Rousseau’s Revenge: The Political Philosophy of Brexit

  • Andrew Glencross
Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)


The political philosophy behind Brexit was a product of disenchantment stemming from the political inequality associated with post-democracy. The referendum itself was an attempt to allay fears that popular opinion was being excluded on the EU issue. This chapter explains that political representation under post-democracy exacerbates the fundamental inequality between ruled and ruling that preoccupied Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Yet resorting to direct democracy to create political equality between governed and governing worked only momentarily. The challenge thus facing the British political establishment after Brexit is that of maintaining belief in the representativeness of the governing and in the sovereignty of the people. Rousseau’s revenge comes not by providing a counter-model of democracy, but rather by asking questions representative democracy struggles to answer.


Rousseau Post-democracy Representation Populism Popular sovereignty Article 50 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Glencross
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Politics and International RelationsAston UniversityBirminghamUnited Kingdom

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