Nowadays, the United States of America can be defined by poor social cohesion, growing political disruption, a gradual loss of public trust in the government, deteriorating national institutions, and a declining sense of civic duty on the part of private citizens. This general decline began in the 1980s when, under President Ronald Reagan, the United States gradually moved away from heavy industry, leaving entire areas of the country without employment or opportunities. In the United States of America, the opportunity gap between those living in economic hardship and those at the top of the social ladder has widened significantly since the early 2000s. Economic and geographical inequality worsened further with the 2008-2010 crisis. While education, together with the place where a person is born and raised, have always become two determining factors for success in society, today there are also other important factors to consider. As the world continues to change at an increasingly fast pace, the education system is not able to adapt accordingly. Even a university degree is no longer enough to guarantee a job, but with college debts prohibiting the costs of further specialisation, students end up losing hope for a better future. According to the author, over time, this sense of despair turns into anger, and allows populism to get the upper hand over democracy.
The UK is also experiencing similar issues. The neo-liberal measures of Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, divided the country between areas that were thriving, and areas in decline.These divisions had already begun in the previous years, but they were exacerbated by the policies introduced during this time. Northeast England, for example, was once a specialised mining area, but its industry was phased out as it became obsolete. However, no adequate measures were implemented that allowed people to re-enter the labour market with dignity.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s policies enabled the economic growth of their respective countries from the 1990s to the early 2000s, but they also created significant social and geographic inequality between people who were able to keep up with the change, and those who were left behind. This generated political divisions which finally, in 2016, led to Donald Trump’s election as president in the US, and to the Brexit referendum in the UK.