Populism: Both Right and Left

Emma C

I think that looking at the concept of left-wing populism is interesting as most of the semester we have associated populism with the far-right and framed it in a negative light. Prior to this week’s readings I hadn’t associated populism with the left ever before. The Fieschi article spoke to the idea that when populism is associated with a leftwing party, that because they are left leaning, this type of populism is not bad. There is a danger in doing this, by accepting that because this populism is associated with the left party and must therefore be positive can leave us blind or ignorant to what this type of populism is doing. No matter which party populism is associated with or representing there is a possibility that it can cause harm as people believe that the democratic institutions that are in place are no longer representing their interests. If we ignore the issues left wing populism are dealing with because of its party, we are allowing it to potentially cause the same level of harm as right-wing populism.

According to March there are similarities between right and left populism in terms of ideas ideals, which is that the elites are corrupt and are the ones damaging society. Because the elites represent such a small percentage of society, it is unlikely that the elites in power understand and have the interests of the everyday person in mind. What I found interesting is that while we assume anything to do with the right is bad, both right and left have the same ideals surrounding populism, but how they deploy it is what differentiates them.

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

March L. “Left and right populism compared: The British case” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 19(2) (2017): 282-303.

2 Replies to “Populism: Both Right and Left”

  1. I think you bring up a very interesting point about analysing left-wing populist movements. I think the articles we read this week looked at both types of populists in a productive way, which can sometimes be difficult without complaints of taking one side over the other, or also complaints of not taking any side at all.

    There is something to be said that both sides need to be analysed, and I know I had to take a moment and sit myself down to remind myself that an academic assessment of these movements is critical, even though I associate myself with more left-wing movements (not populist ones, but certainly further that way). To incorporate the analysis by March on how ideology is critical to both sides forced me to pause, as ideology can often cause one to stop looking at the fact associated with a movement, as well as prioritise individual experiences over larger statistical analysis (although I do think both have a time and place).

  2. I found similar points interesting in these articles, what this reminds me is in the March article how he points to left and right populism being very similar and able to support each other despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum. I agree as well it is interesting to look at the dangers of left wing populism and how it can be overlooked.

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