Paul Kenny, "Why Populism?: Political Strategy from Ancient Greece to the Present" (Cambridge UP, 2023)


The rise to power of populists like Donald Trump is usually attributed to the shifting values and policy preferences of voters-the demand side. Paul Kenny's Why Populism?: Political Strategy from Ancient Greece to the Present (Cambridge UP, 2023) shifts the public debate on populism and examines the other half of the equation-the supply side. Kenny argues that to understand the rise of populism is to understand the cost of different strategies for winning and keeping power. For the aspiring leader, populism-appealing directly to the people through mass communication-can be a quicker, cheaper, and more effective strategy than working through a political party. Probing the long history of populism in the West from its Ancient Greek roots to the present, this highly readable book shows that the 'economic laws of populism are constant.' 'Forget ideology. Forget resentment. Forget racism or sexism.' Populism, the author writes, is the result of a hidden strategic calculus.

Paul Kenny is Professor of Political Science at IHSS at Australian Catholic University and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University.

Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network.

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Caleb Zakarin

Caleb Zakarin is the Editor of the New Books Network.

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