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Can populism be regarded as a “modern version” of the Latin-American populism?

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This document is part of a research report of epistemology in social sciences and policies. It employs the use of the term ?populism? as a scientifically valid object. Thus, it shows that ?populism? is a category of analysis that is certainly but relatively broad, and operational. In addition, it tends to underline the characteristics of the Latin-American populism, which was one of the founders of populism.

In 1965, Isaiah Berlin compared the research of populism to the "Cinderella Complex". He asserted that if "there is a shoe for the word populism then somewhere there is a foot. There are all kinds of feet which it should fit, but do not be trapped by the feet that fit more or less."

Thus, to Isaiah Berlin, there was indeed a "pure populism" which would require only finding something that would suit him. Something that, today, would appear to be a driving force in research on populism. Recently, new forms of this "phenomenon" have effectively been "classified" as belonging to the class populism.

However, if populism is a strong concept that has been studied, it remains "indefinite" and more akin to a "nebulous" finding that revolves around various scientific interpretations and is mingled with that of common sense. This, however, does not facilitate the definition.

To try to define, more precisely, the concept of "populism", it is essential to return to its historical origins, before addressing the scope of analysis that covers the human resource policy, sociological, economic conditions. According to Alexander Dorna, the "populist founders" are threefold: Russian Populism through the movement of Narodniki of the nineteenth century, the Midwestern populism that dates to the same century, and populism in Latin American in the first half of the twentieth century on which we will focus more specifically.

Already, the concept of diversity in both space and time of political and social forms takes us into a "fuzzy taxonomic" and leads us to wonder about the likelihood of a specific form of Latin American populism as the situations in Tsarist Russia and the populism in the Midwest of the United States is different. This would then lead us to a reformulation of the concept of populism so that it keeps its scientific value.

On the other hand, it should be noted that even the term "populism" has recently been reported by the media to describe the emergence on the political scene in Europe of right-wing parties and extremists such as the Front National (FN) French, the Austrian FPO, the Belgian Vlaams Blok or the Italian National Alliance.

Yet none of them claims to be openly populist. So why call them? Is there a common denominator strong enough? They adopt the same attitude, the same ideology? These questions show how populism is also a victim of a fuzzy semantics when it is spoken about in public debate, undermining its credibility in the scientific field. The proof is given by the perception that common sense has populism, associating it with a distinct pejorative.

This trial contributes in particular, to underline the confusion between extremists and populists as shown by A. Dèze. Indeed, when the media insists on the "populist" political party or movement, they refer to a situation or a "crisis of democracy", a "threat" that must be avoided at all costs. The adjective "populist" is thus used by the media to brand a politician or political party to discredit him and the "people" perceive it as dangerous to the established order.

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