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?

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