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Alexander, Jefferey C., Peter Kivisto, Giuseppe Sciortino Populism in the Civil Sphere. John Wiley & Sons, 2020


Even as the specter of populism haunts contemporary societies, scholars have not been able to agree about what it is. Except for one thing: a deviation from democracy, the source, it seems, of the precarious position in which so many societies find themselves today. This volume aims to break the Gordian knot of “populism” by bringing a new social theory to bear and, in so doing so, suggesting that normative judgments about this misunderstood phenomenon need to be reconsidered as well. Populism is not a democratic deviation but a naturally occurring dimension of civil sphere dynamics, fatal to democracy only at the extremes.

Because populism is highly polarizing, it has the effect of inducing anxiety that civil solidarity is breaking apart. Left populists feel as if civil solidarity is an illusion, that democratic discourse is a fig leaf for private interests, and that the social and cultural differentiation that vouchsafes the independence of the civil sphere merely reflects the hegemony of narrow professional interests or those of a ruling class. Right populists share the same distrust, even repulsion, for the civil sphere. What seems civil to the center and left, like affirmative action or open immigration, they call out as particularistic; honored civil icons, such as Holocaust memorials, they trash. How can the sense of a vital civil center survive such censure from populism on the left and the right?

Populism in the Civil Sphere provides compelling answers to these fundamental questions. Its contributions are both sophisticated theoretical interventions and deeply researched empirical studies, and it will be of great interest to anyone concerned about the most important political developments of our time.

Table of contents

  • 1 – Populisms Cultural and Civil Dynamics
    • Populism: Politics as Usual
    • Populism as Binary
    • Populism as an Ideology
    • Populism as Moral
    • Populism as Irrational
    • Populism as Antipluralist
    • Populism as Civil Repair?
  • 2 – Disente and Duterte: The Cultural Bases of Antipopulism in the Philippines, 2001-2019
    • Populism and the Civil Sphere
    • Successful Antipopulism in the Philippines and the Sacred Representation of the Middle Class, 2001
    • Failed Antipopulism and the Profane Middle Class, 2016-2019
  • 3 – Uncivil Populism in Power: The Case of Erdoganism
    • Populists in Power
    • Populism in Turkey
    • Stages I and II: Erdogan’s Rise and Political Survival
    • Stage III: The Dilemma of Populism in Power
  • 4 – The Populist Transition and the Civil Sphere in Mexico
    • Patrimonialism, Democracy, and Populism
    • The Rise to Power
    • The Populist Transition
    • After the Transition
  • 5 – Far Right Populism in Poland and the Construction of a Pseudocivil Sphere
    • Populism, Nativism, and the Development of the Polish Pseudocivil Sphere
    • The Discursive Formation and Transformation of the PiS: The Smolensk Air Crash
    • The Mobilization of Civil Codes Against Authoritarian Populism: The Killing of the Mayor of Gdansk
    • Conclusion: From Populist Rhetoric to Authoritarian Politics
  • 6 – The “Thirteenth Immigrant”? Migration and Populism in the 2018 Czech Presidential Election
    • The Populism-Migration Nexus and the Civil Sphere in the Czech Republic
    • Czech Presidential Politics as a Narrative (Non)Battle
    • Conclusion: “These Are Good Times for Populism”
  • 7 – Memory Culture, the Civil Sphere, and Right-Wing Populism in Germany: The Resistible Rise of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD)
    • The Civil Sphere, Collective Memory, and Memory Culture
    • Memory Culture, the Civil Sphere, and National Identity in Postwar Germany
    • The Resistible Rise of the AfD
  • 8 – Populism and the Particularization of Solidarity: On the Sweden Democrats
    • Inverting the Civil Code
    • Appealing the Civil Code
    • Appropriating the Civil Code
    • Fracturing the Civil Sphere
  • 9 – Left Populism in a Communist Civil Sphere: The Lesson of Bo Xilai
    • Defining the Key Term “Populism”
    • Is Populism Intrinsic to Democracy? If so, How?
    • China and Civil Sphere Theory
    • Bo Xilai’s Populism
    • Was Bo Xilai a Populist Leader?
    • Conclusion: Culutral Resources for Populism
  • 10 – A Civil Sphere Theory of Populism: American Forms and Templates, from the Red Scare to Donald Trump
    • Language and Emergence in the Populism Literature
    • The Civil Sphere Theory of Language, and Its Relation to the Social
    • Toward a Civil Sphere Theory of Populism
    • A CST Analysis of Right-Wing American Populism: From the Red Scare to Donald Trump
  • Commentary: Demarcating Constructive from Destructive Populisms: Civil Translation v. Civic mimicry
  • Conclusion: Is Populism the Shadow of the Civil?
    • CST is a Theory of Democracy
    • Populist Promises, Populist Dangers
    • Mapping Populism
    • Radical Right-Wing Populism
    • Left Populism
    • Populism, Nonpopulism, and CST

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.