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

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.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/0725513618813374
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,133
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

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.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

What Can We Hold Against Populism?Fabio Wolkenstein - 2015 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 41 (2):111-129.
De halve waarheid van het populisme.Bert Roermund - 2011 - Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy 40 (2):118-130.
Redeeming Redemption.Paul Breines - 1985 - Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary 1985 (65):152-158.
The Happy Gardener: On Populism, Democracy and Specters.Julián A. Melo - 2013 - Las Torres de Lucca: Revista Internacional de Filosofía Política 2 (2):21-45.
The Religiosity of Populism: The Sanctified and Abused Power of the People.Mao Xin - 2017 - Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 16 (47):62-75.
Democratic Education in the Mode of Populism.Andreas Mårdh & Ásgeir Tryggvason - 2017 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 36 (6):601-613.
Populism, Liberal Democracy and the Ethics of Peoplehood.Fabio Wolkenstein - 2016 - European Journal of Political Theory 18 (3):147488511667790.
C. Ruzza E S. Fella, Re-Inventing the Italian Right: Territorial Politics, Populism and «Post- Fascism».P. Colloca - 2011 - Polis: Research and studies on Italian society and politics 25 (2):311-312.


Added to PP index

Total views
13 ( #743,606 of 2,448,286 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #304,685 of 2,448,286 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes