Three Connections between Rising Economic Inequality and the Rise of Populism

Nat O'Connor

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    2 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This paper suggests three ways in which rising economic inequality can explain the rise of populism, complementing non-economic explanations. Economic inequality is associated with cyclical economic crises. Major crises unfreeze political allegiances and provide an opening for populists to succeed electorally. Extreme economic inequality chimes with the populist credo that ‘the people’ are pitted against a self-serving, if not corrupt, ‘elite’. Populists portray extreme inequality as evidence that the political establishment has lost democratic legitimacy. Major changes to Western economies have lowered people’s net economic benefit in ways poorly measured by standard metrics of income inequality. Populist rhetoric often addresses the holistic decline of prosperity or economic certainty, and part of the increasing vote share for populists is from economically marginalised communities. Non-economic factors explain many aspects of populism and nativism. But economic inequality helps explain rising populism and should not be overlooked in any comprehensive analysis.
    LanguageEnglish
    Pages29-43
    JournalIrish Studies in International Affairs
    Volume28
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Fingerprint

    populism
    economics
    nativism
    political crisis
    difference in income
    prosperity
    economic factors
    economic crisis
    Populism
    Economic inequality
    voter
    rhetoric
    legitimacy
    elite
    income
    economy
    community
    evidence

    Keywords

    • Economic Inequality
    • Income Inequality
    • Populism
    • Nativism
    • Elections
    • Far Right
    • Far Left
    • Populist Nativism
    • Populist Socialism

    Cite this

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    abstract = "This paper suggests three ways in which rising economic inequality can explain the rise of populism, complementing non-economic explanations. Economic inequality is associated with cyclical economic crises. Major crises unfreeze political allegiances and provide an opening for populists to succeed electorally. Extreme economic inequality chimes with the populist credo that ‘the people’ are pitted against a self-serving, if not corrupt, ‘elite’. Populists portray extreme inequality as evidence that the political establishment has lost democratic legitimacy. Major changes to Western economies have lowered people’s net economic benefit in ways poorly measured by standard metrics of income inequality. Populist rhetoric often addresses the holistic decline of prosperity or economic certainty, and part of the increasing vote share for populists is from economically marginalised communities. Non-economic factors explain many aspects of populism and nativism. But economic inequality helps explain rising populism and should not be overlooked in any comprehensive analysis.",
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    Three Connections between Rising Economic Inequality and the Rise of Populism. / O'Connor, Nat.

    In: Irish Studies in International Affairs, Vol. 28, 2017, p. 29-43.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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