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  • Understanding Right and Left Populism

    Samir Gandesha

    Chapter from the book: Morelock, J. 2018. Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism.

    How can we account for the recent pervasiveness of populism? In an effort to answer this question, the chapter focuses on two exemplary accounts of populism before working toward an alternative theoretical model based on the Frankfurt School’s attempt to theorize fascism in the middle of the twentieth century. The first exemplary account is the empirical study by Norris and Inglehart. The second is a more theoretical and influential account of populism by Ernesto Laclau. The former seeks to account for the contemporary expression of populism in the rise of Donald Trump as well as in the Brexit vote in the UK last summer. The latter is grounded in an understanding of populism in the Latin American southern cone and tends to understand the logic of populism as ultimately coextensive with the logic of politics per se. If Norris and Inglehart struggle to come to terms with the populism of the left, then Laclau struggles to come to adequate grips with the populism of the right. The former draw upon a somewhat narrow definition of populism, emphasizing its anti-establishment, authoritarian and nativist dimensions; the latter understands populism as a logic constituted by the establishment of an ‘equivalential chain’ of different demands and appears to suggest that populism is a democratic, horizontal and egalitarian discourse.

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    Gandesha, S. 2018. Understanding Right and Left Populism. In: Morelock, J (ed.), Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book30.d

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    Published on Dec. 17, 2018