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Cultural populism in new populist times

Moran, M. & Littler, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-8496-6192 (2020). Cultural populism in new populist times. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 23(6), pp. 857-873. doi: 10.1177/1367549420960477


This article unpacks the concept of ‘cultural populism’ in multiple ways, and explores its value for the critical analysis of new formations and expressions of populism in the current conjuncture. Taking Jim McGuigan’s influential book, Cultural Populism, as our point of departure, we begin by exploring its earlier use in cultural studies as a critical term for apolitical/celebratory modes of analysis, and then argue it may be usefully extended today to refer to popular and political efforts to construct a ‘people’ in overtly cultural terms. Second, we make the case for renewing an expressly ‘critical populist’ stance, one that is attentive to ordinary tastes and pleasures, while also locating and analysing them in relation to the production of needs and desires within a capitalist political economy, and that is attuned to the political possibilities for change. Third, we argue that the resources of cultural studies should be mobilised to redress some of the deficiencies of dominant accounts of populism from political science, and suggest that the twin concepts of cultural and critical populism offer an advance over the elitist and culturally reductive mode of analysis associated with Inglehart and Norris’ conception of ‘cultural backlash’. We conclude by offering an overview of the other contributions to the special issue, as they seek to push the concept of cultural populism in new directions, while also critically engaging with residual, dominant and emergent popular and populist currents in these new populist times.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Critical populism, cultural backlash, cultural populism, cultural studies, political populism
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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