Andrea Gatto, Francesco Busato | Journal of Cleaner Production
We advocate for the relevance of taking Brazilian past experience and theorization of populism into account to understand present-day challenges. We depart from Weffort’s conceptualization of populism to discuss the role of businesspeople movements in supporting and taking control of the political agenda through think tanks. According to Weffort, populism is built over precarious alliances that tend to favor policy or politics in different moments. During times of divergence among political elites, a populist leader emerges as a mediator in orchestrating an unstable hegemony among asymmetric classes. At the same time, the classes included in the populist alliance give legitimacy to the populist leader; they hinder his capacity of imposing decisions. However, treason of the weakest within the alliance is certain. We suggest that the political role played by the think tank IPES, in 1960s Brazil, in reframing middle-class demands is akin to contemporary populist events in Brazil—represented by the election of Jair Bolsonaro—and in the Anglo-Saxon world. Trumpism and Brexit are examples of a still-powerful free-market ideology project wrapped up under a populist discourse (re)framed with the support of businessmen and think tanks. A corporate takeover of government and the imposition of a free-market agenda are certain, as it is the treason of the weakest in the populist coalition. CMS academics should engage with the demands that give birth to populist movements as a way to dispute the neoliberal hegemony and anti-democratic populist solutions.