Populism is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite. [1] Critics of populism have described it as a political approach that seeks to disrupt the existing social order by solidifying and mobilizing the animosity of the " commoner" or " the people" against " privileged elites" and the " establishment". [2] Populists can fall anywhere on the traditional left–right political spectrum of politics and often portray both bourgeois capitalists and socialist organizers as unfairly dominating the political sphere. [3]

Political parties and politicians [4] often use the terms "populist" and "populism" as pejoratives against their opponents. Such a view sees populism as demagogy, merely appearing to empathize with the public through rhetoric or unrealistic proposals in order to increase appeal across the political spectrum. [5]

Populism is most common in democratic nations and political scientist Cas Mudde wrote: "Many observers have noted that populism is inherent to representative democracy; after all, do populists not juxtapose 'the pure people' against 'the corrupt elite'?". [6]

Academic definitions

Historically, academic definitions of populism vary, and people have often used the term in loose and inconsistent ways to reference appeals to "the people", demagogy and "catch-all" politics. The term has also been used as a label for new parties whose classifications are unclear. Unlike[ vague] word-order draws out vagueness abt who and how c-es & s-es differ from and what they call themselves}} conservatives or socialists, populists rarely call themselves "populists" and usually reject the term when it is applied to them, which throws some doubt on the usefulness of the term "populist". [7]

In recent years, academic scholars have produced definitions that facilitate populist identification and comparison. Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell define populism as an ideology that "pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous 'others' who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice". [8] Rather than viewing populism in terms of specific social bases, economic programs, issues, or electorates as discussions of right-wing populism have tended to do, [9] this type of definition is in line with the approaches of scholars such as Ernesto Laclau, [10] Pierre-Andre Taguieff, [11] Yves Meny and Yves Surel, [12] who have all sought to focus on populism per se, rather than treating it simply as an appendage of other ideologies.

In the United States and Latin America, populism has generally been associated with the left, whereas in European countries, populism is more associated with the right. In both, the central tenet of populism—that democracy should reflect the pure and undiluted will of the people—means it can sit easily with ideologies of both right and left. However, while leaders of populist movements in recent decades have claimed to be on either the left or the right of the political spectrum, there are also many populists who reject such classifications and claim not to be "left wing", " centrist" or "right wing". [13] [14] [15]

Some scholars argue that populist organizing for empowerment represents the return of older "Aristotelian" politics of horizontal interactions among equals who are different, for the sake of public problem solving. [16] [17] Populism has taken left-wing, right-wing and even centrist forms [18] as well as forms of politics that bring together groups and individuals of diverse partisan views. [19] In 1912, Governor John Shafroth and the Colorado legislature in a special session created the unique Colorado Caucus to reform the domination of big business in that state.[ citation needed] The use of populist rhetoric in the United States has recently included references such as "the powerful trial lawyer lobby", [20] [21] "the liberal elite", or "the Hollywood elite". [22] Examples of populist rhetoric on the other side of the political spectrum include the anti-corporate-greed views of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the theme of " Two Americas" in the 2004 Presidential Democratic Party campaign of John Edwards.

Populists are seen by some politicians as a largely democratic and positive force in society, while a wing of scholarship in political science contends that populist mass movements are irrational and introduce instability into the political process. Margaret Canovan argues that both these polar views are faulty and has defined two main branches of modern populism worldwide—agrarian and political—and mapped out seven disparate sub-categories:


  • Commodity farmer movements with radical economic agendas such as the American People's Party of the late 19th century.
  • Subsistence peasant movements, such as the Eastern European Green Rising militias, which followed World War I.
  • Intellectuals who romanticize hard-working farmers and peasants and build radical agrarian movements like the Russian narodniki.


  • Populist democracy, including calls for more political participation through reforms such as the use of popular referenda.
  • Politicians' populism marked by non-ideological appeals for "the people" to build a unified coalition.
  • Reactionary populism, such as the white backlash harvested by George Wallace.
  • Populist dictatorship, such as that established by Getúlio Vargas in Brazil. [23]
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Populisme
العربية: شعبوية
беларуская: Папулізм
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Папулізм
български: Популизъм
català: Populisme
čeština: Populismus
Cymraeg: Poblyddiaeth
dansk: Populisme
Deutsch: Populismus
eesti: Populism
Ελληνικά: Λαϊκισμός
español: Populismo
Esperanto: Popolismo
euskara: Populismo
galego: Populismo
한국어: 포퓰리즘
hrvatski: Populizam
íslenska: Lýðhyggja
italiano: Populismo
עברית: פופוליזם
қазақша: Популизм
latviešu: Populisms
Lëtzebuergesch: Populismus
lietuvių: Populizmas
magyar: Populizmus
македонски: Популизам
मराठी: लोकानुनय
مازِرونی: پوپولیسم
монгол: Популизм
Nederlands: Populisme
norsk: Populisme
norsk nynorsk: Populisme
occitan: Populisme
polski: Populizm
português: Populismo
română: Populism
русский: Популизм
Scots: Populism
shqip: Popullizmi
සිංහල: ජනතාවාදය
Simple English: Populism
slovenščina: Populizem
српски / srpski: Популизам
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Populizam
suomi: Populismi
svenska: Populism
Tagalog: Populismo
Türkçe: Popülizm
українська: Популізм
Tiếng Việt: Chủ nghĩa dân túy
中文: 民粹主義