Populism


Populism’ (from the Latin populus, meaning ‘the people’) has been used to describe both distinctive political movements and a particular tradition of political thought. Movements or parties described as populist have been characterised by their claim to support the common people in the face of ‘corrupt’ economic or political elites. As a political tradition, populism reflects the belief that the instincts and wishes of the people provide the principal legitimate guide to political action. Populist politicians therefore make a direct appeal to the people and claim to give expression to their deepest hopes and fears, all intermediary institutions being distrusted. Although populism may be linked to any cause or ideology, it is often seen as implicitly authoritarian, ‘populist’ democracy being the enemy of ‘pluralist’ democracy.

Trumpism is an example of the appeal to the instincts of the ordinary person over elites. 'Drain the swamp' and 'America First' cut across ideology drawing on the insticts of the working class which is frames as common sense- as well as nationalism. Trump's appeal to law and order creates a spectre of lawless cities and shadowy anarchists who can only be defeated by the regular folks.

Populism has also manifested itself in a nationalist conservatism which is a reaction to liberalism and globalisation. While liberalism favours the construction of a market-based world economy in which there is the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, other tendencies within conservatism have served as a counter-globalisation force, a mechanism of resistance to a ‘borderless world’. This trend has been increasingly apparent since the early 2000s, having been boosted by the 2007–10 global financial crisis, which led to the steepest decline in global output since the 1930s, and by the onset, in 2015, of the European migration crisis. Counter-globalisation conservatism has been most apparent in the rise of far-right and anti-immigration parties, which have drawn on national conservatism in adopting a ‘backward-looking’ and culturally, and perhaps ethnically, ‘pure’ model of national identity. In many ways, this development has been part of the wider revival of populism, which has seen growing disenchantment with conventional politics and the emergence of anti-establishment leaders and movements in many mature democracies, a phenomenon often called anti-politics. Right-wing, populist parties, articulating concerns about immigration and multiculturalism, have become a feature of politics in many European states, a trend sometimes entangled with growing disillusionment about EU integration.