Volume 7, 2018
Ethics and Interdependence
David M. Rasmussen
Reflections on the Nature of Populism and the Fragility of Democracy
Democracy in Crisis
This paper takes its point of departure from a prior reflection on John Rawls’ argument for a two-stage model which shelters the political from immediate contestation. I turn to an examination of populism first from an historical and then from a normative perspective. Historically, populism can be traced to early Roman times, while from a normative point of view, as the literature shows, populism lacks a clear definition. In my view this is derived from its essentially parasitical function in relationship to democracy. In the end, populism, which claims to be grounded on the immediacy of conflict, is exposed as a remnant of a pre-democratic past which does not and cannot accommodate itself to the ‘fact of pluralism’ that characterizes our contemporary democratic situation.