Populism is, well, a popular term right now! It is being applied in news reports and analysis to political parties and leaders around the world, including Senator Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump.
According to multiple reference sources, the term was coined as a pejorative by a journalist covering the American movement to organize farmers against banks, railroads, and government land policy in the late nineteenth century. That movement became a political party, proudly adopting it as their name.
Populism has taken on several meanings since, and often appears with qualifiers: “agrarian populism,” “economic populism,” “political populism.” Recently the phrase “medical populism” has begun to appear, describing public resistance to medical expertise during the COVID pandemic.
With such widespread application, how can populism be defined?Following the research process is helpful.
Our Credo Reference database includes encyclopedias and dictionaries ranging from brief definitions to deeper dives into the context of particular populist movements. References in these articles can be used to construct a Literature Review. After scanning the literature, including history, economics, law, sociology, and news sources, a Working Definition can be constructed, like this one drawn from the Encyclopedia of Global Studies:
“The core aspects of these … types of populism are the centrality of the people and the antagonism between the people and the elites. This general definition does not include references to social bases, issues, and electorates because these characteristics differ too much over time and regionally … Populists tend to define “the people” as an undifferentiated community constructed in opposition to an enemy within or outside the nation or the state … The most common approach is to define populism as an ideology but as an ideology that is not a well-elaborated and grand one like socialism, liberalism, or conservatism.”
Populism is often opposed to liberalism and neo-liberalism. But populist parties and factions exist on both ends of the political spectrum, the Left and the Right. Populist movements have been organized by people of color against European minority rule; as well by Europeans in opposition to immigration, globalization, and modernization. They are occurring in democracies and also supporting dictatorships.
Populist movements have led to reforms. In the United States, our direct election of Senators is a legacy of the short-lived Populist Party. It is not uncommon that a populist leader who became an autocrat, began public life as a hero. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is an example.
However, because populism is predicated on antagonism, such movements easily become violent. Populist elected leaders often urge their supporters to demonstrate. They have used military, police, and other government powers to suppress their opposition. Contemporary populist autocrats have attacked press freedoms by revoking broadcast licenses, detaining and murdering journalists (Russia); attacked academic independence by dismissing professors and closing programs (Turkey); attacked judicial independence by impeaching judges (Philippines); unilaterally changed monetary policy (India); and tried to dismiss elected legislatures where the majority opposed them (Brazil).
Are populist movements good for democracies? How do you make sense of shifting terminology? How can you tell if news coverage of political events and protests is manipulated?How will you decide when a populist leader has crossed the line into autocratic rule?
Below are resources for examining aspects of populism world-wide and over time. Subsequent blog posts will cover best practices for researching controversial topics and using current news for research.
Populism Virtual Display
Display Bibliography – includes links to access Books and Articles
Every year on March Fourteenth people around the world celebrate the most famous mathematical constant: the ratio of the length of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. This is an irrational number, approximated to 3.14 (or 3.1415926) and represented by the Greek letter π. As a number, π is transcendental and real as well as irrational. Mathematician James Glaisher remarked of π that “a complete account of its calculation would almost amount to a history of mathematics.” (Quoted in: William Dunham, The Genius of Euler: Reflections on His Life and Work: On the History of Euler’s Constant (The Mathematical Association of America, 2007), p. 147.)
π has been calculated out to over a trillion decimal places, but we still do not know where it ends! Competitions to recite the known sequence of digits are held regularly around the world. (See pi-world-ranking-list.com for record-setting recitations.)
Mathematician Mark Kac noted that “pi, so intimately connected with circles, keeps cropping up in probability theory and statistics, the two disciplines which deal with randomness and luck.” (Mark Kac, Enigmas of Chance: An Autobiography: The Search for the Meaning of Independence (Harper & Row, 1985), p. 55.) We have an activity set up for you to experience this, based on Buffon’s Needle, the proof named after Georges-Louis LeClerc, Comte de Buffon, a scientist who enjoyed gambling.
The Greek letter π is pronounced like our English word “pie” – hence the puns, since pie is usually made in a circular pan, and, being a delicious pastry, may be difficult to divide fairly, as memorialized in the old English nursery rhyme:
A was once an Apple pie; B bit it; C cut it; D dealt it; E eat it; F fought for it; G got it; H had it; I inspected it; J joined it; K kept it; L longed for it; M mourned for it; N nodded at it; O opened it; P peeped in it; Q quartered it; R ran for it; S stole it; T took it; U upset it; V viewed it; W wanted it; X, Y, Z, and ampersand, all wished for a piece in hand.
March Fourteenth is also the birthday of Albert Einstein (b. 1879), who theorized what is perhaps the most famous equation using a constant in our universe: the relationship of mass to energy, represented by E=mc2 (E=energy; m=mass; c=the speed of light).
March Fourteenth is the death anniversary of another famous physicist: Stephen Hawking (d. 2018) who developed theories about the origins of our universe, and black holes, based on Einstein’s work.
The Library is displaying books by and about Einstein and Hawking, plus books on number theory and pastries, this month.
What started as a poetry contest to celebrate National Poetry Month in April of 2015 has become an annual Ivy Tech Fort Wayne Library publication. Ink Cloud showcases the poetic and artistic talents of Ivy Tech Fort Wayne students and staff.
This year we embrace the non-competitive nature of the art of poetry by dedicating the event entirely to its contributors. A poem’s merit can speak for itself. But unlike its merit, poetry expects only one thing from you: You will share it.
Anyone who has shared their work knows that the spirit of poetry waits within its release. So share with us! If you choose to share with us, you can expect to be included in 2020’s publication of Ink Cloud. Then join us and your fellow Ivy Tech poets at the Ink Cloud Poetry Reading to listen and be heard!
“Stunning…brilliantly colored…striking… Just the right amount of tension, delicious vocabulary…and alliterative phrases make this a first purchase for group and one-on-one sharing. Count on requests for many readings.” (School Library Journal)
One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller by Kate Read: PIC REA
“Lin’s spirited text is tailor-made for reading aloud, and the homey treatment of a grand phenomenon again delights.” (BCCB)
“The combination of Twain’s (often sarcastic) humor and lessons of life, a touch of allegory, and Stead’s own storytelling skills result in an awesome piece of fantasy.” (School Library Journal)
The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain: PIC TWA
“Photos of Moto, both as a fluffy-faced baby and an active, handsome adult, are the clear scene-stealers, but plenty of interesting facts on servals are included. More than one reader will consider following in Eszterhas’ footsteps.” (Booklist)
As the title makes clear, this book is an invitation to better data literacy. Sir David manages to make complex ideas simple and fun, by choosing real-world applications of statistics with a sense of humor. He covers the whole process of posing problems, collecting data, and doing analysis. Aimed at students, this is also a “best of” teaching examples collection. (Readers can find more Spiegelhalter on the BBC podcast More or Less.)
Anyone who teaches about data, or does experiments, will find this book illuminating. So will anyone trying to make sense of all the political polling in the news. If you are struggling with a statistical concept, try reading what he has to say about it.
The many illustrations and charts are clear, though in grayscale; and the hardcover format will preserve the library’s copy despite the U.S. publisher’s decision to print the book on cheap paper.
Atlas of the 2016 Elections
Edited by Robert. H. Watrel, Ryan Weichelt, Fiona M. Davidson, John Heppen, Erin H. Fouberg, J. Clark Archer, Richard L. Morrill, Fred M. Shelley, and Kenneth C. Martis.
The 2016 US presidential election was historic for many reasons – the first woman heading a major party ticket, fractious party conventions, allegations of foreign interference, the less-probable result. This book is the latest in an acclaimed series examining presidential elections, and draws on that past data. It is a useful reference work for history, political science, sociology, and argumentative essays.
Scholars from across disciplines including data science, geography, political science, and sociology have contributed analyses. Many are established regional demographic specialists.
In brief narratives and at-a-glance maps, they present insightful perspectives on the 2016 election, from the usual demographic polling and voting patterns, to campaign contributions, “religiosity,” and concurrent Twitter trends. They consider political currents both at the hyperlocal level (such as minimum wage and marijuana referenda) and international level (such as anxiety about wages, free trade, and immigration) that everywhere cut across party lines.
How much do you know about Ireland? There’s so much to learn about the Emerald Isle that even its residents don’t know. In this trivia book, you’ll learn more about Ireland’s history, pop culture, folklore, and so much more!
The Great Book of Ireland: Interesting Stories, Irish History & Random Facts about Ireland by Bill O’Neill: DA911.2 O54 2019
“Known… for its four-color maps, photos and illustrations, the [DK] Eyewitness Guides are extremely user-friendly for travelers who want their information delivered in a concise, visual way.” (Chicago Tribune)
“With this fictionalized look at Anning’s childhood, Kulling provides context for readers and offers a fascinating glimpse at how those who came before us have shaped our comprehension of the world.” (School Library Journal)
Mary Anning’s Curiosity by Monica Kulling: jFIC KUL
“It’s the contrast between Curiosity’s cheery determination and the forbidding world it inhabits that gives the book its power.” (Publishers Weekly)