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American CredoThe Place of Ideas in US Politics$
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Michael Foley

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199232673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199232673.001.0001

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(p.339) 14 Populism
American Credo

Michael Foley (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines populism in the United States. It argues that despite some of the historical and social ambiguities that surround American populism, the contribution of populism remains a valuable component of America's democratic culture. The populist impulse can act as a potent corrective to the self-absorption of political elites and a necessary antidote to the habitual co-option of the people's name by office-holders and decision-makers. At its worst, populism can become embroiled in existential speculations over the identity of the people, which can lead not so much to the moralization of politics but to the moral rejection of politics in favour of a simplified and more ominous alternative. At its best, populism offers a critical awareness of the anomalies and imbalances within a mass democracy, as well as a reformist impulse that finds expression either through a renovation of established institutions or through the provision of alternative public spheres. Soft populism, hard populism, and populist paradoxes are discussed.

Keywords:   soft populism, hard populism, populist paradoxes, American society, democratic culture, identity

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