Intermezzo: American Populism and the Jews

  • Stephen Eric Bronner


Antisemites identify themselves with the “people,” and its general will, even when they lack a majority. That is because the concept of the people does not translate into the legal citizens of a nation. The “people” reflects the community underpinning the bureaucratic and legal apparatus that defines the state. Populism, instead, embraces those whom is consequently skeptical about the bureaucratic political apparatus. It embraces those whom Rousseau liked to call “simple souls” and the small-town ideals that they hold dear. Populism builds on common experiences, myths, habits, customs, and prejudices. Historical experience trumps critical reason and its projection of rights, while provincial intuitions challenge cosmopolitan values. It is quite true that romantic populism can take progressive or regressive forms. Right-wing populism embraces the “nation” and pits it against the “Other”—or what is “alien”—whereas left-wing populism is inclusive and confronts (urban) business elites with the claims of everyday people. The contrast becomes clear by juxtaposing the Tea Party with its parochial cultural ideals and contempt for big government with Occupy Wall Street and its assault on bureaucratic hierarchy and the “1%.” Both movements expressed residual communitarian resentments following the economic crisis of 2007–2008 and avoided dealing with structural imbalances of power, class contradictions among the “poor,” and international conflicts.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Eric Bronner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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