Populism is a democratic phenomenon. Mobilised through available democratic freedoms, it’s a public protest by millions of people (the demos) who feel annoyed, powerless, no longer “held” in the arms of society.
That’s the populist moment when humiliated people lash out in support of demagogues promising them dignity. They do so not because they “naturally” crave leaders, or yield to the inherited “fascism in us all”.
Populism is everywhere on the rise. Why is this happening? Why are the peddlers of populism proving so popular? Are there deep forces driving the spread of their style of politics, and what, if anything, has populism to do with democracy? Is populism democracy’s essence, as some maintain?
Is the new populism therefore to be welcomed, harnessed and “mainstreamed” in support of more democracy? Or is populism on balance politically dangerous, a cultish recipe for damaging democracy by bringing to life what George Orwell termed the “smelly little orthodoxies” that feed demagogy, big business and bossy power?
Donald Trump wins the american president election and scholars from China to Brazil to Australia analyse the phenomena behind populism’s ascent in 2016.
Populism attracts people because it raises their expectations of betterment. But there’s a price. In exchange for promises of popular sovereignty, populism easily mass produces figures like Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Ancient Greeks knew democracy could be snuffed out by rich and powerful aristoi backed by demagogues ruling the people in their own name.
From CatchNews: Populism and democracy: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
These comments on the topical subject of populism have been gathered by the University of Sydney’s Sydney Democracy Network and its Democracy Futures team. SDN is a global network of researchers, journalists, activists, policy makers and citizens concerned with the future of democracy. The comments form part of a longer series on populism on The Conversation.