The Concept of Populism in Politics

The fact-value connection is a complicated concept. The virtue that a given economic paradigm identifies as such may fail to achieve its stand in some other models. This is in line with the agreement that facts are concept-dependent. Alongside providing other services, concepts are used in providing the baseline work of facilitating the identification of facts. Even by the ongoing simple fact that water changes from liquid to solid depends on heat, matter, and other numerous concepts. Without such thoughts, the facts themselves are inexistent.  Conventionally, one cannot possibly agree with facts and disagree with the concept of those facts.  This paper attempts to justify the impression that facts are concept-dependent. The first part of the article starts with what is considered as populism and identifies the particular populists’ claims. The paper then proceeds to discuss the populists and the concept of populism in politics. The paper then finalizes with the importance of understanding concept-dependent as used in politics.

Populist is a term that is synonymously used for ‘antiestablishment,’ independent of any specific content, political idea, or anything that does not seem to matter (Aslanidis 2015, p. 91). Primarily, the term is associated with some particular emotions and moods of anger, frustration, and resentment. Other than being anti-elitist, populists are of often anti-pluralist. They claim that they are the sole representatives of the people (Weyland 2017, p. 15). The claim of exclusive representation is not empirical; instead, it is a distinctly a moral one. However, this is not to claim that populist are capable of building walls to separate themselves from their enemies, or even send them to a gulag, but neither are populists harmless.

Populism is thus a set of distinct claims and possesses what might be perceived as an inner logic. An examination of this logic contemplates that is an image that accords a liberal democracy fundamentally misleading to be correct. Also, another view common to populism is that it supports, as well as the proponents, have a distinct social-psychological status. As stated earlier, this concept deals with individuals driven by anxieties and resentments concerning their prestige and paranoia. Clearly, this account links up their sociological status, but more identical with it. Further, populism is characterized by some tendencies of qualities of irresponsibleness, simplistic, and irrationals majoring on peoples’ shot-coming desires.

It is a conventional wisdom to argue that populism is on the rise in the global politics especially across the west. In fact, it is argued that no election campaigns or political period in in the History of America has been through the invocations of populism as the one held in 2015-2016 ((Müller 2016, p. 5). It is not a surprise that Ivan Krastev, a Bulgarian political analyst declares the present era as the ‘Age of Populism’ (Müller 2016, p. 17). Recently, the common approach given to populism is the claim that points that a particular individual can pinpoint it in a specific way and a clearly identified class base.  Populism rises come with the introduction of democratic representatives. It is a moralistic imagination of politics.

More particularly, the rise of populism signals perception of liberals about democracy and the anxieties of Democrats about liberalism (Weyland 2017, p.23). Various explanations have been put forward to explain the rise of populism ranging from frustration with immigration and globalization to increase in economic inequality and hardship. However, the consequences are worrying, because research indicates that democracy worldwide is on the verge of backsliding since populists are highly characterized with dictatorship personality and dismantling of democratic institutions.

The contemporary populists have the same objectives as their historical predecessors in Europe and Latin America. They are characterized by the promotion of the traditional institutions, vocalize their distrust of the establishment and experts, and advocate for decisive leadership. In addition to the conventional advocacies, today’s populists do not swiftly break away from democracy, rather they set in motion some subtle and slowly chip away from democratic institutions. Worth noting is that patronage system and populist exist in parallel at subnational and national level. Therefore, the emergence of populist does not imply the disappearance of patronage (Moffitt 2017, p. 409). However, in situations where populist use patronage, they often establish other forms of particularistic distribution, which are primarily funded by the central leadership unmediated by informal or formal institutional means. Moreover, where programmatic and patronage-based, parties depend on media that complements the party-building strategy (Moffitt 2017, p. 410).

Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip, Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte, and America’s Donald Trump are considered the current populists (Müller 2016, p. 19). Surprisingly, rather than gaining leadership through revolution or coup, which can incite domestic as well as international drawbacks, this leader gained control through elections. Once they are in control, these leaders stoked widespread ambitions to undermine the institutions which limit their powers and those that sideline the opposition as well as weakening the civil societies (Müller 2016, p. 37). They use subtle and straightforward tactics. Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte, for instance, has tirelessly the rule of law which has seen five thousand people lose their death following a campaign against drug abuse by the government (Weyland 2017, p. 23). Generally, the existential fact of populism has subjected democracy to minimal systematic testing.

Populism is a political phenomenon that presents itself in different forms democracy. Most exposed to the influences of democracy are they political institutions, which are in transition. Among other political factors that influence people’s perception about democracy are is the role of media in politics, the political structures and their crises, and personalization of political powers upon which political malaise can be noticed (Moffitt 2017, p. 411). The leaders’ will to exploit the socio-economic status to their advantages is also an anti-political environment that contributes to the rise of populism. All these factors that shape the democracy can only be understood through self-familiarization with the concept of populism.

Also, to better understand the vulnerability of democracy as a result of challenges of populism, one needs to look at populism system as the meeting point of factors that contrast democracy (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2017, p. 8). Muller (2016) mentioned it as a redemptive and pragmatic style of politics. Whichever the direction the populist follow, the essential idea behind populism and its part remains the same, the imbalance between the democratic majoritarianism and liberal constitutionalism still prevails.

In conclusion, the emergence and success of populism are at the expense of democratic system and its representative nature. Democracy is usually based on the belief that there is an open and diverse society, which is integrated in a political stage. However, populism is collective; closed identity repressing individuality thus undermines democracy. The danger that underlies underneath the populism concept proves that the today’s society lives in the era of populism. Therefore, it is essential for governments to observe this phenomenon and its repercussions and act accordingly.


Aslanidis, P. 2015. “Is populism an ideology? A refutation and a new perspective”, Political Studies, 64, pp. 88–104. doi: 10.1111/1467-9248.12224.

Moffitt, B. 2017. “Transnational populism? Representative claims, media and the difficulty of constructing a transnational ‘people’”, Javnost, 24(4), pp. 409–425. doi: 10.1080/13183222.2017.1330086.

Mudde, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. 2017. Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Very short introductions. doi: 10.1093/actrade/9780190234874.001.0001.

Müller, J.-W. 2016. “Trump, Erdoğan, Farage: The attractions of populism for politicians, the dangers for democracy”, The Guardian. Available at:

Weyland, K. 2017 “Populism: A Political-Strategic Approach.” The Oxford Handbook of Populism, pp. 1–31. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198803560.013.2.

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