A More Nuanced Definition

Declan Da Barp

            Still grappling with the idea of definitions, the contribution through this week’s readings broaden the scope of both along with the political and global compass. The contributions of Cas Mudde (whose work we began the course with) and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser along with those of Matthijs Rooduijn, Tjitske Akkerman, and Luke March creates a much more holistic view of populist discourse – one that is too often focused on the global north. In taking this all-encompassing view a more nuanced view can gleam and better and more robust questions can be studied in future.

            As presented by Rooduijn and Akkerman, the scale of populism provided a useful lens through which to discuss the ideas of populist scholars (193). While exclusively focusing on Western Europe, Rooduijn and Akkerman further outline left and right populism in the European context – one that has largely been defined as a right-wing movement. This is crucial is it not only shows that these left-wing populists exist, but that they express these tendencies (in western Europe) at relatively the same levels (199). Particularly given that Rooduijn and Akkerman are working off the definition established by Mudde, the importance of his and Kaltwasser’s work is key to any discussion on definitions. Their exploration of the full political spectrum of populism across the world underscores the importance of understanding the movement as a set of ideas existing in local contexts rather than an overarching ideology. Employed by the left and right, the ideas of adaptable and can act as legitimators of power (Mudde and Kaltwasser, 151). Whether it is inclusionary or exclusionary depends on the political ideology but the ways these leaders go about forging these in and out-groups exist in the same framework.

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