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Photo:Donald Trump closeup,” by Gage Skidmore licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Hue modified from the original.

Goldstein, Donna M., and Kristen Drybread, eds. Corruption and Illiberal Politics in the Trump Era. Taylor & Francis, 2022.


This book explores the nexus of corruption, late capitalism, and illiberal politics in the Trump era. Through deep, contextualized analysis and careful critique, it offers valuable perspectives on how corruption is defined and understood in the current historical moment. The book asks: Is today’s corruption something new, or is it a continuation of prior patterns of illiberalism?

Chapters in this collection consider how corruption is practiced, mobilized, or invoked in a range of cases, each of which is embedded within larger concerns about what citizenship, social belonging, honesty, and justice mean in the United States today. The authors examine a constellation of unscrupulous actors and questionable actions, with topics ranging from sex scandals and shady real estate deals to the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several essays directly address the increasingly violent rhetoric and the deliberately anti-democratic policies that have flourished during the Trump era. The book draws on anthropological insights and comparative analysis to place the policies and practices of Trump and his supporters in a wider global context.

Corruption and Illiberal Politics in the Trump Era will be of great interest to readers from anthropology, sociology, political science, discourse studies, media studies, linguistics, and American studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Anthropological Meditations: Illiberal Politics and Corruption in the Trump Era – The Editors

Section I: Corruption as the Misappropriation of Societal Values

  1. Sycophantic Politics: Rule Breaking, Entitlement, and White-Collar Crime in Trump’s Orbit – Donna M. Goldstein
  2. On Calling Donald Trump “Corrupt” – Aaron Ansell
  3. Corruption as the Through Line: Overlooked Establishment Corruption, Why Trumpism is No Accident, and Why Corruption Has No End – Janine R. Wedel

Section II: Deliberate Cruelty

  1. Descending from Sadism to Trumpism: Jeffrey Epstein and the Befouling of U.S. Politics – Kristen Drybread
  2. Corruption against Humanity: Leveraging the Pandemic in Trump’s Re-election Campaign – Carol J. Greenhouse
  3. The Illiberality of Trump’s Lawless Bipolitical Immigration Actions – J.C. Salyer

Section III: Explaining Trumpism Abroad

  1. Why is Donald Trump So Popular in Southeastern Nigeria and What Can We Learn From It? Undermining Truth and Enabling Corruption – Daniel Jordan Smith
  2. “Tropical Trump”: Illiberal Politics and the Digital Life of(Anti)Corruption in Brazil – Leticia Cesarino
  3. Manipulative Statecraft: The Disinformation Campaigns and Presidential Powers of Trump and Putin – Magdalena E. Stawkowski

Section IV: The Language, Semiotics, and Grammars of Trump Power

  1. “Lock Her Up!”: A Biography of a Trump-Era Chant and the Banality of Misogyny – Carla Jones
  2. Slogans of White Supremacy: Imagined Minority Corruption in Trump-Era Politics – Richard Ward and Stefka Hristova
  3. Digital Hatred in Corruption’s Defense: The Role of the “Bread Bakers” in 4chan’s “President Trump General” Threads – Dillon Ludemann

Section V: Trump-Era Lack of Concern for Collective Well-Being

  1. Trump as Benevolent/Authoritarian Boss – Brandon Hunter-Pazzara
  2. Trump’s Corruption and the Virus of Polarization: Race, Class, and the Reign of the Wealthy – Bruce Knauft
  3. Hailing All Neoliberals: Inaction, Corruption, and the Trumpist Response to COVID-19 – Eric Louis Russell

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.