Thesis Eleven 149 (1):10-30 (2018)

Abstract
This article re-examines current definitions of populism, which portray it as either a powerful corrective to or the nemesis of liberal democracy. It does so by exploring a crucial but often neglected dimension of populism: its redemptive character. Populism is here understood to function according to the logic of resentment, which involves both socio-political indignation at injustice and envy or ressentiment. Populism promises redemption through regaining possession: of a lower status, a wounded identity, a diminished or lost control. Highly moralized images of the past – historical or archetypal – are mobilized by populist leaders to castigate the present and accelerate the urgency of change in it. The argument is illustrated with Caesar’s Column, a futuristic novel written by the Minnesota populist leader Ignatius Donnelly. The complex and ambivalent structure of this dystopian novel – a textual source for the Populist Party manifesto in the 1890s, which stands in contrast with agrarian populism as everyday utopia – enables us to move beyond the polarized positions dominating the current debate. Reading Caesar’s Column ultimately shows that populism can be both a corrective and a danger to democracy, but not for the reasons usually stated in the literature.
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DOI 10.1177/0725513618813374
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References found in this work BETA

On Populist Reason.Ernesto Laclau - 2006 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 68 (4):832-835.
Why Populism?Rogers Brubaker - 2017 - Theory and Society 46 (5):357-385.

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