Lecture 8.1

Populism and Social Policy

Emmanuel Teitelbaum

What is Populism?

Defining Populism

  • Way of doing politics
  • Four essential characteristics
    • Speaking directly to voters
    • Speaking as outsiders
    • Pitting ordinary people against elites
    • Post-truth rhetoric

Populism vs. Neoliberalism

  • Economic views predate neoliberalism
  • Focus on domestic rather than international markets
  • Attack rights agenda of “mature” neoliberalism
  • Attacks on the poor
  • Authoritarian tactics

Causes of Populism

Increased Inequality

  • Within countries
    • Top 1%
    • Privatization
    • Trade liberalization
    • Flexible labor markets
  • Between countries
    • Winners and losers
    • EOI vs. ISI
    • 2008 financial crisis

Social Policy

  • Emphasis on “service provisioning”
    • Instead of welfare states
  • Provisioning through private sector
    • outsourcing
    • NGOs
  • Led to enrichment of public servants

Individual Rights

  • New rights granted to women, minorities and the poor
  • Done through elite bargains rather than social movements
  • Reflected in macro-agendas of International Orgs
    • “Millenium Development Goals”
    • “Sustainable Development Goals”
  • Led to backlash among middle-class voters


Country Cases

  • Philippines

  • United States

  • Brazil

  • How did populist leaders in these countries harness resentments against women and minorities?

How Should International Orgs Respond?

  • Should we modify/abandon…
    • Millennium Development Goals
    • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Should reforms occur at a different pace?
  • Should different economic policies be promoted?
    • Less emphasis on openness?
    • More emphasis on redistribution?
    • Other ideas?