Cultural populism in new populist times

Moran, Marie and Littler, Jo. 2020. Cultural populism in new populist times. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 23(6), pp. 857-873. ISSN 1367-5494 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article unpacks the concept of ‘cultural populism’ in multiple ways, and explores its value for the critical analysis of new formations and expressions of populism in the current conjuncture. Taking Jim McGuigan’s influential book, Cultural Populism, as our point of departure, we begin by exploring its earlier use in cultural studies as a critical term for apolitical/celebratory modes of analysis, and then argue it may be usefully extended today to refer to popular and political efforts to construct a ‘people’ in overtly cultural terms. Second, we make the case for renewing an expressly ‘critical populist’ stance, one that is attentive to ordinary tastes and pleasures, while also locating and analysing them in relation to the production of needs and desires within a capitalist political economy, and that is attuned to the political possibilities for change. Third, we argue that the resources of cultural studies should be mobilised to redress some of the deficiencies of dominant accounts of populism from political science, and suggest that the twin concepts of cultural and critical populism offer an advance over the elitist and culturally reductive mode of analysis associated with Inglehart and Norris’ conception of ‘cultural backlash’. We conclude by offering an overview of the other contributions to the special issue, as they seek to push the concept of cultural populism in new directions, while also critically engaging with residual, dominant and emergent popular and populist currents in these new populist times.

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Critical populism, cultural backlash, cultural populism, cultural studies, political populism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


3 November 2020Published Online
December 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

25 Apr 2024 11:40

Last Modified:

25 Apr 2024 11:40

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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