Media Populism: Neo-Populism
in Latin America
Nothing invites a torrent of response like categorical statements about the end of something. Commentary of all stripes inevitably follows declarations about "the end of" capitalism, big government, modernity, ideology, industrialism, communism, welfare state, rock, morality, or other big words. Whenever someone declares the coming of post-times, others promptly issue warnings about burying what is still alive. This is what happened in the discussion about the prospects of Latin American populism. Some authors have pronounced populism's death, while others have questioned the soundness of the coroners' conclusions.
Dead or alive, populism refuses to go away, either as a major force in the region's politics or as a subject of scholarly attention. While past debates were concerned with the significance and legacy of populism and mapped out its family lineage to other twentieth-century political movements (fascism, socialism, communism), recent discussion has focused on its survival chances. While some argue that populism is in the dustbin of history as Latin American democracies have embraced market policies and dismantled state interventionism, others suggest that populism lives still, but with a different economic face. Populism has mutated into neo-populism, they argue. How are we to square these antithetical conclusions? Are they mutually exclusive?
One possibility is that the malleability of populist experiences underlies such discrepancy in evaluations. Populist parties have proven to be extremely diverse and deft, emerging in different contexts and meta-