The Populist Explosion

The Populist Explosion
How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics

What’s happening in global politics, and is there a thread that ties it all together?

There is, and it is called populism.

Is the West witnessing a huge political upheaval? As if overnight, many Democrats revolted and passionately backed a socialist named Bernie Sanders; the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, in a stunning rebuke; the vituperative billionaire Donald Trump became the presidential nominee of the Republican Party; and a slew of rebellious parties continued to win election after election in countries like Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Austria, and Greece.

John B. Judis, one of America’s most respected political analysts, tells us why we need to learn about the populist movement that began in the United States in the 1890s, the politics of which have recurred on both sides of the Atlantic ever since. Populism, on both the right and the left, champions the people against an establishment, based on issues—globalization, free trade, immigration—on which there has been a strong elite consensus, but also an even stronger mass discontent that is now breaking out into the open. The political system is only just beginning what will be a long-running and highly consequential readjustment.

Based on extensive travels in the U.S., Spain, France, and Denmark, and on interviews with political experts across the Atlantic, The Populist Explosion is essential reading for anyone hoping to grasp the forces that are altering the course of history, written by a brilliant observer who has long seen the change coming.

The Populist Explosion
  • ISBN: 9780997126440
  • Price: $12.99
  • E-book ISBN: 9780997126457
  • On Sale: October 5, 2016
  • Pages: 182


Featured as one of “Six Books to Help Understand Trump’s Win” by The New York Times
Named one of the Best Books of 2016 by Bloomberg
Named one of “11 Books that Will Make You Smarter about Politics” by Business Insider
A Fareed Zakaria GPS Book of the Week

“Well-written and well-researched, powerfully argued and perfectly timed.” The Economist

“John B. Judis’s The Populist Explosion was published just before Mr. Trump’s election, but that improbable victory only confirms the book’s thesis that Western democracies are in some ways failing to represent their citizens.... Mr. Judis”s analysis is sharp and engaging.” —Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal

“In November, the fate of the Republic will turn on one question: How popular is the populism of Donald Trump?... The Populist Explosion [is a] cogent and exceptionally clarifying guide to a political phenomenon that is at once elusive and, yes, explosive.” —Jonathan Alter, New York Times Book Review

“An intelligent guide to a phenomenon by no means over.” —Fareed Zakaria, CNN

The Populist Explosion is far and away the most incisive examination of the central development in contemporary politics: the rise of populism on both the right and the left. John Judis, whose track record is unrivaled, is the ideal author to tackle the subject, and he has done a superb job, placing contemporary trends, including the rise of Donald Trump, in historical perspective. Judis demonstrates the crucial role of the 2008 recession both here and in Europe in discrediting the neoliberal agenda. This is must reading.” —Thomas Edsall, New York Times

“Shows why journalists who have a sense of history, and its irony, need not be bewildered by the astonishing revolt against globalized elites in our time.” —Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg

“Not only do these volumes provide conceptual clarity—historian David Greenberg has lamented that the term is so overused, it risks losing all meaning—but they also point to the risks of dismissing populist outbreaks, suggesting that they could continue shaping American politics on Nov. 9 and beyond.” —Carlos Lozada, Washington Post

“The fact remains that in The Populist Explosion, as elsewhere, Judis hews to a much higher standard of sociological and political analysis than nearly any other American liberal. Whatever he makes of the situation, he faces it more squarely than most.” —Tim Barker, New Left Review

“If you read no other political book this year, read The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis, which brilliantly sets out the connection to present circumstances.” —Mark Mardell, BBC

“Writing from the left, with a qualified admiration for the populist impulse, Judis contends that populist insurgencies historically have served as warning signs of larger brewing political crises.” —Tory Newmyer, Fortune

“A sweeping narrative—rich in historical and political argument—that ably ties together the insurgencies on both sides of the Atlantic.” —Jedediah Purdy, The Nation

“A terrific short book that is a brisk tour of the horizon, of the right and left versions of populism, their history and current state, with a useful comparison of the populist upsurge in the United States and Europe. His general insight: Populism gains adherence whenever mainstream parties let ills fester.” —Robert Kuttner, American Prospect

“What does history tell us about the future? John Judis, the author of The Populist Explosion, says that America may be just in the first phase of its new populist insurrection.” —Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald

The Populist Explosion blends groundbreaking reporting with insightful scholarship in the best guide yet to the most important political phenomenon of our time.” —Michael Lind, author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States

“John Judis demonstrates again why he is one of American's best political journalists. There is no wiser or better informed analysis of contemporary voter discontent on both sides of the Atlantic than The Populist Explosion.” —Michael Kazin, editor of Dissent, author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History and War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918


All the Rage: Sanders and Trump represent two different sides of American populism — New Republic

Us v Them: the birth of populism — Guardian

Racism Doesn’t Explain the Rise of Donald Trump — Slate

Rethinking Populism — Dissent

Why the Great Recession Led to a Populist Revival — The Leonard Lopate Show

In “The Populist Explosion,” Author John Judis Offers A Cautionary History — Midday

Ascendance of Donald Trump & The Populist Explosion — The Marc Steiner Show

Interview with author John Judis — Eurasia Group Foundation (video)

About the author

John B. Judis
© Hilary P. Judis

John B. Judis is Editor-At-Large at Talking Points Memo. He was a senior editor of The New Republic and senior writer for The National Journal. He is the author of seven books, including Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origin of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), The Folly of Empire: What George W. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (Scribner, 2004), The Emerging Democratic Majority with Ruy Teixeira (Scribner, 2002), and The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests, and Betrayal of Public Trust (Pantheon, 2000). He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, and The Washington Post. Born in Chicago, he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Silver Spring, MD.  @JohnBJudis