Time for a change: Replacing the populist model with elite theory

By  N. Scott Cole   | February 6, 2023

 In recent years, the concept of populism has been used to explain the actions of politicians around the globe, from Jair Bolsonaro to Boris Johnson. This presents a problem for scholars who are seeking to understand present-day political trends. Essentially, the populist school does not have a coherent definition of its subject matter, cannot accurately identify who should get this label, and is unable to correctly explain the behavior of those leaders who acquire the moniker. Since elite theory stands on stronger ground when it comes to these three dimensions, it should be used instead to evaluate the events and actors that are currently explored using the populist model. After providing evidence to support this argument, a concluding section proposes future research projects that can strengthen the claim that elite theory is a better way to understand politics. 


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