Defining Terms

I appreciate the notion, important in the Brubaker lecture and echoed elsewhere that Populism can be seen as a repertoire of elements by which to gain political support. Not a fully formed ideology on its own, it is first a style of democratic politics which can be deployed by parties of any ideology. This point it important in Mudde, who sees Populism as a “thin centered” ideology (contrasting to full ideologies such as liberalism, socialism or communism) as it only “informs” policy rather than representing a worked out system.

In Finchelstein’s view, populism re-emerged after WWII as a step back from fascism. I wonder whether fascism was shunned in other polities because its major proponents lost the war? Or was there actual revulsion at the centrality of violence in fascism (by Finchelstein’s definition). Paxton thinks fascism is also characterized by a romantic notion that the leader is in “mystical union with the historic destiny of his people”. Is such an exalted self-image of a people (and a leader) a good fit just anywhere? A combination of the latter two feels like the best explanation.

I got a new insight on the meaning of the Elite enemy in populism from Mudde’s discussion of re-politicization. In addition to the neoliberal globalization and mediated understanding of news, Mudde introduced the “rise of undemocratic liberalism”. When controversial issues like abortion and capital punishment become enshrined in law, they are “taken out of the political, most notably electoral, arena”. Immigration, and European integration are other excellent examples: mainstream political parties supported these, in spite of reservations by large portions of the electorate. Technocratic decision-making, and TINA (there is no alternative) arguments are part of this infuriating mix.

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