A provocative take on populism

Cover of National Populism by Roger Eatwell and Matthew GoodwinNational Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy
By Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin
Pelican (£9.99)

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Even in its natural home in Europe and America, liberal democracy has become dominated by a technocratic elite that is increasingly detached from public opinion. While this may have worked well when everyone shared in the spoils, say Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin, this is no longer the case. The result has been what they call the “four Ds” – distrust (of elites and institutions), destruction (of old ways of life thanks to mass immigration), deprivation (rising inequality) and dealignment (fraying of old party alliances).

The national populism that has resulted is distinct from the traditional far-right, they argue. Fascism sought to replace democracy with rule by a strongman; populism seeks to return power to the people. It seeks to appeal to common national values, rather than any particular ethnic group or religion.

The book is a little repetitive at times, but it makes some good points, especially when it comes to issues such as European integration, which has gone beyond what even many pro-Europeans are comfortable with. However, the authors spend little time talking about issues such as income inequality, and it is doubtful whether the Swiss-style direct democracy they favour would ever be viable. A provocative book, well worth reading.