The Rise of Market Populism: America’s New Secular Religion

The Rise of Market Populism: America’s New Secular

Are you ready to define the 90’s? ‘It was an era of many and
spectacular avant-gardes, of loud and highly visible youth
cultures, of emphatic multiculturalism, of extreme sports, extreme
diets and extreme investing,’ writes cultural critic Thomas Frank
in The Nation. But the real story over the last
decade, he argues, was how Americans quietly settled into what some
call the ‘golden straitjacket’ of faith in the free-market.

According to Frank, this faith lies at the core of the ‘new
economy.’ It also mirrors a widely held belief that free markets
are not only fair, but a more democratic force than elected
governments. The result has been the rise of a ‘market populism’
driven by ‘supply and demand, poll and focus group, superstore and

‘By their very nature markets confer democratic legitimacy,’ he
continues. Markets bring down the pompous and the snooty and give
us what we want. Many depict the market as a permanent social
revolution in which ‘daring entrepreneurs are endlessly toppling
fat cats and picking off millions of lazy rich kids.’ Not so,
argues Frank, who sees market populism as the most blatant apology
for economic inequality since social Darwinism.— Amanda
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