Populism refers to forms of politics that put ‘the people’ at their centre, but the way ‘the people’ is understood varies widely. Questions of left populism have gained significant traction and engagement in the last decade - and this is a key focus of this article. While recognising the importance of Ernesto Laclau’s analysis in On Populist Reason, the authors argue that his work is hindered by an overly formalist account of the political. Stuart Hall’s writings on Thatcherism offer a more contextual and situated engagement with particular populist strategies, and have continuing relevance for understanding right-wing populism. Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece offer actually existing experiences of left populism. The authors discuss three limitations in their strategies: their ‘nationed’ narratives of the crisis; the relationship between the parties’ leadership and grassroots politics; and the nature of their engagement with internationalist political projects.
Part of the Critical Terms series.