The exact nature of that enemy—”foreign or native, ethnic or social”—doesn’t matter, Berlin adds. What fuels populist politics is that concept of the people battling the elite.
The Princeton political scientist Jan-Werner Müller proposes another characteristic: “In addition to being antielitist, populists are always antipluralist,” he argues in 2016’s What Is Populism? (University of Pennsylvania Press). “Populists claim that they, and they alone, represent the people.” In that formulation, the key to understanding populism is that “the people” does not include all the people. It excludes “the enemies of the people,” who may be specified in various ways: foreigners, the press, minorities, financiers, the “1 percent,” or others seen as not being “us.”
When we live in a world in which we are no longer constrained and limited by primitive means of travel and communication, in which we can be almost anywhere in not much more than a day, and in which we may talk or text or video converse with people around the globe almost instantly, the natural patterns of association, connectedness, and relationship in many social, cultural, and economic dimensions can more intensively take a shape that encompasses others around the entire planet, compared to the narrow geographical confines of people a mere two centuries ago.
We are all, increasingly, “citizens of the world,” that is, social, cultural, and economic cosmopolitans. National, like municipal, county, and state, boundaries may serve as useful administrative units and jurisdictions for administering law enforcement and other protections of people’s individual rights. But they are unnatural and obstructive in terms of the free and spontaneous patterns of human society outside of and beyond the political lines on maps marking the borders of nation-states.