Nuancing left- and right- wing populism


One key takeaway from this week’s readings was nuancing understandings of left and right- wing populism. The labels of Inclusionary vs. Exclusionary populist rhetoric and politics put forward by Mudde and Rovira Klatwasser provide a useful framework through which to analyze both right- and left-wing populism. The authors use examples of materialist rhetoric to explore how Latin American left-wing populists include socioeconomically groups in their welfare programs while excluding the wealthy (American-backed) elites, while in Europe right-wing populist discourses around “welfare chauvinism” established groups who deserve social support (their “own people”) and who do not (“aliens,” such as Roma, immigrants, and refugees). However, it is important to stress that right-wing populists also attack economic elites as being a problematic group, something that is more often attributed to the left-wing.

From an inclusion exclusion perspective, xenophobia is clearly a discourse that is much more prevalent on the right rather on the left. This is something that we have seen in many other cases over the course of this semester. However, Fieschi reminds us that xenophobic rhetoric is also used by left-wing populists, as is the case with the Dutch Socialist party. According to Fieschi, this party fits into the “strictly populist” camp, demonstrating populism is not exclusively right-wing. Moreover, Fieschi’s three camps is a very useful spectrum on which to measure many different left and right wing parties and movements’ relation to populism.

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