Steven Hahn in The Nation:
There is, many believe, a specter haunting the Euro-American world. It is not, as Marx and Engels once exulted, the specter of communism. Nor is it the specter of fascism, though some, including former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, have warned of this. Rather, it is the specter of what journalists, scholars, and other political observers now routinely call “populism.” To be sure, there are few, if any, self-described populist movements afoot: no “populist” parties seeking to mobilize voters and constituencies, no “populist international” attempting to harness discontent as it spreads across national borders. Nor is there any “populist” language, sustained “populist” critique of the status quo, or “populist” platform as there once was in the United States at the very end of the 19th century.
“Populism” is instead a term meant to encapsulate the rage often found among white and native-born voters across Europe and other parts of the Western Hemisphere, who regard themselves as victimized by established political institutions, the corrupt practices of politicians, and the influx of migrants from afar. Indeed, these “populists” appear to be united both by shared grievances and by a disposition to place the blame not on the workings of the economic system or the excesses of economic elites (though anti-Semitic currents suggest some of this), but on the threats posed by immigrants to the national culture and economic well-being.
In the current parlance, that is to say, populism is less a movement than a menace.