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Constituent PowerLaw, Popular Rule and Politics$
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Matilda Arvidsson, Leila Brännström, and Panu Minkkinen

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474454971

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474454971.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

Populism: Plebeian Power against Oligarchy

Populism: Plebeian Power against Oligarchy

(p.183) 10 Populism: Plebeian Power against Oligarchy
Constituent Power

Camila Vergara

Edinburgh University Press

The term populism has recently gone viral, being attached to disparate leaders and groups appealing to ‘the people.’ While mass media has labelled leaders from Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn to Donald Trump and Marie Le Pen as populists — even if for different reasons — academia has been unable to determine if populism is a democratic or antidemocratic force. This chapter refutes the latest rebranding of populism as an anti-pluralist, exclusionary form of politics, and argues to redraw the contours of the concept against an Arendtian conception of totalitarianism, by understanding populism normatively, as grounded on a plebeian ideology of emancipation. Engaging with republican thought, I propose a normative theory of populism as a form of politics aimed at emancipating and empowering the people-as-plebs against increasing oligarchic domination. I argue that modern populism is an electoral type of plebeian politics born out of the politicization of inequality and aimed at reforming liberal democracies to increase popular welfare and power within the governing structure. I contrast this republican conception of populism to totalitarianism, arguing that populist and totalitarian forms of politics are two different responses to crisis that should remain distinct.

Keywords:   Populism, plebeian power, Arnedt

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