populism

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

populism

populism, in politics, a movement or political strategy that purports to endorse the will of the common or ordinary people, especially when distinguished from and opposed to a corrupt political or economic elite. Often sparked by social and economic disruption, populism typically involves a call by a charismatic leader for the people to assert their will and sovereignty and restore themselves to their rightful place in society, and the prevailing political and economic power structure is typically criticized for having displaced, neglected, or obstructed the people. Populist leaders tend to promote themselves as political outsiders, generally rejecting pluralism and basing their legitimacy on the shared values and strength of the group from which they derive their support. Populist movements and leaders, which can be on the left or right politically, often function as warning signs of a political crisis and force the established political order to respond issues they might otherwise ignore. In the United States, President Andrew Jackson is usually recognized as an early populist leader, but widespread use of the term "populism" dates to the 1890s and the formation of the Populist party, an alliance of agrarian interests against urban bankers and industrialists.

See B. Moffitt, The Global Rise of Populism (2016); J-W Müer, What Is Populism? (2016); C. Mudde and C. R. Kaltwasser, Populism: A Very Short Introduction (2017).

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