The Causes and Consequences of Populism: Programmatic Representation Before and After the “Left Turn” in Latin America...

Simon Bornschier. Current version of a paper I presented at various conferences and workshops.

Why are populist challengers successful in some countries, but not in others? And what are the consequences of populism for representation? This article argues and shows that while the failure of party systems to represent voters’ programmatic policy preferences fosters populist success, the capacity of populists to restore the system’s responsiveness depends on whether the follow “pure populist” or “programmatic populist” paths to power. The former is a top-down form of populism, while the latter is coupled with bottom-up organizational structures that make party elites accountable to voters. I substantiate these claims using an innovative measure of party system responsiveness focusing on four emblematic cases of left-wing parties that came to power during Latin America’s “left turn”. While mainstream parties absorbed the left-wing momentum in Uruguay and Brazil, the populist left staged a breakthrough in Venezuela and Bolivia. But only in Bolivia did populism restore responsiveness.

» Access the paper here (PDF, 303.68 Kb)