Populism has been viewed as a political ideology, political philosophy, or as a type of discourse. Generally, populists tend to claim that they side with “the people” against “the elites”. While for much of the twentieth century, populism was considered to be a political phenomenon mostly affecting Latin America, since the 1980s populist movements and parties have enjoyed degrees of success in First World democracies such as the USA, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries.
Academic and scholarly definitions of populism have varied widely over the past decades and the term has often been employed in loose and inconsistent ways to denote appeals to ‘the people’, ‘demagogy’ and ‘catch-all’ politics or as a receptacle for new types of parties whose classification is unclear. A factor traditionally held to diminish the value of ‘populism’ as a category has been that, asMargaret Canovan notes in her 1981 study Populism, unlike conservatives or socialists, populists rarely call themselves ‘populists’ and usually reject the term when it is applied to them.
Although in the US and Europe, it currently tends to be associated with right-wing parties, 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 to be neither “left wing”, “centrist” nor “right wing.
Populist democracy, including calls for more political participation through reforms such as the use of popular referendums.
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