The “LEFT”?

BY: Francesco Sacca

Hello again everybody! I have not been responding for some time and I apologize for that. So, without further delay, welcome back.

This week, a 180 degree turn occured in the material and some views that I had not originally been aware of, were revealed. For so long I have considered myself to be leaning left as I have searched for a basis of equality and had a desire to “set fire” (as one of my classmates had once stated during a class debate) to the inefficient ideologies of modern democracy. Although, have I possibly not looked hard enough to notice fallacies within leftist thought? Or perhaps, even more concerningly, have I knowingly ignored the signs?

Before this week, understanding who exactly was responsible for the spread of ideals like xenophobia was quite clear (lying with those in the far right). However, articles like; Flank attacks: Populism and left-right radicalism in Western Europe, and; A plague on both your populisms, have both left me skeptical of this once clear understanding. Further research into this topic has only confirmed these worrying beliefs that there are some who belong to the Left Wing that align themselves with xenophobic ideals (whether they acknowledge it or are ignorant of it). This understanding is also supported by other, peer reviewed Carleton University articles, including one titled; Left-Wing Xenophobia in Europe, which has stated that: “Europeans who identify as extremely left-wing on the political spectrum hold anti-immigrant attitudes”.

Is there becoming a blurred line that separate the two sides? Will there be a eventual solution to these competing forces?

Please feel free to message me on your own personal research on the topic as I am keen to learn more (whether you agree with this outlook or have criticisms about it).

Sneaky Tactics

By: Hannah Long

Cottagecore meaning: Taylor Swift, Animal Crossing, and our endless desire  for calm - Vox
Image: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/8/3/21349640/cottagecore-taylor-swift-folklore-lesbian-clothes-animal-crossing

“Not that much attention is paid to the relationship between populism, media and popular culture” (Özçetin, 2019). 

I find this to be a statement that is both true and false at the same time, true in the fact that there is a general problem with scholars ignoring the power media and popular culture has on the masses, being a central tool in populist rhetoric in modern times. However, on the flip side I think on a much lower level populist formations are well known with the younger demographic, these being the people who are not yet old enough to have obtained PhD, and do not have the experience of an acclaimed researcher. In a digital age you would think that their populist formations would be under more intense scrutiny due to how the internet makes this type of platform dangerously accessible to anyone anywhere, but even as global societies become more interconnected than ever before it becomes a readily expanding force that is impossible to control and more importantly keep up. It has become a tool for the far-right to make subtler, hidden behind “other messages.” These messages can come mainly in social media content, but can also arise from social & political movements of the 2010’s, such was the case for the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. The attack against the satirical French newspaper was arguably for some the point where an increasing amount of far-right hate was generated as a backlash response. Furthermore, facism has been able to crowdsurf and lock in on easy exploits through easily corruptible continent, which is becoming increasingly easier to do with even the tamest of topics.

Below is a link to a source about the right-wingafying (if that even is a word) of cottagecore. An aesthetic that has grown popular through its romanticization of a simple life. With many mommy bloggers using this aesthetic to reaffirm domesticity and gender roles:

https://politicalresearch.org/2021/07/29/why-are-gen-z-girls-attracted-tradwife-lifestyle

Right VS. Left Populism

By: Nicole Beswitherick

In the readings this week, we learn a lot about the differences between left and right populism – and why they aren’t the same.

In Luke March’s paper, we learn the definition and expectations of the two. He takes lots of his knowledge from Cas Mudde in saying that the influential view of populism is a ‘thin-centred’ ideology ‘that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups‘. He then lists that there is the ‘pure people’ versus the ‘corrupt elite’, and argues that politics should be an expression of the general will of the people (Mudde, 2004: 543).

Throughout the article, it is learned that right populism is primarily exclusionary, and left populism is primarily inclusionary. Basically, the right populists demarcate key groups as outsiders, and the left more so focus on policies of economic, cultural and political incorporation.

Davide Vampa helps explain the competing forms of populism and territorial politics in his writing but also helps explain the difference between left and right populism. He says there is a clear difference between the both of them in their approach to regionalism and autonomy. One represents the ‘core’ areas of the country where demands have been weaker, and the other is usually more electorally competitive in more ‘peripheral’ areas where demands have been stronger. This is in Spain, so perhaps it is different, but Vampa explains that the territorial factor seems to be the ideal element of contrast between the two forms of populism.

In Catherine Fieschi’s piece, she argues that there is no populism without democracy. To that she is correct. She helps describe what populism is by saying that it is a byproduct of democracy and it arises from a perception of betrayal of democratic promise. This helps explain why revolts against authoritarian regimes obey a different logic and don’t fall into any populist category.

Populism in recent years has undergone a renaissance on the left of the political spectrum. This is leading people to think of one of two things, according to Fieschi.

  1. “I like these people and so they cannot be populists”
  2. This is left-wing populism, so it really can’t be bad”

Overall, this week’s readings show that there is a difference in both left and right populism, and that one does not necessarily rank higher than the other.

Sources:

  1. Catherine Fieschi, “A Plague on Both Your Populisms” (April 19, 2012) Open Democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/plague-on-both-your-populisms/
  2. March L. “Left and right populism compared: The British case” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 19(2) (2017): 282-303.
  3. Davide Vampa, “Competing forms of populism and territorial politics: the cases of Vox and Podemos in Spain” Journal of Contemporary European Studies vol. 28, issue 3 (2020).
  4. Cas Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser, C “Exclusionary vs. inclusionary populism: Comparing contemporary Europe and Latin America” Government and Opposition 48 (2013): 147–174.
  5. Davide Vampa (2020) Competing forms of populism and territorial politics: the cases of Vox and Podemos in Spain, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 28:3, 304-321,

Populism right versus left

By: Adam Paquin

When looking at these weeks readings we see various definitions for populism. Both from the far-right perspective as well as the far left. March’s article shows us the multitude of answers when asking has the world fallen into a populist world, and at what point do we call all politicians populists. And do we need to re-examine the world populist so as to not classify and far left or far right activist as populist. We also need to come to terms with the fact that populism no matter what side it is on is still populism. Not just far right but far left as well, either extreme can cause larger problems down the road. So, what we spoke about earlier in the semester about a happy medium, or a “third” option. And so, what we end up seeing this week is the different but similar factors between the right and the left. Mudde and March show us that both are two sides of the same coin. Both have the possibility to spread populist views, and so who is bad or good? Well obviously, that depends on one’s own values in life, and what each side can do for you and your future. In similar cases this this we find it very difficult to explain the words good versus bad, as in all politics. When is populism not such a bad thing, and when is it evil? Again, that all depends on who is telling the story, but this of course is a common problem for the average historian so nothing new here.

Populism right versus left

By: Adam Paquin

When looking at these weeks readings we see various definitions for populism. Both from the far-right perspective as well as the far left. March’s article shows us the multitude of answers when asking has the world fallen into a populist world, and at what point do we call all politicians populists. And do we need to re-examine the world populist so as to not classify and far left or far right activist as populist. We also need to come to terms with the fact that populism no matter what side it is on is still populism. Not just far right but far left as well, either extreme can cause larger problems down the road. So, what we spoke about earlier in the semester about a happy medium, or a “third” option. And so, what we end up seeing this week is the different but similar factors between the right and the left. Mudde and March show us that both are two sides of the same coin. Both have the possibility to spread populist views, and so who is bad or good? Well obviously, that depends on one’s own values in life, and what each side can do for you and your future. In similar cases this this we find it very difficult to explain the words good versus bad, as in all politics. When is populism not such a bad thing, and when is it evil? Again, that all depends on who is telling the story, but this of course is a common problem for the average historian so nothing new here.

Nuancing left- and right- wing populism

Frank

One key takeaway from this week’s readings was nuancing understandings of left and right- wing populism. The labels of Inclusionary vs. Exclusionary populist rhetoric and politics put forward by Mudde and Rovira Klatwasser provide a useful framework through which to analyze both right- and left-wing populism. The authors use examples of materialist rhetoric to explore how Latin American left-wing populists include socioeconomically groups in their welfare programs while excluding the wealthy (American-backed) elites, while in Europe right-wing populist discourses around “welfare chauvinism” established groups who deserve social support (their “own people”) and who do not (“aliens,” such as Roma, immigrants, and refugees). However, it is important to stress that right-wing populists also attack economic elites as being a problematic group, something that is more often attributed to the left-wing.

From an inclusion exclusion perspective, xenophobia is clearly a discourse that is much more prevalent on the right rather on the left. This is something that we have seen in many other cases over the course of this semester. However, Fieschi reminds us that xenophobic rhetoric is also used by left-wing populists, as is the case with the Dutch Socialist party. According to Fieschi, this party fits into the “strictly populist” camp, demonstrating populism is not exclusively right-wing. Moreover, Fieschi’s three camps is a very useful spectrum on which to measure many different left and right wing parties and movements’ relation to populism.

The Missing Definition

By Blaise Rego

The article by Catherine Fieschi defines three types of populist from the most salient “the strictly populists”, these populists use dog whistle words to spark xenophobia without being overt in their othering of groups. The other side of her definitions were “the democratic activists”, they are populists who focus their emotions towards a particular law or political figure.

I feel though that she has missed a new type of populist that is more dingoes politically and socially than any of the other groups. I would call this group “the quiet part loud”, these populist forgo social and political norms and quite simply say the quiet part out loud on most things. This has been clearly seen with two recent political lighting rods, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. Donald Trump is a particularly important example of this group as he maybe be the original member. During his 2016 presidential campaign Trump’s openly racist vitriol endeared him to constituents who say him as a man who would say what they were thinking. His statements about immigrants from Latin America, demonizing them and demanding that they stop coming to the USA galvanized a part of the population that had felt othered.

I believe that to define this group it would look something like this; this group are figures that play on openly racist or xenophobic tropes or ideas to grow their base. Not only do they other an ethnic/ ideological group but they also other their opponents. These figures state that their opponents are willfully killing their nation and that the leader is the only way to save the state.

Populism as a Comparative Tool for Democracy

Populism has always been a torn in the side of democracy. As argued by Catherine Fieschi in A Plague on Both your Populisms, resentment is a sentiment that is as the foundation of populist groups. It deviates their beliefs of democracy into emotions rather than sticking to facts and the legal process. One of the big issues of democracy would be the time it takes to create policies, enforce them, and to change the current government. This means that populist discourses are always enticing for people that are tired of slow process and are not happy with the results, their resentment and anger is drawn to form a mob mentality that is promised radical changes. In a way, populism is necessary for any democracy to properly work. On earth, there is no perfect societies and no communities that think exactly alike. This means that on the political spectrum, there will always be a lot of individuals close to the center, on the right or on the left, with always a handful of people on both extremes. Populism is always a small group of people that makes more noise and its normal that they have more visibility than other political groups, because their takes are more radicals and they challenge the concepts of our society. While it does not mean that they are right or necessary wrong, it helps people think about what they agree with and what they don’t; it reveals that moderation in politics is probably better than too much radical changes or too fast ones. It is true for both left and right populism, as ultimately their goals are similar, change their society in the way they see fit the most.

Populism for all the people

By Jim Dagg

I don’t know how it feels to everyone else but, as a Canadian who believes he lives in a mostly just pluralist welfare state… left-wing populism seems to make a lot more sense than right-wing populism. Characterized as wanting to address socio-economic challenges, rather than socio-cultural ones seems clearly the better way to deal with societies ills. If people are working and/or feeling supported by their government, then they have less to be resentful about.

The inclusionary vs exclusionary comparison further validates this viewpoint. Where the left tends to want the state to provide material support to the poor (“including” them in beneficial policies), all the right seems to offer is an enemy (“excluded” immigrants and assorted others) on which to place blame for their problems.

Further, the targeting of elites seems so much more natural for the left. Neo-liberalism, as a jobs-killer is an excellent external elite. Also large corporations which don’t pay enough taxes and don’t give their workers a fair wage are great targets. On the right, when they want to make enemies of immigrants and others they have to blame someone for the policies that permit such things to happen. When the right is in power, that could be trouble. Luckily in Europe you can always blame the EU – which is so naturally an elite.

I appreciated the authors (Fieschi and Mudde/Kaltwasser at least) who spoke about populism’s relationship to democracy. It can be “both a threat and a corrective for democracy”. Because they give voice to groups that feel ignored by government, populist parties can alter the political discourse in a positive (say corrective) way. Mind you, they don’t necessarily want change (particularly on the right): they benefit from a thriving resentment.

Definitions, definitions…

By Felix Nicol

I’m sure we are all used to hearing and talking about this theme, but time and time again, the problems of defining terminology comes back up. March’s article identifies a core three, including “people-centrism, anti-elitism and popular sovereignty.” On the other hand, Fieschi identifies a core refusal of the democratic process. This was something that different articles this week tackled, with a few drawing the conclusion that populism was not present in the centre. Perhaps most interesting in their analysis was Fieschi, who outlines xenophobia not only in the far-right, but also in the left. While I certainly understand her point, I feel that the shifting of our understanding of terms is often problematic in the process of better understanding populism. Should we consider the pliability of xenophobia, or reassess our understanding of populism? This is especially relevant in the discourse around identifying populist parties, which often seems closely tied to constant redefinition of the concept. Perhaps, in this regard, if we need to contort the core foundations we understand in order to place these parties in the same groups, considering their fundamental difference could be useful.

Apart from this recurring theme, I felt a bit conflicted reading Fieschi’s statement that left wing populism explains “why populism is attracting the favours of otherwise reasonable people.” I felt there was some bias that needed to be underlined here, because certainly this looks to paint the right in a demeaning light. In this regard, I feel something that needs to be considered in understanding the growth of far-right populism is the societal perceptions placed on them. If general conservative ideology is pinned as “non-reasonable,” are we not pushing these people further towards the extreme? I feel like this kind of statement over-glorifies the left, implying a clear moral and intellectual superiority over those who identify with the right. In this sense, while I somewhat understand where the author is coming from (certainly, liberal ideas on women’s and LGBT rights should be recognized as AT LEAST “reasonable”), I can’t help but feel she left her bias at the door. What do you guys think?