From the protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square to the Tea Party in the United States to the campaign to elect indigenous leader Evo Morales in Bolivia, modern populist movements command international attention and compel political and social change. When citizens demand "power to the people," they evoke corrupt politicians, imperialists, or oligarchies that have appropriated power from its legitimate owners. These stereotypical narratives belie the vague and often contradictory definitions of the concept of "the people" and the many motives of those who use populism as a political tool.
In The Promise and Perils of Populism, Carlos de la Torre assembles a group of international scholars to explore the ambiguous meanings and profound implications of grassroots movements across the globe. These trenchant essays explore how fragile political institutions allow populists to achieve power, while strong institutions confine them to the margins of political systems. Their comparative case studies illuminate how Latin American, African, and Thai populists have sought to empower marginalized groups of people, while similar groups in Australia, Europe, and the United States often exclude people whom they consider to possess different cultural values. While analyzing insurrections in Latin America, advocacy groups in the United States, Europe, and Australia, and populist parties in Asia and Africa, the contributors also pose questions and agendas for further research.
This volume on contemporary populism from a comparative perspective could not be more timely, and scholars from a variety of disciplines will find it an invaluable contribution to the literature.
"This impressive volume raises the standard of the academic debate on populism to a new level. The book highlights the contemporary political and theoretical importance of a term that -- while conceptually elusive -- it has lost none of its political effectiveness or contemporary relevance." -- Enrique Peruzzotti, coeditor of Critical Theory and Democracy: Civil Society, Dictatorship, and Constitutionalism in Andrew Arato's Democratic Theory
"Populism is one of the hottest topics in comparative politics and The Promise and Perils of Populism makes a major theoretical and empirical contribution to its study." -- Francisco Panizza, London School of Economics and Political Science
"[...] For students and academics interested in the study of populism from both a theoretical and an empirical perspective, this volume is a valuable resource indeed." -- Latin American Politics & Society
"The current book is a major contribution to such excitement and vibrancy [of the study of populism]." -- Journal of Latin American Studies
"This book can serve as an excellent overview of recent populist theoretical and comparative scholarship since the analysis is comprehensive." -- Commonwealth & Comparative Politics
"[T]his volume, the first of its kind really, laid the empirical groundwork for dozens, if not hundreds, of subsequent populism studies.... Its detailed and rich accounts of how political actors around the world construct 'the people' offer timeless analyses and vital starting points for future studies. Its willingness to engage in normative discussions of the (non)democratic nature of contemporary populists serves as an empirical blueprint for both academic scholars and anyone interested in one of the most important political phenomena of the 21st century." -- Populism