A dirty word, an insult a means to denigrate your opponent? The word has flooded the media and has become a if not The major element in current political discourse. But what does it actually mean? The will of the people? Originally. The abuse of the will of the people? Perhaps. Rightly or wrongly those accused of populism in the current context are sleazy politicians whipping the people up for their own electoral success.
But in the prevalent climate ?globally I think ? ALL politicians suffer from/use various degrees of populism to curry electoral favour from the far right to the far left and everyone else in between. The rise of nationalist populism sweeping through Europe is decried and it is indeed extremely worrying and reminiscent of the 1930?s, the Weimar Republic and the horrendous rise of fascism.
However, that is where the analysis stops. Short. We are told that Europe is in danger from this rise in nationalist populism and there have been all sorts of cries from intellectuals and so on in attempts to stem this tide. Again the fundamental causes of this phenomenon are skirted over. The main cause proffered (and used by the populists) is the influx of refugees and immigrants.
This is exceedingly convenient for all concerned. Fascism/populism reared its ugly head in the 1930?s mainly for other reasons. Reasons which are very close to what is going on today. Economic discontent. The neo-liberal dogma (because that is what it is) has permeated economic ?thinking?(or failure to think). Resulting over the recent decades in the appalling inequality (still growing), the diminution of the middle class, in short the worship (and implementation) of stringent Austerity which only helps the rich get much richer and the poor much poorer and more numerous.
The EU and the Euro have become vehicles for establishing often debilitating austerity and stoking popular discontent. The populace is growing restless and needs to rebel against this phenomenon impoverishing them and diminishing their standard of living. Resulting in an EU totally alien to the original ideals.
An outlet is needed. In Greece the popular vote turned left. However Mr. Tsipras soon proved unequal to the task and decided that ?if you can?t beat them join them? which he did with relish and has now become the darling of the European elite because he continued the imposition of austerity with a vengeance.
So the gathering and growing discontent turns to the right. Needless to say the right and far right parties growing in strength in Europe are taking great advantage of it while the ?Elites? wring their hands and decry the horror of ?populism? while brushing the real economic problem they have been instrumental in imposing under the carpet. For them populism is a nefarious affliction that appears to have descended from the skies. But is hasn?t. It has been created by their own politics.
So when all the calls to fight the rise of this ugly phenomenon chose to totally ignore the main cause of the discontent, the far right risks growing stronger and stronger.
In Davos, we are told, the gathering discussed ways to deal with the problem. But what are they supposed to do about it when it is they themselves who are in fact the problem?