Matthew Goodwin and Roger Eatwell’s National Populism: the Revolt Against Liberal Democracy acknowledges the cultural factors but also takes the broad economic drivers seriously. They do a good job of demolishing lazy stereotypes about Trump and Brexit supporters being almost exclusively white and old (one in three ethnic minorities supported Brexit; one in three Latino men backed Trump; and many young people support populist parties in Europe). The authors see immigration and cultural identity as a key factor behind populism, but link this to wider economic and social change, including the deregulation of labour markets.
The book knocks down various strawman explanations of what national populism is about, such as that it was triggered by the 2008 crash (the trends are deeper, they argue). Their book suffers from too many repetitions... For a book purportedly about the views of “real” people, we do not once hear the authentic voice of a supervisor in a provincial Aldi... doesn’t ask any hard questions of people whose lack of educational attainment, or curiosity about the wider world, guarantees they are always going to be mired in “somewhere”, clinging to the ancestral nest... their conclusions are pretty feeble...
When Eatwell and Goodwin engage in social science, rather than market research, the implications are striking. They identify a nub of the problem as one of major, long-term demographic shifts, in which the population of Africa could be 10 times that of Europe by 2100, with numerous forces driving migration northwards. “The questions that are being asked by national populists about immigration and its associated problems will become even more important,” they assure us. Eatwell and Goodwin like to believe that they and their associates are the only ones facing up to this “uncomfortable” reality, but it is little short of fantasy to claim that, when Salvini demanded a “mass cleansing, street by street, quarter by quarter”, he was just asking a “question”.
What we witnessed was the rise of what the academics Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin in their fascinating new study call “national populism”, which, in their definition, prioritises “the culture and interests of the nation, and promises to give voice to a people who feel that they have been neglected, even held in contempt, by distant and often corrupt elites”...Concentrating on Europe and North America, the authors use economic and polling data plus extensive market research to analyse the long-term demographic and socioeconomic trends shaping our age of upheaval. The four “historic shifts” they identify are rising inequality, growing distrust of elites and institutions, the effects of mass immigration and the fraying of old party alliances.