Strange definition of populism

Here\’s the key characteristic of populism: populists contrast an image of a pure, homogeneous people with that of a corrupt or at least, uncaring elite that colludes with those who are not properly part of the national body politic. That can mean both those at the very top of the social ladder and those at the very bottom: in the populist imagination, elites work hand in hand with \”global finance capitalism\” but also pay too much attention (and money) to the poor who do not really belong to us and yet somehow live off us.

I suppose you could use that: for the Nazis it was international jewry or some such, for the populist socialists it was international capitalism or some such.

But I\’m not entirely sure that \”we\’re being shafted by them\” is very useful as a method of differentiating between political parties.

For all of them do this to some extent. They\’re tribal, those that last to any extent at least. Rural Tories are fired, to at least some extent, by a belief that the metropolitan Guardinaistas wish to, indeed are, oppressing them. You don\’t have to talk to said Guardianistas for long to discover that they are being oppressed by the remnants of the feudal landlords in cahoots with the banking classes.

So describing certain political parties as being populist when they claim this \”we\’re the real people being oppressed by them\” doesn\’t take us all that far. For all political parties are to some extent populist in such a fashion.

Perhaps a useful distinction could be made about whether the identified shafters and shaftees could be made? The BNP is obviously wrong about international jewry, Guardianistas almost entirely so about the remaining power of the feudalists, rural Tories a little less so about Guardianistas.

One party is of course entirely correct: we Brits really are being shafted by the technocrats of Brussels which is indeed why we should leave.

6 thoughts on “Strange definition of populism”

  1. The Nazis in railing against international Jewry referred to finance capitalism or “Finanzkapitalismus”. A bromide we hear all to often today.

  2. I am popular
    You are populist
    He is a demagogue

    We are crowd pleasing
    You are showing off
    They are exhibitionists

  3. I would define populism as appealing to popular opinion to avoid doing the right thing. How to define “the right thing” is left as an exercise, but the mob is not always right.

  4. Sorry, that should have read “appealing to popular opinion to oppose doing the right thing”. The general idea I was trying to get across is that a popular party rejects correct but difficult to explain solutions to hard problems purely in order to gain power.

  5. Matthew L is right. Populism is primarily about abdication of responsibility.

    Argentina was clearly wrong to nationalise YPF from a purely self interested standpoint, but it was popular.

    Populism also rejects checks, balances and compromise as being somehow interfering with the will of the mob.

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