Populism, with Jan-Werner Müller

Jan-Werner Muller wrote the book on Populism. This week he joins Turi to discuss what he calls the ‘shadow of democracy’, and how to confront its global resurgence.

S2 E15: Populism

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

The last few decades have seen 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
  • How NOT to fight Populism

“Populism is only thinkable within Representative Democracy”

Works cited include:

Read the Full Transcript

Jan-Werner Müller

Jan-Werner Müller is Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Politics at Princeton University. He is the author of numerous books of political philosophy and history, including What is Populism.

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 14 Apr 2021 at 10:28 UTC