September 18, 2019 - 12:05pm

Today the Social Market Foundation launched a report that claims to reveal an unrecognised but “critical” dimension of politics:

…while there is a clear ‘Left-Right’ dimension to the structure of the ideologies in the data, there is also another critical dimension at play. This is apparent in two ideological clusters that are defined by low confidence in societal institutions such as parliaments, major companies and the press… Based on their low trust in institutions we label these types as ‘anarchists’.
- Mirko Draca
Credit: Social Market Foundation

They then explain that by “anarchist” they’re not referring to “a particular strand of radical, syndicalist politics” but to “the questioning of existing institutions that is characteristic of current populist politics.”

The authors are right to identify trust versus mistrust in the establishment as an important dividing line in our troubled politics. However, the labels used – “anarchist”, and the opposing “centrist” – is misleading.

As I argue here, the real anarchists in our society are the powerful institutions – whether governmental, commercial, or cultural – that have unleashed waves of chaos on the rest of society:

Globalisation, financialisation, automation, immigration, military intervention and, in Europe, transnational integration. With case-by-case variations, these have been presented as part of an ‘open’, liberal and centrist political agenda – when in fact they add up to a series of disruptions whose costs and benefits are unequally distributed.
- Peter Franklin

Our political and business leaders aren’t centrist and they’re certainly not moderate – they believe in ‘moving fast and breaking things’.

The real divide in the electorate is therefore between those of us who are most exposed to the chaos and those who are insulated – or even benefit – from it.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.