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What is a Populist?


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In politics, populism refers to a range of approaches which emphasise the role of "the people" and often juxtapose this group against "the elite". There is no single definition of the term, which developed in the 19th century and has been used to mean various different things since that time. Few politicians or political groups describe themselves as "populists", and in political discourse the term is often applied to others pejoratively. Within political scienceand other social sciences, various different definitions of populism have been used, although some scholars propose rejecting the term altogether.

A common framework for interpreting populism is known as the ideational approach: this defines populism as an ideology which posits "the people" as a morally good force against "the elite", who are perceived as corrupt. Populists differ in how "the people" are defined, but it can be based along class, ethnic, or national lines. Populists typically present "the elite" as comprising the political, economic, cultural, and media establishment, all of which are depicted as a homogenous entity and accused of placing the interests of other groups—such as foreign countries or immigrants—above the interests of "the people". According to this approach, populism is a thin-ideology which is combined with other, more substantial thick ideologies such as nationalism, liberalism, or socialism. Thus, populists can be found at different locations along the left–right political spectrum and there is both left-wing populism and right-wing populism.

Other scholars active in the social sciences have defined the term populism in different ways. According to the popular agency definition used by some historians of United States history, populism refers to popular engagement of the population in political decision making. An approach associated with the scholar Ernesto Laclau presents populism as an emancipatory social force through which marginalised groups challenge dominant power structures. Some economists have used the term in reference to governments which engage in substantial public spending financed by foreign loans, resulting in hyperinflation and emergency measures. In popular discourse, the term has sometimes been used synonymously with demagogy, to describe politicians who present overly simplistic answers to complex questions in a highly emotional manner, or with opportunism, to characterise politicians who seek to please voters without rational consideration as to the best course of action.

The term populism came into use in the late 19th century alongside the promotion of democracy. In the United States, it was closely associated with the People's Party, while in the Russian Empire it was linked to the agrarian socialist Narodnik movement. 

 

There is more in Wikipedia.

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