The new populism
November 22, 2018 4:23 AM   Subscribe

How Populism Became the Concept that Defines Our Age : an article at The Guardian by Cas Mudde, part of a series on The New Populism ('An investigation into the rise of a global phenomenon'). Other pieces include: Paul Lewis et al. revealing that One in Four Europeans Vote Populist; and Matthijs Rooduijn posing the question Why is Populism All the Rage? There's also a quiz: How Populist are You?
posted by misteraitch (45 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
You are least similar to: Donald Trump.

Well that's a fucking relief.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:39 AM on November 22, 2018 [25 favorites]


“You're most similar to:
Pablo Iglesias
Leader of Podemos, a leftwing Spanish party
Iglesias is a founder member of the anti-corruption, anti-austerity Podemos party, which props up the Spanish socialist minority government.

You're least similar to:
Donald Trump
US president”

As Marge Simpson would say , well duh
posted by The Whelk at 4:58 AM on November 22, 2018 [31 favorites]


Yeah, counting hexes I'm (-10, -6), in the big ol' cluster of apparently everyone else who's taken this quiz based on the hex shading for number of results.
posted by glonous keming at 5:24 AM on November 22, 2018


I match The Whelk here. Do I get a red flag? A rose in a fist?
posted by pracowity at 5:31 AM on November 22, 2018 [10 favorites]


According to their charts in "how populist are you" both Obama and Macron are to the left of Evo Morales which tells me that this is, ehm, far from rigorous.
Also any categorization which has, say, Podemos and Orban under the same label is very, very problematic to say the least
posted by talos at 5:45 AM on November 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


I’d be happy with a red flag and a nice rosé....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:50 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Give us bread and Rosè too
posted by The Whelk at 5:57 AM on November 22, 2018 [16 favorites]


I have to wonder what the significance is of the quiz link drawing all the responses so far.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:58 AM on November 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Isn't "populism" just an attempt to group left-wing parties with the rise of FN-style right-wing parties?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:24 AM on November 22, 2018 [16 favorites]


-15 on the X axis, +2 into populism - I think because there was one question tapping tribalism ("do you think members of the other party are evil"), and I said I might possibly agree a little, although what I mean is that I wouldn't say individuals are particularly evil in themselves or fundamentally, what they have is just a kind of malignant stupidity that emergently manifests as a net evil via collective action when under the guidance of vested interests - who are again stupid in ways, motivated by self-interest - evil like sharks or hurricanes can be said to be evil, one of nature's uglier expressions. Like I think if they hadn't been infected by ideological rabies they'd probably just not be people I'd want to hang around, vs agents of destruction etc.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Well I took it twice and was a little less wishy-washy with my answers the second time.

First round: Most similar: AMLO, Least similar: Donald Trump
Second round: Most similar: Bernie Sanders, Least similar: Donald Trump

I guess I'm good either way.
posted by lordrunningclam at 6:29 AM on November 22, 2018


There is deliberate obfuscation with regard to the concept of populism. See in The Guardian, "Forget Trump – populism is the cure, not the disease."

See also Marco D'Eramo's "Populism and the new oligarchy."
posted by No Robots at 6:35 AM on November 22, 2018 [10 favorites]


According to their charts in "how populist are you" both Obama and Macron are to the left of Evo Morales which tells me that this is, ehm, far from rigorous.

The left-right axis is by definition far from rigorous, being a device for reducing a nuanced interplay of philosophy, ideology and psychology to a one-dimensional axis.
posted by acb at 6:51 AM on November 22, 2018


I don't worry about populism, per se. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" paranoia has always been with us. Rather, I worry that populism always seems to cozy up to the authoritarians and is often dismissive of the (small d) democratic process itself. I find it disturbingly tribal rather than rational on all parts of the spectrum...
posted by jim in austin at 6:54 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Paradoxically, now that we finally agree on what we mean by populism per se, the 'populist phenomenon' in practice is almost exclusively populist radical right. The much expected, and hoped-for, leftwing populist wave has not happened. And while intellectuals and pundits of the left keep assuring us that the only future is an inclusionary leftwing populism, existing leftwing populism has turned nasty in Latin America and and become much less leftwing (Syriza) or less populist (Podemos) in Europe. Consequently, we increasingly talk about a general populism when we’re actually referring primarily, and often exclusively, to a specific populism."

Why has right-wing populism soared while left-wing populism has not? I think a lot has to do with the left winning culture wars: as women and minorities gain power; as gays, trans people and nonbinary people become part of everyday life; as white male hetero cis privilege becomes visible, the old guard scrambles to hold on to as much power as it can retain. Equality is anathema to the "traditional way of life" for most societies and religions that have spread by colonialism and imperialism.

Social power is more important to people than monetary power. Bernie's populism can pull some people in, but Trump's populism is more powerful. Taking down the rich is not as appealing as being able to continue lording it over the people you think you're better than.
posted by rikschell at 7:01 AM on November 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


acb: well yeah, but I can't think of any rational definition of left / right under which Evo isn't *much* to the left of Bernie Sanders, never mind Obama. Macron shouldn't be even register on the left, he is a self proclaimed centrist, and right wing on most economic issues.
posted by talos at 7:05 AM on November 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


there's a tendency among liberals to sort ideologies into "liberal" (meaning good) and "illiberal" (meaning bad), and to fail to acknowledge distinctions between ideologies in those two buckets. When they're feeling especially fancy, they hypothesize that this sorting scheme is inherent to the universe itself, and give it the name "horseshoe theory." it's easy to prove that horseshoe theory is correct — all you have to do is affirm the conclusion as one of your premises.

This is how people who think of themselves as liberals end up getting terrified of center-left organizations like the DSA while not batting an eye at capitalist organizations like Exxon and Facebook. Sure, Facebook, given the chance, would gladly crack open your bones to sell the tasty marrow inside, and Exxon is right now lighting the world on fire for no good reason… but they're doing it while for the most part formally adhering to the rules of liberal capitalism. so they're fine.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:48 AM on November 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


Only the Guardian would think Manu registers even close on the left. I can't until until they start saying "you know who also was a socialist?" because it won't be long.

Why has right-wing populism soared while left-wing populism has not?
It's far easier to appeal to a broader mass by telling people to kick down those coming up behind the ladder than to tell people to look up and notice their ladder has the top sawed off. Plus, indoctrination against any sort of egalitarian, left-wing ideals by a media owned or controlled by the richest in most countries that saw third-wayism as the end of history.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:53 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm a sucker for Internet quizzes, especially one that tells me I'M BARACK OBAMA. But I still feel like I have very little idea what populism is really about. I mean, what's it got to do with gay marriage? Sure, I'll go ahead and click on the other links, but it's a slippery concept.
posted by sfenders at 8:03 AM on November 22, 2018


"You're most similar to:
Bernie Sanders"
I'll tell him this when I next see him.
posted by doctornemo at 8:27 AM on November 22, 2018


But I still feel like I have very little idea what populism is really about. I mean, what's it got to do with gay marriage?

Nothing. The purpose of that question (and other similar ones) is to position you on the Left/Right-wing axis.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:32 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think there is also two kinds of “populist” ideas — the Right pretty much goes for the Great Man approach, so you support a man (almost always a man) who will soothe your anxieties and sort out your problems. The Left also does that, but Thry also go for a Communal approach, where you work together toward common ends in small groups that affiliate with larger groups.

The Great Man approach is pretty easy; most people just vote and call it a day, and, as long as you get a taste of prosperity (real or imagined) and light prejudice-striking, everything is fine (as long as you aren’t the Other). The Communal approach takes a lot of hard work, and is therefore harder to get people to sign on for.

The Great Man tends to become Totalitarian, while the Communal tens to cede authority to organizations, which are prone to certain kinds of institutional capture. I vastly prefer the second, but how do we avoid those pitfalls?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:34 AM on November 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


The Great Man tends to become Totalitarian, while the Communal tens to cede authority to organizations, which are prone to certain kinds of institutional capture. I vastly prefer the second, but how do we avoid those pitfalls?

One solution is to have the great man stay out of electoral politics. That was the path taken by the United Farmers of Alberta under Henry Wise Wood.
posted by No Robots at 8:55 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Organizational democracy and transparency for one, the people who use your service or product get s vote to and not “with thier dollars”
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 AM on November 22, 2018


Isn't "populism" just an attempt to group left-wing parties with the rise of FN-style right-wing parties?

Yep, that's the way they're pushing. This is the funhouse mirror version on the Guardian's part of all that legitimising of far-right groups that the NYT and such carry out, the delegitimising of left-wing groups by lumping them together with actual fascists. It's hard not to view this in light of Guardian's increasingly desperate attempts to redeem Tony Blair and other New Labour bullshit. Pretty hilarious how Corbyn is just conspicuously not on the chart for that matter.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 8:57 AM on November 22, 2018 [14 favorites]


For the quiz, I ended up somewhere in the non-Populist Left quadrant, which has a surprising lack of example politicians. The closest to my position was Barack Obama (and he's sitting right on the populism axis), while the furthest away is Donald Trump (duh, to repeat what was said above).

My results reminded me of what Gracchus said in the movie Gladiator:

"I don't pretend to be a man of the people. But I do try to be a man for the people."
posted by FJT at 9:23 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


The author of "How Populism Became the Concept that Defines Our Age" isn't by any chance related to the identically named author of "To save Hungary's liberal democracy, centrists must work with the far right"?
[NB: This is not, I should note, as stupid an idea as it sounds (I mean it is stupid but not as much at it sounds), because Jobbik, a party that began as a true Nazi party, has been so much displaced by the radical-rightness of the Orban regime, that it has lately started criticizing him from a more liberal democratic position and selling itself as "centrist", to anyone that buys such Damascene conversions (which says much about how bad Orban is and how batshitinsane it is to compare Fidesz in any way with either Podemos, SYRIZA, or even 5Stars).]
posted by talos at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Man, I don’t feel comfortable taking this quiz. Just like I don’t feel comfortable spitting into a vial, or whatever, for 23andMe.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


The author of "How Populism Became the Concept that Defines Our Age" isn't by any chance related to the identically named author of "To save Hungary's liberal democracy, centrists must work with the far right"?

There's another chance, maybe the author is Tony Blair in a costume.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:09 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Left-wing populism (if it's even a thing): "we are the 99%"

Right-wing populism: "I like that guy because he speaks his mind and he's a stupid asshole like me!"
posted by Foosnark at 10:21 AM on November 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


But I still feel like I have very little idea what populism is really about. I mean, what's it got to do with gay marriage?

Right-wing populisms tend to impose a narrow view of "real" national identity. In the U.S., for a long time, this was not only about beliefs and class, but also about religious and racial identity: white, rural or working-class, and Protestant. Right-wing populisms tend to be strongly traditionalist and ethnonationalist.

Left-wing populism tends to push class first and foremost by contrast, though there are examples of ideological counterformations on the left that function, in practice, as counter-ethnonationalisms.

Gay marriage reflects this divide within different populisms. Populism is "of the people," but right and left tend to diverge, in part, as to who counts as "the people" and whence "the people" derives its political authority and group traits.
posted by kewb at 11:09 AM on November 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Why has right-wing populism soared while left-wing populism has not?

Left-wing populism (if it's even a thing)

It's (arguably) not.
posted by progosk at 2:18 PM on November 22, 2018


Here's another way to look at it:"Populism’s recent rise is due to the establishment’s inane handling of a crisis it caused. Populists need the establishment to remain relevant, while the establishment depends on the fear of populists to hang on. The real opposition is between progressives, such as Corbyn, and the never-ending feedback mechanism between the establishment and populism."
posted by progosk at 2:22 PM on November 22, 2018


@progosk: You write that Left populism is arguably not a thing, but you link to an article that affirms that Left Populism is indeed a thing:
In other words, right-wing or authoritarian populism defines the enemy in personalized terms, whereas, while this is not always true, left-wing populism tends to define the enemy in terms of bearers of socio-economic structures and rarely as particular groups. The right, in a tradition stemming back to Hobbes, takes insecurity and anxiety as the necessary, unavoidable, and indeed perhaps even favourable product of capitalist social relations. It transforms such insecurity and anxiety into the fear of the stranger and an argument for a punitive state. In contrast, the left seeks to provide an account of the sources of such insecurity in the processes that have led to the dismantling of the welfare state, and corresponding phenomena such as “zero-hours” contracts, the casualization of labour, and generalized precarity. It then proposes transformative and egalitarian solutions to these problems. Of course, left populism can also turn authoritarian – largely though not exclusively due to the interference and threatened military intervention of the global hegemon and its allies – with an increasing vilification of the opposition, as we saw in Venezuela and Ecuador with Rafael Correa.
posted by No Robots at 2:27 PM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes, hence "arguably"; it's Laclau/Mouffe vs Hamburger/Fassin et al., if you want to get into the thick of it.
At base, populists exploit the fears of the dispossessed, so as to turn that anger to their own advantage. It's a ruse, a ploy, and it's this dishonesty that cannot qualify as progressive by any definition.
posted by progosk at 2:38 PM on November 22, 2018


it's Laclau/Mouffe vs Hamburger/Fassin et al., if you want to get into the thick of it.

Thanks for the names. If anyone wants to know more about this controversy, try Jacobin's "Can There Be a Left Populism?"

To my mind, populism is ultimately how we live by Marx's dictum that, "[a]s philosophy finds its material weapons in the proletariat, so the proletariat finds its spiritual weapons in philosophy.”
posted by No Robots at 2:53 PM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the names. If anyone wants to know more about this controversy, try Jacobin's "Can There Be a Left Populism?"

By Jacob Hamburger

If the author is a MeFite, this could get confusing.
posted by homunculus at 8:34 PM on November 22, 2018






The resistible rise of the far right and populism (Guardian readers' responses to the series so far). Hiillary, alas, chips in that Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists as her 2¢.
posted by misteraitch at 2:33 AM on November 23, 2018


Great, now Hillary is campaigning for Trump.
posted by patrick54 at 4:07 AM on November 23, 2018


Y'know, a lot of this "immigration problem" that is fueling the new facha wouldn't exist if half the countries in Europe weren't colonial powers for over 300 years or so, and the other half happily accepted any proxy war, invasion and regime change the US decided it was necessary to uphold shareholder value democracy since the Cold War including a disaster war in the middle east that has been running close to two decades and killed millions, and the constant erosion of workers' rights and quality of life to please capital didn't create a lot of patent resentment that was ripe to be weaponized against the ones on the bottom of society because those are the ones with no means to push back.

If you're going to fight right-wing populism in terms of immigration, you really need to address the issues of colonialism/neo-colonialism, imperialism and capitalism (and soon enough, climate change), but that shit is hard because it goes against of what we are indoctrinated as kids and as national identities and I'm sure nobody passed that through a focus group so Hillary could have an opinion on that. So, right-wing rhetoric it is.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:09 AM on November 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


Mark Blyth on how interest rates fuel populism (transcription mine) -
"What about those folks whose wages have stagnated? This is populism. Very simple- your debts are too high, your wages are too low to pay off the debt, and crucially, unlike the 1970s, the inflation is too low to eat the debt away, you can't make the creditor take it. The left response is to blame capitalism and blame globalization. The right response is to blame immigrants and globalization. But other than that, it's very similar. It's very structural and baked into the cake for thirty years. [...]

Why is this the new normal? Let's think of who the winners and the losers are. The creditors are, in a sense, the winners, but it's a tricky win. The real value of debt goes up, but your ability to collect it goes down. Who is it that gets ultimately killed for this? It's the left parties throughout the OECD, the center-left parties, that have been market-supporting over the past two decades. Whether that's New Labour, the SPD, the PDS. And the rise of the New Left in various guises, that's one result. The other one of the winners, but it's a problematic win, because it's a protest win, it's the can't pay won't pay will vote welcome to populism on the rosé and the right-wing of this is very nationalist response, whether it's AFD, Finns Party, [...]

When we built the system in 2008 we didn't do a system reset. And you can restart a computer which has got a misalignment between its software and its hardware but ultimately it will continue to malfunction. And what tends to happen when we have dodgy hardware is that people called hackers write new code. Populists are hackers. You might not like what they say, but what they're doing is effectively rewriting the code for how the system operates. And those codes don't match together, they're not seamless, they're not flawless. But it's also something that when it's written, it's in the system, and it's very hard to purge."
posted by Apocryphon at 10:09 PM on November 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


White nationalism ain't populism, either

Has everyone but me forgotten Huey Long?
posted by eustatic at 10:42 PM on November 23, 2018


White nationalism ain't populism, either

That's basically the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. White nationalism is perfectly compatible with populism for people who don't believe that Blacks are people. Similarly, populist parties in Europe were typically antisemitic and anti-Roma, often explicitly. They didn't always need to be explicit, though: they defined “the people” as peasants, farmers, those connected to the land. Since Jews and Roma were typically prevented from owning or working land, or even being a peasant (which historically had a specific legal status) it meant that they weren't part of “the people”. Hence the many Farmers / Peasants / Agrarian parties; even the ones that claimed to represent “workers” tended to exclude professionals, independent craft workers, itinerant labourers, or petty traders: precisely the groups most likely to include non-Europeans.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:26 PM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


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