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The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics

(Columbia Global Reports)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,270 ratings  ·  193 reviews
"Far and away the most incisive examination of the central development in contemporary politics: the rise of populism on both the right and the left. Superb." - Thomas Edsall, New York Times columnist

What's happening in global politics, and is there a thread that ties it all together? As if overnight, many Democrats revolted and passionately backed a socialist named Bernie
Paperback, 184 pages
Published October 5th 2016 by Columbia Global Reports
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Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Political scientists of the world unite!

I admit to being a poli sci nerd prior to leveling up in law school. Still must kick it old school and get back to my roots sometimes.

Writer and political analyst John Judis makes this an informative and fun exercise as he sets out a well-researched and well put together dissertation of all things populist in his 2016 publication.

So what is a populist and where do they roam? If you find one, what should you feed it? Should you vote for a populist and would
Mal Warwick
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The unexpected emergence of Donald Trump as a major-party candidate for the White House has triggered a great deal of punditry about how the Republican Party managed to put forward such a bigoted and ignorant champion. Speculation has swirled around the nature of the political forces he represents. Some observers insist he, though home-grown, bears more resemblance to Benito Mussolini than to any democratic political leader. Others think of Trump’s candidacy as populist; they describe him as the ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Informative and interesting. I especially enjoyed the sections on Huey Long, George Wallace, and Ross Perot, important figures in the history the author traces of U.S. populism, culminating in its surge back into prominence in this country in the 2016 election. Judis looks at the distinguishing features of populism both in its left and right manifestations, and at how it has been used effectively by various political parties and politicians to galvanize dissatisfied voters and rally them to vari ...more
Graeme Roberts
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have deeply despaired that many million Americans voted for a man devoid of virtue and intellect. And have watched American friends founder as they realize that all their treasured beliefs about the goodness of American democracy and values must be pure bunk. Even John Oliver, who normally breaks down complex situations into understandable chunks (with plenty of sarcasm) has fallen into shallow abuse and ad-hominem attacks that only make me angrier.

The Populist Explosion brought sweet relief b
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
It's good, but I wanted so much more. This book just describes populism and links it to history (at least in the U.S.). There isn't much analysis or insight though. No linking of the past populists with the present. Too much mixing of left and right. Yes, there are common threads between Trump and Sanders voters, but there are drastic differences as well. I need another book about populism that fills in the meat that this one left out.
Daniel Simmons
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and (I thought) very even-handed look at the rise of populist movements in the U.S. and Europe, both on the left and the right. All this year's headline-makers are in here -- Nigel Farage, Bernie Sanders, and of course Donald Trump -- but Judis also looks backward at protopopulists like Huey Long and George Wallace in order to trace the development of support for political figures who buck the mainstream and are able to redirect growing voter dissatisfaction against the establishmen ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Brief but worthwhile history of populist movements in America and Europe, with some shrewd insights in how populist politics work, undermined by Judis' euphemistic take on the racial politics of Trump/Le Pen/AfD. Judis also didn't take seriously enough how little Trump's economic policies would ultimately differ from conventional Republican dogma. (Granted that this book was released last October, but all of this was there to be seen while the 2016 campaign was going on.) Unfortunately Judis, li ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it liked it
A good short read with some strong insights into a global phenomenon.

In a nutshell, Judis traces populism origins in America and relates a number of post Great Recession instances to these roots, distinguishing them from the normal left-right axis. Judis's argument is that these movements are a symptom of the breakdown of the "neoliberal" order that emerged in the 1970s in response to a number of shocks that undermined the Keynesian consensus of the immediate post-war period.

While showing that t
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
highly recommended for understanding politics in the past 50ish years
Update November 11, 2018
I finished rereading this short book this morning. It made much more sense on the second read. The Kindle books has been updated and while there is still no link in the text to the endnotes, the spelling errors and misprints have been corrected. I think it provides useful information for someone trying to make some sense of what's going on in world politics.

I wondered as I was reading this time, whether the author had published any more recent work that addressed what is
The rise of Trump's brand of populism has left many in the U.S. and around the world in a state of shock. How did we even get here? This short and sweet book not only explores the historic origins of populism in America, but also in Europe as well and traces their more recent ascension to the political fallout from the Great Recession of 2008 as well as anti-free trade sentiments and economic anxiety in the lower middle classes that have been underneath the surface of our politics since the end ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
More like a list of statistics, rather than an original thought piece with a central thesis. I felt like he glossed over a lot of interesting points that could have been developed further, and his arguments were not particularly convincing in some points.

Side note: The books's failure to impress probably wasn't helped by the fact that the Kindle edition I read did not include links to the inline citations at the end of the book. I got all the way through the book before I found the sources at t
Jonathan Sargent
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A short primer on the rise of populism that steers fairly clear of bias. I wish there were more sections on populism in Nordic countries and Germany, but loved sections on countries I wasn't very familiar with (Spain, Greece).
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This fairly brief book takes a look at recent popular movements that have evolved since the 2008 banking crisis and resulting recession. Judis zeroes in on the Tea Party movement during Obama's first year in office, the Occupy Wall Street movement that followed, and rounds things out with the populists supporting both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primary and election. 

More importantly Judis places these into a context in American history and from that is able to pinpo
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a treatise on the history of populism and persuades me that its current rise in the US and Europe can be explained primarily by economics. As capital and immigrants can move around the globe, workers earning low wages are threatened. Populist movements arise to curb the outflow of capital (keep factories in America to keep jobs in America) and the inflow of immigrants (build the wall to prevent cheap labor from depressing wages, especially of low-skilled jobs). Many middle- and lowe ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mr John B. Judis brilliantly goes into depth of populism and triggers my opinions, inspiration and interest. As a young reader intrigued in politics and wanting to know more, I unfortunately abandoned this book, as I spent a lot of time researching and not being able to keep up with the information and ideas written. I am aware that this book is targeted at an older audience, but if you haven't learnt or read about politics before, this may be a difficult read.
Jori Reilly-Diakun
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
It is hard to say, as with most contemporary discussions of political trends, to what degree this book is providing an insightful commentary or spinning a narrative out of whole cloth that ultimately confuses causation and correlation. However, it sets out an interesting frame for considering the evolution of populism in America and Europe since the Great Recession.
Joe Hoover
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me this book does a good job breaking down the "left vs. right" / "conservative vs. liberal" narrative promoted by politicians and the press and really gets behind the driving forces behind the disenchantment with the two political parties in the USA and their failure to bring real substantive improvement to an increasingly squeezed middle-class and a crushed society of working-poor. Read this book then read the increasingly panicked opinion pieces in the Washington Post (owned by the riches ...more
Martin Jones
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Populist Explosion by John Judis is an account of populist political movements in Europe and the United States. Beginning with the People's Party in 1890's America, the book traces events up to the present day, where we face Brexit, Trump and a slew of other populist movements on both the left and right wings of politics.

The book presents interesting information about the nature of populist movements, and some of the economic and social circumstances which have accompanied their development.
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overview of populism in the west, including early 20th century, the 1992 Perot candidacy, and European movements. There is a relatively forced Trump tie-in, but either most of the book was written years ago, or it was only lightly updated, so there wasn't a lot of content about him. At the time the original book was written he was merely the Republican nominee, and the author was as dismissive of him as the political establishment in general was.

I disagree with the core argument of the book -- t
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A fair look at the Populist movement history and current trends both here and in Europe. How immigration and the economy motivates a group to a raging level of us against them mentality. It explains how we get the Donald Trumps of the world into running for office and in some cases winning. The author examples The Donald's positions and how Candidate Trump was more or less catering to a populist base to win an election and not truly representative of his actual views. He's more a Berlusconi not ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Came across this title in a magazine article and thought it sounded like an interesting read. Author Judis attempts to link the rise of populism in both Europe and the US to the Great Recession. What do Brexit and the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and other populist movements have in common?

Honestly, I'm extremely skeptical of his premise. The scope of the book is far too narrow and I can't help but feel (although no expert here!) that the book might be cherry-picking a bit to make hi
Daniel Gusev
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A memo tracking back the surge of discontent for so long ignored

Populism has many forms, had many voices and surged to surface of the political agenda, raised by students, white or blue collars and other identifiable groups fingering at the establishment of ignorance or supreme bliss.

While the democratisation process made not only the gears of governance but the oversight of it available to many, the chances of conquering the wave of discontent paved the road to power for many able yet malcont
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is the landscape of populist movements in America and Europe.

1. introduction
Populism cannot be defined as left, right, or center. It is not an ideology, but a political logic. Yet the author tried to differentiate the left-wing populists and right-wing populists. The leftwing populists are not communists, as they do not oppose classes or capitalism.
Populists are characterized by the conflicts between their demands, and the capability, or willingness of the established government to ful
Mare Kinley
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
This is a clear and well-organized discussion of Populism, past and present (with a tiny section of speculation about the future). Judis explains his view of the root causes and the beginnings of populism in the United States and its reinterpretation in Europe. Most interesting to me is his explanation of the different causes and sources of populism from the right and from the left. I also praise Judis for clear language, strong organization of topics, and being able to create a historical conte ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
It's been a week or two since finishing this book so my impressions are not as strong. My overall summary sense though was that this book truly would have been much better as a long essay, and everything else in it was a waste of time.

The first 2/3 to 3/4 of the book were a long rambling exploration of the various populist movements through history. It had the feel of a think tank white paper on social policy, with the accompanying assuredness of a thorough understanding of all relevant historic
This short book was fascinating and incredibly informative. Judis dispassionately presents the common populist foundations of the economic approach of the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders 2016 campaigns. He subsequently analyzes the impact populist ideas and parties have had on the two major political parties in the US. He tracks these parties from the middle of the 19th century to the present and in so doing shows how they have always ended up being coopted by the major parties in their pursuit ...more
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
John Judis is one of the best political journalists in the US, who has a long track record in various progressive journals and magazines and also read some earlier well-received books. In his newest book he discusses the hottest topic in politics today: populism. His focus is primarily on Western Europe and the US, although he does touch a little bot on Eastern Europe and South America.

"The Populist Explosion" is an excellent, journalistic summary of received wisdom on contemporary populism. It
Pavol Hardos
A solid journalistic summary of populist politics, it's historical context and developments in the US and Europe. It's coverage of both European and American politics is both brief and informative, but, sadly, this is yet another book that thinks Europe ends in Vienna. Also, the extent to which the author seems to agree with the questionable right-wing narratives about the problem of immigration reflects perhaps his poor choice of sources more than any bad intentions.

The book offers an overview
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John B. Judis is an American journalist. Born in Chicago he attended Amherst College and received B.A. and M.A. degrees in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a senior editor at The New Republic and a contributing editor to The American Prospect.

A founding editor of Socialist Revolution (now Socialist Review) in 1969 and of the East Bay Voice in the 1970s, Judis started

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