The two sides of populism – the story of liberal democracy

Main researcher: Petr Agha, PhD., LL.M.
Institute of State and Law

There is no shortage of prominent voices warning how dangerous populism is, and that we must take immediate steps to fight it. When populism is framed this way, the implication is clear. However, does populism even exists as an entity analysable by social sciences? First of all its attitudes and movements gaining the spotlights that the political centre misunderstands and fears without the burden of having to explain exactly why. Populism, in this framing, is an easy label which labels and conceals much more profound structural changes of the designs of our societies.  The academic debate on populism shows us that making sense of this landscape requires more than just a usable definition of the P-word. In short, it shows us that we can’t really talk about populism without talking about our conflicting conceptions of democracy – and the question of what it truly means for citizens to be sovereign. Perhaps we assume, without much thought, that democracy is such a self-explanatory idea that we already know all there is to know about the subject. Or perhaps we have come to regard democracy in its existing western form – basically liberal democracy – as the only possible endpoint for the evolution of politics. Populism, though it comes in many forms, always reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Conference will be advertised on European academic fora, the confirmed speakers include Paul Blokker (Bologna) Zoran Oklopcic (Carleton) Alexander Somek (Vienna) Daniel Smilov (Sofia).