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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

How the 'Places That Don't Matter' Fueled Populism

A geographer's new theory puts regional inequality ahead of personal inequity as a cause of revolt.
Places that once mattered.

Places that once mattered.

Photographer: Norbert Millauer/AFP/Getty Images

British writer David Goodhart's "somewhere versus anywhere" framework, pitting those who are left behind by modernity versus globalist cosmopolitans, has worked for many people as an explanation of recent populist successes throughout the Western world. But what if the places in which rooted "somewheres" live explain the populist phenomenon better than any other problems these people face in adapting to what passes for progress these days?

That, in a nutshell, is the idea London School of Economics professor of economic geography Andres Rodriguez-Pose puts forward: in other words, that populist ballot-box successes are a "revenge of the places that don't matter." Interpersonal inequality, he argues, isn't the driving force here. Territorial inequality is.