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What Is Populism, Do You Understand It?

+2 votes
May 21 in Politics & Government ✌ by Virginia (7,565 points)

On the Internet, I learned that populism is generally understood as a potentially violent reaction of the common people to the elite privileges of a few. Populism can be either right-wing, in which case it may rally around nativism/xenophobia, or left-wing and then it often latches onto socialism.

But populism is now found through much of Europe; the anti-austerity insurrections in Greece, Italy, and Spain, for instance. Some people say Donald Trump was elected through populism. Here is a quote I found from 2010:

'In his conversation with the German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine, van Rompuy, the former president of the European Council, offered a succinct answer. Not neoliberalism, not plutocracy: “the greatest danger to the contemporary West” he told his German colleagues, “is populism.” '

So, what is populism? And, were the insurrections on Evergreen College campus in Washington State populist?

2 Answers

TheOtherTink May 21

Yes, I think the definitions and examples you give are correct.  I would add that populism can be either right or wrong, at least in its inception, depending on how corrupt the establishment being revolted against may be.

If the populist movement succeeds in throwing out the scoundrels, and replaces the scoundrels with decent, reasonable people, then fine.  Unfortunately, it has often historically been the case that even bigger scoundrels move in to fill the political power vacuum.

And of course, the Evergreen insurrection was populism of a perverse, unreasonable kind.

And as for Rompuy, he would do well the ponder the policies that brought on the populism he fears. Some of that populism is indeed unreasonable, but some is not.

Tink, did you already know of van Rompuy? That is a fairly drastic statement, potentially suggesting to just smash anything related to populism...

Helpful answer, btw!

No, Virginia, I hadn't heard of Rompuy before.  The appointed EU Council guys tend to operate below the public radar, while the heads of state tend to get the most attention.

Read it, Tink.

Kninjanin May 22

The definition is true. 

Virginia Kninjanin May 22

Appreciated, Kninjanin!

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