Contemporary Democratic Theory On Populism Virginia Tech Research Paper

913 words - 4 pages

C. Valencia Turner
Contem Dem Theory Essay 3
Populism has been characterized many ways recently by the media and political pundits, who have turned the word into a buzzword to describe recent electoral politics. However, populism is nothing recent and has been around historically for some time. Muller derives and describes populism in his work “Reflections on Populism.”
A common view to populism is for one to claim that they can “pinpoint it by way of a particular, clearly identifiable class base.”[footnoteRef:1] Among this is the belief that its proponents and supporters have a distinct profile socially and psychologically that groups everyone together. Muller disagrees with both because empirical studies rarely correlate with an identifiable base. The petty bourgeoisie in France carried many profiles that cannot be generalized into a specific group. Linking populists together in a distinct sociopsychological profile. They are frequently characterized as being resentful, “anxious about a loss of status, or paranoia.[footnoteRef:2] I disagree and think this is the strongest way to identify populism, since populist movements and politicians tend to attract similar socioeconomic statuses, or even in terms or privilege, garner support from people with the same racial privilege. Its weakness is exactly what Mueller said- populism throughout history has never been able to be reconciled with a class base. Even with studying the rhetoric of popular populist politicians and the study of income brackets, there is little empirical evidence to generalize every populist movement is fueled by resentment, fear, or friend enemy thinking, and it is reductionist to think that it is exclusive of populism. Psychological perspectives tend to confirm instead the view people take of populists instead of treating the ideas and causes of populists seriously. Dismissing populism as anger or inferiority fueled allows political pundits to ignore massive surges around a cause. Populism is also characterized by a lack of clear policies and agenda. Naysayers call populist agendas “simplistic, irresponsible, even irrational, pandering to people’s short-term desires”, etc.[footnoteRef:3] However, drawing lines of distinction between what is and isn’t a legitimate policy lies in the hands of those in power, and thus no distinction can clearly identify an agenda as populist. Calling populist agendas “irresponsible” and generalizing them as such is based off the political elite who can control the media and politics to cast aside populists and their issues if they don’t suit their political agenda.[footnoteRef:4] [1: Muller, 485] [2: Ibid 1] [3: Ibid 1] [4: Ibid 1]
Drawing upon Muller, who defines populism as “a particular moralistic imagination of politics, a way of perceiving the political world which opposes a morally pure and fully unified, but ultimately fictional, people to small minorities who are put outside real people.”[footnoteRef:5] The people are “extrac...


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