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Cannon B.
New Political Science
Must we talk about populism? Interrogating populism’s conceptual utility in a context of crisis
4 ()
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© 2018 Caucus for a New Political Science. John Gerring identifies eight criteria to help assess the utility of a concept: familiarity, resonance, parsimony, coherence, differentiation, depth, theoretical utility, and field utility. Populism has often been challenged on these despite much work done by scholars to help clarify and sharpen the concept. Nevertheless, three central criticisms persist: the term remains conceptually loose; analysis is often underpinned by an unacknowledged normative bias toward liberal democracy; and, the concept often acts as a label used to sideline challengers to the political status quo, despite crucial differences between these on socio-economic, political, and identity inequalities. Its conceptual utility is therefore questionable as so-called populism displaces the inequalities; particularly, political inequality, which originally engendered the phenomena in the first place. The article concludes by recommending a return to more traditional concepts such as the left/right axis to help redirect debate to more promising lines of inquiry, which can help resolve what I call the “crisis of inequalities.”.
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