The Populist Challenge to Representative Democracy

Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 6:00pm - 7:30pm, IWM library

Populism is a relevant issue in contemporary politics and a theme subjected to contradictory interpretations. The paper proposes an analytical rendering of populism and argues that the components that make it a recognizable phenomenon are simplification and polarization of political divisions in the view of achieving a deeper unification of the masses against the existing elites and under an organic narrative that most of the time a leader embodies. Populism is thus internal to and a challenge of representative democracy; it competes with it on the meaning and practice of representation since it aims at a more genuine identification between the represented and the representatives.

Nadia Urbinati is Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory and Hellenic Studies at Columbia University.