What is Populism and How to Explore It?

Berto Šalaj, Marijana Grbeša


Populism has been vastly present in Croatian public discourse. However, this is not the case with scientific discourse in which this relevant phenomenon remained for the most part neglected. Aspiring to encourage scientific curiosity about populism in Croatia, this paper provides an overview and a synthesis of the most important insights about populism from contemporary literature. In doing so it focuses on two main issues. First is the issue of understanding populism while the second is the issue of methodology in researching populism. The authors consider an approach that regards populism as a "thin" political ideology potentially most productive. In the section that discusses methodology, they focus on the problems of conceptualisation and operationalisation in researching populism. The authors advocate a conceptualisation which treats populism as a meta- -ideology characterized by the simultaneous presence of its two defining features: positive evaluation of the people and diffuse political anti-elitism. Understanding populism as meta-ideology enables hypothesizing about different types of populism, which emerges as one of the most propulsive topics in the future research of populism.


populism; approaches to populism; "thin" political ideology; political meta-ideology; types of populism

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