The roots of populism

Neoliberalism and working-class lives

By Brian Elliott

The roots of populism


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3697-8
  • Pages: 160
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: May 2021
  • BIC Category: Politics, Comparative politics, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, Society & social sciences / Sociology: work & labour, Society & social sciences / Political science & theory, Society & social sciences / Comparative politics


Since the emergence of neoliberalism in the early 1980s, the interests of the working class have become progressively more marginalized within mainstream politics in the United Kingdom. Years of austerity politics following the financial crash of 2008 deepened popular disenchantment with the political class, paving the way for the 2016 Brexit referendum result. This, Brian Elliot argues, has precipitated a crisis of British democracy.

Does the current wave of populism constitute a threat to or promise for democracy? What has led to the emergence of populism and to what extent can populism be shaped into a program of progressive reform of democracy today? In this timely new book, Brian Elliott takes a long view on populism, tracing its history back to the struggles waged by the British workers' movement of the nineteenth century to gain general enfranchisement.

Countering the depiction of populism as a degradation of liberal democratic political culture into a xenophobic rejection of pluralism, internationalism and multiculturalism, Elliott argues that the populist sentiment contains the promise of a renewal of democratic political culture. Identifying and examining the contemporary challenges of work, Elliott outlines a new working-class politics to overturn the neoliberal logic that has come to dominate mainstream political thinking over the last forty years.


1 Populism and popular sovereignty: paradoxes of democracy
2 Democracy and the working class
3 The invention of working-class culture
4 Work and the working class now
5 The politics of work



Brian Elliott is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University

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