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A Response to Undemocratic Liberalism

from “Populism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)” by Cas Mudde, Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser

“Populism is part of democracy. Rather than the mirror image of democracy, however, populism is the (bad) conscience of liberal democracy. In a world that is dominated by democracy and liberalism, populism has essentially become an illiberal democratic response to undemocratic liberalism. Populists ask uncomfortable questions about undemocratic aspects of liberal institutions and policies, such as constitutional courts and international financial institutions, and they give illiberal answers to them, which are often supported by large parts of the population (such as the reintroduction of the death penalty). Liberal democracy has an inherent (potential) tension between the wishes of the majority and the rights of the minority. Traditionally this has led to constitutional courts overruling governments, such as in the famous U.S. Supreme Court cases of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Roe v. Wade (1973), banning segregation and legalizing abortion, respectively. In the past decades unelected bodies and technocratic institutions, such as the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have established control over important policy domains, thereby seriously limiting the power of elected politicians. Because of the widespread implementation of neoliberal reforms and the adoption of programs such as New Public Management, national governments have become heavily constrained by private companies, transnational organizations, and the (in) visible hand of the market.”

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Category: Philosophy, Politics, Progressivism

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