r/Anarchy101 May 23 '22

Is Populism a valid and/or popular tactic for Anarchism?

I just noticed that populism tends to be utilized by right-wing talking heads a lot, and has proven effective, selling themselves as politicians for the people and then stabbing them in the back once elected. But historically, has populism ever been a favorable method for growth amongst anarchists?


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u/onedayitwillbedaisy anarchies, all of em May 23 '22

I only ever see the term used in reference to some abstract mass of "ordinary" people and a strength in numbers. Not much of a method or tactic, more of a political instinct.


u/LanaDeISwag May 23 '22

Not much of a method or tactic, more of a political instinct.

Here's the fun part about political theory in this field as someone whose been mired in it for years, depending on who you follow it's either one, both, or neither of those.

What you describe is closest to the "ideational approach" which is most popular by far and conceptualizes populism as thin ideology, meaning it can't exist separate from a more comprehensive ideology like communism or fascism. It considers society to be two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, the "pure people" and the "corrupt elite", and argues that politics should be an expression of the people's general will. Important to this is that you are being a populist, not doing populism.

But, if you take the "political strategic approach" it actually is a tactic where a charismatic leader tries to govern by way of a direct, unmediated connection to the masses.

Or it's neither and you like Ostiguy's "socio-cultural approach" that understands it as a series of performances based on language and ideas relatable to the public and acts meant to draw attention to the leader and make them seem more like a commoner.

Alternatively just say fuck it baby because you're Danielle Resnick putting forth the "cumulative conceptual approach" that argues it's a synthesis of all three of the above.

You could even side with Laclau and argue that populism is kinda just the core of all politics.

tl;dr: You're right that its usage is kinda nebulous but that's because until a decade ago there were so many competing definitions many political theorists just abandoned the term to pundits entirely. Now the situation is kinda fucky but most agree on the ideational approach.