With new preface: "How the Likes of Hillary Clinton Led to the Likes of Donald Trump: A Dozen Things I Got Right Years Before the Anti-Elite Revolts of 2016"
No one likes to be told "I told you so." But at the risk of sounding nearly as shameless as Donald Trump, I ask you honestly, whose pronouncements are more credible: a johnny-come-lately "analyst" who begins pontificating about a phenomenon like the rise of Trump after it becomes undeniable? Or a scholar who wrote years ago about the emergence of outsiderism. I am (blush) the latter. In 2014 I wrote in the preface to the book you are now reading:
How is it that ordinary people have an instinctual grasp of the real nature of corruption and the inequality that often results, while many experts are still wedded to the idea that corruption happens somewhere "out there"? Witness the "Occupy" protests that began on Wall Street in 2011 and the "Tea Party" movement that helped grind the U.S. government to a halt in the fall of 2013. They may otherwise have little in common, but they share a resounding refrain: that the "system" is gamed by the powerful.
When I wrote those words, Donald Trump was just a middling, blustering reality television star and self-aggrandizing real estate mogul. Senator Bernie Sanders was a distant third on the list of famous Vermonters, well behind Ben and Jerry, of ice cream fortune. Now, more than two years later, I've heard these revolutionary figures and a parade of their supporters sing the same refrain, that the system is gamed.
Since the release of Unaccountable in fall 2014, I have watched with distress, though not much surprise, as the arguments I made in the pages you are about to read sprang to full flower in massive anti–establishment movements in the United States and Europe. My lack of surprise is because I come at this issue from a perspective and history few others have. I am an American who has spent the past few decades in Central and Eastern Europe and in the United States as a social anthropologist. On both sides of the Atlantic I have been studying elites who wield power and influence and how they operate in new and insidious ways — the result being that average people now have little meaningful voice in making and shaping the policies that affect their lives and livelihoods. (I had been in a low-grade, but escalating, state of alarm for at least a decade when I published a previous book, Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market, in 2009.) Unlike the hundreds, if not thousands, of articles written about this year of the Outsider, Unaccountable will give you a different framework for looking at the transformational changes that have allowed Western elites to defy public interest, while often enriching themselves, leaving regular citizens with little ability to hold them accountable.
In Unaccountable, my goal was to try to redefine corruption as actions that violate the public trust, even if they are not technically illegal. Most, if not all, of the elite boundary–pushing is fully legal, even if most of us would consider it unethical. When the book was first published, the populist movements erupting around the world showed that regular people were starting to instinctually know the contours of this "new corruption," as I call it, because indeed they were living with it. Now this is a stone–cold reality. The public knows full well that this new corruption is flourishing, though the culprits that are usually mentioned — money in politics, greedy banks, or the simple revolving door — tell a story that's dangerously incomplete. Many elites, by contrast, have been blind–sided. The media, too, have been caught off guard by insurgencies from both right and left. So have most pundits and scholars. This one was not.
As you read this book, looking closely at the arguments I put forth back in 2014 will help you better understand the astonishing events of 2016. Here are just a dozen.
A groundbreaking book that reveals the patterns and practices of a new and more sophisticated style of corruption that has infiltrated every level of society. ...Unaccountable is a truly original and, yes, chilling look at the new stealth corruption that increasingly dictates our lives.
"Of huge value. With an eye that sweeps from Poland and Russia to Cambridge and Washington, Janine Wedel has reinvented the study of public administration for an era of blurred roles and secret networks. Shadow Elite is a must-read for all who care about the future of government—even the possibility of decent government—in the age of flexians and truthiness."
- James K. Galbraith, Author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
"Wedel's probing look at cross-cultural miscom-munication demonstrates that Western resolve and the global rush to benefit from the demise of communist rule was costly not only to societies resistant to change, but to the American taxpayer as well."
- The Washington Post
"[Janine Wedel] is good at conjuring up the sense of adventure and psychological complexity that ensued as West and East got to know each other up close. She carefully charts the misunderstandings and cultural collisions as Western aid-givers tried to impose their own terms of reference on societies they were usually poorly equipped to understand."
- The Wall Street Journal
CONFRONTING CORRUPTION, BUILDING ACCOUNTABILITY: Lessons From the World Of International Development Advising. (Resource Handbook)
With Lloyd J. Dumas and Greg Callman
Palgrave Macmillan, December 2010
"The crisis that nearly brought the world’s financial house down in 2008 demonstrated clearly and powerfully that the global economy cannot work well where there is widespread deception based in deep-seated corruption and lack of accountability. Corruption and lack of accountability are also key reasons why international development assistance so often fails to deliver on its promise. …this book analyzes the problem, considers how major donor organizations approach it, and offers a series of helpful strategies for working toward solutions—in aid delivery and beyond."
- Editorial Review
Wedel's book "[weaves] essays and interviews from twenty Poles into a compelling tapestry. Her contributors...tell how people actually lived under a system that claimed total authority but was in reality incapable of exercising any form of positive control over Poland. Wedel...connects these wide-ranging native observations with introductions and annotations."
- Edward E. Roslof, Harvard University
"Janine Wedel renders a multi-layered portrait of Polish life...and opens to the Western reader... the mix of principle and compromise, tradition and improvisation, the bending to necessity while continuing to defy it, which make up the texture of grassroots life in contemporary Poland."
- Walter D. Connor, Harvard University
A quarter century later, the book was published in Polish by TRIO publishers, Warsaw. Read the Introduction to the Polish edition of The Private Poland (Prywatna Polska).