How to deconstruct populism?

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Fabio Quetglas

National Deputy (Province of Buenos Aires. UCR-JxC)

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The populist rise has multiple causes, but it unequivocally expresses a denunciation (rustic and with negative consequences) on the functioning of democratic institutions.

The imagery focused on the exaltation of the leadership, the claim of some form of national supremacy, the pressure on the institutions from street mobilization, the siege of the control bodies, the questioning of the constitutional framework, the social polarization, the politicization of everyday life and the use of public policies as a way of constructing legitimacy, has configured a way of managing power in many societies in the last two decades with varying degrees of intensity. He wasn’t born out of a cabbage. Acute crises and growing mistrust have fueled an elementary political perspective which at the same time assigns a relevant role to new subjects.

This imaginary is also a culture, which assumes that political power is absolutely responsible for people’s happiness, which very assiduously establishes a sort of “official morality”, and which does not fully recognize alternative governments to its ideology. .

It is not possible to get out of this labyrinth by proposing simplistic answers, by looking for other saving leaders or by resorting to another moral perspective. I wrote “deconstructing populism”, with the logic that the solution is to open a different historical time, laying more solid foundations, and therefore can help resolve the legacy of two populist decades, but also of two centuries of national disagreement. .

In general, moving beyond one way of constructing power, plus alternative ideas superseding the previous ones, requires some exhaustion of the pre-existing model. In the case of Latin America, there is an unequivocal correspondence between populist hegemony and the momentum of high commodity prices. The exhaustion did not happen categorically, among other things because the social reactions, while powerful, lack an alternative imaginary that dialogues with the future.

The Latin American paradox is the persistence of pendulum responses, glorifying the past, in many cases empty of the contemporary public agenda and focused on indignation in the face of institutional abuses. Indignation is a powerful force and serves to solicit democratic alternation, but it is absolutely insufficient to carry out the task that the continent needs.

The democratic improvement agenda appears vacant in the tension between those (supposed left-wing populists) who siege institutions in the name of rights expansion, and those (supposed right-wing populists) often insinuate that they prefer substituting democratic procedures over its unsatisfactory performance.

The debate on the poor quality of the state, the controls, the institutions of technical support, the legislative and administrative quality, the incorporation of technology in the bureaucracy, the care of the civic bond between the state and citizens, the transcendent sense of social cohesion that policies public universals potentially generate when they are designed with quality, have been replaced in the public conversation by “state abolitionism”.

The deficits of institutional democracy do not obey the wickedness of a caste. This diagnosis excludes the issuer from liability, but it is false. Without pretending to absolve anyone, it is much more useful than fueling indignation, rigorously and responsibly reviewing a state model corroded by corruption and rent-seeking, and promoting an agenda that encourages more competitive and inclusive economic dynamics. Doing so is a complex, collective and persistent task. This is not an advertisement, the creativity of a genius or a momentary emotional outburst.

Identifying opportunities, building a critical path with an eye to the debt we owe to the future, is the task of this generation, and the most useful way out of this impoverishing tension.

Both the denial expressed by those who alter the official numbers to build a fictitious paradise and the reactive response not only constitute false ways of solving problems, but also encourage a model based on permanent (at best, low intensity) conflict.

An alternative and contemporary vision, which does not give up the effort that a reformist program requires, is the way to avoid “dangerous havens” and offer the country a realistic, human, pluralistic and convivial horizon at the same time.

“Deconstructing Populism” is a draft available to the reader to advance a conversation that helps us understand, pacify and transform. The three verbs that should dominate our next election campaign.

Source: Clarin

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