Back to the Nation: Navigating the Post-Pandemic Order

Project: Research project

Project Details


Back to the Nation: Navigating the Post-Pandemic Order Back to the Nation: Navigating the Post-Pandemic Order In early 2020, the developed world had entered a new era of economic nationalism. A trade war between the US, China and Europe over steel tariffs; Buy American programs privileging US manufacturers regardless of cost; A great, great wall to control Mexico-US migration; Brexit; and natalist policies to boost birth rates in Hungary all epitomized a break with liberal, materialist economic policymaking and a shift towards culture-based, nationalist politics. Today, the Covid-19 pandemic has decisively accelerated this shift. Travel bans caused the collapse of international air travel; Transportation costs rose due to delays at major ports; Fear of the virus ended free movement within the European Union; Supply chain disruptions caused shortages of microchips and manufactured goods; and governments banned exports of vaccines. These developments have been accompanied by unprecedented expansions of government spending and national indebtedness, as states take radical steps to bolster demand and prop up individuals, firms and organizations affected by the virus. The pandemic has called globalizations future into question and inaugurated a new era of big government. In this research project, I will explain the rise of economic nationalism and anticipate the pandemics effects on economic policymaking in the future. I will develop a theory of transitions from class-based, materialist policymaking to culture-based, nationalist politics. I will apply this theory cross-nationally, explaining broad trends across the developed world, and in special detail to the United States. The theory can be applied to many different aspects of politics, but I will focus on campaigns and policies around international trade and migration, which are at the core of the new economic nationalism. To state the theory succinctly, nationalist politics emerge where class-based mobilization is undermined by weak organizations and a large welfare state. When individuals rely on government for public goods like social insurance rather than labor unions and left-wing political parties they lack class solidarity and are readily mobilized by cultural appeals to national identity. Todays economic nationalism emerged most forcefully in the US, Britain and post-Communist Eastern Europe because these countries histories of labor market deregulation, communist rule or both radically undermined independent class-based institutions. Economic nationalism will be strengthened by government responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, because of the remarkable expansion in the size and role of the state that they have involved. Economic nationalism is here to stay and the shift from class to culture is the structural realignment that will define politics in the developed world through the middle of the 21st century. Empirically, this project will draw on a large and rapidly expanding body of research on public opinion, political campaigns and policymaking in the US and Europe. It will make an independent contribution by documenting and analyzing recent trends in politics and policy in the US. I will interview central figures in the ongoing shift towards nationalist economic policymaking in Washington, DC, from campaign and congressional staff and elected officials through agency personnel, scholars and policy analysts. This research project will generate several outputs. Most importantly, a book manuscript co-authored with my colleague Michael Hechter tentatively titled Back to the Nation: Navigating the Post-Pandemic Order that is intended for a broad readership within the academy and beyond. A detailed prospectus for this book is currently under review at Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. We will use workshops in Tempe, AZ and Washington, DC and media appearances to discuss and disseminate this work. I will also write a chapter for an edited volume that deals specifically with economic nationalism, the pandemic and migration. Our goal is a project that informs and inspires public debate around contemporary economic policymaking, and a critical assessment of the prospects and risks of economic nationalism.
Effective start/end date1/1/2212/31/23


  • The Mercatus Center at George Mason University: $38,341.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.