Battlepanda: Populism defined


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Populism defined

Andrew Sabl at the RBC offers up a characterization of populism.
But in fact, populism — wherever it has existed, though it's much stronger and louder in the U.S. than in, say, Western Europe — is, above all, producerism. It's grounded in a moral distinction between those who do Real Work (agricultural, or, grudgingly, urban but physical) and those who use their abstract intelligence to exploit the real workers through useless tasks like finance or politics. As even its scholarly defenders note, populism is, down to its roots, anti-elitist, anti-intellectual, backwards — looking, xenophobic, and protectionist — and if some populists are these things to only a mild degree, it's because they're only moderate populists. (See Kazin's Populist Persuasion or Lasch's True and Only Heaven, or, most scholarly though alas out of print, Ionescu and Gellner's Populism.) It's all about rewarding those alleged to be honest and virtuous. Populism isn't quite as opposed to equity as it is to efficiency, but it's a close call.