The new ideology of the new Cold War

Jochen Bittner, describing the political formula mastered by Vladimir Putin as “orderism,” writes: Orderism prioritizes stability over democracy and offers an alternative to the moral abyss of laissez-faire societies. Russia stands as a model for this new social contract. This contract is built on patriotism, traditional gender roles, Orthodox Christianity, military strength and, at the top, a benevolent czar who will promise only as much as he can deliver (provided the public gives him sufficient support, he can deliver a lot). Orderism may not yet boast the same economic performance as liberalism, but its adherents insist that the cohesion and the common spirit of an orderly nation will allow it to outlive the inevitable downturn of the disorderly West.

It’s easy to see why, especially for those who have suffered dislocation and anomie under liberal democracy, orderism is appealing. But just as the utopian promises of Communism were merely a fig leaf for tyranny, the official face of orderism hides something much darker. Order is attractive only until it stifles, and then represses. Unchecked autocrats turn on the weakest and most vulnerable as scapegoats, and lash out in foreign misadventures to divert attention from problems at home. Society breaks down; fear reigns. Orderism ultimately fails to deliver on its own promises.

What is striking, though, is how compatible orderism is with the attitudes of many voters in the United States and Europe. Donald J. Trump’s campaign boils down to a promise of tough order. And the decision of British voters to leave the European Union, catalyzed by the promise of the U.K. Independence Party and others of an orderly, independent England, was nothing but an attempt to stop the frightening and discomfiting effects of globalization. Part of the difficulty in dealing with orderism is that it is ideological without being an ideology. It is mercurial, pragmatic and cynical; its meaning and values change to fit the circumstances. [Continue reading…]

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