Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jan-Werner Müller on Populism

A new book by Professor Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton University)  has been published in German on Suhrkamp Verlag:

"Was ist Populismus? - Ein Essay

An excerpt is available here: "Schatten der Repräsentation: Der Aufstieg des Populismus". 

An English translation of the book is coming out on University of Pennsylvania Press later this year.

A recent paper by Jan-Werner Müller on populism is available here: "The people must be extracted from within the people" - Reflections on Populism" (pdf)

Excerpts from the paper:
"I wish to suggest that we need a theory of populism as a means to comprehend a political phenomenon that is neither just an ideology, nor a style, nor a particular kind of party or movement.  Populism, I contend, is a profoundly illiberal and, in the end, directly undemocratic understanding of representative democracy. (....)  
Populism is not about a particular social base or a particular set of emotions or particular policies; rather, it is a particular moralistic imagination of politics, a way of perceiving the political world which opposes a morally pure and fully unified – but ultimately fictional – people to small minorities who are put outside the authentic people. In other words, the people are not really what prima facie appear as the people in its empirical entirety; rather, as Claude Lefort put it, first ‘the people must be extracted from within the people’.
Most commonly, but not necessarily, ‘morality’ is specified with languages of work and corruption.  Populists pit the pure, innocent, always hard-working people against a corrupt elite who do not really work (other than to further their narrow self-interest), and, in right-wing populism, also against the very bottom of society (those who also do not really work and live off others). Right-wing populists typically construe an ‘unhealthy coalition’ between the elite that does not really belong and marginal groups that do not really belong either. (....)
While populism does not oppose the principles of representation and the practices of election, what populism necessarily has to deny is any kind of pluralism or social division: in the populist imagination there is only the people on the one hand and, on the other hand, the illegitimate intruders into our politics, from both above and from below, so to speak. And there is only one proper common good to be discerned by the authentic people."


See a video with Jan-Werner Müller's lecture last year in Amsterdam on "What is Populism" and an interview on populism with Jan-Werner Müller in Copenhagen, September 2013.

You can hear his lecture series on "We the People: On Populism and Democracy" held in Vienna in 2013:

* Lecture I: What Is Populism? 

* Lecture II: Intrusions of the People: Ideals of Popular Sovereignty in History

* Lecture III: Real Problems – and How to Respond to Them

Many more papers by Jan-Werner Müller here.

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