The broad political Left in the United States has been plagued for decades now with a culture of reaction, fragmentation, issue silo-ing, and a chasm between insiders and outsiders. Can the concepts of populism and hegemony help to explain these challenges? What insights might we gain through a study of these ideas?
Populism and hegemony can mean very different things to different people. Rather than frontload this series with my particular working definition, I’m going to try to build from the ground up. To approach these concepts, first we need a working definition of political identity; what it is, what purposes it serves, and how it operates. This is the topic I will focus on in this post.
I’ll begin with an assertion that I hope to make meaningful through this post: that all politics is based on identity with a group. The inverse: there can be no politics without identity with a group. Identity is the stuff of politics. If a political project is a sand castle, then people are the sand, and identity — and new articulations of identity — is what sculpts the sand to form a coherent political “structure.”
This is the first post in a series.