Battered, bruised and jumpy — the whole world is on edge
The biggest common factor is also the hardest to pin down — a bubbling anti-elite sentiment, combining anxiety about inequality and rage about corruption that is visible in countries as different as France, Brazil, China and the US. In America and Europe, such complaints are often linked to a pervasive narrative of national decline. These social and economic anxieties have political side effects, fuelling a demand for “strong” leaders, such as Mr Xi, Mr Trump or Vladimir Putin of Russia, who promise (however hypocritically) to tackle the corrupt elites, fight for the little guy and stand up for the nation.
The global gloom makes the international political system feel like a patient that is still struggling to recover from a severe illness which began with the financial crisis of 2008. If there are no further bad shocks, recovery should proceed gradually and the worst political symptoms may fade. The patient is vulnerable, however. Another severe shock, such as a major terrorist attack or a serious economic downturn, could spell real trouble.