New Publication – Populism and a New Age of International Fragility: Seeking Policy Innovations 40 Years After the Brandt Report

Together with Prof. Solveig Richter, University of Leipzig, and Raphael Robiatti, Brandt School, we have edited a publication supported by the Bundeskanzler-Willy-Brandt-Stiftung. We use the 40th anniversary of the so-called Brandt Report as a moment to look at the legacy of the report on policymaking.

“At the beginning of a new decade, only twenty years
short of the millennium, we must try to lift ourselves
above the day-to-day quarrels (or negotiations) to see
the menacing long-term problems. We see a world in
which poverty and hunger still prevail in many huge
regions; in which resources are squandered without
consideration of their renewal; in which more
armaments are made and sold than ever before; and
where a destructive capacity has been accumulated to
blow up our planet several times over.”
                                        (Brandt Commission, 1980)

In particular, we look at how the report’s agenda and mission endure the latest round of populist governments in many countries crucial for the international order. We collect eight contributions of 15 authors from 11 different countries to understand the consequences of populism on policymaking in general and the Brandt agenda in particular. The case studies range from how populist treat crucial issues such as the Colombian peace referendum or the so-called caravan of transmigration in Mexico to the legacy of the Brandt report on the development agenda in Germany and the UK recently harmed by the rise of populist forces in both countries.

40 years have passed since the launching of the Brandt Report.
40 uneasy years. Landmark publications like the Brandt Report
often emerge in two different situations. They can usher in a
new age of political thinking; in this case, they truly shape a
new paradigm to change our understanding of how the world
works. Alternatively, they are the last battle cry of a foregone
epoch; in that case, the timing marks the end of a cycle and a
style of thinking. Remarkably, the Brandt Report is both. In a
positive sense, in the sense of creating a paradigm, Edward
Kaweesi and Steve Khaemba have shown in this contribution
how the Brandt Report has inspired policymakers to find new
solutions to problems of international inequality. For instance,
the Brandt Report called for an international trade organization.
Indeed, a few years later, in 1994, the Uruguay Round of the
GATT established the foundation of the World Trade
                                      (Kemmerling and Reis, 2020, p.175)

We find that the latest round of populism has left a particular imprint on policymaking, which is visible in terms of style, rhetoric, and content. The (neo-)liberal revolution of the 1980s already demolished, in part, the so-called embedded liberalism as the international order which underwrote much of the Brandt report: liberal exchange in trade and flows of money and (to a lesser extent) people plus social policies which accommodate the shocks such liberal flows bring with them. In particular, it questioned the usefulness of social policies in this regard. Now, populism questions both the liberal exchange of money, commodities, people, and a solidaristic safety net within and, in particular, between countries. In this sense, the Brandt agenda remains as crucial as it was 40 years ago.

Brandt himself wrote in his introduction to the Report about
‘Shaping Order from Contradictions.’ Indeed, we do live in a
new age of contradictions. The populist challenge can be a
useful wake-up call to re-establish a new, more inclusive
international political order that allows for more equity, peace,
and prosperity for all.

                                    (Kemmerling and Reis, 2020, p.183)

We have created a Youtube Playlist containing short videos where authors summarize their contributions, you can watch them here.