Left Populism

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This lecture on Left populism is part of the IF Project’s lecture series, Thinking between the Lines: Truth, Lies and Fiction in an age of populism. Dr Marina Prentoulis, Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies at University of East Anglia and a member of Syriza, explores the differences between Left and Right Wing populism.

She recognises that Left and Right populism are often seen as two sides of the same coin, and points to What is Populism? by Jan-Werner Müller (one of the best known books on populism) as being an analysis which wrongly conflates left wing and right wing populism, in part because it uses a journalistic rather than a rigorous theoretical approach, focusing on form rather than policy. For example, Werner contends that

  • “populist claim that they, and only they, represent the people” p. 20
  • “populists live in a kind of political fantasy world: they imagine an opposition between corrupt elites and a morally pure, homogeneous people” (p. 41)
  • “Populists create a Homogeneous people in whose name they have been speaking all along” (p.48)
  • “…populism is thus a moralized form of anti-pluralism…” (p.20)

By contrast, Dr Prentoulis challenges the notion of a ‘homogenous people’ and argues that it is policy that makes left and right populism very different from one another, with open borders, internationalism and inclusion being fundamental to all forms of left populism, and ‘nation’ and exclusion being an intrinsic part of all right wing populisms.

Picture: Occupy London 2011 Global Democracy Now Occupy London Tents in front of St Pauls, London Sunday 16th October 2011 by Neil Cummings

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