Governments such as those of Trump in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom or Iván Duque in Colombia and progressive experiences in many places around Latin America or Southern Europe have turned the classic schemes to understand contemporary politics upside down. The theories of neoliberal and consensual democracy fell short when it came to understanding the emergence of arcane political passions raised by charismatic leaders. As a result, populist theory has gained unusual importance in accounting for these new phenomena, affective and popular, in geopolitics. Our book enters into dialogue in this new scenario of political thought exacerbated by the pandemic. However, it puts forward a series of theses against the current usual prejudices about populism.
The proposal of this book is to introduce a set of critical essays on populism in a double movement: on the one hand, disarming the general contempt towards populism shared by many of the academics, journalists and politicians from the right to the left wing of the political scope; and, on the other hand, introducing elements for a renewed theoretical perspective regarding populism in its ontological dimension.
The main topics developed in the book, for a renewed populist theory, are: the link between institutions and the construction of People; the distinction between a right and left-wing populism; the articulation between a plebeian republicanism, feminism and populism; the differences between a populist ethos and a neoliberal one and the urgency to translate populism –following Judith Butler’s translatability notion – into the production of knowledge of the global south, in order to think to what extent populism is capable to dialogue and discuss with theories produced in some other global sceneries and what could its theoretical/practical contributions be as an alternative to neoliberalism.
But above all, the most important contribution of this book, one that is crucial to the debate around populism but has not yet been carefully addressed in any published text, is its emancipatory dimension in a neoliberal context.
Paula Biglieri is Professor of Politics at the University of Buenos Aires and at the La Plata National University. Luciana Cadahia is Visiting Professor at Cornell University and Researcher at FLACSO-Ecuador. Their book, Seven Essays on Populism: For a Renewed Theoretical Perspective, is now available from Polity.