Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Populism and Progressivism

Populism vs Progressivism

In the late 19th to early 20th century, the ideas of populism and progressivism weren’t that well understood as opposed to how much the people knew about the existence of the democrats and republicans. Nevertheless, the populism and progressivism campaigns were all implanted to initiate national progress.

The standard conception of progressivism was leaning more on uplifting the country by means of socio-economic and political reforms while populism was more anti-capitalistic that favored agrarianism while opposing drastic modernization. In the long run, it has been discovered that the two movements were actually the same in terms of goals and objectives as both wanted change for the better. It’s just that they are different in terms of approach.

To put it simply, progressivism is academic in nature and seems to be more upper-class. As such, it was an idea supported by the rich and powerful individuals. Those who belong to the middle and upper classes were mostly dedicated to progressivism. This also includes the highly urbanized regions. Politicians also liked the idea of progressivism and highlighted charitable acts. It was a top-to-bottom approach where ideas mainly originated from the top tier and then later spread to the masses. Progressivists, as how they were called, moved for scientific advancement and societal perfection.

Populism is the other side of the same coin. It is a down-up movement, which suggests more involvement of the masses with regard to the procurement of ideas and also with important decision-making. It is in this light that popular social groups or organizations for the masses were formed like the Grange and Farmers’ Alliance. The populists also strove for the same kind of modernization as the progressivists but made sure not to compromise social justice. That’s why many view populism as a form of struggle between the elite and the lower classes.

With regard to its time of conceptualization, the populism campaign is said to have started in the latter part of the 19th century as a result of the great economic depression. It flourished in Texas which later spread towards the Dakotas. The peak of the populism movement was said to be during William Jennings Bryan’s triumph as president of the Democratic Party back in 1896. His group strongly supported the populism agenda. The progressive movement, on the other hand, originated during the early 20th century.


1.Those who follow or support progressivism are mostly elite, rich, and powerful politicians while those who support populism are the generally masses.
2.Progressivism is an up-down movement whereas populism is down-up in nature.
3.Populism is an older campaign theory than progressivism.

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1 Comment

  1. I like this kind of teaching and learning CIVILIZATIONS’ themes.thank you

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