"Technopopulism" is the
merging of populist and
technocratic modes of
politics therefore involves appeals beyond political parties, with
an emphasis on leaders who can cut through the messiness of
democratic politics and get things done.
Refreshingly, Trump barely makes an appearance, given the focus on Western Europe.
Instead the main exemplars are Tony Blair and Emmanuel Macron.
Old politics was
something to be overcome and replaced, with a logic that suggested
that Blair, Macron, and other leaders in this new mould could
realize the popular will and translate it effectively and
efficiently into policy.
The argument runs that these centrist parties formed cartels and competed over an ever-narrower political terrain based on competence to govern rather than any ideologically inspired program designed to realize the good life for its supporters and other members of the polity.
This left a void which populist movements and parties such as the,
...exploited and filled
during the 2010s.
This is not an analysis that sees populism as an antidote to the technocratic capture of democracy. In fact, they argue that technopopulism lessens the quality of contemporary democracy by narrowing the horizon of possibilities.
They point out that technopopulists never claim - despite the title of Macron's book - to be revolutionary.
Instead, they intend only to do what already exists better:
Having noted technopopulism's deficiencies, the authors suggest an unfashionable solution:
If it was the proles
who were the great hope in George Orwell's
1984, then it is the middle
managers who play this part for Bickerton and Invernizzi Accetti.
As a result, if freed
from the undemocratic internal structures of existing parties, the
middle managers would help differentiate parties from each other and
save us from the scourge of valence politics and its narrowing
horizons of political imagination.
The experience of the British Labour Party under his leadership suggests that the differentiation of parties might come at the expense of electability.
The other objection is that the idea of turning up to the proverbial branch meeting on a rainy Tuesday night hoping for a quorum is unlikely to excite many people into politics.
Despite the authors'
overall idea that parties and other intermediary bodies are both the
problem and the solution, as long as they can be democratized
themselves, it is a solution worth considering (and one likely to be
resisted by the technopopulists).
They rightly point out that technocracy has not gained as much attention - or opprobrium - as populism. It would, however, have been profitable to see some consideration of the relationship between technopopulism and nationalism.
With the exception of some of the Mediterranean populist movements of the early 2010s, it is rare to see a populist movement that has no relationship with nationalism.
Even the technopopulist exemplars, Blair and Macron, pitched their appeal in national frames ("New Labour, New Britain" and Macron's republicanism).
This relationship matters
because more recent technopopulists such as Boris Johnson
have been able to effectively exploit the linkages between
nationalism and technopopulism to their (own) political
By introducing the
concept of technopopulism, this book helps us advance our
understanding of the relationship between populism and technocracy,
and their desirability for democracy, while offering suggestions to
move the political imagination beyond the ideational constraints of