In recent times there has been a lot of discussion of the “populist” nature of the Thaksin’s government’s policies. Yesterday I came across this description of the main elements of “populism.” It comes from Kevin Hewison’s account of localism in Reforming Thai Politics (edited by Duncan McCargo). Hewison is drawing on the work of Kitching in Development and Underdevelopment in Historical Perspective. According to Kitching’s analysis the key elements of populism are:

1. a reverence for tradition;

2. a preference for organic models;

3. a conservatism where change is seen to derive from the inner growth of community institutions and practices;

4. the past is seen as a ‘golden era’, with modernization having diluted the idyllic village and its traditions;

5. agricultural development is privileged;

6. if industrialisation is even considered, then it must be labour intensive;

7. justice, equity and equality are considered central aspects of society; and

8. outsiders are seen as exploiters, and urban-based exploiters are held responsible for removing the rural surplus.

Doesn’t sound too much like Thaksinomics to me. In fact the economic approaches promoted by other charismatic figures seems much closer to this populist vision.