Nadia Urbinati | Political Theory of Populism

By Nadia Urbinati 

Forthcoming in The Annual Review of Political Science


Populism is the name of a global phenomenon whose definitional precariousness is proverbial. It resists generalizations and makes scholars of politics comparativist by necessity, as its language and content are imbued with the political culture of the society in which it arises. A rich body of socio-historical analyses allows us to situate populism within the “gigantic” and global phenomenon called democracy, as its ideological core is nourished by the two main entities, the nation and the people, that have fleshed out popular sovereignty in the age of democratization.  Populism consists in a transmutation of the democratic principles, the majority and the people, in a way that is meant to celebrate “a part” of the people against another one through a leader embodying it and an audience legitimizing it.  This may make populism collide with constitutional democracy, even if its main tenets are embedded in the democratic universe of meanings and language…. To continue reading, see below.


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