Jan-Werner Müller


Professor of Politics, Princeton University

Visiting Fellow
(September 2016 – August 2017)


Christian Democracy: A New Intellectual History

Political thought grouped under the rubric “Christian Democracy” is often considered as profoundly unoriginal and as the product of politicians and party activists (rather than political philosophers). I argue that there is an important body of thought responding to the challenge of how to reconcile Christianity and modern democracy in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe. In particular, I trace three strategies for finding a place for Christianity—and Catholicism in particular—in the modern democratic order (or, put differently, strategies to make democracy safe for Catholicism): the idea of creating or re-creating a Christian demos; the notion of constraining the demos through recognizably Christian institutions; and, lastly, Christian Democratic party politics. I also–very tentatively–suggest some lessons from this history, especially for thinking about the relationship between Islam and democracy today.


Previous stays at the IWM:
July August 2014, Visiting Fellow



Jan-Werner Müller:
Populists Are Likely to Benefit from the Coronavirus Pandemic

April 16, 2020
Populists in power are likely to benefit from a “rally 'round the flag” effect, unless they appear as do-nothing retrogrades. More importantly, populists can still deploy their key strategy of dividing citizens against each other and blaming minorities for all sorts of problems, says Jan-Werner Müller, former IWM Visiting Fellow.
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Austria: The Lesson of the Far Right

The presidential election situation that arose in Austria in May and will be repeated in October—a run-off between the Greens and the far right—has never occurred in Europe before. But it starkly reveals a fundamental political conflict that can be found in many Western democracies today. This conflict is not meaningfully described as one of “ordinary people versus the establishment.” In Austria, both the Freedom Party and the Green Party have been “established” since the mid-1980s; in Britain, Boris Johnson, one of the main faces of the Brexit campaign, is about as establishment as one can get in the UK; and Donald Trump is hardly the authentic representative of Main Street. Rather, on one side of the new conflict are those who advocate more openness: toward minorities at home and toward engagement with the world on the outside.
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Behind the New German Right

Throughout its postwar history, Germany somehow managed to resist the temptations of right-wing populism. Not any longer. It is now possible to be an outspoken nationalist without being associated with—or, for that matter, without having to say anything about—the Nazi past.
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Parsing Populism: Who Is and Who Is Not a Populist These Days

Donald Trump is but Bernie Sanders isn’t; Syriza is, sometimes. Contemporary populism is not just anti-elitist, but also necessarily anti-pluralist, and in this exclusive claim to representation lies its profoundly undemocratic character.
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Putinism, Orbanism… But Is There an “Ism”?

Putin and Orbán want to be strong leaders of what are essentially weak countries. Their goal is not an ideological world revolution, but a game of outsmarting the West.
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Europe’s Other Democracy Problem

Not just British Eurosceptics complain incessantly about the EU’s ‘democratic deficit’. Across the continent, European citizens feel that, as the cliché goes, ‘distant and bureaucratic Brussels’ is not democratically accountable. It may turn out that this year’s elections to the European Parliament, for all their faults, were a start in rendering the Union more democratic.
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Erdoğan and the Paradox of Populism

The triumph of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey’s first direct presidential election is no surprise. Erdoğan is popular, and, as Prime Minister since 2003, he has been riding a wave of economic success. But he is also a populist, who has steadily tightened his grip on the state and the media, demonizing all critics (including former allies such as the expatriate cleric Fethullah Gülen) in the process.
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Moscow’s Trojan Horse. In Europe’s Ideological War, Hungary Picks Putinism

Late last month, in a speech in Transylvania, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced nothing less than his government’s break with liberal democracy. Orban’s words have made waves across the West, and his defenders have been busy insisting that he was only dismissing what he called “the liberal understanding of society”: in essence, ruthless capitalism and selfish individualism.
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“Der Populismus sieht nur demokratisch aus”

Der Populismus konfrontiere den liberalen demokratischen Mainstream mit seinen Versäumnissen, sagt der deutsche Politikwissenschafter Jan-Werner Müller, der die diesjährigen IWM Lectures in Human Sciences hielt.
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Real Problems – and How to Respond to Them

Populism is not just some form of political pathology. It also points at real problems, both in how democracy is justified as an ideal and in how actually existing democracies conduct themselves. For instance: what legitimately constitutes the boundaries of the “people”? The last lecture tried to make some headway in addressing these problems. The series as a whole finished with some thoughts on how best to respond to populists politically, culturally, and, sometimes, legally, and also ask whether it is possible to distinguish populists on the one hand from demagogues and democratic activists on the other.
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