The Tyranny of Authenticity and the Rise of Populism

Catherine Fieschi

£60.00  |  $90.00
ISBN 9781788210249
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ISBN 9781788210256
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ISBN 9781788210263
192 pages   |  216 x 138mm   |  30 June 2019


"Vivid and illuminating ... combines conceptual analysis with real examples to chart the historic evolution of populism." – Ben Hall, Financial Times

"Essential reading" – Danny Dorling, University of Oxford

"Catherine Fieschi does what many claim to do but few achieve: write an original book on populism. Far-reaching and thought-provoking, Populocracy is a must read for practitioners and scholars alike." – Cas Mudde, Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF Professor of International Affairs, University of Georgia

"Catherine Fieschi’s brilliant analysis of populism draws on her decades of deep research to bring the colour, the people, the real-life experiences that explain the 'jiu-jitsu' politics beyond the survey data and theoretical models. This book gives the vital missing links between the history of populism and its contemporary forms, puncturing the simplistic explanations with analytical rigour and first-hand evidence from her personal encounters with populists like Jean-Marie Le Pen long before others took them seriously." – Heather Grabbe, Director, Open Society European Institute, Brussels

"A succinct, comprehensively researched and intelligible account of the definitional contours, history, multiple origins, and multifaceted nature of ‘populism’. Fieschi disentangles populism from fascism and the ‘extreme right’ and identifies the core memes of ‘populocratic’ sentiment and ressentiment. In doing so she highlights the seductiveness of its myth of 'the people’, and the growing dangers it poses to democratic pluralism. These dangers can only grow in a digital age in which individuals can narcissistically confuse their voice with vox populi." – Roger Griffin, Oxford Brookes University

"Accessible, thought-provoking and innovative. Fieschi’s concept of authenticity provides an intriguing way of describing the populist imaginary." – Ben Margulies, LSE Review of Books

"This is an absorbing volume and we are in the hands of an absorbing writer – a juggler of paradoxes, an assailer of conventional wisdom and a challenger of foolish optimisms. For students of politics, their teachers, politicians and commentators it provides a fascinating meditation on a key problem of twenty-first-century existence." – Derek Hawes, Journal of Contemporary European Studies

“Hardly anyone knows populism better than Catherine Fieschi. In this excellent book, she has something new to say about why the confusion and discontent of our age has taken the specific form of populism.” – Simon Kuper, columnist, Financial Times


Populism has become a significant feature of mature democracies in the twenty-first century and the rise of populist parties is proving a powerful and disruptive force. Catherine Fieschi offers a comparative analysis of the rise of populist parties in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK in the context of major digital and political transformations. Populism is effective, Fieschi shows, because it originates from within the democratic tradition and has been able to turn some of democracy’s key strengths against it – what she calls Jiu-jitsu politics. Populism needs to be understood not simply as a response to globalization by the “disillusioned” or “left behind”, but as a consequence of the digital revolution on our political and democratic expectations. She demonstrates how new dynamics unleashed by social media – the fantasy of radical transparency, the demand for immediacy and the rejection of expert truth and facts – have been harnessed by populism, enabling it to make unprecedented inroads into our political landscapes.


1. What is it about populism?
2. The ideas that matter, or populism as Jiu Jitsu politics
3. The prototype: France
4. Populism goes global: the Netherlands
5. Populism's poster child? Italy
6. The UK and the absolute populist fantasy: taking back control
7. Populism, meet the new political subject
Conclusion: Jiu Jitsu politics

Author Information

Catherine Fieschi is founder and executive director of Counterpoint, a research consultancy that focuses on the social and cultural drivers of political dynamics. Her publications include Fascism, Populism and the French Fifth Republic and numerous articles and pamphlets.

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