Populism and the Pathology of Representative Politics



The study of populism is, like the phenomenon itself, limited in scope and duration, and somewhat episodic. It seems that populism acquires a certain intellectual currency at irregular intervals but lacks staying power. In consequence, populism is one of the most widely used but poorly understood political concepts of our time. This is a deficiency because, as I shall argue, it provides us with a useful tool for understanding the pathology of representative politics. Populism is not a universal concept that, once unlocked, will enable us to decipher all other political debates, but it is a useful secondary concept that, if used sensitively and systematically, will enable us to understand populist movements, and which will, perhaps more importantly, allow us to understand essential elements in the politics of representation.


Political Debate Populist Movement Direct Democracy Political Force Populist Mobilisation 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2002

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