Trump and the Denial of Complexity

Complexity is about structure, or connections that are operationally reproduced (sustained) in time. Systems connect elements to establish structures.

At its core, the Donald Trump’s campaign and similar brands of reactionary, neo-nationalist politics around the world are all about the denial of complexity. It is an effort to disconnect elements that systems have established over time.

Trump and his followers want to deny the complexity of things like gender and race, the complexity of the global economy and global politics and, probably most dangerously, the complexity of the global climate–the connections between fossil fuels and climate change. Trump says he wants the United States to be “energy independent,” and tells people that his goal can be achieved by burning every bit of fossil fuel that can be found within the territory of the United States. He wants to cancel or back out of every international climate change agreement (along with trade agreements). He wants to build a wall around the United States and pretend that nothing else exists and that there is no such thing as a system. But interestingly, he exempts Canada from this policy because he wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. Similarly, he says he is willing to grant exceptions to his no-Muslim policy by allowing individuals like the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to enter the country.

Trump will say anything to stay in the news and to become president–and the only reason he wants to be president is so that he can stay in the news every day.

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5 Responses to Trump and the Denial of Complexity

  1. Valonqua says:

    There´s definitely a problem with the Trump campaign and its subcomplex appeals.

    But,IMO the problem goes “much” deeper: A core promise of the political function system is to attract and solve a lot of societal problems. But, esp. for unsolvable problems such as unemployment, migration, etc. that recur again and again, this system hasn´t much to offer (often only symbolic politics and / or endless talk). Disappointing? Yes, esp. when the hopes à la “Yes, we can!” were unrealistically high.

    Populist politicians (AfD in Germany right now, Berlusconi once in Italy, Trump in the US, etc.) act then as “non politicians politicians”.. That is: They present themselves as “non politicians” who, once in power, continue the political communication = political business as usual, perhaps only with less style and more drama.

    From this perspective, these “personae” are used to continue the autopoiesis of the political system. But, if it comes to a “system change” (democracy -> authoritarian regime), then this represents a kind of political “decomplexification” with perhaps fatal consequences for everyone invoclved (attempts to eleminate the opposition, attempts to control the mass media, etc).

    Nevertheless, this would “still” be political, although on a lesser political complexiy level. And this means less conflicts (as a mode of social learning) and, therefore, less social learning opportunities. In short: Democracies are usually less socially stupid than authoritarian regimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • clclark563 says:

      I agree, politics is powerless when it comes to many issues. Politics, for example, cannot create jobs and it’s not the job of politics to create jobs. You write:

      Populist politicians (AfD in Germany right now, Berlusconi once in Italy, Trump in the US, etc.) act then as “non politicians politicians”.. That is: They present themselves as “non politicians” who, once in power, continue the political communication = political business as usual, perhaps only with less style and more drama.

      Great point. And I think this also relates to the influence of mass media, which conditions society to expect something new and interesting every morning. Trump is new and interesting. Most of America got bored with Obama soon after he was sworn in, I think. And America is bored with Clintons and Bushes. In this sense, the US is like a child who always complains of boredom. And, as you say about attempts to control the mass media and eliminate the opposition, this is exactly what Trump is trying to do. He mocks and tries to humiliate anyone who expresses the slightest doubt about his leadership qualities. He calls journalists “scum” and “very bad people.” He talks like a first grader.

      Great point about complexity:

      Democracies are usually less socially stupid than authoritarian regimes.

      Like

  2. Valonqua says:

    “And I think this also relates to the influence of mass media, which conditions society to expect something new and interesting every morning.”
    I agree. With all the fast-traveling information / distractions available nowadays, it´s extremely easy to get bored. This includes having less focus / concentration and less leasure time (for contemplating something). Instead, we often suffer from sensory and information overload.

    But, this means that politics, esp. political campaigns, resemble(s) more and more a “spectacle (Guy Debord) 2.0”. And anti-establishment politicians such as Trump, Berlusconi, etc. give the so-called “masses” (= mere “spectators” in Luhmann´s quite desillusioned political view) what they seem to want: “a populist and flashy spectacle”.

    Such populist strategies can be seen as “frustrating, annoying, sad, subcomplex, etc.”, but they´re probably “inclusion strategies” regarding the political system because they attract (the attention of) people who have been lost by the political establishment. At the same time, this is a “dangerous” mode of political re-inclusion: It can destroy democracies from “within” by using democratic means such as elections, plebiscites, etc for populist-authoritarian ends.

    Another point is that populism can exacerbate political / societal “conflicts”. But. this is a double-edged sword, too: On the one hand, social systems seem to learn via “conflicts” (= communicative “parasites” that can dominate communication processes). On the other hand, a conflict system tends to attract all available resources and “kill” its systemic host.
    So, this is a very “delicate” mode of social learning that can easily get out of control because the use of violence is the attempt to reestablish regular communication processes – unfortunately, by eliminating the “enemies” who have been constructed by the conflict dynamics.

    My hypothesis in this context is: Populist strategies tend to create (political) “enemies” because of the exacerbation of conflicts. On the contrary, regular political strategies create “opponents” which can switch political sides, make compromises, etc. This is usually not the case with “enemies”.

    “And, as you say about attempts to control the mass media and eliminate the opposition, this is exactly what Trump is trying to do. He mocks and tries to humiliate anyone who expresses the slightest doubt about his leadership qualities. ”
    I´d say this is the consequence of a populist construction of political “enemies”. We have seen similar things in European countries, too: Berlusconi in italy or LePen in France, for example.

    But, I´m not so sure if that´s really an ad-hominem, that is: a Donald Trump, problem. Rather, this seems to be the result of how Republicans and Democrats interact politically. In short: The political-ideological atmosphere in the US is a bit poisened. And Donald Trump is just someone who adds populist fuel to the ideological fire…

    Like

  3. Pingback: Identity Politics and Backlash | Autopoiesis: Producing and Reproducing Systems Theory

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