Populism, with Jan-Werner Müller


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"Populism is a permanent shadow of modern representative democracy, and a constant threat"

The last few decades has seen a democratic drift, as populist leaders emerge all over the world - from Bolsonaro and Trump in the Americas, through Orban, Kaczynski and Erdogan in Europe, to Modi and Duterte in Asia.

Their policies have little in common, but in their approach to politics, in their populism, they share profound, and deeply undemocratic, tendencies.

Jan-Werner Muller conceptualises populism - that “moralistic imagination of politics” - as a triptych: Anti-Elite, Anti-Pluralist, and Identitarian. Populists arrogate the right to define who counts as ‘The People’, and to exclude all those who don’t fit the bill from full participation in civil and political life.

“The ‘People’ is singular - authentic, morally pure”

Listen to Jan-Werner Muller explain:

  • Why Corruption and Clientelism are structural features of Populism
  • Why Populists love social networks
  • How Populists fetishise the idea of ‘The People’
  • Populism’s genius: that it can destroy Democracy in the name of democracy
  • and How NOT to fight Populism

“Populism is only thinkable within Representative Democracy”

Works cited include:

Jan-Werner Müller

Jan-Werner Müller is a political philosopher and historian of political ideas working at Princeton University. He is the author of What is Populism.

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