Public event

How power came to "Trump" policy and democracy

Seismic social change, new influence elites, the rise of the anti-establishment, and parallels with post-communism

The election of Donald Trump has emphasized the growing global focus on anti-establishment movements. Some would argue that people are turning politically to demagogic figures who flagrantly flout the norms due to decades of eroding civic mistrust, the rise of a new class of influence elites, and growing income inequality. But when these politicians get into a position of power, they often appropriate methods used by the very elites they seek to replace and can show little regard for the democratic process. These leaders also borrow from communist and post-communist playbooks: Power and personality frequently trump process, formal position, bureaucracy, and elected bodies.


Janine R. Wedel is an award-winning author, social anthropologist, and University Professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University (also a Global Policy Chair at the University of Bath, UK, and a Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin).  Her most recent book, Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class (Pegasus 2014; paperback 2016), was named in Bloomberg’s survey of 2014 favorite reads. Her other prizewinning books include Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market (Basic Books 2009); and Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe (Palgrave 2001). She also published Confronting Corruption, Building Accountability (2010); The Unplanned Society (1992); and The Private Poland (1986).  A public intellectual, Wedel has contributed analysis pieces to more than a dozen major outlets, including the Financial Times, New York Times, Foreign Policy, Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal Europe, and her work has been reviewed or translated into more than a dozen languages. A five-time Fulbright fellow, she has also won the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, as well as major awards from the National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Institute for New Economic Thinking, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, among others.  Wedel is co-founder and past president of the Association for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP), a section of the American Anthropological Association.         


Since 2008, Zoe Reiter has worked at Transparency International with partners and Chapters across the Americas and the world to push for greater public accountability.  Currently, she serves as Senior Project Leader on three international anticorruption initiatives. She works closely with over 30 CSO and government partners to tackle corruption and increase citizen oversight of major public contracts, criminal justice institutions, and the delivery of safe and efficient public transportation. Currently she is also contributing to strategies for tackling corruption in the US. Zoe pursues an anti-corruption agenda that seeks greater participation of those communities, individuals and social groups most harmed and marginalized by corrupt governance. She is from New York and educated in cultural anthropology, urban planning, and French and Spanish literature. 

Joseph Vogl is Professor of German Literature, Cultural and Media Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin and Permanent Visiting Professor at Princeton University. Last publications: Kalkül und Leidenschaft. Poetik des ökonomischen Menschen (2002), Über das Zaudern (2007) / On Tarrying (2011), Soll und Haben. Fernsehgespräche (2009 co-author: Alexander Kluge), Das Gespenst des Kapitals (2010) / The Specter of Capital (2014), Der Souveränitätseffekt (2015) / The Ascendancy of Finance (forthcoming 2017).      

Steffen Vogel is a social scientist and works as an editor at the monthly paper "Blaetter fuer deutsche und internationale Politik". He also contributes to "Sueddeutsche Zeitung", "die tageszeitung (taz)" and "der Freitag". He has published two books on European issues ("Europas Revolution von oben", 2013 and "Europa im Aufbruch", 2014).


Claus Offe is Professor Emeritus of Political Sociology at the Hertie School.  He has held chairs for Political Science and Political Sociology at the Universities of Bielefeld (1975-1989) and Bremen (1989-1995), as well as at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin (1995-2005). He worked as fellow and visiting professor at, among others, the Institutes for Advanced Study at Stanford and Princeton, the Australian National University, Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley and The New School in New York. He completed his PhD at the University of Frankfurt and his habilitation at the University of Konstanz.