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What is Producerism?

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Producerism is a core component of
repressive and right-wing populist ideology

Producerism divides the nation into the producers versus the "parasites"

Calls to rally the virtuous "producing classes" against evil "parasites" at both the top and bottom of society are based on a tendency called producerism. Producerism a doctrine that champions the so-called producers in society against both “unproductive” elites and subordinate groups defined as lazy, sinful, immoral, or subversive.

Forms of repressive right wing populism weave producerism into conspiracy theories about elite power and a lazy, sinful, and subversive freeloaders who dain society of its vigor. Today we see examples of it in some sectors of the Christian Right, in the Patriot movements and armed militias, and in the Far right.
(see chart of US right).

What did Mitt Romney mean when he talked about 47% of Americans being freeloaders: The takers versus the makers?

Producerism begins in the US with the Jacksonians, who wove together intra-elite factionalism and lower-class Whites’ double-edged resentments. Producerism became a staple of repressive populist ideology.  Producerism sought to rally the middle strata together with certain sections of the elite. Specifically, it championed the so-called producing classes (including White farmers, laborers, artisans, slaveowning planters, and “productive” capitalists) against “unproductive” bankers, speculators, and monopolists above—and people of color below.

After the Jacksonian era, producerism was a central tenet of the anti-Chinese crusade in the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews.

Kazin points out that as it developed in the nineteenth century,

...the romance of producerism had a cultural blind spot; it left unchallenged strong prejudices toward not just African-Americans but also toward recent immigrants who had not learned or would not employ the language and rituals of this variant of the civic religion. . . . Even those native-born activists who reached out to immigrant laborers assumed that men of Anglo-American origins had invented political democracy, prideful work habits, and well-governed communities of the middling classes.

In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews. Producerism, with its baggage of prejudice, remains today the most common populist narrative on the right, and it facilitates the use of demonization and scapegoating as political tools.

The Producerist Narrative in Repressive Right Wing Populism
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Our conception of producerism is derived from Alexander Saxton’s discussion of the “Producer Ethic” as an ideology of the early White labor movement that “emphasized an egalitarianism reserved for whites.” (Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America [London: Verso, 1990], p. 313.) See also White Republic, p. 298; and Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), pp. 21-22, 52, 265-69.

Our conception is also deeply influenced by Moishe Postone’s discussion of how modern antisemitism draws a false dichotomy between “productive” industrial capital and “parasitic” finance capital. See Postone, "Anti-Semitism and National Socialism: Notes on the German Reaction to ‘Holocaust,’" new german critique 19 (Winter 1980), pp. 97-115, esp. pp. 106-13.

We use the term producerism in a different way than Catherine McNicol Stock does in her book Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996). Stock portrays producerism simply as a form of populist antielitism, separate from (though sometimes coinciding with) attacks on people of color. In our view, producerism intrinsically involves a dual-edged combination of anti-elitism and oppression (in the US setting, usually in the form of racism or antisemitism, but also sexism and homophobia) and it is precisely this combination that must be addressed.

--Adapted from Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.

The Sucker Punch Series at Political Research Associates:

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Summary: What this Book is About

Overview: Key Characteristics of Right-Wing Populism

Roots of Populism in the US

Table of Contents | List of Chapters

Bibliography from the Book

Sectors of the Right in the US (updated)

Praise for the Book (Blurbs)

Critical Reviews of the Book

About the Authors


Additional Resources
are Under Construction for 2016

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  • Chapter 14 -Battling the "New World Order"
    Patriots and Armed Militias
    (Download PDF at Guilford Press website)
    Explains the roots of the Oregon Standoff in 2016

Producerist White Nationalism | Addendums

Demonization and
| Addendums

Conspiracism | Addendums

  • Elites, Banksters, & Intellectuals
  • Money Manipulation
  • Liberal Treachery
  • Leftist Totalitarian Plots
  • Islamophophobia
  • Antisemitism

Apocalyptic Narratives &
Millennial Visions
| Addendums

  • Christian Nationalism
  • Apocalyptic Aggression

Click Here for More Online Updates on
Right-Wing Populism for 2016 at Research for Progress

See Also:

Chip's Website

Matthew's Website



More on Producerism

Four Key Aspects of
Right-Wing Populism in the US

Right-Wing Producerism

Demonization and Scapegoating

  • The Usual Suspects
    • Reds
    • Liberals
    • Intellectuals
    • Immigrants
    • Feminists
    • Homosexuals
  • Study Guide: The Tools of Fear


  • Elites, Banksters, & Intellectuals
  • Money Manipulation
  • Liberal Treachery
  • Leftist Totalitarian Plots
  • Islamophophobia
  • Antisemitism

Apocalyptic Narratives and
Millennial Visions

  • Christian Nationalism
  • Apocalyptic Aggression


Roots of Populism in the US

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