Populism, Cleavages, and Democracy


Since the Eighties populist parties have gained a growing electoral consensus in many coun-tries. The current wave of populism, that can be called as "multifaceted populism", is the third of three waves that occurred over the years. Building on Rokkan's cleavage theory, the present study intends to argue that the three different waves were originated by the same cleavage. Such a cleavage is characterized by the opposition between the elite and the people, and by the opposition between a participatory conception of democracy and two other conceptions of democracy, namely the elitist and the constitutional ones. In other words, populism emerges to counteract the overly elitist or procedural traits that democracy can develop. But if, on the one hand, populism can help democracy to revitalize itself, on the other hand, it can promote a radical communitarian form of democracy, which is in contrast with the liberal system of checks and balances and may ultimately lead to an erosion of pluralism.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v11i1p202

Keywords: Populism; political parties; cleavages; democracy


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