1st Edition

Corruption and Illiberal Politics in the Trump Era

Edited By Donna M. Goldstein, Kristen Drybread Copyright 2023
    326 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    326 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the nexus of corruption, late capitalism, and illiberal politics in the Trump era. Through deep, contextualized analysis and careful critique, it offers valuable perspectives on how corruption is defined and understood in the current historical moment. The book asks: Is today's corruption something new, or is it a continuation of prior patterns of illiberalism?

    Chapters in this collection consider how corruption is practiced, mobilized, or invoked in a range of cases, each of which is embedded within larger concerns about what citizenship, social belonging, honesty, and justice mean in the United States today. The authors examine a constellation of unscrupulous actors and questionable actions, with topics ranging from sex scandals and shady real estate deals to the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several essays directly address the increasingly violent rhetoric and the deliberately anti-democratic policies that have flourished during the Trump era. The book draws on anthropological insights and comparative analysis to place the policies and practices of Trump and his supporters in a wider global context.

    Corruption and Illiberal Politics in the Trump Era will be of great interest to readers from anthropology, sociology, political science, discourse studies, media studies, linguistics, and American studies.

    Editors’ Introduction to the Book

    Donna M. Goldstein and Kristen Drybread
    Editors’ Introduction: Anthropological Meditations: Illiberal Politics and Corruption in the Trump Era

    Section I: Corruption as the Misappropriation of Societal Values

    1. Donna M. Goldstein
    Sycophantic Politics: Rule Breaking, Entitlement, and White-Collar Crime in Trump’s Orbit

    2. Aaron Ansell
    On Calling Donald Trump "Corrupt

    3. Janine R. Wedel
    Corruption as the Through Line: Overlooked Establishment Corruption, Why Trumpism is No Accident, and Why Corruption Has No End

    Section II: Deliberate Cruelty

    4. Kristen Drybread
    Descending from Sadism to Trumpism: Jeffrey Epstein and the Befouling of U.S. Politics

    5. Carol J. Greenhouse
    Corruption against Humanity: Leveraging the Pandemic in Trump’s Re-election Campaign

    6. J.C. Salyer
    The Illiberality of Trump’s Lawless Bipolitical Immigration Actions

    Section III: Explaining Trumpism Abroad

    7. Daniel Jordan Smith
    Why is Donald Trump So Popular in Southeastern Nigeria and What Can We Learn From It? Undermining Truth and Enabling Corruption

    8. Leticia Cesarino
    "Tropical Trump": Illiberal Politics and the Digital Life of (Anti)Corruption in Brazil

    9. Magdalena E. Stawkowski
    Manipulative Statecraft: The Disinformation Campaigns and Presidential Powers of Trump and Putin

    Section IV: The Language, Semiotics, and Grammars of Trump Power

    10. Carla Jones
    "Lock Her Up!": A Biography of a Trump-Era Chant and the Banalityof Misogyny

    11. Richard Ward and Stefka Hristova
    Slogans of White Supremacy: Imagined Minority Corruption in Trump-Era Politics

    12. Dillon Ludemann
    Digital Hatred in Corruption’s Defense: The Role of the "Bread Bakers" in 4chan’s "President Trump General" Threads

    Section V: Trump-Era Lack of Concern for Collective Well-Being

    13. Brandon Hunter-Pazzara
    Trump as Benevolent/Authoritarian Boss

    14. Bruce Knauft
    Trump’s Corruption and the Virus of Polarization: Race, Class, and the Reign of the Wealthy

    15. Eric Louis Russell
    Hailing All Neoliberals: Inaction, Corruption, and the Trumpist Response to COVID-19.




    Donna M. Goldstein is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA.

    Kristen Drybread is a cultural anthropologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA.

    "This stellar edition brings to the public diverse anthropological perceptions and sensibilities about the catastrophic disasters that Trump set into motion during his office and now. The authors redefine Trump’s illiberal and undemocratic politics as each reflects on one of the evil political moves that characterized the Trump era, and that continues to threaten our divided country and the destruction of our national collective well-being. Please read this collection so you can keep in mind the Trump ghosts of past and the devils that can return." - Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology and Medical Anthropology, Emerita, University of California Berkeley, author of Death without Weeping (UC Press) and co-author with Philippe Bourgois of Violence in War and Peace (Blackwell, 2004 )    

    "This is an original, fascinating and timely exploration of the illiberal tendencies shaping the United States in the 21st century. Widening the horizons of analysis with the highly detailed, in-depth attention that anthropology enables, the analyses collected here go far beyond conventional accounts of Trump era corruption and are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand contemporary US politics and governance." - Jeff Maskovsky, Professor of Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, Professor of Urban Studies at Queens College, and co-editor of Beyond Populism: Angry Politics and the Twilight of Neoliberalism (West Virginia University Press, 2020)

    "What a bombshell! Finally, we get a sophisticated anthropological discussion of what makes Trump and his followers tick. Frightening but painstaking, written with great verve, this work rises to the demands of our state of emergency." - Michael Taussig, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Columbia University, and author of Mastery of Non-Mastery in the Age of Meltdown (University of Chicago Press, 2020)

    "In this bold and innovative examination of American cultural and electoral politics in the shadow of President Donald Trump's seemingly unexpected emergence as an iconic representation of national discontent, nostalgia and even rage, Goldstein and Drybread demonstrate the ongoing value of anthropology's holistic approach to social phenomena with not only political, but also economic, cultural, and even existential implications. The authors collected in this volume place the theme of political corruption in critical conversation with issues such as racism, economic exploitation, sexism and more to provide keen insights into what the Trump era can tell us about ongoing ideological and political battles that pre-date Trumpism and that will surely continue long after Trump's political career is over." - John L. Jackson, Richard Perry University Professor, Annenberg School for Communication, and author, Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness (Basic Books, 2008)

    "Goldstein and Drybread have assembled an indispensable toolkit for grappling with the specificities of corruption in this era. Insightful and provocative, the essays challenge us to reconsider the historically contingent nature of corruption as an ethical, cultural, and political concept. Essential reading for those who wish to understand the tensions and contradictions of liberal democracy." - Sarah Muir, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, CUNY (City College of New York and the Graduate Center)and author of Routine Crisis: An Ethnography of Disillusion (University of Chicago Press).   

    "Given the enormous proliferation of books and articles on Trump and Trumpism, it might be tempting to dismiss yet another book on Trump. However, with its emphasis on the role corruption played in the administration’s policy making, this book makes an original contribution. It presents corruption as the favoring of private interests over the public interest. The authors explain that the goal of policy making in the administration was to sidestep the rule of law. They discuss the destructive politics of Trump, rooted in policies intended to cause harm—the most striking example of which was the administration’s response to COVID-19. The authors provide examples of how the heads of state in Nigeria, Brazil, and the Russian Federation use Carl Schmitt’s friend/enemy distinction as undermining the public good in favor of authoritarian rule. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump identified diversity as a threat to the goal of achieving a homogenous society. The authors analyze the effectiveness of Trump’s skill in promoting the idea of government as an authoritarian business." - Choice (December 2023 Vol. 61 No. 4)