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Against Foreign Capital?: The Populist Temptation in Tanzania

by Alexander B. Makulilo

Populism has always been a contested concept. However, its core message across definitions is simply in defense of the “common people” who are often regarded as marginalized. Hence, as a movement, it claims to seek for “inclusion.” In this regard, its core assumption is just doing away with elites and establishes a more direct democracy thereby reducing inequality and exclusion. As a leader, a populist is associated with “a strongly personalistic leadership style; outsiderism, or the claim that the new leader does not originate from among the existing political class; an anti-system, anti-institutions and anti-organisations rhetoric, often targeting political parties and political corruption; a call for restoring ‘the power of the people.’” This indicates that an individual leader becomes the center of politics in a polity thereby undermining political institutions. This, in turn, suggests “decisionism” and lack of predictability in the political system. As such, a populist leader tends to free himself from any kind of institutional control hence promoting institutional decay. As such, populism is “anti-party, anti-elite, anti-establishment, anti-political.” Indeed, populists are hostile to the rich, to finance capital, and to big corporations…

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