Producerism is an ideology which holds that those members of society engaged in the production of tangible wealth are of greater benefit to society than, for example, aristocrats who inherit their wealth and station.
Robert Ascher traces the history of producerism back as early as the Diggers in the 1640s. This outlook was not widespread among artisans of the time because they owed their livelihoods to the patronage of the aristocracy, but by the time of the American Revolution, the producerist view was dominant among American artisans.
Rosanne Currarino identifies two varieties of producerism in the mid-19th Century: "proprietary producerism," which is popular among self-employed farmers and urban artisans, and "industrial producerism," which spoke to wage-laborers and is identified in particular with the Knights of Labor and the rise of socialism.
Producerism has seen a contemporary revival, sparked by popular opposition to the machinations of globalized financial capital and large, politically connected corporations. Critics of producerism see a correlation between producerist views, and views that are antagonistic toward lower income people and immigrants, such as nativism. These critics see producerism as analogous to populism. Examples of politicians or groups that are cited by these critics include the Reform Party of the United States of America, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and Lou Dobbs, as well as Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, Jörg Haider in Austria, and similar dissident politicians across Europe.
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Although producerism is primarily economic in emphasis, it also has a perspective on social issues. Namely it upholds the traditional values of the middle class as the only true national values. It defends those values against the corruption of decadent inherited wealth, and against the dangerous apathy and sloth it sees as being the inevitable consequence of dependency on a welfare state. Therefore, producerists tend to be patriotic but at the same time intensely distrustful of the State, which they believe to be under the control of forces hostile to the nation.[need quotation to verify]
Some have pointed out a similarity between producerism and certain Christian End Times narratives that prophesize betrayal by trusted political and religious leaders, with many citizens drifting into laziness and sin. The producerist emphasis on the inherent value of hard work is directly related to the Protestant work ethic, outlined by Weber. In the United States and in Europe it is often sympathetic towards conservative or Fundamentalist/Primitive Christianity, seen as a defender against both the moral degeneracy of the poor and the rapaciousness of unbridled capitalism. But producerism is not tied to a specific religious world view, and its emphasis on economics, labor, and class resentments embues it with a materialism not entirely compatible with a purely religious outlook.[need quotation to verify]
- Ascher, Robert, "Producerism is consciousness of class," Organized labor and American politics : 1894-1994 : the labor-liberal alliance, Albany : State Univ. of New York Press, 1998, pp. 53-55
- Currarino, Roseanne, The Labor Question in America: Economic Democracy in the Gilded Age, University of Illinois Press, 2011, pp. 13-15
- Stromquist, Shelton, "The crisis of 1894 and the legacies of producerism, The Pullman Strike and the crisis of the 1890s : essays on labor and politics, Urbana, Ill. [u.a.] University of Illinois Press 1999, p. 197
- Currarino, Roseanne, The Labor Question in America: Economic Democracy in the Gilded Age, University of Illinois Press, 2011, p. 118
- Westbrook, Robert B., Democratic hope : pragmatism and the politics of truth, Ithaca, N.Y : Cornell University Press, 2005, p.84
- Berlet, Chip & Lyons, Matthew N. (2000), Right-wing populism in America: Too close for comfort, New York: Guilford Press, ISBN 1-57230-562-2
- Betz, Hans-Georg (1994), Radical Right-wing Populism in Western Europe, New York: St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-08390-4
- Canovan, Stock, Kazin
- Kazin, Berlet & Lyons