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Photo: “Meeting 1er mai 2012 Front National“, by Blandine Le Cain licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original.

Melito, Francesco. “Populism vs. Demagogism: What if Anti-populists are the Real Demagogues?.” Politologický časopis-Czech Journal of Political Science 28, no. 3 (2021): 229-244.


As the partisan meaning attached to ‘populism’ has provided this word with a negative stigma used to demonize alternative discourses, this article seeks to fill two gaps in the populist literature. First, it aims at retrieving the term ‘populism’ from a spurious understanding and reintroducing a forgotten word, which has become a synonym of populism and contributed to its negative aura: demagogy. Populism (bottom-up) and demagogy (top-down) are defined as opposite terms. While this distinction could be easily grasped from their etymological roots, it takes on a different dimension when seen from a hegemonic perspective. Second, elaborating on Gramsci and Laclau’s theory, it provides a theoretical basis for the study of anti-populism. Like populism, anti-populism results from a dislocatory experience as it is (negatively) defined by its populist antagonist. Besides considering its negative dimension, the article discusses the positivization of the anti-populist discourse, which resides in the (re)production of broken normality. Demagogism is a weapon in the hegemonic struggle between different discourses that aims to restore mainstream common sense (normality) against a counter-hegemonic project (populism). Finally, the article suggests that beyond anti-populism, demagogism, understood as a normalizing practice, could potentially be applied in the empirical analysis of neo-traditionalist discourses.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.