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Vulović, Marina, and Emilia Palonen. “Nationalism, populism or peopleism? Clarifying the distinction through a two‐dimensional lens.” Nations and Nationalism 29, no. 2 (2023): 546-561.


Prompted by recent scholarly debates on the distinction between populism and nationalism, we elaborate on the Laclaudian understanding of populism as an antagonistic form of us-building/community-making that relies on the extension of equivalential chains between demands. From this heuristic perspective, populism can be understood as an empty form to be filled with different contents, such as nationalism. Our radically anti-essentialist stance combines Laclau’s formalist conceptualisation of populism and Brubaker’s work on nationalism. We highlight the ontological dimension of populism, as a form of us-building, and the ontic dimension, as an array of discursive repertoires that fill the form, such as ‘the people’ for peopleism. We explore the ontological–ontic distinction through the case of Narodism in Serbia. Conceptualising populism two-dimensionally contributes both to debates on the ‘core’ of populism and to cases where articulations of ‘the people’ coincide with expressions of nationhood, civilisationalism and culturalism, rather than being entirely the same.

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.