Why have the new pop­ulists emerged right now?

The Guardian - Journal - - Briefing The New Populism -

Glob­al­i­sa­tion. Re­ces­sion. Mass mi­gra­tion. Soar­ing in­equal­ity. The per­ceived fail­ure of the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment to deal with any of the above. A slew of fac­tors have com­bined in re­cent years to cre­ate the im­pres­sion – some would say, the re­al­ity – that the world is run by plu­to­crats, oli­garchs and semide­tached politi­cians in the in­ter­ests of the few not the many.

A quar­ter of a bil­lion peo­ple are on the move around the world, pro­vid­ing more am­mu­ni­tion than ever be­fore for rightwing pop­ulists who ar­gue that po­lit­i­cal elites have failed to get a han­dle on the kind of im­mi­gra­tion that they say threat­ens jobs, wages and so­cial cohesion.

Mean­while, the num­ber of bil­lion­aires has jumped five­fold in the past 20 years, to more than 2,200, ac­cord­ing to Forbes, as glob­al­i­sa­tion opened up new mar­kets for en­trepreneurs to tap while at the same time mak­ing it pos­si­ble to shield cap­i­tal, as­sets and in­come from the tax­man. The world’s eight rich­est peo­ple own as much as the poor­est 3.5 bil­lion. The amount of money off­shored by the fi­nan­cial elite is put at as much as £10tn.

But there are also many non-eco­nomic fac­tors that may of­fer par­tial ex­pla­na­tions for pop­ulism’s rise: a cul­tural back­lash against elites, a tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion that has rewired our pol­i­tics, a con­ver­gence of now in­dis­tin­guish­able left and right po­lit­i­cal par­ties on a tech­no­cratic cen­tre.

Ex­actly what mix of fac­tors has cre­ated such a fer­tile back­drop for pop­ulists is a sub­ject of much de­bate. But as Ben­jamin Mof­fitt puts it in his book, The Global

Rise of Pop­ulism: “The time is ripe for canny po­lit­i­cal ac­tors who can speak ef­fec­tively in the name of ‘the peo­ple’ to make great po­lit­i­cal gains.”

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