It is with excitement and some anxiety that I write this welcome. The founding of Populism marks a time of increasing popular, policy, and academic interest in the topic of global populism—with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the office of the US presidency as salient examples being written about by journalists and academics. Accordingly, there are numerous books being written or recently published that need to be reviewed in these pages. It is the goal of this journal to serve as a focal point for researchers, activists, and policy experts who are working through the various aspects of global populism. While the topic is focused, the books reviewed here will originate from within and across many disciplines and methodologies. The nature of populism, especially seen through the lens of globalization, means that disciplinary and methodological nationalisms should be avoided in order to better understand it. Thus, the book review section will match the transdisciplinary emphasis of the journal by publishing single book reviews of between 900–1200 words as well as multi-book reviews of up to 2000 words. Further, exchanges between book authors and reviewers will occasionally be published.
The transdisciplinary nature of the journal means that we seek reviews of books on populism that come from and across as many disciplines as possible. It is easy to imagine books dealing with populism from the perspective of democratic theory and practice, authoritarianism, social movements, geographic regions, economics, psychology, ideology, and more. The recently published Oxford Handbook of Populism offers an excellent place to find some the extant literature and view the breadth of approaches, issues, and debates within the emerging field of populism studies. While the contemporary focus on populism tends towards right-wing populism, nationalism, and its relationship to fascism, this should not exclude research on left-wing examples such socialism or cosmopolitanism. Indeed, the recent publications dealing with populism show an incredible diversity of perspectives and normative debates. More critically, several scholars summarize the literature within populism studies as suffering from a lack of cumulative knowledge with every additional publication re-inventing the wheel.1 Specifically, they indicate that while interesting and important work is being done, there is a lack of comparison or reference to scholarship conducted across regions. South American scholars, for example, generalize from their experience rather than compare their findings with those of scholars from Africa or Asia. Thus, rather than more general theories of populism, the literature is typically dotted with accounts of regional populisms which avoid a global perspective. One could easily add that the extant literature reviewed points to the dominance of political science without problematizing this fact. Here we acknowledge this predominance while also affirming our trans-disciplinary and trans-methodological aspirations. In other words, while most of the books being published are from political science, we are interested in broadening this by actively seeking reviews of books that deal with populism in fields outside of political science and note that populism inspires art, music, and theater—it can manifest itself in styles of dress as well as rhetoric. Reviews of books should ideally address the extent to which a book or set of books addresses these substantive debates, fills in gaps, or broadens this literature even further.
The literature on populism tends to adopt at least one of three approaches: ideational, political-strategic, or socio-cultural. Agreement has been found that populism cannot or should not be defined in terms of economics since too many contradictory examples of so-called economic populism exist. However, the term remains what W. B. Gallie called an “essentially contested concept” and thus the debate over definition is not close to being settled. Vibrant discussions will continue and it is our hope that these pages will provide a forum for such intellectual and practical exchanges.
We also imagine that as the literature continues to mature, books will be written that introduce new concepts, definitions, regional foci, and historical variants of populism. More work needs to be done on China and the Middle East, for example. Although Populism’s editorial board includes a disciplinarily diverse group of scholars, the literature on populism tends to be dominated by political science. If for no other reason than that there are more books being written by political scientists, we expect to review quite a few books originating from that discipline. However, the board takes seriously its mission to promote transdisciplinary and global research and therefore submissions of reviews of books written by those outside the discipline of political science are especially wanted.
I end this welcome by inviting submission of reviews and review ideas. While I am open to creative book reviews that think outside of the box or even break the mold of the traditional book review, it should be noted that there is a special value in a book review. Specifically, we usually find that people read book reviews for the scope and importance of the books assessed and for the thoughtfulness and insight of the reviews. Therefore, reviewers make an important and appreciated contribution to our shared intellectual community by informing readers about the most recent scholarly publications and by sustaining the practice of serious, careful, and critical exchange that is at the heart of scholarship. I believe that readers are usually interested both in a book’s argument, and in what a careful, knowledgeable reader would think of the quality and significance of this argument. For this reason, I hope that a review will do at least two things: (1) carefully describe the central features of the book’s analysis and the logic and structure of its argument, and (2) assess the book’s contributions to the study of populism and the relevant theoretical literatures in this domain, and identify its major shortcomings and/or special contributions. While I have a short list of books that I would like to have reviewed in these pages, I am excited to receive reviews of books not on this list. My short list is as follows:
- Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul A. Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, and Pierre Ostiguy, The Oxford Handbook of Populism, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
- John B. Judis, The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics, (New York: Columbia Global Reports, 2016).
- Jan-Werner Müller, What is Populism? (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
- Carlos De La Torre (ed), The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2015).
- Tjitske Akkerman, Sarah L. de Lange, and Matthijs Rooduijn (Eds), Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe: Into the Mainstream? (New York: Routledge, 2016).
- Ivan Krastev, After Europe, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).
- Roger Kimball, ed. Vox Populi: The Perils and Promises of Populism, (New York: Encounter Books, 2017).
- William Kaizen, Against Immediacy: Video Art and Media Populism (Hanover, NH: Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2016)
Rovira Kaltwasser, Cristóbal, Paul A. Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, and Pierre Ostiguy. The Oxford Handbook of Populism. Oxford Handbooks. First edition. ed. Oxford, United Kingdom; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser et al., The Oxford Handbook of Populism, First edition. ed., Oxford Handbooks (Oxford, United Kingdom; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 1.