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Book Review: The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis

As author John B. Judis points out in his 2016 book The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics, populism is hard to define. Typically it is a political movement in which populist supporters purport to represent ordinary people who, operating from the purist of motives, do battle against an elite, corrupt, and undemocratic power base, though as the author points out, populists come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes they don't see eye to eye with their fellow populists.


Judis traces the history of populist politicians in the United States and in Europe, before contemplating the present state and future prospects of populism in global politics. In reviewing American history, he looks back to the People's Party that formed in latter part of the nineteenth century, before considering the many other incarnations of populism in American history throughout the years since. These include progressives of the early twentieth century, both Democrat (William Jennings Bryan) and Republican (Theodore Roosevelt and Robert Lafollette), and later twentieth century populists such as Huey Long, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan. He also looks as some of the more recent populist movements such as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, before embarking on an examination of the most recent political populist campaigns, those of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Judis shows that populism is not an American phenomenon, and chronicles the rise of European populism, especially as it relates to issues such as immigration and Islam, and the European Common Union. He also looks at specific populism movements and leaders in European nations. These include Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the People's Party in Denmark, the Freedom Party in Austria, and the United Kingdom Independence Party, as well as populist leaders on the rise such as Marine LePen in France.

Without advancing his own opinions or agenda, Judis raises some interesting questions and speculates on how populism may reshape global politics in the coming decade. The changes on the horizon may include the end of the European Union, nations no longer being willing to accept immigrants from Muslim and north African nations, and the continued success of leaders who are willing to stem the tide of immigration in their nations and promise to champion the cause of the common man against large financial and corporate institutions. Judis does predict the continued growth of populism, making for interesting times.

Without specifically predicting the end of the world or how it will occur, Judis presents the reader with much to consider as globalism meets populism. He gives the reader much to ponder in this fascinating and thought-provoking analysis of the current global political climate.
Tags: author: j, genre: non-fiction, review, subject: history

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