Populism: Still something of a Kafka trap
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Corrigan reviews Petar Stankov'sThe Political Economy of Populism: An Introduction (Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy) Taylor & Francis, 2021. While the book reviews populism and its meanings in other parts of the world, Corriga finds that its multi-disciplinary exploration of "the interplay between identity, the economy and inequality to explain the dynamics of populist votes since the beginning of the 20th century” has much to offer African scholars. Populism, argues Stankov, can be defined as "a quasi-ideology, or better still, a political strategy, which creates and nurtures radically conflicting identities for political gain". Corrigan finds that the book's correlations between voting and particular drivers of populist sentiment, and between various forms of populist incumbency and political rights, civil liberties and economic performance, explain much about the particular form that populism has taken in othe regions of the world. He concludes that the book's most valuable contribution is that it provides the interested reader with food for thought for further investigation, and asks whether it would make sense to speak of a distinctly African variant of populism, based on charismatic leadership.
Terence Corrigan is the project manager at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), where he specialises in work on property rights, as well as land and mining policy. A native of KwaZulu-Natal, he is a graduate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg). He has held various positions at the IRR, the South African Institute of International Affairs, SBP (formerly the Small Business Project) and the Gauteng Legislature – as well as having taught English in Taiwan. He is a regular commentator in the South African media and his interests include African governance, land and agrarian issues, political culture and political thought, corporate governance, enterprise and business policy.