Theory and Society

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 357–385 | Cite as

Why populism?

Article

Abstract

It is a commonplace to observe that we have been living through an extraordinary pan-European and trans-Atlantic populist moment. But do the heterogeneous phenomena lumped under the rubric “populist” in fact belong together? Or is “populism” just a journalistic cliché and political epithet? In the first part of the article, I defend the use of “populism” as an analytic category and the characterization of the last few years as a “populist moment,” and I propose an account of populism as a discursive and stylistic repertoire. In the second part, I specify the structural trends and the conjunctural convergence of a series of crises that jointly explain the clustering in space and time that constitutes the populist moment. The question in my title is thus twofold: it is a question about populism as a term or concept and a question about populism as a phenomenon in the world. The article addresses both the conceptual and the explanatory question, limiting the scope of the explanatory argument to the pan-European and trans-Atlantic populist conjuncture of the last few years.

Keywords

Repertoires Crisis Democracy Majoritarianism Populism Protectionism 

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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