The Rise of Populism part 3

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

A growing political phenomenon, populism, is making headway in many countries around the world today, including western democracies. It is a worldwide phenomenon with far-reaching ramifications. Here is part 3 of this blog series …

5.  Populists as Disrupters

Populists typically show their distrust of the establishment by transgressing normative rules of behavior, language, and ethics. One example is behaving in a way that is not typical of politicians, such as using bad manners. Stylistically, populists often use short, simple slogans and direct language, and engage in coarse behavior, which makes them appear like real people. They use this colorful and crass language to distinguish themselves from the establishment. News coverage of populists often follows a tabloid format, emphasizing their preference and tendency toward melodrama, gossip, infotainment, and scattered and confusing narratives.

6.  Authoritarian Tendencies

Karen Stenner

Some populists have authoritarian tendencies. According to political psychologist Karen Stenner, “Authoritarianism is an individual predisposition to intolerance of difference that brings together certain traits: obedience to authority, moral absolutism, intolerance and punitiveness toward dissidents and deviants, and racial and ethnic prejudice.”

Among authoritarians individual autonomy gives ways to group authority. Stenner concludes that authoritarian tendencies are mostly latent when there is political consensus, little strife, and authority figures are trusted. However, the authoritarian tendency may be triggered or activated when people feel leaders are unworthy of trust and respect, and normative beliefs are no longer shared across the community or nation.

Authoritarians are boundary-maintainers, norm-enforcers, and cheerleaders for authority figures. The loss or perceived loss of these boundaries, norms, and authority is a catalyst for activating their latent authoritarian predispositions.

Authoritarians do not necessarily strive to preserve the status quo and are in favor of social change when that change entails shifting together in support of common goals. They are not opposed to government intervention to enhance oneness and sameness. Unlike libertarians, they are not necessarily supportive of laissez-faire economics.

Authoritarians are not necessarily open to new experiences, instead they have difficulty handling complexity, freedom, and difference. Conservatives grow more attracted to authoritarianism when public opinion is fragmented and fractious, and major institutions fail to inspire confidence. But when confidence in societal institutions is at a reasonable level, they are disinclined to adopt authoritarian stances.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 


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