Can populism help invigorate liberal democracy?


Although the revolutions of 1989 seemed to promise a new “post-ideological” era of liberal-democratic ascendancy, we have long been caught in a powerful authoritarian undertow that often goes by the name of “populism,” notes Jeffrey C. Isaac. In this timely and illuminating book, political scientist Jan-Werner Müller analyzes that phenomenon while warning that it “tends to pose a danger to democracy,” he writes in a review of Müllers What Is Populism? for the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy:

Brief but rich in insights, What Is Populism? offers a powerful critique of populist antiliberalism. But Müller’s account is not without flaws. To begin with, it takes an overly narrow approach to the range of political projects covered by the term “populism.” It also falters by conflating the concepts of “democracy” and “liberal democracy.” And while Müller astutely warns of the “dangers” that populism can present to liberal democracy, he fails to give full credit to the role that certain kinds of populism have played and can play in invigorating liberal democracy.


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