Populism and Global Justice: A Sibling Rivalry?


  • Benjamin McKean




As academic literatures and political demands, global justice and populism look like competing ways of diagnosing and addressing neoliberal inequality. But both misunderstand neoliberalism and consequently risk reinforcing rather than undermining it. Neoliberalism does not just break down political and social hierarchies, but also relies on and sustains them. Unless populists recognize this, they will find that assertions of sovereignty do more to reinforce neoliberalism and reproduce its hierarchies than to resist them. Recognizing neoliberalism as not simply corrosive of solidarity but also producing its own affective ties suggests that global justice advocates need to develop a critique of individual attitudes that egalitarian liberals have often seen as private and been hesitant to judge. In short, if either populism or global justice hope to take advantage of neoliberalism’s failures to advance an egalitarian politics, they need to reckon more carefully with their own entanglement with neoliberalism’s hopes and hierarchies.