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Bookshelf: Photo: “Library“, by Stewart Butterfield licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Kenny, Paul. 2023. Why Populism? Cambridge University Press.


The rise to power of populists like Donald Trump is usually attributed to the shifting values and policy preferences of voters-the demand side. Why Populism shifts the public debate on populism and examines the other half of the equation-the supply side. Kenny argues that to understand the rise of populism is to understand the cost of different strategies for winning and keeping power. For the aspiring leader, populism-appealing directly to the people through mass communication-can be a quicker, cheaper, and more effective strategy than working through a political party. Probing the long history of populism in the West from its Ancient Greek roots to the present, this highly readable book shows that the ‘economic laws of populism are constant.’ ‘Forget ideology. Forget resentment. Forget racism or sexism.’ Populism, the author writes, is the result of a hidden strategic calculus.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.