Since the end of World War II, the spread and support of democracy has, quite literally become a focus and key initiative of the international community. However, attempts to democratize has in a number of cases only been partially successful, contributing in the long-run to the further decline of once aspiring democratic states. Failures of democratic implementation can, among other situational factors, be linked to lack of public support for the new government and instability. Each of these factors prevents successful democratization following democratic implementation. Even with the involvement of international organizations in supporting democratic implementation on a global level, key elements of democracy have all but vanished and have prevented prospects for stable and successful democracies. Populism is one such element.
Populism is the idea that a government should act to serve the interests of its people, or in other words, populism “appeals to the masses”. This should not be misconstrued to mean that populism is necessarily associated with communism, leftism, or any of the like. In political science and international relations, it is commonly said that states act first in the interest of the state itself. The reality is that states often fail to address or even acknowledge the interests of the people within its borders. The shifting of focus to a state’s people is key in developing policy that allows for stability and can win over the support of its citizens.
Yes, there are flaws in populism. Populism has been associated with violence and instability due to the rise of action amidst public mobilization which in some cases leads to high tension and aggression. However, even the United States, a state that prides itself on its economic, social, and political might, faces a cycle of unaddressed social issues, obscured and media, and a spiraling decline in public knowledge and activism that have the potential to lead to social instability.
Today, even the world’s greatest democratic states exist as a democracy only in theory – the democracy of power politics, not democracy for the people. The US is therefore a powerful figure of stable “democracy” but by no means the symbol of a successful democracy. The key to developing successful democracies in a world centered on democratization in addition to issues of human rights and social progress lies in the following: in order for democracy and stability to be sustainable to successful, the system implemented must be one that appeals to the needs of the people it has been developed to serve.
For a more in-depth view of the “power of populism” in social stability, see Maintaining Balance in the US-Venezuelan Relationship after Chávez for the Venezuelan example.
An opposing opinion:
“Pitchfork Politics.” Foreign Affairs. 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 3 Feb. 2015. <http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141733/yascha-mounk/pitchfork-politics>.