Thu, May 11, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Trying to define when a political movement is populist, or not

By Max Fisher  /  NY Times News Service

Those two messages can blur, confounding those who seek to classify Western populism as driven by political grievances or social animus, but not both.

That combination is key to populism as academics tend to define it, and it is why Delury said the label does not apply to South Korea’s protests.

Scholarly definitions seem to back him up.

Jan-Werner Mueller of Princeton University describes populism as a kind of identity politics that champions the people as morally superior and opposes pluralism as a tool of elites.

Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde has written that populism divides the world “into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite.’”

The people are unified, in this view, by common values and traits, sometimes including race.

Political scientists Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart defined populism as distrustful of all elites and institutions, from scientists to the news media. It views “ordinary people,” they wrote, as “homogeneous and inherently ‘good’ or ‘decent.’” Diversity, in this view, compromises that purity.

While these tenets feel democratic to proponents, they form a vision of democracy that is majoritarian rather than pluralistic. That majority — “the people” — can be defined by race or religion or class, but there is always someone left out.

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