Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser
A Very Short Introduction
Oxford University Press 2017
At the start of Populism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2017), five different, and competing, approaches to populism. It has been used to describe those on the left and the right, those in power and those seeking out power. Into this confusion, Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser offer clarity and brevity to the challenge of figuring out what populism is exactly. Mudde is associate professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia; Kaltwasser is associate professor of political science at the Diego Portales University in Santiago, Chile.
Mudde and Kaltwasser suggest that an ideational approach to populism offers needed clarification. They argue that populism is centered on specific ideas about The People, The Elite, and The General Will. Whether populism emerges in the form of a social movement, like Occupy Wall Street, or political parties, such as the populism parties spread across Europe, or even populist leaders, these ideas distinguish populists.
But they also suggest that the thin-centeredness of populism means it often is connected to other ideologies, such as socialism or authoritarianism. Populism then can manifest in a specific political context as a left-wing movement or a charismatic strongman. Gender, too, matters, as masculinity and definitions of the role of women, feature prominently in populism.