Comparative Analysis of Populism and Nationalism

Many nations in our modern world are divided on the political movement they should adopt in order to remain relevant in modern politics. In different countries, nationalist and populist parties have secured positions in parliament at the local, regional and also the national level where they have gained popularity and political power among their followers(Ciaiani, and Kröll, 2017 3). Populism can be described as a political ideology that mainly focuses on the formulation of policies which seeks to represent the interest of the common people. Their views, actions and speech have the general appeal of the general public. Within the populist politics, there exist two frontiers. First is the exclusive populism which its main focus is shutting out the stigmatize groups. The second is the inclusive populism which demands that politics should be open to the stigmatized groups. On the other hand, nationalism is described as the advocacy towards the interest of the nation and most importantly to the exclusion of the interest of other nations.  For the nationalist, they defend the sovereignty and self-determination of their own country (Ciaiani, and Kröll, 2017 3). With the two political movements, people have been able to acquire political power within their countries. This calls for an evaluation of the ideological differences that exist between populists and nationalist in the political arena and their main goals towards the community that they represent.

            The first difference between populist and nationalist can be derived from the definition offered above. Among the populist politics, their main focus is to represent local people thus playing domestic politics.  In connection to this, populist political parties may be involved in the formulation of local policies such as labour and employment policies within which are popular with the local community. On the other hand, we can deduce from the definition of nationalism that is I key player of the international policies. Nationalist parties are involved in policies that consist of national interest.  They defend the legacy and interest of their nation even if it differs from the majority’s opinion.

            Another notable difference is that populism has some democratic characteristics.  Populist politics is aimed at making politics accessible by all people and popular among citizens. It is focused on including the previously excluded identities in politics. Populist movement do are not aimed at fulfilling their objectives, but they rather demand the fulfilment of the needs of the majority. On the other hand, there are no democratic elements found in the nationalist movements. They represent the interest of the elite people, excluding the interest of the local population. They enforce policies depending on the culture of the nation and not the current situation on the ground.

Additionally, it is also notable that nationalism politics focuses on the logic of in-groups and out groups. These are the notion of we versus them. The politic of nationalism is for the people and community that share the same feeling of belonging to the same identity. Nationalist parties, choose to ignore the differences in such as social class, culture and ethnicity but embraces the theme of nationality created within those social identities.  This implies that, belonging to a certain nation if often considered through ethnic or racist categories.   Also, others who do not possess similar characteristics are termed as strangers. It is also visible that the nationalist perceives the integration of other nations through the process of globalization as a threat to their movement because this notion introduces non-native elements who threaten the sovereignty of their nation.    

            On the contrary, the populist ideology drives on the notion of accumulation of power to the ordinary people in order to challenge the legitimacy exiting political establishment.  The political goals of the populist are based on the ideology that the society is based on two different groups which are the common people and the corrupt elite group. The populist comma unity perceives leadership to be corrupt by the minority in the society. This perception is always applied by an activist who champions for people’s rights and many of the opposition leaders.

Additionally, the aspect of nationalism in politics has led to the growth of economic nationalism. The economic nationalism refers to where people are understood as a nation which represents its independent economic interest. In economic nationalism, the political parties are forced to formulate policies that are in favour of people from their nationality. This form of nationalism has led to the formulation of policies that ensures there is the existence of economic security to the members of the individual state (Riedel, R. 2017 11). These forms of policies are reflected in the community through subsidization of domestic produce, regulatory burdens and controversial duties.  

Additionally, political nationalism has always affected the policies that are formulated to ensure the existence of long-standing general trends of a globalized economy.  Nationalism parties have always come up with policies that create barriers for economic liberalism. They are opposed to the idea of liberalization of the economy into a borderless world.  The nations with this form of political ideology are very sensitive with any chance of an uprising economic crisis. Any idea of economic globalization, is taken by the nationalist parties as a threat to national identity have they always encourage the protection of their local cultures (Riedel, R. 2017 12).. This can only be described as national tribalism or nativism. Nationalist have also perceived secularism as an enemy to economic progress. It is hard to separate economic nationalism from political nationalism because the political stands affect the economic policies.  The ability to establish a national economy depends on the ability to maintain the political policies of the particular state. By the above aspect, the economic goals must be aligned with the political goals of the state. Thus,, economic nationalism has always remained an important factor that is used to mobilize the population around a state-sponsored economy.  By this, a state can manage its mineral resources, or most probably the protection of the local population from a powerful economic neighbour.  

On the other hand, the origin of populism was economic in nature thus delivering the political ideology from the economic situation of the country.  The populist economic aspect is a concept that originates from a society that proposes for a fair economic state and distribution of wealth in their country. The commercial part of this political ideology mainly focuses on the formulation of policies that will ensure equality in the assets and income (Riedel, R. 2017 14). From the historical time, populist parties have always championed for policies such as eight-hour working time, national health care system, obligatory employment and health insurance. This is an indication that their economic focus revolves around the local population and their interest and not the interest of the nation. This ideology can be connected with the historic economic agrarian revolt which divided the United States into a nation of the producers and the nation of the well-to-do elites. This economic revolt can be a tribute to the birth of the populist population. The populist political ideology is unsuited to drive economic ideas of a country because it is based on emotions and formulation of passive policies which promises the masses what they want to hear (Riedel, R. 2017 14)..  Political populist launches economic projects before the elections which are a way of helping the current regime retain its political power.  The populist promises employment to the people subsidizes goods, and softening the interest rates and policies, in order to gain political sympathy from the voters.  They lack long-term economic goals that would sustain their political ambitions, and they rely on revenue to generate political support.  Unlike the nationalist, populist are only interested in their political ratings from the members of the public.  They lack a general method of tackling an economic crisis or a permanent solution to their economic problems.

Summing up, it is evident that both populist and nationalists have strong political and economic dimensions. They are all relied upon by various political actors who have to want to influence their political supporters. Politically, populism seems to be one of the methods that can be applied to ensure that people support the existing government. This may be achieved through the implementation of short economic policies which will popularize the government to the vast majority. On the same note, populism has also proven to be an effective method that people could use to criticize the ruling regime when it has implemented policies which do not favour members of the public.

On the other hand, nationalism has proven to be a political ideology that may be used in to protect a nation from the external economic competition. This political ideology has the interest of the local citizens more than the populist. It focuses on the long-term benefits of the policies that they implement. Additionally, the nationalist economic policies are based on the long-term interest of their country. The nations with this form of political ideology are very sensitive with any chance of an uprising economic crisis thus making them more economically stable. Any idea of economic globalization, is taken by the nationalist parties as a threat to national identity as they always encourage the protection of their local trading cultures.


Caiani, M. and Kröll, P., 2017. Nationalism and populism in radical right discourses in Italy and Germany. Javnost-The Public, 24(4), pp.336-354.

Riedel, R., 2017. Economic Nationalism and Populism–Intertwining Relations.

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