The populist era


We are living in an era that can be defined as populist – and that includes both right- and left-wing populism. The populist era signals the end of the neoliberal era and is formed directly in response to it. Populism is strongly linked to the idea of sovereignty, the idea that a people should be in control of a territory and the way it is governed. This is in contrast to a globalised world with no boundaries and hence no forms of protection against global flows. Globally orientated liberal politics was formed in opposition to what its theorists saw as the statism and authoritarianism of the social democratic era. But liberalism is itself now being superseded. The idea of popular sovereignty has been foundational to the left, and the left today needs to embrace this part of its heritage and forge a left populism that is capable of defending people against global capital. If it does not do so, right-wing populism will prevail – a populism based on nationalism and ethnicity, opposed to the other, as opposed to a left populism based on equality and opposed to global capital.

Soundings 65: Populism and alliances