Applied CT


Here are some concepts that are worth to understand

  1. Information
  2. Internet
  3. Religion
  4. Ethical issues
  5. Science
  6. Politics/Social Issues
  7. Conspiracy Theories
  8. New Age Beliefs
  9. Freedom of speech
  10. Radicalization
  11. Education


  1. Populism; Nationalism; Patriotism; Loyalism
  2. Democracy; Majority Rule; Tyranny of the Majority



In recent years we have been witnessing a rise in attitudes focusing on anti-immigration and national identity. Words such as nationalism and populism are now frequent in the media.  If it is it good or bad is a question of perspective and before we start analysing the consequences of these social movements we need first to define and understand the meaning of the many of the words that abound in the social discourse and are frequently conflated in the same argument often perceived as equivalent. In this article I summarise some definitions that are important to know in order to understand the present political debate.


The word populism refers to the ordinary people (the populus). It is a particular way of formulating demands in the name of ‘the people’ and a particular way of constructing “the people”. Populism revolves around the powerless-powerful dimension, a vertical dimension – the down versus the up – where the populists claim to represent ‘the people’ against the current elite that does not represent them.
Nowadays the word is used in a derogatory fashion suggesting. Populism is thus a movement of the masses composed by the “little man”, the unsophisticated, uneducated masses which reclaim the power to interfere in political decision making which is perceived to be upheld by a small privileged wealthy elite. Revolutions are usually fuelled by populist movements.

Movement, doctrine or ideology?

Some authors have described populism as a doctrine or an ideology.
As a political doctrine it proposes that the common people are exploited by a privileged elite.
The term ideology suggests permanent beliefs, which underestimates the crucial strategic dimension of populism. The notion of ideology also makes it difficult to account for the sometimes temporary dimension of populism that follows from this strategic character. Ideology seems to suggest that if a party is populist, it will be populist forever, which I don’t think is necessary.
If populism is a movement originated among the common citizens, does it lead to democracy?

Populism and Democracy

One is tempted to associate populism to government by the people, which is loosely the definition of democracy. But the confusion relies only on the wording. In fact the modern concept of democracy is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. As opposed to dictatorships where the people have to right to vote or if they do they have no choice of other political parties but the ruling one. Democracy is sometimes referred to as "rule of the majority"

So why isn’t populism the same as democracy?

Democracy is a form of government elected by the people. Itfocuses more on the assignment of governance to the people regardless of class

Populism is a movement initiated by the people to bring some change in the existing government. It focuses more on the struggle between the common class and the elite class

Populism and democracy are in some ways related but in some cases can be opposite. For example Venezuela's President Chavez was considered "populist," but his government is not democratic.  

More generally, "democracy" is when the people have authority, but is usually in the form of formal institutions governed by established (in modern days, usually written) laws. "Populism" is not so much a form of government as it is a type of rhetoric, especially one that appeals to base motives and class differences.

Democracy is a system. Populism is one of the methods how to have your way in this system. You promise things you can´t deliver, and you know it. That is populism. Think of Brexit and Donald Trump.

Populist leaders appeal to the basic and sometimes nastier, emotions of the people to achieve power. And once they are in power they frequently turn it into a dictatorship. Think of Hitler for example.

Right or Left?
Note that populism can embrace left or right ideologies. 
Right wing populism is rising in Europe due to the pressure of immigration. This is a kind of populism associated with nationalistic feelings.




"Nationalism is the worst enemy of peace" (George Orwell)

Frequently populism and nationalism are confused as similar concepts.  
The political leaders appeal to a sense of cultural identity to unify the populous which will bring the politician to power. This is only possible in societies where the people don’t think very much, they are not very educated and simply follow with the herd. Often people join these movements due to peer pressure rather than careful consideration of the motives and vested interests of politicians.
Note that nationalism and populism have in common the fact that both approaches are anti-pluralist, i.e. they are hostile to cultural variability inside their country. They want a homogeneous society, made of cultural clones that think the same way. This is obviously welcomed by the political leaders which will not have to deal with dissidents. This is why populism hand in hand with nationalism seed dictatorships. Think of North Korea and China.  
Ultimately, extreme Nationalism embraces feelings of intolerance such as racism and xenophobia. Nationalism can easily lead to authoritarianism which is the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom and lacks any concern for the wishes or opinions of others. Or in simple words, sooner or later Nationalists end up shooting themselves sin their own foot.

Note that there are several combinations of populism and nationalism.

  • Populism with Nationalism: Opposing the ruling elite as a means to save the national pride as is the case now happing in the European Union.
  • Non-Nationalistic Populism: This includes international movements such as the spread of communism. Here the ideology is supposedly protecting the oppressed across national borders. The movement could be seen as international left-wing extremism.
  • Nationalism but Non-Populism: When the political leaders appeal to the symbols of the country, for example fighting for the king and the flag, but don’t really provide much consideration to the people.


Those who embrace Nationalism think of themselves as Patriots, but there is a big difference between these two concepts. Although both suggest a relationship between the individual and his/her nation the difference relies on the type of feelings these individuals nurture towards others.  Patriotism is based on affection and nationalism is rooted in rivalry and resentment. One can say that nationalism is militant by nature and patriotism is based on peace.


Thrives for independence and the interests and domination of a nation and expresses his love or concern for the country in an active political way

gives more importance to unity by way of a cultural background, including language and heritage

a feeling that one’s country is superior to another in all respects

nationalism can be aggressive

A nationalist cannot tolerate any criticism and considers it an insult Nationalism makes one to think only of one’s country’s virtues and not its deficiencies. Nationalism can also make one contemptuous of the virtues of other nations.

Expresses the emotion of love towards his country in a passive way

pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs.

patriotism is merely a feeling of admiration for a way of life

patriotism is passive by nature

A patriotic person tends to tolerate criticism and tries to learn something new from it

Patriotism, on the other hand, pertains to value responsibilities rather than just valuing loyalty towards one’s own country.

Read more: Difference between Nationalism and Patriotism


The general definition of loyalism refers to individuals that are loyal to a cause. It is an individual’s allegiance toward an established government, political party, or sovereign, especially during times of war and revolt. From this definition it is easy to see that a loyalist is not necessarily a patriot. For example the Cambridge spies was as a ring of British Cambridge students loyal to ideologies of communism, who passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II. They were loyal to the Soviets but not patriots. The same can be said of British Islamic Fundamentalists who are loyal to their ideology but do not  harbour feelings of love towards the country of their citizenship.