The Class Composition of Populism

Since the twin events of 2016, the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, there has been a veritable explosion of interest in populism studies. The bulk of these studies tend to represent populism as a performance or a political style. Conventionally, populism refers to a generic “anti-elite” discourse coupled with political activity focused on the symbolic recreation of “the people.” In other words, populism is seen as pure form rather than having any distinctive political content. The consequence of this analysis is a conflation of left and right populisms under a single banner.

This panel seeks to explore the limits of this conventional understanding of populism. To understand populism beyond pure form, the papers presented here
explore the role of class composition of the populist phenomena. Is populism better understood as a specific configuration of particular class fractions? Do different class configurations yield “left” or “right” wing populisms?

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