In advance of our October 24 conference "The Rise of Populism: Expected or Unexpected?" Council President Ivo H. Daalder addresses the question of what populism is and why is it becoming such a growing force around the world.
"So populism is a reaction to two trends that are affecting primarily Western societies, which is where populism at the moment is strongest. First is demography: We are seeing a very changing demographic makeup of many Western countries, including in Europe and the United States, with minorities becoming in the United States together a majority, and the traditional population patterns are shifting. Those who used to be in a majority are finding it more difficult to adjust to that reality, and those who are minorities are also trying to find their way in our societies. And the second issue that is really driving populism is globalization: both the reality of trade being flowing across borders in a much more rapid way and also the technological change that is really changing the nature of employment. And the two forces together are creating anxieties and fears that populists, or what I call the "new demagogues," are trying to exploit for their own political purposes -- to use the fear and anxiety that exists in societies to gain political power and to use that political power to change fundamentally the way in which the social contract between government and those who are governed will be changed. That is what populism is about: It's about the exploitation of anxieties in a way that gets one to political power and then to change the fundamental nature of the relationship between the government and the governed."