Populism

Sam D Fassbinder sfassbin at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu
Wed Feb 15 15:58:32 MST 1995


On Wed, 15 Feb 1995 Doug Henwood asks intelligently:

What do we mean by populism? A love of small business, small towns, and
easy credit? But small business is one of the most reactionary social
forces around; small towns, sentimentality aside, are hotbeds of
superstition and suspicion of difference; and easy credit is an American
variant of the Proudhonist delusion that anyone literate in Marxism should
be able to debunk in a second. Do we mean resentment of privilege?
Suspicions about Jews, foreigners, and big cities?

Some ideas on the problem of defining populism: Well maybe
populism could be more closely related to the idea (which
I take from Victor Turner the anthropologist) of the
"ritual antistructure," the part of society that has organ-
ized around dissent against the system.  The best Marxist
examples of such ritual antistructure (defined in terms of
POPULISM) is in (now this is a subjective reading) EP
Thompson's THE MAKING OF THE ENGLISH WORKING CLASS.  But
maybe populism as ritual antistructure is really limited
as far as using it as a radical force now.  This is the
thesis of Craig Calhoun's THE QUESTION OF CLASS STRUGGLE.
Me?  I've read a bunch of stuff on this, on Victor Turner,
Karl Marx, what a radical ritual antistructure might look
like, etc. and am still undecided. Any ideas?

Samuel Day Fassbinder
Department of Communication
Ohio State University
3016 Derby Hall
154 N Oval Mall
Columbus OH 43210

or: sfassbin at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu


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