The roughly concurrent rise to power of Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, as well as the apparently increasing ethnic nationalism around the globe, has been predicated, in part, upon anxieties of racial or ethic difference, social change, and economic inequality. But there is something more: the deliberate social construction of anxiety as a means to the creation of extremely motivated political activists—the less polite term is ‘fanatics’—appears to be increasingly common in political discourse. These developments resonate profoundly with the writings of Eric Hoffer, especially his well-known ‘true believer’ paradigm. Employing Hoffer’s terminology and concepts, this talk compares the US under Trump and China under Xi to explore the functionality and dysfunctionality of anxiety in two radically different milieu.
Andrew Stuart Abel, Ph.D.
Andrew Stuart Abel is a statistician, researcher, writer, and musician. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he studied with N. J. Demerath III, Alvin P. Cohen, and Suzanne Model. Dr. Abel studied Chinese languages and literatures as an undergraduate and is an Asian cultural specialist; his doctoral dissertation addresses the high rate of conversion to Christianity among Chinese immigrants in the United States. His research specialties include religion, social class, and organizational behavior, all of which he approaches with an eye toward changes in behavior, especially through rituals, the social construction of morality, and systems of belief.