Towards a Progressive Populism

Populism is reshaping our world. Anti-establishment messages are resonating with voters worldwide. In the past, democratic institutions of the post-World War II West have kept in check long-standing tensions. But a long-slumbering world is waking up to problems that have been brewing underneath the surface – problems that those in power haven't really noticed: Economic inequality has been increasing since the 1970s, wages have stagnatedand people bound by cultural similarity are finding it difficult to accommodate to an influx of foreigners. 

In response to these problems, groups of people around the world, particularly those in the West, are rejecting globalism and embracing economic protectionism. They are turning to France's Marine Le Pen or Austria's Heinz-Christian Strache for solutions. We see this trend echoed in the United States with the rise of Donald Trump and outside the West with nationalist leaders like the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte or India's Narendra Modi. 

As a check on power, progressive populism can serve a useful purpose. But populism driven by authoritarian forces can leave governments in disarray and even lead to armed conflict (see 1930s Germany). 

So what begets populism? At their heart, modern populist movements are driven by three things: valid grievances about economic inequality, uncertainty driven by changing social forces such as migration and cultural dislocation and increasing social polarization driven by a fragmenting media environment.

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