A Short Introduction to Populism

  • Marcia MacaulayEmail author


Macaulay provides an overview of the principal theoretical approaches concerning populism. She examines the six questions posed by Ionescu and Gellner (Populism its meaning and national characteristics. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1969): whether populism is an ideology, a movement, a “recurring mentality,” a “political psychology,” or a worship of the ‘people.’ Further, is populism “characterized by a peculiar negativism?” Lastly, is populism porous, able to be absorbed by “stronger ideologies or movements”? Canovan (Populism. Junction, London, 1981) sets out a comprehensive typology of populist movements. Taggart (Populism. Viva Books, New Delhi, 2002) introduces the concept of “new populism” focusing on a distinction between ‘the people’ and ‘the heartland.’ Taguieff (Vingtiéme Siécle 55:4–33, 1997) extends Taggart’s analysis of new populism by examining ‘ideal’ national populism as represented by The National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen. He looks specifically at the use of media in the form of telepopulism. Laclau (On populist reason. Verso, London, 2005) defines populism not as a movement or a referent with a set of features but as a “social logic” that “construct[s] the political.” Mudde and Kaltwasser (Populism: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2017) examine the porosity of populism, defining populism as a “thin-centered ideology” that can attach to other ideologies. They identify the core concepts of populism as ‘the people,’ ‘the elite,’ and ‘the general will.’ Both Wodak (The politics of fear. Sage, London, 2015) and Moffitt (The global rise of populism. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2016) analyse the rhetorical style of populist politicians. Moffitt defines populism as a form of political style. This chapter also summarizes the remaining content chapters of the volume.


Ionescu and Gellner Canovan Taggart Taguieff Laclau Mudde and Kaltwasser Wodak Moffitt 



The author wishes to thank Raluca Levonian for her important input in the creation of this volume, especially during its early stages.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Glendon CollegeYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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