Critical theory and demagogic populism provides a detailed analysis of the relevance of the Frankfurt School’s work to understanding contemporary populism. It draws on the research that the Institute for Social Research conducted concerning domestic demagogues during its period of ‘exile’ in the USA. The book argues that the figure of the demagogue has been neglected in both orthodox ‘populism studies’ and in existing critical approaches to populism such as that of Ernesto Laclau. Demagogic ‘capture’ of populist movements and their legacies is thus a contingent prospect for ‘left’ and ‘right’ populist movements. An account of ‘modern demagogy’ is thus detailed, from the Institute’s own dedicated demagogy studies through to their dialogue with Weber’s work on charismatic leadership, the US liberal critique of demagogy and Freud’s group psychology. The Institute’s linkage of ‘modern demagogy’ to the culture industry speaks to the underestimation in ‘populism studies’ of the significance of two other ‘modern phenomena. The first is ‘cultural populism’ – the appeal to a folkloric understanding of ‘the people’ and/or ‘their culture’. The second is the pivotal role of modern means of communication, not only in the recent prominence of social media but demagogic exploitation of all media since the rise of literacy and the widening of the suffrage in the nineteenth century. The dialectical dimensions of these processes are also highlighted in reconstructing the Institute’s work and in extending these analyses through to the present. The book so concludes by weighing up potential counter-demagogic forces within and beyond the culture industry.
Populism is viewed by many as a negative concept. Donald Rumsfeld, one time United States Secretary for Defence under President George W. Bush, in a speech given in March 2006, expressed his concern about Latin Americans turning to ‘populist leadership … that clearly are worrisome’. Alejandro Toledo ex-president of Peru (2001–06) believes that ‘cheap empty populism is the danger to democracy’. 1 The Economist warns that ‘populists are leading Latin America down a blind alley’ 2 while British
The populist wave which has submerged Europe and the United States in recent years seems unstoppable. But is it? The End of Populism offers answers and proposes concrete solutions to confront the rise of “illiberal democracy.” Drawing on years of research, the author develops a complete new ideal type of populism, which enables him to identify the basic problems. Deploying a wealth of social science evidence, he refutes the populist claim that democracy is a “demand side” phenomenon, and demonstrates that it is rather a “supply side” phenomenon. He argues that one can have "too much democracy” and shows how methods of direct democracy, such as popular initiatives, referendums, and open primaries, which pretend “to give the power back to the people,” have led to manipulation by populists and moneyed interests. Populist attacks on the judiciary, central banks, the media, and other independent agencies, instead of strengthening democracy, have rather undermined liberal democracy. The author formulates twenty original and bold proposals to fight populism and defend liberal democracy. These proposals include ways to bridge the gap between the people and the elites, fight corruption, improve political party funding, and initiate societal, educational, and macro-economic reforms to increase economic equality and alleviate the insecurity of the citizens.
Inflation, democracy, and populism139
Inflation, democracy, and populism
I have suggested in earlier chapters that we are currently seeing a series
of Newspeak manoeuvres in which some bizarre semantic reversals
are taking place. In this present chapter, I want to examine one very
fundamental shift, in which the University has played a decisive role.
This is the shift from an alleged subscription to democracy into a
mode of populism that is virtually the opposite of democracy. The
shift in question manipulates the usual vocabulary and instruments of
There are many ways to define populism. We saw in the introduction that a fundamental characteristic of populist movements is an anti-elite attitude and a pretension to represent and defend the “real people” against the allegedly corrupt and incompetent elites. This characteristic is shared by all populist movements, whatever their ideological content and eventual differences. I would like to call this a “thin” definition. It is the method of a physician who takes X-ray pictures of his or her patients. Ignoring their outward appearances he or she looks straight
(a) From Volk to culture industry
Previous chapters have emphasized the utility of approaching critical theorizations of populism via their assessment of fascism. As we saw in Chapter 5 , both Gramsci and the Institute linked these assessments with the domain of aesthetic culture. In both cases the relevant realm of the aesthetic was socially broadened beyond compositions identified within philosophical aesthetics: for Gramsci, the national-popular; for the Institute, the culture industry.
(a) Towards a conclusion: mediated physiognomics and demagogic populism
The introductory sections of this book stated that its remit was delimited to ‘demagogic populism’ rather than populism in its broader usage. Nonetheless, the identification of demagogic populism can certainly inform that wider conception by specifying the role of the demagogic within populist practice. As argued throughout, it is the Institute's work within the Studies in Prejudice project that provides us with a core understanding of ‘modern demagogy
This chapter examines what I will call ‘the Gramscian tradition’. The work of Ernesto Laclau and Stuart Hall are the best known self-styled Gramscians in non-orthodox populism studies and their work on populism constitutes a kind of ‘de facto’ critical theory of populism. Laclau's more elaborated theory of populism was long ignored in orthodox populism studies but has recently begun to inform it.
Hall's conception of ‘authoritarian populism’ represents only a brief component of his work but
Institutionalisation and democractisation in Chávez’s Venezuela
This chapter will expand on these ideas by examining in more detail the political consequences and impact of populism. Examining the literature, two principal consequences of populism emerge: (i) increased popular participation; and (ii) diminished institutionalisation. This analysis, I will argue, however, overlooks the influence of ideology on the extent of popular participation in specific populist experiences, and fails to place Latin American populism, and specific populist governments, within a global and regional context.
In order to
‘radical liberal’ roots of the Labour Party and the enduring influence of cross-class perspectives on the party’s early rhetoric and appeal. For Patrick Joyce, popular politics, including labour politics, was primarily concerned with ‘the people’ rather than the working class between 1840 and 1914. Joyce suggests that ‘populism’ is a more appropriate description than ‘class’ because it connotes inclusiveness, extra-economic categorisation, reconciliation and fellowship, all of which were prevalent themes in popular political discourse during this period. 2