The Framework of Democratic Power
The ideological conflict between Populism and the contemporary system of capitalism raised the question of alternative principles of government in a democratic society and, implicitly, the practical meaning of democracy itself. This conflict was dignified by being ideological rather than merely political. It did not merely accentuate temporary political differences over specific policies, despite its occurrence within the limits of a capitalist framework and spectrum of beliefs. The two sides presented incompatible forms of social organization on which to base the rights and well-being of the individual. Each side actively sought (and, in the case of contemporary capitalism, had successfully established) moral supremacy in defining the economic and political foundations of the polity. The roots of this ideological conflict lay in the respective interpretations to be placed on the ideal construct of America; but clearly the fundamental cause of difference lay in the workings of the existing political economy and the attempts to maintain or alter the basic arrangements of capitalism.
The idea of ideological conflict requires closer attention. Populism was essentially a political, rather than an ideological, movement, an admittedly difficult distinction to draw in any organized expression of protest when a conscious emphasis on principles has become the source of action. But Populism's principles were primarily designed to have political application; they were broadly construed as having relevance to relations of power, the responsibilities of government, and individual liberties. Moreover, this very focus tended to minimize matters traditionally taken up by ideology: replacing the political economy as such; questioning the legitimacy of the whole existing social order, not only its supposedly aberrant manifestations; using class organization as the agency of social change or, in the context of conservatism, social restoration; and advocating the direct seizure of power,
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Publication information: Book title: The Humane Economy:Populism, Capitalism, and Democracy. Contributors: Norman Pollack - Author. Publisher: Rutgers University Press. Place of publication: New Brunswick, NJ. Publication year: 1990. Page number: 111.
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