Rip It Up and Start Again: The Challenge of Populism in the Twenty-First Century


  • Peter Wilkin brunel university UK



Enlightenment principles, Cultural nationalism, Universalism


This essay examines contemporary populist movements along an axis rarely explored in world-systems analysis: as either libertarian or authoritarian social movements. Rather than representing a fundamental break with traditional notions of left and right-wing politics, this article argues that these populist movements are a re-imagining of older political debates, which framed the conflict between the Enlightenment and its opponents—in short, between the search for a universal and just social order—as opposed to a defense of forms of cultural nationalism.

Author Biography

Peter Wilkin, brunel university UK

division of sociology and communication



Abts, Koen. and Stefan Rummens. 2007. “Populism versus Democracy.” Political Studies 55 (2): 405-424.

Albertazzi, Daniele and Duncan McDonnell, eds. 2007. Twenty-First Century Populism: The spectre of Western European Democracy. Chicago, IL: Springer.

Albright, Madeleine. 2018. Fascism: A Warning. New York, NY: Harper Collins Press.

Applebaum, Anne. 2001. “Who elected the anti-capitalist convergence?” Slate Online, April 23; (last viewed June 27, 2018).

Baker, Peter. 2018. “How Trump’s election shook Obama.” New York Times. May 31, p. 18.

Becker, Marc. 2007. “World Social Forum.” Peace & Change 32 (2): 203-220.

Cohn, Samuel. 2008. Lust for Liberty: The Politics of Social Revolt in Medieval Europe, 1200-1425. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Conway, Janet. M. 2012. Edges of Global Justice: The World Social Forum and its 'others'. New York, NY: Routledge.

Dencik, Lina, Anne Hintz, and Jonathan Cable. 2016. “Towards data justice? The ambiguity of anti-surveillance resistance in political activism.” Big Data & Society 3 (2): 1-12.

Edwards, Sebastian. 2010. Left behind: Latin America and the false promise of Populism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Elias, Norbert. 1998. On Civilization, Power, and Knowledge: Selected writings, vol. 1. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Enyedi, Zsolt. 2016. “Paternalist Populism and illiberal elitism in Central Europe.” Journal of Political Ideologies 21 (1): 9-25.

Fassin, Eric. 2018. Populism: Left and Right. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Ferry, Luc and Alain Renaut. 1990. French philosophy of the sixties: An essay on Antihumanism. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Gerbaudo, Paulo. 2017. The Mask and the Flag: Populism, Citizenism, and Global Protest. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Graeber, David. 2012. Debt: The first 5000 years. London: Penguin.

Halliday, Fred. 1983. The making of the Second Cold War. London: Verso.

Hind, Dan. 2007. The Threat to Reason. London: Verso.

---------. 2012. The return of the Public: Democracy, power and the case for media reform. London: Verso.

Korkut, Umut. 2012. Liberalization Challenges in Hungary: Elitism, Progressivism, and Populism. New York, NY: Palgrave.

Liakhov, Peter. 2018. “The End of Armenia’s Old Regime.” Jacobin online, June 25; (last viewed June 26, 2018).

Lochocki, Timo. 2018. The Rise of Populism in Western Europe. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Mason, Paul. 2012. “The Graduate without a Future.” The Guardian online, July 6; (last viewed June 27, 2018).

Mestrovic, Stejpan. 2004. The Balkanization of the West: The confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism. London: Routledge.

Mouffe, Chantal. 2018. For a Left Populism. London: Verso.

Mudde, Cas. 2007. Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Mudde, Cas, ed. 2016. The Populist Radical Right: A Reader. London: Routledge.

Müller, Jan-Werner. 2017. What is Populism? London: Penguin.

Munck, Ronald. 2013. “The Precariat: a view from the South.” Third World Quarterly 34 (5): 747-762.

North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). 2018. “Editorial--The Long Brazilian Crisis: Part Two.” NACLA Report on the Americas, February 5; (last viewed June 25, 2018).

Nail, Thomas. 2013. “Zapatismo and the Global Origins of Occupy.” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 12 (3): 20-35.

Osborne, Samuel. 2018. “Italy Crisis.” The Independent online, May 30; (last viewed June 26, 2018).

Patomäki, Heikki. and Teivainen, Teivo. 2004. “The World Social Forum: an open space or a movement of movements?” Theory, Culture & Society 21 (6): 145-154.

Roberts, Kenneth. 2015. “Populism, social movements, and popular subjectivity.” Pp. 681-695 in The Oxford Handbook of Social Movements, Donatella Della Porta and Mario Diani, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rydgren, Jens. 2007. “The sociology of the radical right.” Annual Review of Sociology 33: 241-262.

Sperber, Dan. 1996. Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach. Oxford: Blackwell Books.

Stanley, B. 2008. “The Thin Ideology of Populism.” Journal of Political Ideologies 13 (1): 95-110.

Sternhell, Zeev. 2010. The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Tufekci, Zeynep. 2014. “Social movements and governments in the digital age: Evaluating a complex landscape.” Journal of International Affairs 68 (1): 1-18.

Van Gelder, Sarah. ed., 2011. This changes everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Vujacic, Veljko. 2007. “Stalinism and Russian Nationalism: A Reconceptualization.” Post-Soviet Affairs 23 (2): 156-183.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2009. “Crisis of the Capitalist System: Where do we go from here?” Monthly Review, November 12; (last viewed June 26th 2018).

Walton, John. and Seddon, David. 2008. Free Markets and Food Riots: The Politics of Global Adjustment. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Zibechi, Raul. 2010. Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces. Edinburgh: AK Press.




How to Cite

Wilkin, P. (2018). Rip It Up and Start Again: The Challenge of Populism in the Twenty-First Century. Journal of World-Systems Research, 24(2), 314–324.



Symposium: Populisms in the World-System