Meaning of Trump, The
An ideological critique of Donald Trump's Presidential election. What is the meaning of Trump?
The election of Donald Trump was a shattering moment to the political sensibilities of America; immediately sending the country into a frenzy of commentary, critique, and a never-ending media coverage that has bordered on the absurd. But the question still remains: what does it all mean?
The Meaning of Trump is an ideological critique that sees the election of Donald Trump as a completely natural progression to the general trajectory of digitized technologies, neoliberalism, and a new breed of financialized capitalism; destructive global forces that know no party affiliation or national boundary. Although Donald Trump is undoubtedly the symptom that has exploded to the surface after nearly four decades of failed policies and broken promises by both Republicans and Democrats alike, his election can also be seen as an existential fork in the road for both the United States and even humanity itself.
What path is taken still remains to be seen.
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The Meaning of Trump from Brian Francis Culkin is an attempt, largely successful, to assess what the election of someone like Trump means, about who we are, what we are becoming, and what we might be able to do. I started this quite a while back but had to set it aside because at the time all I wanted to do was scream profanities at Trump and his supporters, which is not the proper frame of mind to read a book that tries to explain what this hell we're living through means. I finally came back to it and will also be reading a couple others I did the same thing with. I won't say I agree with Culkin completely but I do think he makes some very good points about what that election means. He is fairly objective in his assessments but he also acknowledges that much of what Trump does and says is, well, not good for the country. But he does not attack Trump so much as his "policies" so this is not simply an anti-Trump book. He has some sharp words for those on the left as well, particularly as it relates to trying to return to a similar form of neoliberalism. The responsibility for this fiasco we are experiencing is spread all across the political spectrum. Even with Russian meddling we have to take responsibility for making the environment in the country ripe for an imbecile to become President. If you want a decent read, this is a good choice. I think I would suggest a couple as well but anything that can keep from degenerating into what I would write is a step in the right direction. I don't think any single volume can cover this horrific set of circumstances that led us to being on the brink of losing our attempt at a democracy, so reading several books such as this one can at least provide some semblance of understanding. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ~ Earl Messer, NetGalley
The meaning of Trump tries to explore further the real meaning of Donald Trump's electoral victory in November 2016. After the wave of indignation and surprise traveled the world Brian Francis Culkin thinks now it is the right moment to analyse the figure of the President not only through his words and deeds but also as a symbol which represents something bigger in our current society. The avalanche of books, articles and general information has been so overwhelming since his election that it is difficult to add something new and refreshing and even though parts of the book sound merely introductory Culkin manages to contribute to the debate with his views. The most interesting input is the relation that the author establishes between Trump and digital society, or rather, the idea that Donald Trump is a direct consequence of the ways we use to communicate in social media and specially in Twitter. This permanent tension, the unnecessary but constant search for conflict, and the lack of any ideas apart from continuous insults and disrespect are the main characteristics of this kind of discourse, one that never listens to what the other person is saying and only generates noise and anxiety. Politicians are a symptom of the societies that create them and nourish them and never isolated cases coming from nowhere. They represent ideas and values that explicit or implicitly are present in our society and thus when a character like Donald Trump becomes against all odds President of the United States we must fight back, protest and push for change but also look to ourselves and see which are our priorities and what kind of place we want to live in. ~ Guillermo Fernandez , NetGalley
This is a fairly brief but useful overview of the reasons behind and the implications of Trump's presidency. Although some of Culkin's claims about elements such as the overwhelmingly negative effects of networked technologies, the disintegration of social relationships or the strategic thinking behind Trump's rise can be questioned, the book is very good on the effects of the growing coarseness of public discourse. The fact that his attempts at objectivity frequently falter in the face of the sheer absurdity of the current political situation is telling and reassuring. While I would have liked to have seen more focus on the effects beyond the US, the book is an interesting and timely examination of our times. ~ Michael J, NetGalley
Culkin presents a scholarly narrative on the very 'meaning of Trump'. In an effort to not spoil the 'ideological critique' he provides, this is excellent introduction to the issues surrounding this administration and those who advocate for it. Recommended reading for college political science courses, in part, for its brevity, this book is written at a level upon which most can understand. However, I strongly recommend this missive for those politically savvy individuals who wish to read a different take on the current President. ~ Eric Watkins, NetGalley
Donald Trumps election was a complete shock to many Americans The Meaning Of Trump is a well written blueprint of why we shouldn’t of been shocked what facts led to his election ~ rhonda Lomazow , NetGalley
The election of Donald Trump was a shattering moment to the political sensibilities of America; immediately sending the country into a frenzy of commentary, critique, and a never-ending media coverage that has bordered on the absurd. But the question still remains: what does it all mean? The Meaning of Trump is an ideological critique that sees the election of Donald Trump as a completely natural progression to the general trajectory of digitized technologies, neoliberalism, and a new breed of financialized capitalism; destructive global forces that know no party affiliation or national boundary. Although Donald Trump is undoubtedly the symptom that has exploded to the surface after nearly four decades of failed policies and broken promises by both Republicans and Democrats alike, his election can also be seen as an existential fork in the road for both the United States and even humanity itself. What path is taken still remains to be seen. Read this book --- it is definitely an education! (and not one from TrumpU!) ~ Janet Cousineau
“Trump wants neoliberalism, absent the globalization.” That is the paradox of Donald Trump, according to Brian Francis Culkin in his new book The Meaning of Trump, out from Zero Books in the first week of July, 2018. In other words, Trump embodies a paradox: he essentially represents the very neoliberal system–with its outsourcing of productivity to the Third World; migration of social and mediatic interactivity to the digital hypersphere; and the financialization of Big Business–that he built his entire campaign upon dismantling, promising to the middle American workers of the Rust Belt an impossibility: namely, that he could bring their jobs back, bring factories back from Mexico and China–such as Carrier–and in his words, “make America great, again.” Furthermore, the global migration crisis, according to Culkin, which Trump avows also to put a stop to, is in fact the fallout and result of American militarization and unrestrained multinational corporatism that Trump fully supports. You can’t have one without the other. Which lands Trump within another paradox: ignoring climate change and ordering his Titanic full speed ahead at the approaching iceberg by deregulating Big Business, ignoring environmental devastation, the dissolution of local economies and the rise of wars over resource scarcity, all of which virtually guarantees that the problem of human migration will only grow worse and worse. We are looking, over the next century, at the uprooting of possibly over a billion people in zones where failed nation states, such as in Syria and Iraq, and gradually increasing global temperatures, will be rendering such areas inhospitable and uninhabitable. The Syrian crisis is merely the prelude to the gradual depopulation of the Middle East as soaring temperatures will render it shorn of all human beings. These people have to go somewhere, and northern latitudes are going to be prime real estate. The irony is that Trump’s policies of deregulation will only make this situation worse, never better. Just like entropy. It only goes one way. Trump’s campaign, as Culkin also points out, won on a message that was, in essence, impossible to fulfill, namely to “make America great again,” by bringing back factories and jobs to the Rust Belt, turning back the clock on immigration to an age in which mostly white men benefited from the economy, and turn back to a time when social media wasn’t disrupting the flow of information from centralized sources. This is an example of what Arnold Toynbee called “the idolization of an ephemeral self,” such as in the case of ancient Athens after the Persian Wars, when the arrogance of the Athenians, relying upon their past greatness, kept getting them into worse and worse social and cultural disasters. American industrialization is dead, done and gone. Nothing can ever bring it back, as many of these jobs are in the process of becoming more and more automated. You cannot reverse the decaying entropy of a place like the Rust Belt. Economies simply don’t work that way, for they are built on exhausting and depleting resources in a specific area which, once exhausted, can never come back. It’s like trying to resurrect a mining town that is becoming a ghost town as the reserves are being depleted. The Sumerians, for instance, kept salinizing and ruining their soils as they went along, which is why, according to Thorkild Jacobsen, Mesopotamian civilization is a story that gradually migrates from southern Iraq with the Sumerians, to middle Iraq with the Babylonians, and ultimately to northern Iraq with the Assyrians. Once those soils are dead, they can’t be revived and neither can American industrialization. So that is a phantom set of floating signifiers whose signifieds have all been melted down. There’s no bringing them back. But note the vectors so far: Trump wants to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants; put travel bans on Muslim immigrants; he has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal; threatens to withdraw from NATO; supported Brexit; criticized any American involvement in Syria; and eased tensions with North Korea for the sole purpose of protecting American interests. In other words, it is an attempt to turn back the clock to pre-World War American Isolationism. It is like the Chinese emperor who, in the 1400s, ordered the burning of all admiral Zheng He’s records of his naval explorations in the Pacific, to Africa and, very possibly, the Americas. Subsequent Chinese influence upon the world retracted by the 1600s almost to zero as a result. It doesn’t sound so much like Trump wants to “make America great again” as to make it “small again.” Small, quaint, ignorant and provincial. Yet, as Culkin makes clear in his analysis of the very paradox that Trump represents, all the while supporting Big Business, deregulation and global corporate investments. It is a telling fact that while in North Korea, Trump was said to have been eyeballing its beaches as sites for possible future real estate developments. Reagan’s narrative, recall, was “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to rid it of Big Government interference in the financial flows of its citizens. (In other words, as a wealthy movie star, he simply got tired of paying taxes). Trump’s narrative, on the other hand, is “The Art of the Deal.” Everything can be negotiated. He knows nothing of politics, cares nothing for history, and is ignorant of climate change. None of this matters. All that matters to him is transforming any and every situation to his advantage by extracting financial flows from it. His journey to North Korea had nothing to do with diplomacy: he was looking for ways to make money off of Kim Jong-Un. He wasn’t even thinking of echoing Nixon’s visit to China, which he probably doesn’t remember anyway. Trump’s right hand, it is clear, does not know what his left hand is doing. As Culkin demonstrates, he is perhaps the most confused and confusing American president that we have ever had. And yet, the contradictions continue to ramify. Bizarrely, Trump has recently announced the creation of a Space Force, to be aligned with the American military. But isn’t this a retrieval of American expansionism again? But wait a minute: I thought he wanted to make America small again. Hold on: he meant “great,” right? Or was it small? So which is it: do you want to continue the expansion of the American Empire or shut it down and turn it into a quaint and cozy place of isolationism. Nation state or Empire? I don’t think this guy has thought anything through. Culkin’s book succeeds best when it analyzes the kinds of contradictions that the Trump presidency represents. He is the first Hypermodern president, who tweeted his way into the White House, just as JFK was the first televisual president. I wonder, though, how popular Twitter is with the kinds of small town American Rust Belt workers that put Trump into office? Wouldn’t they regard it as a toy of the coastal liberal elite in their decadent big cities? Voting for him, as Culkin points out, was clearly not in their best interests, although due to his charisma and rhetoric he was able to make them think that he was their Big Brother–in the best sense of the phrase–looking out for their best interests. But the joke was on them. Their jobs aren’t coming back and Wall Street is only going to grow bigger, more esoteric and complex. In short, Culkin’s new book is brilliant, short, readable and beautiful. I highly recommend it. ~ Cultural Discourse
Fascinating. Culkin's book on Trump is like a live coal that glows in your brain as you read it. No one will ever look or think about Donald Trump the same way again. ~ John David Ebert, cultural critic and poet