A Reading List on Populism
Often, a better understanding of a phenomenon helps one to figure out how best to engage with it. The reading list below contains some reading suggestions on the recent rise in populism which we found particularly insightful, but is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive. It is updated regularly.
This version: as of August 2, 2018
- Populism is an attitude towards democracy in which populists claim that only they can rightfully represent the "true people". Jan-Werner Müller (2016): “What is Populism?” University of Pennsylvania Press. German version: “Was ist Populismus? Ein Essay” Suhrkamp 2016 - available online here. Shorter versions of his arguments can be found in the London Review of Books here (English) and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (German) here.
- Populism is a general protest against the checks and balances introduced to prevent "the people's" direct rule. Anton Pelinka (2013): "Right-wing populism: Concept and typology". In: Right-Wing Populism in Europe: Politics and Discourse. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 3–22. Only available in print or on Google books here (English).
democracy under Threat
- Citizens in a number of countries in Europe and the US have become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system. Foa, Roberto Stefan and Mounk Yascha (2016): "The Danger of Deconsolidation. The Democratic Disconnect." In Democracy 27 (3), pp. 5 – 17. Available online here (English)
- We should choose our politicians by lot rather than elections, say Bastian Berbner, Tanja Stelzer and Wolfgang Uchatius (2017) with reference to David van Reybrouck here (German).
The Role of the media, "Filter bubbles" and post-factual democracy
- Truth is a therapy. Facts matter. The world isn't as bad as we think it is - facts help us realise this, argues Hans Rosling in his book Factfulness (2018). More here.
- Should we blame social media for Brexit and Trump? No, Helen Margetts (2016) argues here (English).
- We're all living in bubbles, as information we receive online becomes so tailored to our existing areas of interest that we are no longer exposed to views that challenge us, says Vincent Hendricks (2014) here (English).
- A democracy is in a post-factual state when truth and evidence are replaced by robust narratives, opportune political agendas, and impracticable political promises to maximize voter support, say Vincent Hendricks and David Budtz Pederson (2016) and set the record straight on post-factual democracy here (English).
- Far-right parties are the biggest beneficiaries of financial crises, Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick and Christoph Trebesch (2015) argue here (English).
- Is increasing inequality behind the increase in inequality? Marcel Fratzscher and Ryan Avent (2016) discuss this question in a podcast here (English).
- Is populism a rebellion against globalisation gone too far? David Willetts and Nicholas Crafts (2016) discuss this question in a podcast here (English).
- "Fascism is not just the big bang of mass rallies and extreme violence; it is also the creeping fog that incrementally occupies power while obscuring its motives, its moves and its goals." Caplan, Jane (2016): Is Trump a Fascist? A view from the past" - available online here (English).
- Liberals should brace themselves for a long struggle, Timothy Garton Ash (2016) argues here (English).
- It’s not the economy, stupid, it’s how people feel. Populism thrives on people’s feeling of a lack of political power, a belief that the world is unfair and that they do not get what they deserve – and that the world is changing too quickly for them to retain control, Stephan Lewandowsky (2016) argues here (English).
- Constructing an in-group of “the people” lies at the heart of populist political communication, Toril Aalberg, Frank Esser, Carsten Reinemann, Jesper Stromback, and Claes de Vreese (2016) argue here (English).
The situation in...
- Why are people voting for the "Alternative for Germany" party? Kroh, Martin and Fetz, Karolina (2016): "Das Profil der AfD-AnhängerInnen hat sich seit Gründung der Partei deutlich verändert" - available online here (German).
- An extremely interesting study on the prevalence of right-wing extremist views in Germany, finding that xenophobic, antisemitic and anti-muslim sentiments are particularly prevalent among AfD voters. Zick, Andreas; Küpper, Beate and Daniela Behrens (2016): "Gespaltene Mitte – Feindselige Zustände. Rechtextreme Einstellungen in Deutschland 2016" - full version here (German), a summary is here (German).
The United Kingdom
- Votes for Brexit are more substantially related to austerity than to migrant flows: even just a slightly more moderate regime of austerity could have substantially reduced support for the Vote Leave campaign, an empirical study finds. Becker, Sascha; Fetzer, Thiemo and Dennis Novy (2016): "Who Voted for Brexit? A Comprehensive District-Level Analysis". Warwick Working Paper Series. Available here (English).
The United States
- Who really voted for Trump? Chris Cillizza (2016)'s look at the exit polls is here (English).
- Trump's success is due to the class culture gap, and class trumps gender. The white working class resents professionals but admires the rich, and Trump’s blunt talk also taps into the blue-collar value of "straight talk", Joan C. Williams (2016) argues here (English).
- Democrats have to figure out why the white working class just voted overwhelmingly against its own economic interests, says Paul Krugman (2016) here (English).
- An introduction to the currents of American culture that led to “Trumpism” is here (a reading list, in English).
- There is a link between immigration and far-right voting behaviour in Austria, Martin Halla, Alexander Wagner and Josef Zweimüller (2015) find here (English).
What to do?
- Burst bubbles with tech, says Emily Dreyfuss (2016) here (English).
- Mainstream parties must learn to offer credible solutions, says Cas Mudde (2016) here (English).
- Counter identity politics by developing and emphasising a progressive notion of "us" - and form a broad alliance across society to oppose right-wing populism, says Marc Saxer (2017) here (German).
- Create a citizens’ communication system, framing American values accurately and systemically day after day, telling truths framed by American majority moral values, says George Lakoff (2016) here (English).
- Reframe our conversations, says Olga Khazan (2017) here (English).
Creating this reading list would not have been possible without the dedication and support of the participants of the "Aktionswochenende" in Berlin in January 2017, who prepared a range of workshops and associated reading lists on some of the topics mentioned above - enormous thanks to all of you! For a report on conclusions reached during the weekend, have a look here.