Thanks Oliver for an interesting article and critique. I’m going to order Mercier’s book and read it for myself because of what you’ve written here. I rather suspect, however, that Mercier has fallen prey to the same mistake made by so many journalists, pundits, and commentators when confronted by the wave of mindless populism that’s sweeping the world: they project onto others their own desire for more intelligent and comprehensible reasons why people so often appear to act in ways that suggest they’re extremely simple-minded.
Clever people rarely grasp the fact that most people aren’t clever, and that the thought processes of most people are very rudimentary. Furthermore, the vast majority of citizens are very poorly informed about almost every aspect of our complex modern world. Thus their ability to understand and make adequate decisions is highly constrained. For the likes of Mercier, however, this reality is unacceptable and so an intellectual construct must be created to “explain” the phenomenon.
That’s why journalists endlessly opined about Brexit, Trump, et al being “a protest against the elite” despite the obvious fact that Brexit was led by two very elite individuals, and that Trump is a self-proclaimed billionaire. In short, one doesn’t vote against the elite by voting for them. But this obvious reality is unacceptable to the chattering classes and so a narrative is constructed and repeated an infinitum despite being absurd.
Anyhow, I look forward to reading Mercier’s book in the hope that it contains something more than just another attempt to rationalize generic foolish human behavior.