very effective in reinforcing support for a politician among his or her base.

By far the most important political impact of social media is as an unrivalled and unprecedented tool for mobilising the civil unrest documented in this report. Indeed, it is impossible to know whether the increase in protests documented in Chapter 2 would have occurred in the absence of social media. The importance of social media became apparent with the role that Twitter played during the Arab Spring, and it has since remained closely entwined not only with the national but also the global mobilisations increasingly common today. However, in very few cases have these protests effected lasting change, a fact that Tufekci (2017[141]) attributes in part to a tendency for protests mobilised via social media to lack the same kind of “infrastructure” (such as planning, face-to-face assemblies, poster campaigns) that laid the foundations for successful protest movements in the past.

Tufekci points out that social media platforms cannot be assumed to be willing accomplices in these protests: their financial incentives revolve around advertising and data collection rather than providing a tool for mobilising popular unrest (2017[141]). Sometimes, these platforms have worked with governments during demonstrations. She also explains that governments are becoming more adept at controlling protests, not by censoring or shutting down platforms but rather by using social media themselves to induce paralysis among protesters with “misinformation, information overload, doubt, confusion, harassment, and distraction”. Meanwhile, digital surveillance techniques can be used to repress political opposition or civil society activism, even across borders (Michaelsen, 2020[142]).

These constraints on the revolutionary potential of social media demonstrate a theme of this section. Technology has the capacity to transform our lives but it can also perpetuate inequalities and reinforce power imbalances. As such, it can alleviate or exacerbate discontent. In either case, the power of today’s digital technologies – and the private entities that control these technologies – is vast and growing. The capacity of states and societies to put emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to good use, whether it be promoting social cohesion, reducing inequality or protecting the environment, will depend to a significant extent on whether the public can have a greater influence than it does at present in how technology is used (Villani et al., 2018[143]).

This chapter concludes the report’s diagnosis of discontent. It argues that the macroeconomic trends outlined in Chapter 1 and the grievances discussed in Chapter 2 do not fully explain the rise in discontent: it also matters how they interact with structural factors within a society and with broader megatrends affecting the world as a whole. These structural factors portray a discontent that is much broader and longer term than a focus on protests alone might indicate.

The chapter also explains how political institutions are reinforcing inequalities rather than promoting a fairer distribution of power and resources, and how they are polarising societies rather than mediating between groups to resolve their differences. Although new and emerging technologies possess considerable transformative potential, there are various channels through which they are currently reinforcing these adverse tendencies. In this context, it is extremely difficult for societies to agree upon the main challenges they face; generating the collective action required to address these challenges is harder still.

As they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, societies have an opportunity to reassess and reset the institutions that govern citizens’ daily lives, define their past and determine their future. In doing so, societies also have a chance to renew and strengthen the horizontal and vertical bonds that hold them together. The next chapter explains how approaches that simultaneously seek to improve individual well-being, strengthen social cohesion, empower civil society and enhance the effectiveness of government can provide the means to grasp this rare opportunity.


[33] Abbs, L. (2020), “The hunger games: Food prices, ethnic cleavages and nonviolent unrest in Africa”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 57/2, pp. 281-296, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022343319866487.

[92] Achebe, C. (1958), Things Fall Apart, Heinemann, London.

[58] Afrobarometer (2016), Afrobarometer, https://afrobarometer.org (accessed on 3 February 2021).

[133] Ahinkorah, B. et al. (2020), “Rising Above Misinformation or Fake News in Africa: Another Strategy to Control COVID-19 Spread”, Frontiers in Communication, Vol. 5, p. 45, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2020.00045.

[1] Aleksievich, S. (2016), Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, Penguin Random House, New York, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/541184/secondhand-time-by-svetlana-alexievich/.

[3] Alesina, A. and P. Giuliano (2011), “Preferences for redistribution”, Handbook of Social Economics, Vol. 1, pp. 93-131, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-53187-2.00004-8.

[69] Algan, Y. et al. (2019), Les Origines Du Populisme: Enquête sur un schisme politique et social, Seuil et La République des Idées, Paris, http://www.seuil.com/ouvrage/les-origines-du-populisme-yann-algan/9782021428582 (accessed on 2 February 2021).

[104] Ang, Y. (2020), China’s Gilded Age, The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305741021000102 (accessed on 4 February 2021).

[90] Arendt, H. (1958), The Origins of Totalitarianism, Meridian Books, New York.

[123] AUC/OECD (2021), Africa’s Development Dynamics 2021: Digital Transformation for Quality Jobs, OECD Publishing, Paris/African Union Commission, Addis Ababa, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/0a5c9314-en.

[28] Ayoub, P. (2019), “Intersectional and transnational coalitions during times of crisis: The European LGBTI movement”, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, Vol. 26/1, pp. 1-29, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sp/jxy007.

[83] Barrera, O. et al. (2021), “Social Inequalities, Identity, and the Structure of Political Cleavages in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, 1952-2019”, World Inequality Lab, No. 2021/11.

[102] Bartels, L. (2017), “Political inequality in affluent democracies: The social welfare deficit”, No. 5-2017, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Santa Barbara, CA, http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi/research/papers.php (accessed on 5 March 2021).

[23] Becker, B. (2021), “Temporal change in inequality perceptions and effects on political attitudes”, Political Research Exchange, Vol. 3/1, pp. 1-21, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2474736x.2020.1860652.

[105] Brezis, E. (2017), “Legal conflicts of interest of the revolving door”, Journal of Macroeconomics, Vol. 52, pp. 175-188, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmacro.2017.04.006.

[11] Buttrick, N., S. Heintzelman and S. Oishi (2017), Inequality and well-being, Elsevier B.V., http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.07.016.

[140] Calvano, E. and M. Polo (2021), “Market power, competition and innovation in digital markets: A survey”, Information Economics and Policy, Vol. 54, p. 100853, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infoecopol.2020.100853.

[65] Case, A. and A. Deaton (2020), Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691190785/deaths-of-despair-and-the-future-of-capitalism.

[129] Castellacci, F. and H. Schwabe (2020), “Internet, unmet aspirations and the U-shape of life”, PLOS ONE, Vol. 15/6, p. e0233099, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233099.

[80] Crouch, C. (2020), Social Europe – A Manifesto, Social Europe, Berlin, http://www.socialeurope.eu/book/social-europe-a-manifesto (accessed on 25 January 2021).

[112] Crouch, C. (2019), “Post-democracy and populism”, The Political Quarterly, Vol. 90, pp. 124-137, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12575.

[109] Crouch, C. (2000), Coping with Post-democracy, Fabian Society, London, http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Post-Democracy.pdf (accessed on 3 February 2021).

[43] Demertzis, N. (ed.) (2013), Emotions of protest, Palgrave Macmillan, London, https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137025661_10.

[94] Demszky, D. et al. (2019), “Analyzing polarization in social media: Method and application to tweets on 21 mass shootings”, NAACL HLT 2019 – 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies - Proceedings of the Conference, Vol. 1, pp. 2970-3005, http://www.aclweb.org/anthology/N19-1304/ (accessed on 3 February 2021).

[47] Durkheim, É. (1893), De la Division du Travail Social, http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1522/cla.due.del1.

[15] Easterlin, R. (1974), “Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence”, in Nations and Households in Economic Growth, Elsevier, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-205050-3.50008-7.

[74] Edelman (2021), 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update: A World in Trauma, Edelman, New York, https://www.edelman.com/trust/2021-trust-barometer/spring-update.

[72] Edelman (2021), Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, Edelman, New York, http://www.edelman.com/trust/2021-trust-barometer (accessed on 2 February 2021).

[73] Elgar, F., A. Stefaniak and M. Wohl (2020), “The trouble with trust: time-series analysis of social capital, income inequality, and COVID-19 deaths in 84 countries”, Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 263, p. 113365, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113365.

[78] Foa, R. and Y. Mounk (2016), “The danger of deconsolidation: The democratic disconnect”, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 27/3, pp. 5-17, http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/jod.2016.0049.

[97] Foucault, M. (1994), The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Vintage Books, New York, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/55037/the-order-of-things-by-michel-foucault/ (accessed on 3 February 2021).

[91] Fromm, E. (1941), Escape from freedom, Farrar & Rinehart.

[114] Funke, M., M. Schularick and C. Trebesch (2020), “Populist Leaders and the Economy”, CEPR Discussion Paper, No. DP15405, https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=3723597 (accessed on 7 March 2021).

[50] Gallup (2019), Gallup World Poll 2019, http://www.gallup.com/analytics/318875/global-research.aspx (accessed on 1 February 2021).

[93] Gentzkow, M., J. Shapiro and M. Taddy (2019), “Measuring group differences in high‐dimensional choices: Method and application to congressional speech”, Econometrica, Vol. 87/4, pp. 1307-1340, http://dx.doi.org/10.3982/ecta16566.

[17] Gurr, T. (1970), Why Men Rebel, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1955058.

[99] Hacker, J. and P. Pierson (2010), “Winner-take-all politics: Public policy, political organization, and the precipitous rise of top incomes in the United States”, Politics & Society, Vol. 38/2, pp. 152-204, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0032329210365042.

[132] Haidt, J. and J. Graham (2007), “When morality opposes justice: Conservatives have moral intuitions that liberals may not recognize”, Social Justice Research, Vol. 20/1, pp. 98-116, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11211-007-0034-z.

[110] Hamilton, A. (1792), Enclosure: objections and answers respecting the administration of the government, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-12-02-0184-0002.

[46] Harvey, D. (1990), “Between space and time: Reflections on the geographical imagination”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 80/3, pp. 418-434, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8306.1990.tb00305.x.

[85] Häusermann, S., A. Kemmerling and D. Rueda (2020), “How Labor Market Inequality Transforms Mass Politics”, Political Science Research and Methods, Vol. 8/2, pp. 344-355, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2018.64.

[12] Hauser, O. and M. Norton (2017), “(Mis)perceptions of inequality”, Current Opinion in Psychology, Vol. 18, pp. 21-25, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.07.024.

[106] Hemingway, A. (2020), “Does class shape legislators’ approach to inequality and economic policy? a comparative view”, Government and Opposition, pp. 1-24, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/gov.2020.27.

[31] Hengel, L. (2021), Famine alert: Hunger, malnutrition and how WFP is tackling this other deadly pandemic, World Food Programme, https://www.wfp.org/stories/famine-alert-hunger-malnutrition-and-how-wfp-tackling-other-deadly-pandemic (accessed on 21 May 2021).

[21] Hirschman, A. (1973), “The changing tolerance for income inequality in the course of economic development”, World Development, Vol. 1/12, pp. 29-36, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0305-750X(73)90109-5.

[76] Hoare, Q. (ed.) (1971), Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, Lawrence & Wishart, London, https://lwbooks.co.uk/product/selections-from-the-prison-notebooks.

[101] Holcombe, R. (1989), “The median voter model in public choice theory”, Public Choice, Vol. 61/2, pp. 115-125, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00115658.

[126] Hootesuite/We Are Social (2021), Digital 2021 Global Overview Report, https://datareportal.com/reports/?tag=Digital+2021 (accessed on 2 February 2021).

[24] Houle, C. (2019), “Social Mobility and Political Instability”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 63/1, pp. 85-111, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022002717723434.

[29] ICVA (2021), Open Letter Famine Prevention, International Council of Voluntary Agencies, Geneva, Switzerland, http://www.icvanetwork.org/OpenLetterFaminePrevention.

[52] ILO (2020), ILOSTAT, International Labour Organization, Geneva, https://ilostat.ilo.org/ (accessed on 27 January 2021).

[67] Inglehart, R. and C. Welzel (2010), “Changing mass priorities: The link between modernization and democracy”, Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 8/2, pp. 551-567, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1537592710001258.

[60] Inoguchi, T. (2016), Asiabarometer, http://www.asiabarometer.org/data/abdl/php.

[56] Jones, J. (2021), U.S. church membership falls below majority for first time, Gallup Inc., Washington, DC, https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx (accessed on 6 April 2021).

[13] Jost, J. and O. Hunyady (2003), “The psychology of system justification and the palliative function of ideology”, European Review of Social Psychology, Vol. 13/1, pp. 111-153, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10463280240000046.

[70] Kahan, D. (2015), “Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem”, Political Psychology, Vol. 36/S1, pp. 1-43, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pops.12244.

[115] Kaltwasser, C. et al. (eds.) (2017), The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198803560.001.0001.

[54] Katz, R. et al. (1992), “The membership of political parties in European democracies, 1960-1990”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 22/3, pp. 329-345, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.1992.tb00316.x.

[66] Kornhauser, W. (1959), The Politics of Mass Society, The Free Press, Glencoe, IL.

[25] Lasch, C. (1995), The revolt of the elites and the betrayal of democracy, W. W. Norton, New York.

[75] Lasswell, H. (1936), Politics; Who Gets What, When, How, Whittlesey House, New York, London, https://openlibrary.org/works/OL3167194W/Politics_who_gets_what_when_how?edition=politicswhogetsw00lass (accessed on 2 February 2021).

[100] Latinobarómetro (2018), Informe Latinobarómetro 2018, Corporación Latinobarómetro, Santiago, http://www.latinobarometro.org/latNewsShowMore.jsp?evYEAR=2018&evMONTH=-1.

[59] Latinobarómetro (2018), Latinobarómetro, http://www.latinobarometro.org/lat.jsp (accessed on 3 February 2021).

[131] Lewandowsky, S., U. Ecker and J. Cook (2017), “Beyond misinformation: Understanding and coping with the ’post-truth’ era”, Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Vol. 6/4, pp. 353-369, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jarmac.2017.07.008.

[57] Logan, C. and L. Katenda (2021), “African citizens’ message to traditional leaders: Stay in development, stay out of politics”, Afrobarometer Dispatch, No. 443, https://afrobarometer.org/publications/ad443-african-citizens-message-traditional-leaders-stay-development-stay-out-politics (accessed on 21 May 2021).

[134] Loomba, S. et al. (2021), “Measuring the impact of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on vaccination intent in the UK and USA”, Nature Human Behaviour, pp. 1-12, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01056-1.

[81] Lupu, N. (2016), Party Brands in Crisis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/cbo9781139683562.

[107] Lupu, N. and Z. Warner (2020), Affluence and Congruence: Unequal Representation Around the World, Harvard Dataverse, Cambridge, MA, http://noamlupu.com/A&C.pdf (accessed on 5 March 2021).

[82] Mainwaring, S. (ed.) (2018), Party Systems in Latin America: Institutionalization, Decay, and Collapse, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/9781316798553.

[30] Mani, A. et al. (2013), “Poverty impedes cognitive function”, Science, Vol. 341/6149, pp. 976-980, http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1238041.

[86] Mason, L. (2018), “Ideologues without Issues: The Polarizing Consequences of Ideological Identities”, Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 82/S1, pp. 866-887, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfy005.

[87] McQuarrie, M. (2017), “The revolt of the Rust Belt: place and politics in the age of anger”, British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 68/S1, pp. 120-152, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12328.

[116] Meeropol, M. (1998), Surrender : how the Clinton administration completed the Reagan revolution, University of Michigan Press.

[125] Merton, R. (1957), Social theory and social structure, Free Press, https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1959-00989-000 (accessed on 1 February 2021).

[142] Michaelsen, M. (2020), The digital transnational repression toolkit, and its silencing effects, Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-report/2020/digital-transnational-repression-toolkit-and-its-silencing-effects.

[14] Mijs, J. (2019), “The paradox of inequality: income inequality and belief in meritocracy go hand in hand”, Socio-Economic Review, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwy051.

[111] Mudde, C. (2004), “The populist zeitgeist”, Government and Opposition, Vol. 39/4, pp. 541-563, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-7053.2004.00135.x.

[63] Murtin et al. (2018), “Trust and its determinants: Evidence from the Trustlab experiment”, OECD Statistics Working Papers, No. 2018/02, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/869ef2ec-en (accessed on 1 February 2021).

[20] Must, E. and S. Rustad (2019), “’Mtwara will be the New Dubai’: dashed expectations, grievances, and civil unrest in Tanzania”, International Interactions, Vol. 45/3, pp. 500-531, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03050629.2019.1554569.

[34] Newman, E. (2020), “Hungry, or hungry for change? Food riots and political conflict, 2005-2015”, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 43/4, pp. 300-324, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2018.1454042.

[136] Newman, N. et al. (2020), Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2020, Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, http://www.digitalnewsreport.org/ (accessed on 27 April 2021).

[124] OECD (2021), Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India 2021: Reallocating Resources for Digitalisation, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/711629f8-en.

[36] OECD (2021), Man Enough? Measuring Masculine Norms to Promote Women’s Empowerment, Social Institutions and Gender Index, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/6ffd1936-en.

[121] OECD (2020), OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2020, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/bb167041-en.

[39] OECD (2020), Women at the core of the fight against COVID-19 crisis, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/women-at-the-core-of-the-fight-against-covid-19-crisis-553a8269/.

[38] OECD (2019), Gender, institutions and development database, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=GIDDB2019 (accessed on 1 June 2021).

[51] OECD (2019), Negotiating Our Way Up: Collective Bargaining in a Changing World of Work, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/1fd2da34-en.

[103] OECD (2019), Risks that Matter: Main Findings from the 2018 OECD Risks that Matter Survey, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/Risks-That-Matter-2018-Main-Findings.pdf (accessed on 3 March 2021).

[35] OECD (2019), SIGI 2019 Global Report: Transforming challenges into opportunities, Social Institutions and Gender Index, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/bc56d212-en.

[44] OECD (2018), Perspectives on Global Development 2019: Rethinking Development Strategies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/persp_glob_dev-2019-en.

[122] OECD et al. (2020), Latin American Economic Outlook 2020: Digital Transformation for Building Back Better, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/e6e864fb-en.

[8] Oishi, S., S. Kesebir and E. Diener (2011), “Income inequality and happiness”, Psychological science, Vol. 22/9, pp. 1095-100, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797611417262.

[62] Ortiz-Ospina, E. and M. Roser (2016), Trust, Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/trust (accessed on 21 May 2021).

[77] Orwell, G. (1949), 1984, Harcourt, Brace and Company.

[27] Overstreet, N., L. Rosenthal and K. Case (2020), “Intersectionality as a radical framework for transforming our disciplines, social issues, and the world”, Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 76/4, pp. 779-795, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/josi.12414.

[108] Park, H. and G. Hawley (2020), “Determinants of the opinion gap between the elites and the public in the United States”, The Social Science Journal, Vol. 57/1, pp. 1-13, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.soscij.2018.12.008.

[71] Pew Research Center (2021), Economy and COVID-19 Top Americans’ Policy Agenda for 2021, Pew Research Center, Washington, DC, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/01/28/economy-and-covid-19-top-the-publics-policy-agenda-for-2021/ (accessed on 21 May 2021).

[61] Pew Research Center (2019), Trust and Distrust in America, Pew Research Center, Washington, DC, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/07/22/trust-and-distrust-in-america/.

[68] Pew Research Center (2018), “The age gap in religion around the world”, http://www.pewforum.org/2018/06/13/the-age-gap-in-religion-around-the-world/ (accessed on 6 April 2021).

[7] Piketty, T. (2014), Capital in the Twenty-first Century, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Pres, http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674430006.

[135] Pomerantsev, P. (2019), This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality, PublicAffairs, http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/titles/peter-pomerantsev/this-is-not-propaganda/9781541762138/.

[49] Putnam, R. (1995), “Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital”, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 6/1, pp. 65-78, http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/articles/bowling-alone-americas-declining-social-capital/ (accessed on 4 February 2021).

[84] Roberts, K. (2014), Changing Course in Latin America: Party Systems in the Neoliberal Era, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511842856.

[22] Rodrik, D. (2017), “Populism and the economics of globalization”, NBER Working Paper, No. 23559, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, http://dx.doi.org/10.3386/w23559.

[18] Runciman, W. (1966), Relative Deprivation and Social Justice : A Study of Attitudes to social inequality in Twentieth-Century England, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

[128] Sabatini, F. and F. Sarracino (2017), “Online networks and subjective well-being”, Kyklos, Vol. 70/3, pp. 456-480, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/kykl.12145.

[127] Sabatini, F. and F. Sarracino (2016), Keeping up with the E-Joneses: Do online social networks raise social comparisons?, SSRN Electronic Journal, Elsevier BV, Amsterdam, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2771042.

[26] Sandel, M. (2020), The Tyranny of Merit, Allen Lane.

[130] Seabrook, E., M. Kern and N. Rickard (2016), “Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review”, JMIR Mental Health, Vol. 3/4, p. e50, http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/mental.5842.

[6] Sen, A. (1979), Equality of what?, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, http://www.ophi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Sen-1979_Equality-of-What.pdf.

[113] Shapiro, I. (2011), The Real World of Democratic Theory, Princeton University Press, Princeton, Oxford, https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7s2q9 (accessed on 3 February 2021).

[118] Simon, P. (1986), The Boy in the Bubble, Warner Records.

[19] Siroky, D. et al. (2020), “Grievances and rebellion: Comparing relative deprivation and horizontal inequality”, Conflict Management and Peace Science, Vol. 37/6, pp. 694-715, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0738894220906372.

[16] Smith, H. and T. Pettigrew (2015), “Advances in relative deprivation theory and research”, Social Justice Research, Vol. 28/1, pp. 1-6, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11211-014-0231-5.

[32] Smith, T. (2014), “Feeding unrest”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 51/6, pp. 679-695, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022343314543722.

[2] Solzhenitsyn, A. (1963), One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Bantam Press, London.

[96] Spoelstra, S. (2020), “The truths and falsehoods of post-truth leaders”, Leadership, Vol. 16/6, pp. 757-764, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1742715020937886.

[89] Standing, G. (2011), The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, Bloomsbury Academic, London, http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-precariat-9781849664561/ (accessed on 25 January 2021).

[119] Sterne, J. (2003), “Bourdieu, technique and technology”, Cultural Studies, Vol. 17/3-4, pp. 367-389, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0950238032000083863a.

[139] Stetka, V. (2012), “From multinationals to business tycoons: Media ownership and journalistic autonomy in Central and Eastern Europe”, The International Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 17/4, pp. 433-456, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1940161212452449.

[42] Stürmer, S. and B. Simon (2009), “Pathways to collective protest: calculation, identification, or emotion? A critical analysis of the role of group-based anger in social movement participation”, Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 65/4, pp. 681-705, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2009.01620.x.

[117] Tella, R. and D. Rodrik (2019), “Labor market shocks and the demand for trade protection: Evidence from online surveys”, NBER Working Papers, No. 25705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, http://dx.doi.org/10.3386/w25705.

[64] Teymoori, A. et al. (2016), “Revisiting the measurement of anomie”, PLoS ONE, Vol. 11/7, p. 158370, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0158370.

[120] Thompson, E. (1966), The Making of the English Working Class, Vintage Books, New York, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/178147/the-making-of-the-english-working-class-by-e-p-thompson/.

[48] Tocqueville, A. (1960 [1835]), De la Démocratie en Amérique, MacMillan & Co Ltd, London, http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/De_tocqueville_alexis/democratie_1/democratie_tome1.html.

[98] Towne, R. (1974), Chinatown, Paramount Pictures, Hollywood, CA, http://www.paramount.com/movies/chinatown.

[141] Tufekci, Z. (2017), Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300259292/twitter-and-tear-gas.

[9] Twenge, J., W. Campbell and N. Carter (2014), “Declines in Trust in Others and Confidence in Institutions Among American Adults and Late Adolescents, 1972–2012”, Psychological Science, Vol. 25/10, pp. 1914-1923, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797614545133.

[41] UN Women (2021), Beyond COVID-19: a feminist plan for sustainability and social justice - In brief, https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2021/06/feminist-plan.

[37] UN Women (2020), “Facts and figures: Ending violence against women”, http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures (accessed on 26 March 2021).

[40] UN Women (2020), The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, New York, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/in-focus-gender-equality-in-covid-19-response/violence-against-women-during-covid-19 (accessed on 26 March 2021).

[4] UNDESA (2020), World Social Report 2020: Inequality in a rapidly changing world, United Nations, New York, http://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/world-social-report-2020.html (accessed on 25 March 2021).

[53] Van Biezen, I., P. Mair and T. Poguntke (2012), “Going, going,...gone? The decline of party membership in contemporary Europe”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 51/1, pp. 24-56, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.2011.01995.x.

[143] Villani, C. et al. (2018), Donner un Sens à l’Intelligence Artificielle : Pour une stratégie nationale et européenne, Secrétaire général du Conseil national du numérique, Ivry-sur-Seine, France, http://www.aiforhumanity.fr/pdfs/9782111457.

[138] Vizcarrondo, T. (2013), “Measuring concentration of media ownership: 1976-2009”, International Journal on Media Management, Vol. 15/3, pp. 177-195, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14241277.2013.782499.

[45] Vonnegut, K. (1981), Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage, Delacorte Press of Penguin Random House, New York, http://www.randomhousebooks.com/books/184340/.

[95] Weber, M. (1968), On Charisma and Institution Building: Selected Writings, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/O/bo74177611.html.

[88] Weisskircher, M. (2020), “The strength of far‐right AfD in Eastern Germany: The East‐West divide and the multiple causes behind ‘Populism’”, The Political Quarterly, Vol. 91/3, pp. 614-622, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12859.

[55] Whiteley, P. (2011), “Is the party over? The decline of party activism and membership across the democratic world”, Party Politics, Vol. 17/1, pp. 21-44, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354068810365505.

[137] Winseck, D. (2008), “The state of media ownership and media markets: Competition or concentration and why should we care?”, Sociology Compass, Vol. 2/1, pp. 34-47, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2007.00061.x.

[5] Yagci, A. (2017), “The great recession, inequality and occupy protests around the world”, Government and Opposition, Vol. 52/4, pp. 640-670, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/gov.2016.3.

[10] Yang, Z. and Z. Xin (2020), “Income inequality and interpersonal trust in China”, Asian Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 23/3, pp. 253-263, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ajsp.12399.

[79] Zur, R. (2021), Stuck in the middle: Ideology, valence and the electoral failures of centrist parties, Cambridge University Press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007123419000231.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2021

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at http://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.