Foreign Policy and Identity Politics: Trump and Brexit through Putnam’s Too Level Games


In 2016, two major advanced democracies held consequential plebiscites that will impact the conduct of their respective future foreign policies. Putnam observed that foreign policy decisions are invariably affected by the pressures placed on the political executive’s international imperatives as a result of domestic agenda concerns. Since the communitarian challenge to liberal philosophy emerged from the 1970s onward, the pre-eminence of identity politics has been well established in academia and partly reflected in the public policies of advanced democracies with respect to minorities and immigrants. However, the logic of identity politics has been transposed beyond application to minorities and migrant populations and has now facilitated the emergence of occidental nativism. We undertake a comparative analysis of the implications of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the UK’s referendum on membership of the EU. We contend that both events indicate the adaption of identity politics discourse into the political consciousness of indigenous populations of nations hosting inward migration. Both cases illustrate that emergent nativist reactions to decades of multicultural policies will impact the executive branch’s capacity to negotiate and conclude international agreements. The study throws into relief the tension between two competing objectives: the imperative to conclude beneficial agreements with other states while simultaneously maintaining political electability in the face of increasing domestic nativism. The paper concludes with a discussion of these domestic constraints on US and UK foreign policy and the emergent crisis in normative identity politics exposed by them.

Author Information
Kenneth Houston, Webster University, Thailand
Jason Briggs, Webster University, Thailand

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2017
Stream: Humanities - Political Science, Politics

This paper is part of the ACAH2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon