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Reclaiming Populism

Paperback By Eric Protzer, Paul Summerville
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Populist upheavals like Trump, Brexit, and the Gilets Jaunes happen when the system really is rigged. Citizens the world over are angry not due to income inequality or immigration, but economic unfairness: that opportunity is not equal and reward is not according to contribution.

This forensic book draws on original research, cited by the UN and IMF, to demonstrate that illiberal populism strikes hardest when success is influenced by family origins rather than talent and effort. Protzer and Summerville propose a framework of policy inputs that instead support high social mobility, and apply it to diagnose the differing reasons behind economic unfairness in the US, UK, Italy, and France. By striving for a fair, socially-mobile economy, they argue, it is possible to craft a politics that reclaims the reasonable grievances behind populism.

Reclaiming Populism is a must-read for policymakers, scholars, and citizens who want to bring disenchanted populist voters back into the fold of liberal democracy.

Product Details

Format: Paperback, 180 pages Language: English
Dimension: 21.59cm x 13.72cm x 1.52cm ISBN10: 1509548122
Weight: 272g ISBN13: 9781509548125
Publication Date: 03 Nov 2021 Publisher: Polity Press

About Author

Eric Protzer is a Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Growth Lab.

Paul Summerville is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business.

Product Reviews


“Highly recommended"Vancouver Sun“Eric Protzer at Harvard and his [Canadian] collaborator, Paul Summerville, have crunched vast amounts of data from opinion polls and social surveys to address the question “why populism?” and they give us some clues about how to counter it .



  they come to some highly significant conclusions. The usual explanations from the left (that populist politics is a response to growing inequality) or from the right (that it is due to permissive immigration policies) both appear to be wrong.

 Rather, what lies behind the political rage which produces populist politics is a generalised sense of “unfairness” which arises from a decline in social mobility and frustrated opportunities. In other words, people have little objection to a minority becoming “filthy rich,” provided it is achieved through hard work, risk taking or good luck when opportunities are open to all and provided the wealthy are contributing as well as being rewarded.”Vince Cable, The Independent“The growing economic inequality we see today has failed to explain how populism arises in some places such as the United States and not in others. And government measures to encourage more equal outcomes have failed to combat populism. Eric Protzer and Paul Summerville argue persuasively in Reclaiming Populism that electorates tolerate inequality but not what they see as economic unfairness, especially in times of limited social mobility. This thought-provoking book should be read by anyone wanting to understand and deal with today’s turn to populism.”Christopher Gainor – author, historian“By focusing so well on the lack of social mobility as a major contributor to the rise of populism, this book makes a big contribution to the debate about how to create better, more productive, and fairer societies”Bob Rae“Reclaiming Populism provides much needed insights into the reasons for populism. By debunking popular explanations, it shows why we need to create fairer societies and how this can be achieved.”Professor Ian Goldin, Oxford University“This book is an important contribution to the vital debate about why so many voters feel disenchanted and how to assuage their concerns. As the authors show with rigorous analysis and empirical research, it is the lack of opportunity, not an absence of equality, that is undermining the social contract in Western societies - and it is only by giving people the chance to realise their potential that we can start to repair it. Wherever you sit on the political spectrum, no matter where in the West you live, this book has something for you.”Will Tanner, Director of Onward“Reclaiming Populism is a must read for all those who think we are going through some weird era, that populism is some kin


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