This week I am attending a conference at Wits University in which the delegates are exploring “Cultures of Populism” in various historical and contemporary contexts. Such a gathering, held under the auspices of the African Centre for the Study of the US, inevitably casts its collective eyes towards America and Donald Trump. Brexit, Jair Bolsonaro and other manifestations of populism around the globe are also under the spotlight.

Populism is a slippery word. It is invoked to describe revolutionary people’s movements advocating justice and equality; it is applied to left-wing authoritarianism and right-wing conservatism; it is a term of derision, but perhaps no less so than “liberalism” or “neoliberalism”. Political scientists apply their minds to the criteria that distinguish it from fascism.

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