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Book Chapter

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Nothing causes more anguish and frustration than downward social mobility such as that experienced by less-educated workers and especially by displaced workers. Those who lose economic status lose more than income because they become so socially isolated that they are further frustrated through loneliness (Case and Deaton 2020). Hanna Arendt points out that lonely men are susceptible to authoritarian influence (1973, p. 475).

There is yet another aspect to the downward social mobility of low skilled men, namely that they are losing ground not only relative to social norms but also relative to the wages of low-skilled women. In 1973 men without a high-school diploma earn $4/hour more than women with a high-school diploma (no college). However, by 2016 they are earning $1.20/hour less, a decline of $5.20/hour in their relative incomes. This also matters to their psychological alienation. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has a report that notes that 8.9 million manufacturing workers are displaced by imports from 1991 to 2019 and that 5.4 million workers are needed to produce the growing exports (Rose 2021). However, trade really cannot be blamed for this net loss of 3.5 million workers according to CSIS. Instead, most of the lost jobs come from rising productivity due to fewer and fewer workers needed in manufacturing to run more and more machines, computers, etc. To make matters worse, CSIS points out that the US does less than its foreign competitors to help and retrain workers displaced due to layoffs, downsizing, and/or foreign trade competition.

This chapter looks at how downward worker mobility and subsequent rises in societal inequality may be fueling the rise of right-wing populism (sometimes called neo-fascism). A review of relevant literature on worker displacement and angst is conducted, and then there follows a discourse on the implications of such phenomena on current US and global politics. Data is shown from government sources that somewhat validate the research done on the rise of deeply conservative populism. Finally, survey data demonstrate those who are more subject to bouts of unemployment are more likely to believe that immigrants take jobs away from US citizens and that “free” trade agreements are good for the US.


This is the pre-print version of a book chapter to be published at a later date. This information will be updated upon publication.