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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Populism has appeared in different times and places. Allegedly, one of the few commonalities between all the different manifestations of populism is the existence of a charismatic and strong leader, who is able to mobilize the masses and control the political organization behind him or her. In this chapter we have argued instead that this type of leadership is not a defining attribute of populism. We define populism as an ideology or world view that assumes that society is characterized by a Manichean division between ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’. This means that populism is not always constructed from above—that is, by a powerful leader; many societies count a significant number of people who believe in the populist set of ideas, irrespective of the presence of a populist leader. In fact, populism exists with various types of leadership and can even be leaderless. In short, the link between political leadership and populism is much more complicated, as much of the literature suggests, and deserves more careful attention.

Keywords: populism, leadership, charisma, democracy, cross-regional research

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