Volume 37, 2020

Populism and Globalization

Rico Isaacs
Pages 45-65

Vico and Populism
the Return to a ‘Barbarism of Refection’

This essay brings Italian political philosopher Giambattista Vico’s thought to bear on the issue of contemporary populism. Contemporary populism can be refected in Vico’s cyclical philosophy of the three ages of civilisation: the divine, heroic and human ages (corso e ricorso). Contemporary populism represents a return to the barbarism of the heroic age through the descent into individualism and private interest, the return of divinely ordained rulers and the recourse to myth, violence and morality. Humankind’s reason has become corrupted by the complexity of highly developed society, releasing the destructive forces of contemporary populism and a descent into a ‘barbarism of refection’. Corsi e ricorsi illustrates how contemporary populism remains but a stage in the Vichian cycle, alluding to how it represents an essential form of political life throughout history.