Trump As World-Historic Disruptor

Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


I think the Trump phenomena should be considered within the global perspective of humanity in transition. Even if we leave aside the radical possibilities of a phase shift into an Epoch of “Singularity” (Kurzweil, 2005; Eden et. al., eds., 2012), it seems reasonable to view the world as moving into a period of radical transformation. The history of the 17th century (Parker, 2014) can somewhat serve as an analogue. As I stated in another context “It is absurd to believe that everything is going to change, but politics will and can remain the same” (Dror, 2014:30).

Given this perspective, the experiences of heads of governments with handling of crises in the past (e.g. Beschloss, 2018; Boin et.al, 2017; Goodwin, Kearns, 2018) is inadequate for considering emerging realities and needs. Much more “disruptive” presidents are likely to be elected and engage in radical policy innovations without being constrained by “the world as it is” (Rhodes, 2018), but rather throwing surprises at history.

It is not for me to evaluate the modus operandi and decisions of President Donald John Trump. But, from a world-historic perspective, the overall impact of President Trump is disruption of “politics as usual,” which is overdue. Naturally, this is condemned by all who cling to what they practice and the past-conditioned power — indecisive bargaining on domestic policies and endless “diplomacy-centered” foreign policy. And, truly, Trump’s revolutionary choices carry high risks.

However, there are periods when “politics as usual” is even more dangerous, especially when historic quantum-leaps pose totally novel challenges which can be coped with only by parallel radical and even revolutionary politics and policies.

The future is in deep uncertainty. But the emerging epoch of Homo sapiens clearly constitutes what science fiction author Lain M. Banks called an “Outside Context Problem” (Banks, 2008: Kindle locations 1314, 2475. 5199, 6794), such as an isolated tribe meeting an advanced civilization. The combined effects of emerging science and technology, ranging from general artificial intelligence to gene engineering, are sure to add up to a radical shift of human existence: labor market will implode; expensive human enhancement will result in glaring life expectancy inequality; virus mutations in kitchen laboratories will enable fanatic sects to kill millions; clime changes will produce mass migrations and require harsh changes in life styles, and so on. But, strictly regulated globally, the same science and technologies may enable multiple human thriving, but perhaps at the price of foregoing quite some individual liberties and abandoning much of state autonomy plus for sure at least partly novel politics and policy making. Therefore, disruption of “politics as usual,” despite all its dangers, is an essential phase clearing the way for the needed novel politics.

I do not imply that all the innovations of Trump are for the better. Nor is it assured that his deviancy will serve as “constructive destruction.” It may fail to achieve the necessary critical mass, and may evoke counter-productive reactions. But the positive potentials of the bombshells thrown by President Trump on politics-as-usual should be recognized.

The implication for policy studies is clear. In addition to being a “normal science,” which continues its important endeavor, it should face a world in radical transformations with more revolutionary rather than incremental policy making becoming both a fact and a necessity.


Bibliography

  • Banks, Iain M. 2008. Excession. New York: Little, Brown. Kindle Edition.
  • Beschloss, Michael. 2018. Presidents of War. New York: Crown. Forthcoming.
  • Boin, Arjen; ‘t Hart, Paul; Stern, Eric; Sundelius, Bengt. 2017. The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership under Pressure, second ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dror, Yehezkel. 2014. Avant-Garde Politician: Leaders for a New Epoch. Washington, CD: Westphalia Press.
  • Eden, Amnon H., James H. Moor, Johnny H. Søraker and Eric Steinhart (eds.). 2012. Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment. Berlin: Springer.
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns. 2018. Leadership: In Turbulent Times. New York: Simon and Schuster.
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  • Parker, Geoffrey. 2014. Global Crisis. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Rhodes, Ben. 2018. The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House. New York: Random.