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Russian Populism  

Neil Robinson

Russia has a long history of populism. Russia’s 19th-century populist movement is often seen as one of the founding moments of modern populism, and the movement and its successors were among the main revolutionary forces against Tsarism. More recently, parties like the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation have been labeled populist, and President Vladimir Putin has been called a populist. This article looks at these different strands of Russian populism. It reviews the development of 19th-century populism—narodnichestvo—and how it developed ideas about the possibility of constructing a Russian socialism based on peasant communes. It examines how narodnichestvo veered between propaganda work and terrorist activity and how this set the pattern for the revolutionary activity of the first populists’ successors, the Social Revolutionary Party, which was formed in the early 20th century. The article then looks at the different forms that post-Soviet populizm (as populism is labeled in modern Russian) has taken. It looks at the ideas of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and then looks at why Putin has been called a populist, focusing on the ideas that he put forward from 2011 onward about Russia as a particular form of civilization and state. These ideas, it is argued, formed the core of an “official” populism that, while effective as a means of arguing for Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, is politically sterile.

Article

Election Campaigns and Political Mobilization In Africa  

Dan Paget

Politicians mobilize people to vote by devising messages and imparting them to those people. Many studies examine African electioneering through a framework that distinguishes between programmatic, clientelist and charismatic appeals. Some, but not all, African politicians appeal to people by adopting particular policy positions, the strict sense of “programmatic appeals.” However, almost all solicit peoples’ support by stressing their sincere intentions and their abilities to pursue uncontroversial aspects of public policy, otherwise known as “valence appeals.” Parties’ historic records and their locations in government or opposition affect which issues they can claim to own and which they stress in their campaigns. While appeals over public policy are commonplace in African electoral politics, so too is clientelism. Many politicians give voters gifts, in the form of favorable distributions of public service delivery, in-kind goods, and cash. However, few of these gifts constitute contingent exchanges of goods for votes. Instead, political largesse is used to flatter, to impress and to convince voters of politicians’ virtue. In this respect, public policy and clientelism frequently appear in African elections side-by-side. “Political appeals” is employed by many as an organizing concept which orders the study of political messages. It sheds light on how electoral politics affects public policy. However, it also obscures. A separate canon of work studies political discourses in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most studied subjects in this strain of the literature is populism. African populisms have been conceived of by some as discourses that unite disparate groups against an elite, and as an electoral strategy that draws together particular constituencies by others. Whichever definition one takes, African populists are rare. Only a handful have been identified. Nationalists are much more common in sub-Saharan Africa. Politicians and parties have constructed national missions that act as master discourses, which subsume and order all manner of political issues. Some politicians that employ nationalist discourses stress their liberation credentials as qualifications to govern and delegitimize opponents who did not participate in the struggle. National revolutions or liberations are portrayed as ongoing projects with indefinite points of completion which give nationalism its regenerative qualities. Other nationalisms stress threats from rival groups, whether strangers within the nation’s borders, or nefarious forces abroad. Likewise, ethnic discourses are commonplace in sub-Saharan Africa, but their rhetorical contents differ. Some valorize an ethnic people. Other express an ethnic group’s victimhood, or grievances, or fear of rival group threats. Equally, the goals that they espouse differ. Some propose compensation, others reconciliation, others still the capture of the central state, the devolution of state power, or the creation of a separate state of their own. Equally, they are contested and used by a variety of actors. Ethnicities are created from both above and below. They are used not only to mobilize people for mass actions to but make normative claims on politicians. More broadly, politicians strive to develop conceptions of political morality. They present themselves as moral leaders and recharacterize various political issues as questions of morality or moral character. Putting these common discursive frames aside, African politicians employ any number of esoteric discursive frames which are not found elsewhere. Grand discourses aside, African politicians employ numerous rhetorical and symbolic techniques to suggest, reframe, perform and charm. While messages win people’s support, those messages must be imparted, through mass media or face-to-face contact. Political parties mobilize enormous resources to expose people to their messages on the ground. The ground campaign has received little attention to date, but a scattering of studies show that parties strive to gain local presence. Some establish branches and others recruit local actors. They rely on these local actors to organize their ground campaigns and employ a variety of targeting strategies.

Article

Populism in Foreign Policy  

Angelos Chryssogelos

The topic of populism in foreign policy is receiving growing attention in academic and public discourse as populist parties and movements proliferate around the world. Yet foreign policy analysis (FPA) scholars interested in the role of populism in foreign policy have to deal with a concept that is notoriously slippery and contested. The existing literature on populism and foreign policy has already offered interesting insights. Focused primarily on Europe, it usually applies the conceptualization of populism as a thin-centered ideology that attaches to thicker ideological traditions and reformulates them in terms of the elite-people divide. Following this conceptualization (that is today the dominant framework for the comparative analysis of populism, particularly in Europe), this literature argues that populist parties of the right have foreign policy positions that reflect their nativism, opposition to immigration, focus on national sovereignty, and rejection of economic and cultural globalization. Populist parties of the left on the other hand reject in their foreign policy positions neo-liberalism and open markets. Together, European populist parties of all persuasions are Eurosceptic, anti-American, and usually pro-Putin’s Russia. Highlighted are the breadth of critical and discursive approaches on populism that scholars of populism and foreign policy can use, particularly because they have been applied successfully to cases outside of Europe, where populists have long held political power and have influenced foreign policy in practice. Such conceptualizations commonly view populism as a reaction to crises of political representation engendered by dislocations caused by globalization and other shifts in international politics. These dislocations will take different forms, but populism in the West and populism in the Global South can be seen, despite more specific differences of outlook, at the very least as a specific type of reaction to concurrent political and economic crises in a rapidly denationalized and deterritorialized world. In this context, most populist foreign policies reflect a preoccupation with popular sovereignty and unmediated projection of popular demands and national interests outside of established processes of global governance. Populists will also tend to perceive and analyze foreign policy issues through the lens of the elite-underdog opposition. Populism is commonly associated or conflated with nationalism (especially in the case of the European radical right) and isolationism, but in practice this does not always have to be the case. The “people” for whom populists speak in international affairs can very well transcend national borders, as evidenced, for example, in the foreign policies of Hugo Chavez and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who aimed to represent transnational constituencies like the Global South, the Islamic world, the world poor, etc. And while populists generally eschew commitments to broader milieu goals of the international system, they can still engage with foreign affairs if they see immediate material benefits. The same goes for trade: populists (particularly in the United States) are seen usually as ideological protectionists, but most often they do not mind striking trade deals if these favor their interests (see, e.g., Donald Trump’s discourse on this issue). In terms of theoretical and methodological advancements, foreign policy scholars interested in populism are urged to embrace the large variety of conceptual approaches on populism (ideological, critical, discursive) and to build on the growing literature on cross-regional comparison of populist politics, something particularly pertinent in a world characterized by the presence and prominence of populism in almost all world regions.