Monday, April 9, 2018

Understanding Populism

From every continent, populism appeared in many news, from Donald Trump making his ridiculous statements to Britain leaving the European Union, and to Rodrigo Duterte calling the death of drug users and pushers. With all these news categorized as populist, what is populism?

Populism rooted from the word popular and popular meant the majority of the people – the masses. Thus, Populism captured the mood of the masses, their desires and emotions. Desires for security and prosperity and emotions such as frustration, anger, and fear.  Thus, populism embodies this emotions of the people.

Politicians and parties saw the rise during times of great crisis where the emotions of the people ran high. They then stand up for the masses against perceived threats or rather an establishment that failed to address the ills of the society. Hence, populism stood against the establishment, whether political, economic, or even religious resulting to populist politicians becoming radical, demagogues, and revolutionary even.
Liberty Leading the People

In populism, “it’s the belief that the will of ordinary citizens should prevail over that of a privileged elite” written in the article A Brief History of Populism. It placed importance to the interest of people regardless of political idea, either left or right. Unlike other political –isms, it has no concrete tenants and David Marquand could summed up “Populism is not a doctrine or a governing philosophy, still less an ideology. It is a disposition, perhaps a mood, a set of attitudes and above all a style.”

History had been filled by populism. Moreover, it changed history. It brought Julius Caesar to power and challenged the Roman Republic, giving his relative Augustus the power base to establish the Roman Empire. The Reformation saw populism with the rise of Protestant movements that challenged the established Roman Catholic Church. Then there was the French Revolution where Robespierre and the Jacobins called for blood and the total reformation of France to eradicate the Ancient Regime of absolute monarchies. In the middle of 19th century, Karl Marx contributed to Populism’s rise with his notion of class struggle between Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. This inspired Vladimir Lenin to rally the masses in a populist movement that toppled down the Tsarist Regime and gave rise to the greatest communist experiment of the 20th century.
Lenin Delivering a Speech
Though communist Russia ended, populism remained alive to this very day. Globalization, rising income inequality, and economic crisis resulted to questions and frustrations from the masses. The 2007 Global Recession led to rise in unemployment. Joblessness had been blamed on globalization that allowed companies to relocate jobs to other countries for lesser cost. Financial problems and public debt led to austerities and budget cuts that frustrated the public of their political establishments. Then crime rose as radical terrorist crossed borders posing as immigrants exploiting the openness of countries. Frustration, anger, and fear led voters to embrace the words of populist politicians who with their bombastic words and promises show them as men or women of action rather than politics and talk. Many countries welcomed populist politicians at the helm of their countries. Only history would be able to tell whether populism would help the world to become better or otherwise.

The Week Staff. “A Brief History of Populism.” In The Week. Accessed on April 1, 2018. URL:

Marquand, David. “The People is Sublime: The Long History of Populism, from Robespierre to Trump.” In NewStatesman. Accessed on April 1, 2018. URL:

Munro, Andre. “Populism.” In Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed on April 1, 2018. URL:

No comments:

Post a Comment