The rise of modern populism - Takis S. Pappas
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“Populism” has been associated with a bewildering variety of historical phenomena and political leaders ranging from the demagogues of ancient Greece and the Gracchi brothers in the late Roman Republic (509 BC–27 BC) to the Levellers during the English Civil War (1642–1651) to the Chartists, the Luddites and the agrarian US Populists in the 19th century to the Narodniks in pre-revolutionary Russia and from there to such diverse more contemporary figures as Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi and Julius Nyerere.
Pre-modern populism should not be confused with modern populism. The latter signifies a type of democracy that prioritizes the interests of the ordinary people over the generally applied institutions of the postwar liberal state. Moreover, modern populism would not be confused with authoritarianism, which is non-democratic, or with nativism, a term that is used to describe anti-immigration parties, especially in Europe.
Andreas Papandreou (1919-1996) was the first populist leader to win power in a European country, Greece. Populism grew strong in Greece and was the most important causal factor for this country’s more recent financial and political crisis that also rocked Europe.
Other important populist leaders have been Argentina’s Juan Perón (1895-1974) and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez (1954-2013), while in postwar Europe the most significant populist leaders besides Papandreou have been Hungary’s Viktor Orbán (born 1963) and Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński (born 1949). Donald Trump also classifies as populist.
A full-blown study of populism is to be found in your educator’s Populism and Liberal Democracy: A Comparative and Theoretical Analysis. Takis Pappas also maintains a blog dedicated to discussing topics related to populism and contemporary democratic politics: www.pappaspopulism.com.
Interested in learning how populism works in current democracies? Check out this journal by the educator ofthis lesson, Takis, detailing the modern features of a populist leader!
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