Contemporary populism has increasingly become a global trend. Renowned scholar, Stanford Professor Francis Fukuyama, reflects on this trend, the reasons for this rise in global populism and discusses the consequences therefor. Fukuyama argues that it is helpful to distinguish between three broad aspects of populism and to recognize the differences between them. Namely: economic, charismatic, and ethnic/racial populism.

The conventional wisdom is that this is a “backlash against globalisation” as a result of lower skilled people in rich countries losing out to cheaper labour in poor countries. But this does not explain why right-wing populism, rather than left-wing populism (which has been in global decline), has made gains. Fukuyama believes that the issue of identity is crucial here. The pain of poverty for the poor is often constituted by a feeling of invisibility: a sense that the wealthy and privileged did not recognise a poor person as a fellow human-being. Fukuyama believes that this yearning for recognition may well be a common factor linking all three dimensions of populism. The consequences of this may be very damaging. If politics is dominated by issues of identity and resentment, and if the idea that your identity is something that you are essentially born with and that these are in conflict with other identities, then politics becomes much angrier and it becomes very difficult to have sensible debates about what policies to pursue.

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