What Is Populism?

  • Harry CollinsEmail author
  • Robert Evans
  • Darrin Durant
  • Martin Weinel


Populism contrasts clearly with pluralist democracy. By treating the result of elections as representing ‘the will of the people’, populism misrepresents the enumerative face of society as the organic face and defines all opposition to the elected government as traitorous. Minorities, and the institutions and experts upon which the checks and balance of pluralist democracy depend, are, therefore, attacked by populist leaders. Populist leaders claim that their actions, however dictatorial, and however much they favour a specific group in society, are democratic—they represent the will of the people. Because populism, in its championing of the people, is anti-elitist, some commentators consider it can enliven democracy. In today’s world, however, the dangers are obvious: attacks on minorities and the control of what counts as expertise.


Populism Pluralist democracy Organic and enumerative faces of society Checks and balances The will of the people 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry Collins
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Evans
    • 1
  • Darrin Durant
    • 2
  • Martin Weinel
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Historical & Philosophical StudiesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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