General Question

janbb's avatar

How would you define "populism"?

Asked by janbb (50468points) December 14th, 2016

I always assumed the term had a progressive connotation but lately it seems to be being used to describe regressive candidates throughout the world. (Although Sanders and Trump were both described as populists.) It obviously has something to do with the will of the people or appealing to the people but is there actually any philosophical basis to the term?

Curious to get some reactions first before doing any research.

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10 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

My understanding is that it’s an appeal to the discontent of the working class with existing power structures (AKA “elites”) through the promise of disrupting the stutus quo.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I take it to mean a rising of the “unwashed”, (those lacking power or individual influence). There’s a quote somewhere that reads something like “the people are in revolt, and I’ve been caught off guard. Let me shove my way to the front so as to lead them”

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Sanders and Trump are bad examples as their populism is fake.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Fake? If they have the numbers, there’s nothing fake about it. It’s about massed numbers of individuals, the reasons are irrelevant to the definition.

ragingloli's avatar

Telling voters what they want to hear to gain political support, in opposition to ones actual political positions.
So, Sanders is not a populist, because he is sincere in what he professes.
Trump is a full blown populist con man.

janbb's avatar

@ragingloli I don’t think that insincerity is a necessary component in the true sense of the word.

zenvelo's avatar

Populism is more a descriptor of the relationship between the movement and those of whatever the current ruling class is, rather than an ideology.

Sanders, being an independent and outside of the DNC power structure, is considered populist as he was supported by a bottom up movement. Same with Trump against the GOP establishment.

Vox populi is not necessarily vox scitus.

janbb's avatar

This link from Merriam-Webster online was helpful to me.

CWOTUS's avatar

Generally speaking, “Wrong, by popular demand.”

When the crowd starts moving in one direction, I’m looking for alternate routes.

flutherother's avatar

I understand it to mean representing the ordinary man in the street rather than the establishment. Rather than benefitting Joe public however it takes advantage of his irrational moods and can be a cover for a dictator seeking power.

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