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Photo: “Booths at Ethete Polling Station“, by WyoFile WyoFile, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Canovan, Margaret. “Trust the people! Populism and the two faces of democracy.” Political studies 47, no. 1 (1999): 2-16.


Populism, understood as an appeal to ‘the people’ against both the established structure of power and the dominant ideas and values, should not be dismissed as a pathological form of politics of no interest to the political theorist, for its democratic pretensions raise important issues. Adapting Michael Oakeshott’s distinction between ‘the politics of faith’ and ‘the politics of scepticism’, the paper offers an analysis of democracy in terms of two opposing faces, one ‘pragmatic’ and the other ‘redemptive’, and argues that it is the inescapable tension between them that makes populism a perennial possibility.

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.