Contemporary Populism: Theory and Practice by Keith D. ShermanContemporary Populism: Theory and Practice by Keith D. Sherman are the latest in a series of excellent book by Keith D. Sherman. This book is a collection of essays on modern political movements and their political effects, including a first for him, an analysis of contemporary populism. The book opens with a brief intro describing the paper topics, a survey of recent academic work on the subject, and an introduction to the overall book.
In particular, the first essay features four contemporary populists who influenced the development of contemporary politics. They are Martin Luther King Jr., the Peace and Freedom Party in Czechoslovakia, the Animal Liberation Front, and the African National Congress.
This set of essays has some great essayists. Joseph Otanga is a brilliant essayist, who wrote an article that makes excellent use of the notion of 'cultural continuity' in political theory. He takes the view that the difference between an authentic and populist movement is not so much the idea of populism as it is a difference in how the cultural life of the host community impacts the political life of the body politic. Otanga also offers some interesting analysis of this question from the perspective of Chinese politics.
Nathan Gehl is also featured in this book as he discusses the implications of post-modernism in political theory. He also looks at why post-modernism as a strand of Western thought should be ignored as a factor in China's contemporary politics. This is a really good set of essays, and I was rather surprised when I learned of the direction that Gehl is heading.
The second essay is by the American realist essayist Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. who traces the expansion of the liberal imagination over the last century. He sees the cultural-ideological idea of authenticity as a uniquely American experience. His essay concludes with a discussion of modern American popular culture, the marginalization of folk and traditional beliefs in the schools, and the impact of mass media on beliefs.
He was not alone in his critique of post-modern political ideas. Most all the other essays I read took a similar line. There was some variation, but most acknowledged the impact of the mass media, whether it be Christian-Jewish, on public morality. This is a good way to start a study of modern contemporary politics and its effects on political beliefs.
I can't say enough about this volume as a work on contemporary populism. It's short but very rich collection of essays covers all the key issues on this topic, including the roles of race, ethnicity, and economics in modern politics. There is plenty of good analysis of the political effects of class conflict, religion, and ethnicity in contemporary culture. Keith Sherman has written some outstanding essays here, and I highly recommend this volume to anybody interested in the topic.
For me, the most interesting essay is about the role of the popular vote in the elections of the early twentieth century. From the standpoint of the writer, the public's contribution was vital in choosing the leader of the country, but I also believe that the election had significant effects on the political development of the country.