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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

Rosanvallon, Pierre. The Populist Century: History, Theory, Critique. John Wiley & Sons, 2021.


Populism is an expression of anger; its appeal stems from being presented as the solution to disorder in our times. The vision of democracy, society, and the economy it offers is coherent and attractive. At a time when the words and slogans of the left have lost much of their power to inspire, Pierre Rosanvallon takes populism for what it is: the rising ideology of the twenty-first century. In The Populist Century he develops a rigorous theoretical account of populism, distinguishing five key features that make up populist political culture; he retraces its history in modern democracies from the mid-nineteenth century to the present; and he offers a well-reasoned critique of populism, outlining a robust democratic alternative. This wide-ranging and insightful account of the theory and practice of populism will be of great interest to students and scholars in politics and the social sciences and to anyone concerned with the key political questions of our time.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Conceptualizing Populism

Part 1: Anatomy

  • A Conception of “The People”: The People as One Body
  • A Theory of Democracy: Direct, Polarized, Immediate
  • A Mode of Representation: A Leader Embodying the People
  • A Politics and a Philosophy of Economics: National Protectionism
  • A Regime of Passions and Emotions
  • The Unity and Diversity of Populisms

Part 2: History

  • History of Populist Moments I: Caeserism and Illiberal Democracy in France
  • History of Populist Moments II: The Years 1890 – 1914
  • History of Populist Moments III: The Latin American Laboratory
  • Conceptual History: Populism as a Democratic Form

Part 3: Critique

  • Introduction
  • The Issue of Referendums
  • Polarized Democracy vs. Pluralized Democracy
  • From an Imaginary People to a Constructable Democratic Society
  • The Horizon of Democratorship: The Issue of Irreversability

Conclusion: The Spirit of an Alternative

Annex: History of the Word “Populism”

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.