How to Understand Political Jargon Related to Globalization

We explain populism, globalization, nativism, nationalism, neoliberalism, modernization, and other terms important for understanding modern world politics.

Other terms we cover include left and right, collectivism and individualism, elitism, industrialization, isolationism, inequality, free-trade, fair-trade, and more.

Thus, this page works as a catch-all for related sociopolitical terms related to globalization (most of which have their own detailed pages on our site).

Keep in mind none of these interrelated terms are good or bad on their own; they simply describe individual and group behavior and sentiment found in the global modern political left and right (and, fun aside, they are at the core of what created the factions of the World Wars AKA “why we care”).

These ideas are typically good in moderation and within reason, but bad in extremes (see World Wars quip above).

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the spirit of Western Democracy is dependent on the balancing of populist, nationalist, nativist, elitist, liberal, conservative, modernist, globalist, and other valid but divisive sentiments, embracing the merits of each while avoiding the pitfalls of any.

Consider checking out the video below for an overview of the root topic, globalization.

Globalization and Trade and Poverty: Crash Course Economics #16

TIP: Two important related concepts to keep in mind when discussing the following political ideologies. 1) Left and right: where left is toward classical liberalism and liberty, and right is toward authority and traditional conservatism. 2) Collectivism and Individualism: Collectivism favors the collective and collective rights (generally left) and individualism favors individuals and individual rights (generally right).

TIP: Globalization refers to trade, cultural integration, and an expanding world. Nativism and protectionism are the push-backs against this. Sometimes people are like “oh Communism sounds good, there isn’t enough equality, we should force everyone to be equal” and sometimes people are like “no Fascism, our group first, we hate banks, we want small government and liberty, blah, blah, blah”… not because of Marx or Mises, but because the human condition naturally expresses itself in this way and throws a total tantrum when the scales are out balance due to issues like extreme economic inequality (that is the point of Mises’ and Marx’s work incase you missed it). For a discussion focused on globalization and protectionism, see: Neoliberal Globalization and Nativist Protectionism Explained.

TIP: Populism comes in many forms, but generally it is at a minimum “not elite”. With that in mind, populism can generally describe any “popular” sentiment (like Free Silver, the New Deal, or even Popular Sovereignty and Segregation in the South). Populism isn’t about the issue, it’s about popular support (or in some cases, “popular sentiment” in a region). It doesn’t need to be a majority movement, it just needs to be a people’s movement of some sort. Typical types of populism are left-leaning progressive populism (example: demanding more Civil Rights and workers’ rights like “The People’s Party“) and conservative nativist populism (example: opposing Civil Rights, and the related change, in a radically conservative way, like “the Know-Nothings“). A populist movement generally has economics or social justice at the heart of it, and it is typically pushing back against some authority figure be it the upper-class or the state. Or at least that is the gist, learn more about populism below or see an essay on populism.

What is Nativism? What is a Nativist?

Nativism is a term that describes favoring and protecting the native born population of a country, this can span from patriotism to an isolationist anti-immigrant (or worse) sentiment. The NAZI party was Nativist, as they rejected non-blue-eyed-blonde-hair-Germanic people. Likewise the KKK are Nativist. A more moderate and less extreme version of Nativist policy includes the Federalists (America’s first liberal-conservative Party) supporting the strengthening of immigration laws via the Alien and Sedition Acts. Another type of Nativism could be a protectionist clause in a trade agreement. Mundanely, a Nativist view can even be something as simple as a hometown celebrating their home team (like Yankees fans in New York cheering on their team and booing the Red Sox).[1]

When you are pro-native population, and anti-others, out of reason or prejudice, warranted or not, you are being a Nativist. See arguments often used in defense of Nativist policies.

Nativism History

What is Nationalism? Nationalism is just a form of nativism that specifically indicates an allegiance to a nation or region. Nativism is a broad term that describes a native population and can include a sub-group like class, political affiliation, race, or religion. Nativists and Nationalists can sometimes be the same, like with WWII German NAZIs, but they are unique terms. Consider the Confederates were Nativists trying to secede because they didn’t want “Big Government” telling them what to do. They weren’t strictly Nationalists (at least not Union Nationalists), but they were Nativist. This is to say Nationalism is allegiance to a nation, nativism is an allegiance to a culture.[2]

Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism: Crash Course World History #34

FACT: Nativism doesn’t have to be “bad,” but it does tend to go there when it becomes a mass movement. Nativist movements included the Know Nothing or American Party of the 1850s, the Immigration Restriction League of the 1890s, the anti-Asian movements in the West, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the “Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907” by which Japan’s government stopped emigration to the United States. Labor unions were strong supporters of Chinese exclusion and limits on immigration, because of fears that they would lower wages and make it harder to organize unions.

What is Populism? What is a Populist?

Populism is a term that means “representative of the people,” or at least the perceived majority regardless of what it is the masses want or whether it is just. It favors public sentiment, and not special interest or elites, regardless of the consequences.[3]

In ways, populism is simply the antithesis elitism (the favoring a specific group based on class, wealth, skill, or experience).[4]

In America’s founding factions, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, the Federalists who want a strong central government, bank, and trade are being more elitist then the social-libertarian-conservative Anti-Federalists who focus on individual rights and freedoms (despite the economic and military consequences of the Anti-Federalist’s populist nativist approach to government, banking, and trade).

One could easily make a case for both the more elite Federalists and more populist Anti-Federalists. It seems short sighted to dismiss “elite” opinions that value order and structure when their positions are gained by skill and experience (for instance a New York banker or politician like Burr or Hamilton), but of course it is equally short sighted to dismiss the will of the people and the needs and experience of those outside of elite circles (for instance the popular sentiment behind Jefferson and Madison and their push for the Bill of Rights). Of course, this is why we get a Representative Democracy in America instead of a Constitutional Monarchy or Pure Democracy, it uses separation and balance of power along with a Democratic spirit to find a middle ground between populism and elitism.

When you put people’s sentiment over the view of narrower interests and move toward the many and away from the few, you are a Populist. When you put class, wealth, skill, or experience above the will of the people, you are elitist. When your doctor tells you to take your medicine because she has a Doctorate in medicine and you just read webMD, she is an elitist. When you tell King George III “no taxation without representation”, you are a populist. Etc.

Populism and the Populist Movement in America for Dummies…. Cool! Power to the people! How can this turn out badly? It does about half the time.

TIP: Populists can be left or right and can band around any popular issue. A lynch mob can be populist, but likewise, a push for workers rights over employer rights is also populist. Pure Democracy is very populist, an aristocracy is more elitist, and a Representative Democracy like America’s Federal Republic is somewhere in between, especially when we consider the separation of powers, state and federal government, and the house and senate.

TIP: In many ways, in America and parts of the West, progressivism is a populist social movement and response to the corruption of the industrial era. Tellingly the progressive era of the Fourth Party system follows industrialization (the transition from an agrarian society to industrial society) in the Third Party system. Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party Platform from 1912 for a left-leaning populist “third party” platform, or consider the more modern Tea Party (a nativist populist political faction which formed primarily as a response to “elitist” progressive politics).

TIPHegemonic stability theory (HST) is a theory of international relations, that indicates that the international system is more likely to remain stable when a single nation-state is the dominant world power or hegemony. So, the idea that America is a superpower is a good peace-keeping system. This is an elitist theory with populist undertone which pairs well with globalization.[5]

Charles Murray on populism, globalization, “The Bell Curve,” and American politics today.

What is Globalization?

Globalization is an idea rooted in the liberal principles of fair trade and “free” trade (but often including protectionist policies, tariffs, and regulations).

The concept being that a Global economy brings prosperity and peace through a relationship of sharing wealth, knowledge, culture, credit, and debt. Extrapolating from this we get three main types of globalization: [6]

  • Economic globalization is the globalization of trade, production, markets, money, competition, technology, corporations, and industries. It increases economic interdependence of national economies.
  • Cultural globalization is the globalization of ideas, meanings, values, beliefs, and cultures. It increases the interconnectedness among different populations and cultures.
  • Political globalization is the globalization of ideals, laws, governmental and non-governmental power structures, and other order-based models. It fosters interconnectedness among governments and broadens the scope of those relationships.

The effect is meant to be uplifting to most if not all parties involved, but of course, economics, politics, and individual intentions can be complex (especially when we consider elite special interests of any type). Bringing a major company into a country can create jobs, but it can take jobs away from the native country and exploit the new country if “fair” trade agreements are enacted and followed. In other words, Globalization is a broad term that is good at its core, but complex and not without dangers in practice.

On a good day, Globalization makes us exclaim, “as if by divine providence, a new world order!” Trade can bring order to an otherwise hostile world, and usher in global Enlightenment. On a bad day, we can focus on the exploitation of the world’s workers and resources for the benefit of an elite class in the West. Only a small portion of that wealth trickles down to the general population, which of course breeds some nasty brands of anti-globalist populism and nativism.

The concept of Globalization may seem fishy, but most scholars will be quick to defend trade as being one of humankind’s saving graces and a cornerstone of liberalism despite its sticking points.

We can look to mercantilism from the Middle Ages on and see how it affected the European Enlightenment. Trade stood as the only political power other than Church or Divine right of kings, and Absolute monarchies. We can also consider the post-WWII trade in the west which brought a previously unheard of era of peace and prosperity. We can look back to the Silk Road, or ponder Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, etc.[7]

When we take a close look, we see that none of the pros and cons of globalization are without merit. It isn’t always easy to look past “barons,” monopolies, and cronyism (government in bed with business) and see the benefits of trade, but it is worth a close examination. It may be only an ideal in some respects, but the concept of “fair trade,” despite its potential cronyism and drawbacks, may solve many problems because it is rooted in ethical and moral sentiment.

Globalization I – The Upside: Crash Course World History #41.

TIP: In America, and many parts of the world, Globalization has led both the richest and poorest having more wealth. This means it both lifted up the bottom and created a wealth gap (inequality). Globalization also impacts the environment (with all the shipping, travel, and industrialization). Globalization has also, specifically in America, led to a consumer and service-based economy where blue collar jobs are shipped across seas. None of these are “good” or “bad,” but they all do require consideration.

TIP: Some nativist populists reject globalization due to “wanting to bring jobs back home” and to focus on their nation’s workers. Some progressive populists reject globalization when it doesn’t include fair trade or it exploits the workers of other nations. The nativist populist anti-globalization sentiment is an individualistic one; the progressive populist anti-globalization sentiment is collectivist.

TIPLiberalism is a philosophy arising in the Age of Enlightenment based on reason, liberty, and equality. Classical liberalism, social liberalism, libertarianism, and neoliberalism are types of liberalism. We can consider each type to have a different “liberal” view on trade. Today we might consider the class that favors big banks and merchants to be right-wing. That isn’t totally wrong, but when the push is toward a social program or an inclusive policy, it is a liberal type of conservatism. It is what we today might loosely call “neoliberal,” a sort of a mix between libertarian, social liberal, and conservative. This makes sense when you realize the first conservative powers were Churches and Kings. “Barons of industry” would be one of the world’s only counter-balancing political forces despite its elitist nature! Before getting too cheery about Barons and their pure-free-market libertarian principles, we must consider the Barons’ wars. In these wars, the Baron’s fought for their rights against the Kings resulting in some of the first important human rights documents for Barons only, like the Magna Carta. We must also consider that time the Baron’s enslaved everyone prior to Solon in Athens.

Understanding Neoliberalism From the Perspective of Globalization

When we consider the semi-free-market and think more Keynes than Smith, we find pro-trade and pro-finance figures in the socially-left but economically-right-wing in the west. They stretch back to the birth of liberalism during the Age of Enlightenment, and define their ideology as “neoliberalism.” We can say that globalization is the core ideology of the pro-globalization neoliberals.[8]

  • This can be contrasted by social liberals, especially populist semi-nativist social liberals (“progressives” in America 2016), who typically put all the nation’s people, especially the marginalized, before global economics for better or worse (in sentiment at least). These are typically found in the Green or Democratic party.
  • This stands in contrast to pro-trade social liberals like much of America’s Democratic party sans the more progressive nativists, who see globalization as a means to progressivism and pair well with (or simply are) neoliberals.
  • This may also be compared to populist-nativist-conservatives, who put only their nation’s own people, and sometimes a subsection of those people, first in sentiment at least. This group is typically anti-globalization except sometimes with an exception for military globalization and the globalization of native businesses. This group comprises a good bit of America’s Republican party.
  • We can also contrast this with Neocons, who tend to favor Nativist big businesses over global trade, but support globalization when it favors specific businesses or entities. So a nativist, but not populist, right-wing movement. Typically found in the Republican or Libertarian party.
  • We can also contrast this with Libertarians who simply favor a free trade be it global or national, and thus, aside from neoliberals, would be the other primary supporter of free-trade globalization, but the main opponent of fair-trade global policies (as that will always involve government intervention, and thus stand against libertarianism).

None of the above ideologies is fully right or wrong, and confusingly in America they are essentially represented by two parties instead of 5 or 6, but despite these things they are important. An event like Brexit can be explained in these terms, for example Britain chose social and conservative Nativist Populism, driven by a distrust of the elite and fear of immigration, over a pro-globalization stance, which could hinder British modernization and influence in the global economy of trade, culture, and politics. Likewise, we can use these terms to understand how to avoid extremes and find a balance of ideologies in the 2016 elections in America (notice all the populist and nativist sentiment as expressed by the candidate’s platforms, especially of “third parties”).

Globalization II – Good or Bad?: Crash Course World History #42.

TIP: Modernization means one wants progressive polices that are forward moving rather than traditional. So when slavery becomes a big issue in America, and the pro-trade North wants to expand American trade and industrialization, modernization means letting go of old nativist policy and becoming modern by embracing social and economic changes. It means being willing to let go of old horse-and-buggy types businesses and to embrace new markets despite the turmoil that comes with it, and in America specifically it meant social changes that were uncomfortable despite them being the right thing to do.  The core sentiment revolving around that concept, the concept of progress and becoming modern, is the sentiment that revolves around globalization. What seems like a raw deal for one group (in the case of slavery, the southern plantation owners), is still arguably the correct move from a historical standpoint for a nation.[9]

TIP: The argument for Globalization starts as far back as political thought. Outside of Kings and Churches, the main rulers and peacekeepers of society have been money and trade. A global system of trade acts to ensure the principles of liberalism, filling a vital role when Kings and Churches falter. The main argument is over what brand of globalization or nativism a given country may favor. Do we trust the free-market like Friedman suggests, or a social market economy? Do we go further left? Do we favor free trade or fair trade? Do we write protectionist policies or do we favor others? Do we force our viewpoints, or do we promote them letting them win on their merit? How much do we intervene? How much do we close ourselves off? Do we let elites run the ship, or defer to popular sentiment? These are questions every nation has to ask themselves as technology inevitably drives us all toward the global stage.

TIP: The American founding father Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists pushed for Globalization since day 1 (a view the north favored), while Jefferson and Madison pushed against this (a view the south favored). Hamilton wants to get rid of the Articles of Confederation and enact the Constitution, Jefferson and Madison want the Bill of Rights, and so it goes. The big difference between today and any point in the past isn’t in the core sentiment of people or the way we create factions; it is that now we all have the internet and can look up the larger conversation which grows with importance as technology advances. Some would argue that the future lies in ensuring the economic and cultural growth and wealth of all nations and spreading Enlightenment, without sacrificing the safety or wealth of one’s hometown. This, of course, means balancing the above ism’s and realizing that each underlying sentiment has its place today just as it always has.


  1. Nativism
  2. Nationalism
  3. Populism
  4. Elitism
  5. Hegemonic stability theory (HST)
  6. Globalization
  7. Mercantilism
  8. Neoliberalism
  9. Modernization

"Populism, Globalization, Nativism, Nationalism, and Other Such Terms" is tagged with: American Politics, England, Left–right Politics, Liberty, Markets, Money, United States of America

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