Left/Right Comparisons of Populists – Same As They Ever Were

Wesley M.

This week’s readings touch on something I have been eager to discuss for quite a while, which is the irony of populism. If you’ll forgive a little digression, the way our society views populism we often think of the far right populists (which is in part helped by the media biases, but as this week clearly indicates the fact that, many people in society who are not aware of populist impacts, far-left populism does exists and is often times just as prevalence as the far right. The main difference being the far-left populists do not necessarily use the same tactics as the far right. Despite that the facts remains populism on either side on both sides of the political spectrum is not really all that different (oh it may appear different on the surface, but in reality, they both use the same playbook of xenophobia). One appears respectable wearing a smile on its face while espousing division of in and out groups and subtly encouraging societal disunity through the promotion of one group over the other. The other one snarls, foams at the mouth, and angrily rants in front of a group of disaffected people about how they should blame another group of people for their problems.).

The article by Catherine Fieschi, was intriguing because it talked about how populism is symptomatic of the failure of democracies institutions (when I say failure I’m referring to the fact that populists want quick action and democratic institutions are notoriously slow as is any bureaucracy, though populists don’t make that specific point of bureaucratic weakness to their followers as it would undermine their claim to be a better alternative). She points that both groups of populists argue against the elite claiming give people a voice, favour easily fixable solutions, and regardless of opens in a phobia that both sides use a with us or against us attitude.[1] The Matthijs Rooduijn and Tjitske Akkerman article analysing European populism shows that left-wing populists uses the argument of morality to justify its policies of grouping people for and against their own policies labelling the people for is good and the people against them as the opposite.[2] The Cas Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser article is fascinating as looks at the difference between the populists methods the right-wing populists exclude openly while the left-wing populists use inclusion to further their goals while subsequently subtly excluding those who don’t fit up to their standards or agree with their policies while avoiding direct accusations of exclusion through their inclusive model, and repolarizing politics to accomplish their goals.[3]

Luke March’s article looks at how both kinds of populism are not the same, he discusses different methods of measuring populism with a lot of statistical graphing that almost made it seem like a mathematical article while doing various case studies of Britain’s main parties to show that populist rhetoric is not highly common among them while still occasionally being used.[4]


[1] Catherine Fieschi, “A Plague on Both Your Populisms” Open Democracy (April 19, 2012):  https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/plague-on-both-your-populisms/

[2] Matthijs Rooduijn, and Tjitske Akkerman. “Flank Attacks: Populism and Left-Right Radicalism in Western Europe.” Party Politics 23, no. 3 (May 2017): 193–204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068815596514.

[3] Cas Mudde, and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. “Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America.” Government and Opposition 48, no. 2 (2013): 147–74. doi:10.1017/gov.2012.11.

[4] Luke March, “Left and right populism compared: The British case” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 19(2) (2017): 283-301.

Bibliography:

Fieschi, Catherine. “A Plague on Both Your Populisms” Open Democracy (April 19, 2012): https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/plague-on-both-your-populisms/

March, Luke. “Left and Right Populism Compared: The British Case.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19, no. 2 (May 2017): 282–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/1369148117701753.

Mudde, Cas, and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. “Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America.” Government and Opposition 48, no. 2 (2013): 147–74. doi:10.1017/gov.2012.11.

Rooduijn, Matthijs, and Tjitske Akkerman. “Flank Attacks: Populism and Left-Right Radicalism in Western Europe.” Party Politics 23, no. 3 (May 2017): 193–204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068815596514.

2 Replies to “Left/Right Comparisons of Populists – Same As They Ever Were”

  1. Hi Wesley,

    I love the descriptive writing here! I think it is important to stress that while the authors of this week’s reading stress, as pointed out by Mudde and Kaltwasser, that there are inherent differences between left and right-wing populism. While a lot of the elements of the ways these groups communicate their political messages rely on similar tactics, the concepts are different. I am inclined to agree with Mudde and Kaltwasser’s definition of populism as a thin-centred idea that can be grafted on political movements across the political spectrum – but difference and nuance are important tenants aid in analysis.

    1. Hey Declan,

      Thank you very much for the compliment (I seldom get to be descriptive within academic work, so when I can, I definitely will). Oh I agree with you there, the concepts are different but ultimately underneath platitudes and different aims I’d believe that the ultimate outcome is the same: one group victimizing an other (far-right-wing = ethnic/cultural focus, far-left-wing = differing/opposition group that the left populists claim are a moral enemy to their goals). I agree nuance is important.

      The more we study this topic the more similar it all looks. Populists and their appeal are nothing new, fact is all the other parties can do is stand firm, and if all other options fail fight back against this extremist tide. Our great-grandparents generation lived through the last populist shellacking that occurred in 1945. It may very well be that our generation will have a similar problem to deal with. I hope that, if that grim day comes, we are strong enough to do what must be done as they were, when they went overseas to liberate Europe,

      Curious on your thoughts,

      wthomwell

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