than if there is such a ground. Conse-quently, in assessing Hoebeke’s,Kazin’s, and Lasch’s work, attentionwill be given to their respective his-torical and philosophical frameworksand to their ability to penetrate to theexperiential sources of populism. Forit is that core experience that providesinsights into the challenge of popu-lism and that also provides a standard by which to judge the efficacy of populism as a response to the disorderof the age.All writers on the subject are notpredisposed to systematic philosophi-cal analysis. Yet, most of the work onpopulism implies a philosophical un-derstanding of what populism is,even if the author claims to be simplydescribing history. An author’s philo-sophical assumptions can be teasedout of a work that includes at leastsome critical analysis.Kazin’s book explicitly shies awayfrom theoretical analysis. It is a ram- bling, at times disjointed, descriptionof populism.
The Populist Persuasion
attempts to analyze populism by ex-ploring the history of populist rheto-ric. Kazin considers the words of populist leaders the best illustration of populism’s meaning and importance.He makes no attempt to discover orexplain the roots of populism. He as-sumes that populist rhetoric speaksfor itself. He does attempt to providea basic definition of populism: “a lan-guage whose speakers conceive of or-dinary people as a noble assemblagenot bounded narrowly by class, viewtheir elite opponents as self-servingand undemocratic, and seek to mobi-lize the former against the latter” (1).Although Kazin fails to acknowledgeit, the rhetoric of populism has an un-derlying theoretical foundation. Infact, his analysis of the language of populism indicates that he is sympa-thetic to that theoretical core.Kazin sees it as his task, however,not to elucidate what populism is asmuch as to editorialize about goodand bad populism. In short, right-wing populism is bad and left-wingpopulism is good. Populism has arather specific content according toKazin. Its primary objective is a moreequal distribution of wealth and theempowerment of minorities andwomen. It is clear that Kazin’s egali-tarianism colors his assessment of populism. Populism, for him, is ameans of reshaping America. He as-sumes that the masses, if given thepolitical power and led by the rightelites, would implement his “non-Communist Left” agenda. He believesthat “mass democracy can topple anyhaughty foe.” Thus
The Populist Per-suasion
is not really an analysis of populism but a political tract.Contrary to Kazin’s analysis of populism, Hoebeke’s study of massdemocracy is theoretical as well ashistorical. Unlike Kazin, he viewspopulism as both politically and ideo-logically inconsistent with the politi-cal and philosophical tradition of theAmerican Framers. Kazin’s book pro-vides a broad history of populism di-vorced from philosophical analysis.
The Road to Mass Democracy
examinesa particular populist event, the adop-tion of the Seventeenth Amendment,and uses it to discover the theoreticalfeatures of populism. It should be