Populism: some definitions

At Social Europe Journal, Rene Cuperus has tried to define in ten points the populist movements that many European countries are experiencing.

I think it’s a good list, though I don’t agree with every point. Where I think Rene is spot-on is the overarching idea that populist movements arise from a vacuum left behind by a political shift towards globalisation and technocracy. No-one who knows me will be surprised that my answer is more democratic control at trans-national level rather than less internationalism.

Finally, on this royal wedding day, does point 8 mean that Kate and William are a defence against the EDL?

Here’s Rene’s full list:

1. Populism is the substitute for the eroded Left/Right divide in politics. it replaces it through the populist cleavage of ‘the establishment’ versus ‘the people’. They are perceived as false unities and indeed pose a potential threat to the pluralist and constitutional dimensions of democracy.

2. Populism is a revolt against (the narrative of) globalisation.

3. Populism is a revolt against what the Germans call the Second Modernity, or late modernity: that is the modernity of individualisation, de-traditionalisation, cosmopolitanism, neoliberal capitalism and the global network society.

4. Populism is a revolt against expert-driven, technocratic policy-making.

5. Populism is the revolt of the working class and the squeezed lower middle class against the dominance of academic professionals in society and public discourse.

6. Populism is the revenge of the working class after the neoliberal betrayal (permanent welfare state austerity reforms) of socialist and social-democratic parties.

7. Populism is a dangerous, xenophobic revolt against ill-managed mass migration which negatively affected the lower end of society much more so than the upper end.

8. Populism is a revolt against a world that is changing too rapidly and where traditions, identities, and securities are no longer respected.

9. Where socialism and Christianity no longer act as moral and cultural restraints or breaks to the disrupting process of globalisation, populism has filled the vacuum: populism is a romantic, irrational, emotional revolt against the inhuman philosophy of efficiency in both the market and the state.

10. Populism is a revolt against the powerlessness of the political class who have seemingly lost all grip after handing control over to the anonymous forces of globalisation, the financial markets, and the logics of EU technocracy.


Published by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.