Enjoy millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more, with a free trial

Only $11.99/month after trial. Cancel anytime.

What Is Populism?
What Is Populism?
What Is Populism?
Ebook135 pages2 hours

What Is Populism?

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



Read preview

About this ebook

Donald Trump, Silvio Berlusconi, Marine Le Pen, Hugo Chávez—populists are on the rise across the globe. But what exactly is populism? Should everyone who criticizes Wall Street or Washington be called a populist? What precisely is the difference between right-wing and left-wing populism? Does populism bring government closer to the people or is it a threat to democracy? Who are "the people" anyway and who can speak in their name? These questions have never been more pressing.

In this groundbreaking volume, Jan-Werner Müller argues that at populism's core is a rejection of pluralism. Populists will always claim that they and they alone represent the people and their true interests. Müller also shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, populists can govern on the basis of their claim to exclusive moral representation of the people: if populists have enough power, they will end up creating an authoritarian state that excludes all those not considered part of the proper "people." The book proposes a number of concrete strategies for how liberal democrats should best deal with populists and, in particular, how to counter their claims to speak exclusively for "the silent majority" or "the real people."

Analytical, accessible, and provocative, What Is Populism? is grounded in history and draws on examples from Latin America, Europe, and the United States to define the characteristics of populism and the deeper causes of its electoral successes in our time.

Release dateSep 6, 2016
Read preview

Jan-Werner Müller

Jan-Werner Müller is Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences at Princeton University. He has been a fellow at All Souls College, Oxford and has held many visiting professorships. His public affairs commentary has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Foreign Affairs, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. His book Fear and Freedom won the Bavarian Book Prize in 2019.

Read more from Jan Werner Müller

Related to What Is Populism?

Related ebooks

Related articles

Reviews for What Is Populism?

Rating: 3.148936170212766 out of 5 stars

47 ratings3 reviews

What did you think?

Tap to rate

Review must be at least 10 words

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This is the kind of book I want to hand out on the street. It is a smart and interesting way to distinguish populism from democracy.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    Days after the US elections of 2016, while still in shock at the presidential result, I started to wonder what all this "populist" talk might portend. I had heard the term quite a bit in the previous months but felt I still didn't have a good grasp either of its meaning nor its history as a party, movement, whatever. There were a number of books out and I chose Muller's because of some good reviews and its brevity - about 90 pages, and perhaps 20 of those were notes. After reading the first dozen pages or so I knew I had made a mistake. It's in what I would call academic-speak and I detest academic speak. I checked a brief bio - sure enough, Muller was listed as a politics professor at a major Ivy League uni.Reading this book reminded me of college courses I took to complete some last semester requirements - you know the ones, word of mouth had it that there was no paper to write, no midterm, an easy A, only a one question essay final exam, but lots of boring lectures and you HAD to go. I only wanted to learn some basic stuff - how come populism doesn't seem to last very long?, was Hitler a populist? what can we expect from our new administration? is our new President a real populist or a FAKE populist? Instead I got words like pluralism, antipluralist, liberalism, individualism, materialism, atheism, majoritarinaism, constitutionalism,elitism, and ochlocracy. Yes, "ochlocracy", I hadn't heard that word for at least a week.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This may be called an excellent primer to populism. Abd, this is the third time I have read this book!For many of us, who call leaders populist, in our daily speech, there has never been a clear definition, or guideline, to defining what it is. This book provides this. It is a short book, and this makes it even more valuable, in my eyes, as there is little space wasted. Too often, people will write a long book because it is a good thing to do, and this then creates a lot of matter that obscures the subject. Jan-Werner Muller avoids this trap and goes to the heart of the subject.Could he have analysed more? I would say yes. For instance, what sort of populist would Bernie Sanders make, versus Trump. However, I assume that this was not the subject of the book. I can clearly see parallels in the India of today.So, overall, an excellent book.

Book preview

What Is Populism? - Jan-Werner Müller