Contemporary discussions of populism elide important distinctions between the ways in which populist leaders and movements respond to the failures of elites to follow through on the promises associated with international social welfare constitutionalism. After laying out the political economy of populisms’ origins, this Article describes the relation between populisms and varieties of liberalism, and specifically the relation between populisms and judicial independence understood as a “veto point” occupied by the elites that populists challenge. It then distinguishes left-wing populisms’ acceptance of the social welfare commitments of late twentieth century liberalism and its rejection of some settled constitutional arrangements that, in populists’ views, obstruct the accomplishment of those commitments. It concludes with a description of the core ethnonationalism of right-wing populism, which sometimes contingently appears in left-wing populisms but is not one the latter’s core components.
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