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Photo: “Budapest: Hungarian Parliament“, by Jorge Franganillo licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Tushnet, Mark, and Bojan Bugaric. Power to the People: Constitutionalism in the Age of Populism. Oxford University Press, 2021.


Self-described populist leaders around the world are dismantling their nation’s constitutions. This has led to a widespread view that populism as such is inconsistent with constitutionalism. This book proposes that some forms of populism are inconsistent with constitutionalism, while others aren’t. Context and detail matter.

Power to the People offers a thin definition of constitutionalism that people from the progressive left to the conservative right should be able to agree on even if they would supplement the thin definition with other more partisan ideas. This is followed by a similarly basic definition of populism. Comparing the two, this book argues that one facet of populism -its suspicion of institutions that are strongly entrenched against change by political majorities-is sometimes inconsistent with constitutionalism’s thinly understood definition.

The book provides a series of case studies, some organized by nation, others by topic, to identify, more precisely, when and how populist programs are inconsistent with constitutionalism and, importantly, when and how they are not. Concluding with a discussion of the possibilities for a deeper, populist democracy, the book examines recent challenges to the idea that democracy is a good form of government by exploring possibilities for new, albeit revisable, institutions that can determine and implement a majority’s views without always threatening constitutionalism.

Table of Contents:


Part One: The Framework

  • Chapter 1. What Is Constitutionalism?
  • Chapter 2. What Is Populism?
  • Chapter 3. Populism and Constitutionalism

Part Two: Populism in Practice

  • Chapter 4. Populist Authoritarianism: Hungary and Poland
  • Chapter 5. The Problem of the Frankenstate
  • Chapter 6. Populism in Western Europe
  • Chapter 7. Southern Europe: Greece and Spain
  • Chapter 8. Court- Packing or Court Reform?: Challenging Judicial Independence by Enhancing Accountability
  • Chapter 9. Populism and Executive Power: Term Limits and Rule by Decree
  • Chapter 10. Guardrails and Institutions

Part Three: Constitutionalism After Populism

  • Chapter 11. Rejecting Democracy
  • Chapter 12. Power to the People: Empowered Democracy


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.