Save

Discontent with Procedural and Meritocratic Democracy

Sandel’s Republican Contribution to Populism Studies

In: Populism
View More View Less
  • 1 Tilburg University145168, Tilburg, The Netherlands
Open Access

Abstract

Although there is much literature on populism and its causes, Michael Sandel’s particular contribution to this field of study has received little attention so far. The purpose of this essay is to explain what Sandel adds to the status questionis on the causes of populism, and to evaluate the remedy that follows from his analysis. We argue that Sandel’s earlier works incorporate aspects of the Durkheimian mass society thesis, as they emphasize how the public discontent with liberal individualism stimulates populist sentiments. Sandel’s later works, however, are more similar to the Downsian economic thesis, as he therein focusses on the role of markets, meritocracy and globalization processes. We end by analysing Sandel’s republican approach as an alternative solution to the rise of populism.

Abstract

Although there is much literature on populism and its causes, Michael Sandel’s particular contribution to this field of study has received little attention so far. The purpose of this essay is to explain what Sandel adds to the status questionis on the causes of populism, and to evaluate the remedy that follows from his analysis. We argue that Sandel’s earlier works incorporate aspects of the Durkheimian mass society thesis, as they emphasize how the public discontent with liberal individualism stimulates populist sentiments. Sandel’s later works, however, are more similar to the Downsian economic thesis, as he therein focusses on the role of markets, meritocracy and globalization processes. We end by analysing Sandel’s republican approach as an alternative solution to the rise of populism.

Introduction

Populism has received quite its share of attention in political theory during the last decades, in line with its prominence in contemporary politics. One could even say that populism studies have become a discipline in its own right, within the broader field of political theory. The recent establishment of the journal Populism is perhaps the most prominent sign of this evolution, alongside with the rise of a class of leading ‘populism scholars’, such as Benjamin Moffitt,1 Chantal Mouffe,2 Cas Mudde,3 Jan-Werner Müller,4 Nadia Urbinati,5 and many others. Despite his stardom within political theory, Michael J. Sandel is not on this list of household names within populism studies. In this article, we will argue that this is an oversight. From the very early stages of his career to his latest work, Sandel provides valuable insights into the causes for the rise of populism and contributions to the search for remedies. We will explain what Sandel adds to the status questionis on the causes of populism and evaluate the remedy that follows from his analysis. In particular, we claim that Sandel’s theory on the causes of populism incorporates aspects from the Durkheimian6 mass society thesis and Downsian7 economic thesis.8 Whereas Sandel’s earlier works focus more on the former by emphasizing the public discontent with liberal individualism, Sandel’s later works give more attention to the latter thesis by analysing the role of markets, meritocracy and globalization processes.

In Section 1, we begin by setting out two of the core theories on the causes of populism, namely, the Durkheimian mass society thesis and the Downsian economic thesis. Subsequently, in Section 2, we elaborate on how Sandel can help us understand how the discontent with liberal individualist procedural democracy may partially explain the rise of populism, aligning his analysis with the Durkheimian mass society thesis. Section 3 links Sandel’s critique of meritocracy with Downs’ economic thesis by stressing how mainstream parties have failed to protect citizens from the tyranny of merit. Lastly, we provide an overview of Sandel’s civic humanism as a potential solution to populism in Section 4, and give our evaluation of his solution in Section 5.

1 Two Theories on the Causes of Populism

Before elaborating on Sandel’s contribution to understanding the causes of populism, it is important to give a brief overview of some of the most prominent theories in the already existent literature. In particular, we draw on Hawkins et al.’s9 Populism and Its Causes to give an overview of two crucially important theories on this topic: 1. Durkheimian mass society thesis, and 2. Downsian economic thesis. Analysing these models can help us gain a better understanding of Sandel’s unique contribution to this debate. According to Hawkins et al.,10 Durkheim’s mass society theory holds that a ‘collective consciousness’, a set of values and norms that members of a society may share, is an essential component of what holds a society together. In an attempt to analyse modern societies and the rise of individualism, Durkheim argues that it is solidarity between individuals that constitutes societies. However, Kornhauser (as cited in Tindall et al.11 ) observes that the rise of industrialization processes and changes in the division of labour led to significant social changes. Societies became more atomized as power shifted towards more bureaucratic, ‘elitist’ institutions, leaving many members of society alienated, disconnected and normless, which Durkheim calls ‘anomie’. Reasoning from a sociological perspective, Durkheim himself argued that the exact ‘form’ of solidarity also differs per society, as some societies are more complex than others. Notwithstanding these particularities, the use of the broader ‘Durkheimian’ mass society theory12 as described by Hawkins et al. has become of much more use within populism studies. Indeed, mass society theory understood as such has been used by multiple authors to explain the rise of populism. Several theorists argue that modernization and globalization processes atomize workforces and disempower work unions, creating a weakness at the core of mass-based, civil societies.13 As discontent grows and party identification weakens, populists play into individuals’ needs for a source of identity by providing ‘the people’ with a ‘popular’ identity, thereby reconstituting the collective consciousness.14 Often charismatic populists proclaim that the common people are a morally superior group that need protection from a group of corrupt elites. As such, the thesis centralizes “threats to culture and feelings of identity loss” to explain the causes of populism.15

Hawkins et al.16 claim that, although there is little empirical support for this theory, two variations of the theory remain influential. Firstly, Laclau attributes the rise of populism to the fact that (capitalist) industrialization generates a wide plurality of identities, contesting the working-class identity. Populists respond to this by claiming to represent ‘the people’, thereby putting forward an identity that may unite people against the current hegemony (i.e., the so-called ‘elite’).17 Via an empty signifier in which citizens with diverse interests and perspectives can find themselves, the populist aims to address the multiplicity of new identities.18 An example is Donald Trump’s famous slogan “Make America Great Again”, by which Trump (his name as empty signifier) refers to all unsatisfied, social demands in the chain of equivalence.19 Alternatively, media studies of populism argue that the success of populism is largely due to the fact that the development of media technology has made it easier to “reinforce the cognitive weaknesses and emotional vulnerability of the masses.”20 Due to the rise of media like television, radio and nowadays social media, the capacity of politicians to personally connect with citizens has intensified immensely.21 Subsequently, the often sensational rhetoric of populists helps them gain large amounts of attention, as commercially driven media companies gain more viewers, readers and listeners by reporting on populists rather than mainstream politicians.

Conversely, Downs (as cited in Hawkins et al.22 ) reasons from an economic perspective, taking citizens to be primarily strategic decision-makers. Applying rational-choice theory to democratic politics, he argues citizens (voters and politicians alike) aim to maximize their material self-interest. Downs’ economic thesis has been used in different ways to explain the causes of populism. For example, Betz’ ‘globalization losers thesis’ holds that globalization processes have failed to sufficiently take care of unskilled, unemployed and uneducated citizens (i.e., globalization’s leftover ‘losers’).23 Populist sentiments grew as a result of this group feeling underrepresented in politics and the unresponsiveness of mainstream parties. A different theory sees the weakness of (corrupt) democratic forms of governance as the main source of discontent, fuelling the populist’s success. Hawkins et al.24 draw on several studies to show that corruption leads to a general dissatisfaction with democracy’s functioning.25 Additionally, they show that the deep inequalities and feelings of injustice, that emerge when authorities appear to be corrupt, stimulate anti-establishment sentiments.26 Di Tella’s so-called ‘relative deprivation argument’ centralizes the failure of elites to live up to the expectations of citizens as one of the key contributors of the success of populism.27 From this view, the overall dissatisfaction with the performance of democratic governance leads citizens to support populist parties. Lastly, some studies that follow Downs’ economic approach focus on the institutions and party systems that shape the environments that allow populist parties to rise. For example, electoral systems with a relatively low threshold allow populists to rise more easily compared to majoritarian systems.28 The extent to which there are electoral opportunities for populists to emerge impact their success as well. If important issues are being insufficiently addressed by existing parties, or if there are high levels of electoral volatility, there are more opportunities for potential populist parties to thrive. Populists also occasionally distinguish themselves positively from other parties by being more flexible when it comes to defining their ideology and by having the capacity to promote (charismatic) leaders. When they are able to radiate a sense of competence and unity (e.g., by employing competent staff), their perceptions become more positive, making them a seemingly more trustworthy and credible option to support.29

Despite the fact that Hawkins et al. ultimately diverge from the Durkheimian and Downsian theories on populism, they nonetheless point out that both theories have merit and that they are even complementary to a certain extent.30 Durkheimian mass society theory demonstrates clearly how diverse sets of normative, emotional and identity-related factors impact the lives and decision-making processes of citizens. It enriches Downsian economics by arguing that citizens and political elites are not solely driven by material self-interest. On the other hand, the Downsian economic argument creditably articulates how rational, contemplative and self-interested citizens and politicians may nonetheless be driven by material concerns while making political choices. As Hawkins et al. put it, this allows us to better understand: “the impact of party organization, electoral institutions, and the configuration of the party system on the competitiveness of populist forces.”31 Having established how these two strands attempt to explain the causes of populism, we now turn to analysing how Sandel’s theory may enlighten these theories.

2 The Procedural Republic and Democracy’s Discontent

Initially, Michael Sandel’s reflections on contemporary politics were mainly in line with the “mass society thesis.” He focused on a ‘discontent’ that follows from what he called the ‘public philosophy’ that guides contemporary politics, in the United States in particular, and in the wider western world more generally.32 A proper understanding of this critical analysis requires us to look at the development of Sandel’s political thought throughout the final two decades of the twentieth century.

The first signs of what would become a full-blown criticism of the state of contemporary democracy were already present in Sandel’s early work which focuses on John Rawls’ influential liberal egalitarian theory of distributive justice. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls had developed an account of justice as fairness that would come to replace utilitarianism as the dominant theoretical framework in Anglo-American political philosophy.33 Sandel’s communitarian criticism of liberal egalitarianism34 focused on the assumption of “the priority of the right over the good.”35 Rawls assumed that the justification of principles of justice can and ought to be provided independently from particular convictions about the good life, whereas Sandel argued that any justification of individual rights is dependent on a moral judgment about the importance of the ends served by these rights.36 He explained that Rawls’ priority of the right was dependent on a radically individualist assumption of “unencumbered selves”, individuals free to choose their own goals, unbound by any pregiven attachments that would be constitutive of their identity. Despite the liberating idea behind it, Sandel argued that such a conception of personhood was both unconvincing and disempowering, as it leaves us without solid ground for making choices. Attachments that we discover as being constitutive of who we are, are a necessary precondition for non-arbitrary reflection about who we want to be.37 Notably, Rawlsian liberals can acknowledge this important element of our moral experience in our private lives but must deny its role in our public lives in order to safeguard our independence and freedom in choosing our own goals. However, Sandel deplored the huge political drawback of this noble purpose of liberalism:

Liberalism teaches respect for the distance between self and ends, and when this distance is lost, we are submerged in a circumstance that ceases to be ours. But by seeking to secure this distance too completely, liberalism undermines its own insight. By putting the self beyond the reach of politics, it makes human agency an article of faith rather than an object of continuing attention and concern, a premise of politics rather than its precarious achievement. This misses the pathos of politics and also its most inspiring possibilities. It overlooks the danger that when politics goes badly, not only disappointments but also dislocations are likely to result. And it forgets the possibility that when politics goes well, we can know a good in common that we cannot know alone.38

Hence, despite all good intentions, Rawls’ banishing of constitutive attachments and moral convictions from the political sphere is a recipe for political discontent. It makes politics into something detached from our deepest selves.

Soon after the publication of Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Sandel made clear that his criticism of Rawls was not just a matter of academic infighting. He emphasized that the flaws of justice as fairness have a direct connection to the flaws of American democracy, as Rawls’ liberal philosophy largely matched “the political philosophy implicit in our practices and institutions.”39 The dark shadow of communitarian politics from the past – when the idea of constitutive communities resulted in undeniable oppression – had driven democracy towards liberal individualism. Sandel thus recognized how the predicament of American democracy mirrored his criticism of Rawls’ liberal individualist assumptions as being unconvincing and disempowering: citizens feel frustrated rather than liberated. This discontent was, according to Sandel, the result of the course of development of the modern welfare state, shifting from a “national republic” to a “procedural republic.”40 The welfare state’s original reliance on an idea of national common purpose was gradually replaced by a cold and distant bureaucracy of individual rights and entitlements. As such, citizens do not feel actively involved in setting the course, nor do they feel any special attachment to a huge societal project that nevertheless requires their contribution and sacrifice:

In our public life, we are more entangled, but less attached, than ever before. It is as though the unencumbered self presupposed by the liberal ethic had begun to come true – less liberated than disempowered, entangled in a network of obligations and involvements unassociated with any act of will, and yet unmediated by those common identifications or expansive self-definitions that would make them tolerable.41

Here, we already clearly recognize a particular description of political alienation in mass societies.

The link between Rawls’ liberal individualism and American public philosophy became even clearer after Rawls developed his conception of “political liberalism.” Inspired by the critical responses he received from Sandel and others, Rawls set out to disentangle his liberal vision for society from the metaphysical assumptions on selfhood and autonomy that made him vulnerable to communitarian criticism. Therefore, he developed a new foundation for the attributed priority of principles of justice over comprehensive conceptions of the good life. Instead of the “comprehensive liberalism” that characterized A Theory of Justice, he proposed the idea of “political liberalism”, where the basic structure of liberal democratic society is seen as the object of an “overlapping consensus” between the given plurality of reasonable beliefs in society.42 In a critical book review, Sandel acknowledged that this strategy enabled Rawls to avoid much of the earlier criticism, but only at the cost of new problems.43 The most important problem, in light of our current purpose, concerns the idea of public reason. Rawls emphasized that the overlapping consensus in his idea of political liberalism does not only concern the basic principles of justice, but also an agreement on how to engage in public debate on the implications of these principles, or, in other words, an agreement on what constitutes “public reason.” Political decision-making is then supposed to be based on considerations that every citizen can recognize as being reasonable, which excludes any reference to moral beliefs beyond the boundaries of the overlapping consensus.44 Sandel denounced the ensuing impoverishment of public debate in theoretical terms. Furthermore, he underlined the extent to which Rawls’ theory was reflected in American democracy. He considered the poor state of American public debate – with its fundamentalist tendencies and penchant for sensation – as empirical evidence of the backlash of banning moral convictions from the political stage:

It cannot be said that the public philosophy of political liberalism is wholly responsible for these tendencies. But its vision of public reason is too spare to contain the moral energies of a vital democratic life. It thus creates a moral void that opens the way for the intolerant, the trivial, and other misguided moralisms.45

Although Sandel did not explicitly mention populism at the time, it is not difficult to classify populism among these “misguided moralisms” that rise due to political alienation in a democratic debate that does not reflect people’s moral convictions. This is especially the case when we interpret populism in moralistic terms, like Jan-Werner Müller does, in defining populism as “a particular moralistic imagination of politics, a way of perceiving the political world that sets a morally pure and fully unified – but […] ultimately fictional – people against elites who are deemed corrupt or in some other way morally inferior.”46

Ultimately, Sandel’s reflections on the connection between liberal public philosophy and the pitiful state of democracy culminated in a more lengthy study, entitled Democracy’s Discontent. America in Search of a Public Philosophy. There, Sandel told the story of how American public philosophy gradually changed from republicanism to liberalism over the course of the twentieth century. American democracy used to be based on the republican theory of freedom as self-government in a decentralized political and economic system, where citizens are educated and empowered to participate in the determination of the course of their community.47 Sandel described the erosion of this republican perspective to the benefit of the liberal philosophy of the procedural republic in terms of a two-pronged and conflicting evolution. On the one hand, the constitution was increasingly interpreted as a framework of “rights as trumps.”48 This comes down to the aforementioned priority of the right over the good, meaning that people were no longer primarily seen as citizens in the republican sense, but as individual bearers of rights and entitlements that outweigh any notion of the common good. On the other hand, the construction of the modern welfare state swallowed the individual in anonymous bureaucracy of big government and even bigger companies. This paradoxical conjunction of the atomization of autonomous individuals and the construction of a complicated web of dependency resulted in a toxic mix for American democracy, as the social bond of civic virtue and solidarity required to sustain the latter was subverted by the former.49

The populism-inducing discontent that Sandel identified as a consequence of the change of public philosophy takes two forms. First, there is a sense that “the moral fabric of community is unravelling around us.” Second, we experience a loss of control of our lives, both on the individual and the collective level.50 The latter is created in part by the job insecurity that characterizes the globalized economy, but, more importantly in Sandel’s eyes, there is an overall mismatch between the liberal self-image and our socio-economic environment, governed by institutions beyond our understanding and control.51 Embracing the global economy and its market mechanism, the liberal (having become largely technocratic) leaves political discourse empty. The insistence on the idea that the individual is only bound by the ends and roles of their own choice implies that any (moral) boundaries external to the individual are denied. As political discourse lacks moral resonance, its philosophy not only erodes communities, but even breeds fundamentalism as a result of the public’s need for larger meaning.52 Within this context, populism is set to arise. The populist logic is attractive since it captures the current discontent, and on top of that offers a moral substitute in a political realm that lacks precisely this much-desired moral character. The populist offers the dissatisfied a scapegoat in the form of an evil ‘other’ (the elites) as the embodiment of their discontent. Additionally, it provides citizens with communal identification, by making them part of ‘the people’. Populism promises to bring back a sense of power by claiming to fight the current system that imposes confusing structures upon the individual.53 It is this charismatic capacity of the populist to map the ongoing discontent, a sort of politics of resentment, and the fact that they simultaneously provide an oversimplified and understandable solution, which explains the success of populism.54

Michael Sandel explains how the third-party presidential candidacy of Georg C. Wallace in 1968 can be seen as a prime example of how the erosion of the American republican democracy and the ensuing discontent gives rise to populism, or “the dark side of the politics of powerlessness”, as he writes:55

Beyond the undeniable element of racism in Wallace’s appeal lay a broader protest against the powerlessness many Americans felt toward a distant federal government that regulated their lives but seemed helpless to stem the social turmoil and lawlessness that troubled them most. Wallace exploited the fact that neither major party was addressing this sense of disempowerment.56

Sandel emphasized Wallace’s rage against the Washington elite that supposedly looked down on the values of ordinary Americans and his promise to return control to the real people as the ingredients that make him a populist.57 In that regard, it is not surprising to see Wallace cited multiple times by Jan-Werner Müller as textbook example of his definition of populism.58

Most important for our purposes is how Sandel has provided us with a particular identification of what causes this populist backlash. In identifying the consequences for democratic politics of the rise of liberal proceduralism at the expense of republican self-government, he developed a specific version of the mass society thesis.

3 The Political Shadow of Meritocracy

In a small essay called Populism, liberalism, and democracy, Sandel further explores how (right-wing) populists have been increasingly successful over the past decades, ascribing much of this success to the corrosive effects of meritocratic thinking.59 More recently, Sandel elaborated on this view in his book The Tyranny of Merit.60 In addition to frustrations about the technocratic way of conceiving the public good (as discussed in the previous section), this book focusses primarily on problems concerning the meritocratic way of defining winners and losers. Sandel admits there are good things about merit.61 Rewarding merit is efficient, for we are better off if workers are competent and meritorious, and it is, to a certain extent, fair (for example, it avoids discrimination against the most competent applicants for a vacancy). These reasons have steered the public debate to focus exclusively on the question how we may create equal opportunities and achieve a perfect meritocracy.62 However, Sandel argues meritocracy will nonetheless leave us both morally and politically unsatisfied. Firstly, he claims that a perfect meritocracy would likely still constitute an unjust society.63 As the meritocratic ideal allows citizens the mobility to move between different levels in society based on their merit, it justifies inequality. However, Sandel draws on Rawls to show that the talents that are often rewarded in society are never really ‘acquired’, but that they are possessed (or not) due to sheer luck.64 Additionally, the particular values and talents that societies and markets happen to value in a particular time are also morally arbitrary. As such, market-driven societies that greatly reward the talented based on ‘merit’ do not necessarily constitute a just society.

More importantly for our project, Sandel’s second objection to meritocracy holds that following the meritocratic ideal would not constitute a good society. The so-called ‘rhetoric of rising’ (i.e., the idea that as long as you work hard and fair, you may achieve success) puts too much weight on personal responsibility in his view.65 As a result of the logic of self-making and self-sufficiency, those who become successful come to see their success as a product solely of their own doing. From this perspective, the winners of society are deserving of great rewards as they reflect hard work and effort, whereas the poor and less fortunate are in such positions solely because of their own failures and laziness. Not only does this fracture the commonality between different groups in society, but it also leads to what Sandel calls ‘the tyranny of merit’.66 In such societies, the winners look down upon the losers with disdain, expressing attitudes of excessive pride and self-confidence (i.e., ‘meritocratic hubris’). Simultaneously, those who are left behind in society (e.g., the working-class) are left in shame; demoralized and humiliated, they see their lack of success as being the direct result of their own faults. Denying the role of luck that is involved in success, the groups that have suffered from increasing inequality are left with resentment, and reject the rhetoric of liberal elites who keep suggesting that they should just be smarter, work harder and get a better education. Approaching inequalities merely from a meritocratic perspective tears societies apart. It abates the idea that citizens from different levels of society share a common fate, reduces solidarity and takes away the dignity of workers that are less valued by the market. Indeed, being less well-paid gives workers the indirect suggestion that their work is less valuable to the common good and thus less deserving of social recognition.67 Sandel thereby shows that the attitudes of both winners and losers create both moral and political problems, interfering with human flourishing and our achieving of the common good.

Sandel himself takes these issues to provide us with valuable insights into the causes of populism, stating clearly: “The populist backlash of recent years has been a revolt against the tyranny of merit.”68 He denotes that, although some populists are simply xenophobic, racist and/or hostile to multiculturalism, reducing populists to having such attitudes is too simplistic. Instead, a large part of the rise of populism takes place amongst uneducated people that despise (leftist) credentialism (i.e., an excessive reliance on and overemphasis of formal qualifications, such as academic degrees) and its rhetoric. The rhetoric of rising is primarily focussed on answering to inequalities by giving people more opportunities through education. However, as mentioned before, this indirectly devaluates the role of the uneducated in contributing to the common good. The meritocratic hubris of those on top of the meritocratic hierarchy leaves the ‘losers’ of society in shame and self-doubt, damaging any sense of community and mutual obligation that was left. As mainstream parties stigmatize populists, describing them merely as the result of the working class protecting their white privileges, the struggle of those disempowered to achieve social dignity remained to be articulated.69 Having lost faith in mainstream parties that have failed to stick up for those left behind, populists exploit the subsequent discontent of those who hate credentialist elites and their rhetoric that only the highly educated can make good decisions. Populists thereby answer uniquely to feelings of disempowerment that arose due to rising inequalities. For instance, playing into the politics of humiliation, Donald Trump argued he would put ‘the people’ first, returning social status to the losers of society. This is seen clearly in Trump’s famous expression that he “loves the uneducated.” Instead of returning social esteem and dignity by reinforcing the meritocratic logic, populists may focus on issues like “national sovereignty, identity, and pride” to return social recognition.70 Trump’s promise to make America great again was not a promise of placing those with merit on top of societies’ hierarchy, but the uneducated that would vote for him. Although Sandel explains part of the success of populism as a reaction to meritocracy’s toxicity, he notes that populists and their adherents do not reject meritocracy, but that they think society is already meritocratic as it is. They accept the meritocratic status quo, and seek to find something else; not only higher wages or better jobs (i.e., distributive justice), but social recognition, esteem, dignity, and an opportunity to contribute to the common good (i.e., contributive justice).71

Therein, Sandel’s conception of the tyranny of merit provides interesting content to the Downsian economic thesis on the causes of populism. Sandel clearly shows that those who vote populist feel left behind by globalization processes. As the toxic, meritocratic logic inevitably leaves a group of ‘losers’ in society, any promise for better education and more equal opportunities does not constitute an interesting solution for those left behind. This captures Betz’ aforementioned ‘globalization losers thesis’, which holds that globalization processes fail to sufficiently address the needs of unskilled, unemployed and uneducated citizens. Moreover, Sandel insists that mainstream, centrist parties do not address what citizens really want (e.g., social esteem and the opportunity to contribute to the common good). The unresponsiveness of these parties, together with the distrust towards the technocratic elites, partially explains why the support for populism grows. Similar to Sandel’s explanation, Di Tella’s ‘relative deprivation argument’ also mentions an elite group that fails to satisfy the expectations of those citizens that subsequently vote populist. Sandel enriches Di Tella’s argument by demonstrating that rising inequalities should be seen in light of the toxicity of meritocracy. The subsequent, economically strategic behaviour of voters becomes visible in their clear response to the rhetoric of rising. As the meritocratic logic fails to represent their economic interests sufficiently, voting for populist leaders who promise to put their economic interests first (no matter what) becomes most advantageous to them. On the side of political elites, the Downsian strategy becomes apparent in the way politicians exploit such issues for political gain. One example is Trump’s promise to put “America First”, no matter who is most meritorious. But it also becomes apparent in his negligence of creating unity, as he first and foremost promises to protect the interests of ‘the real people’, i.e., his voters.

Although Sandel focusses more on these Downsian economic theses in his later works, he keeps addressing points related to the Durkheimian mass society thesis as well. For instance, he draws implicitly on emotional and identity-related factors that may induce populism by stressing the shame and humiliation existent amongst the losers of meritocracy. In addition, he maintains that populism rises when a clear sense of community and solidarity amongst different groups of society has vanished, providing us with a very specific explanation as to why the circumstances in today’s society have led us to anomie, the disconnection, alienation and normlessness of citizens. Where Durkheim argues that solidarity between individuals constitutes societies, Sandel reiterates that it is exactly this solidarity that is lost due to the toxicity of meritocratic thinking.

4 What to Do about Populism? The Republican Approach

Whether it concerns his ‘Durkheimian’ cause or his ‘Downsian’ cause, in both cases Sandel points at an intermediary factor to explain the ensuing rise of populism. The disempowerment and moral void of the procedural or technocratic republic and the effects of meritocracy on social recognition both undermine republican democracy. In its turn, the absence of republican self-government causes the populist backlash, as the moralistic opposition between the people and an immoral elite presents itself as a way out of the moral void and the plea for a return of power to the real people is an easy answer to the sense of disempowerment and disregard. This common intermediary indicates how to respond to populism. By providing a substitute solution that captures the discontent of people, we can fight the cause of populism at its core rather than continuously dealing with its symptoms. So Sandel argues that, if we want to steer clear of populism, we need to reinvigorate republican self-government: “[T]he republican tradition, with its emphasis on community and self-government, may offer a corrective to our impoverished civic life.”72

Sandel mainly refers to republicanism as the public philosophy of the American Founding Fathers, but it is an ancient political theory that dates back to Athenian democracy and the Aristotelian ethical perspective on active citizenship as a necessary and prime element of human flourishing.73 In comparison to liberalism, republicanism interprets liberty as the ability to effectively participate in the government of one’s community rather than as absence of interference. This also implies a certain degree of perfectionism, meaning that, in contrast to the liberal state, the government is not entirely neutral towards individual preferences. Given the conception of freedom as self-government, actively stimulating civic virtue is a public concern.74 Sandel provides at least some clues about what reviving the republication tradition in contemporary societies would imply:

Recalling the republican conception of freedom as self-rule may prompt us to pose questions we have forgotten to ask: What economic arrangements are hospitable to self-government? How might our political discourse engage rather than avoid the moral and religious convictions people bring to the public realm? And how might the public life of a pluralist society cultivate in citizens the expansive self-understandings that civic engagement requires?75

The first element of Sandel’s response to populism is what he calls “the political economy of citizenship.”76 To establish such a political economy of citizenship, economic and political institutions must be assessed for their capacity to promote the moral qualities that self-government requires. For instance, to generate the ability to cope with global market forces, Sandel argues for a combination of decentralization and federalism, i.e. more power to local or subnational communities, whilst simultaneously strengthening transnational structures, such as the European Union.77 He also mentions more concrete policy measures, such as the establishment of community development corporations, which gives citizens a voice in the economic development of their neighbourhoods,78 or new priorities in urban development, providing high-quality public spaces that stimulate people to come together.79 Another important element of Sandel’s political economy of citizenship concerns reframing the debate about economic inequality. He argues it is better not to restrict the case against inequality to arguments about fairness. At least as important is the impact of inequality on the “spirit of friendship” that constitutes our sense of the common good.80 This is also the main concern in his recent reflections on meritocracy, both in economic terms and in terms of education. Inequality leads to hubris and humiliation according to Sandel, which in turn leads to a polarized civic life:

Among those who land on top, it induces anxiety, a debilitating perfectionism, and a meritocratic hubris that struggles to conceal a fragile self-esteem. Among those it leaves behind, it imposes a demoralizing, even humiliating sense of failure.81

Therefore, we should fight inequality, not only to increase fairness, but, more fundamentally, to enable citizens to feel that they share a collective destiny.

The other element of Sandel’s plan to counter populism, apart from the political economy of citizenship, is to bring moral discourse back to the political debate: “To reinvigorate democratic politics, we need to find our way to a morally more robust public discourse, one that takes seriously the corrosive effect of meritocratic striving on the social bonds that constitute our common life.”82 Politics should reflect people’s identities by addressing the issues that really matter to them, like their aversion of meritocratic hubris and growing income inequality. In addressing these issues, it should not shy away from taking on a moral character, one that can cultivate a shared collective identity.83 Indeed, an important condition for its success is the reconstruction of a new narrative with which people can resonate. Patriotism and national pride should be more explicitly articulated, based on an ethic of social solidarity and mutual obligation. But how do we integrate morality into politics without falling into the trap of adopting a similar moralistic and exclusive attitude as the populist? By placing plurality and civil dialogue about the common good at the heart of politics. As Sandel puts it: “[T]he civic conception of freedom does not render disagreement unnecessary. It offers a way of conducting political argument, not transcending it.”84 Citizens can gather in smaller groups, connecting progressive public purposes with moral and spiritual argument, cultivating them into active citizens. As a result, we may accommodate a system that fights the threat against democratic inclusivity by promoting an inherently inclusive alternative to populism.

5 An Evaluation

Michael Sandel’s contribution to populism studies is mainly to be found in his original interpretation of both the Durkheimian and the Downsian perspective on the causes of populism. Sandel’s critique of (Rawlsian) liberal proceduralism emphasized its detrimental impact on republican self-government. Sandel’s earlier works on citizens’ moral dissatisfaction and their felt lack of control over their lives shows interesting overlaps with the mass society thesis. Populism rises within the context of liberal proceduralism, answering to the moral discontent and sense of disempowerment amongst a significant group of people. Later, Sandel more explicitly incorporates aspects of the Downsian economic thesis by stressing how globalization processes have left unskilled, unemployed and uneducated citizens behind. Mainstream parties often fail to sufficiently respond to citizens’ needs, drawing repetitively on the meritocratic focus on education and the rhetoric of rising. As this rhetoric fails to satisfy the economic interests of those left behind, it is in the strategic interest of the meritocratic ‘losers’ to vote for those populists that embrace the uneducated, unskilled and unemployed, as the populist’s message finally promises to put this group and their economic interests first.

Sandel’s perspective on the causes of populism provide us with a particular suggestion for how to deal with populism. The erosion of self-government that constitutes a common intermediary factor incentivizes us to investigate the option of revitalizing republican democracy by reintegrating the political economy of citizenship and moral discourse in democratic politics. Sandel’s republicanism aims to stimulate self-government through invigorating civic virtues. It returns a sense of control by inspiring people to become active and conscientious citizens, establishing self-governance. The idea that this would at once tackle both sides (the Downsian and Durkheimian) of what causes populism to thrive makes Sandel’s suggestion very attractive.

However, the plea for a return to republicanism is not without its own problems. First, we would like to mention a potential preliminary objection. In contrast to the assumption that populist attitudes shift dynamically over time, some authors see populism as being endemic to democracy and argue for the so-called ‘gatekeeping hypothesis’.85 This hypothesis holds that the primary way to battle populism is to enforce institutional barriers that protect democracy by limiting the potential misuse of power by policymakers and elites, who may succumb under popular pressure. This view goes against the primary focus of Sandel’s republicanism, which emphasizes the importance of invigorating civic virtues and stimulating citizen participation. Although this paper does not aim to protect Sandel’s republicanism from all potential objections, there are extensive theoretical and empirical arguments to be found in the literature that support Sandel’s focus on citizen participation.86 Moreover, this focus is also confirmed in empirical studies. For instance, in a study of policy performance in Latin America, Rhodes-Purdy found that a lack of participatory access was the primary contributor to relatively weak regime support amongst citizens.87

Turning to the particularity of the plea for republicanism, Sandel himself is the first to admit that both the feasibility and desirability of this project are questionable. First, it is often regarded as misguided nostalgia, in the sense that it would be impossible to replicate the dynamic of the ancient Athenian or eighteenth-century American democracy on the scale of contemporary politics in a globalized world. Sandel replies that the hope for self-government in the current context rests on the dispersion of power. Self-government is, then, not necessarily an illusion, but it requires “a politics that plays itself out in a multiplicity of settings, from neighbourhoods, to nations, to the world as a whole” and “citizens who can abide the ambiguity associated with divided sovereignty, who can think and act as multiply situated selves.”88 Second, republicanism is accused of being coercive, because it relies on the imposition of civic virtue. Sandel replies to this concern that civic education is to be seen as a matter of “persuasion” and “habituation” rather than forceful imposition. Moreover, what is being cultivated is a concern for the common good, not a particular interpretation of the common good.89

If we are convinced by Sandel’s rebuttal of the previous concerns, some additional problems remain. First, Sandel may well claim that it is only a concern for the common good that is being promoted, whatever interpretation we then may give to it, but that is not entirely true. Sandel explains that there is a distinction between “strong” republicanism and “moderate” republicanism.90 In the former version, civic virtue and political participation are considered intrinsically good, while the latter restricts itself to emphasizing its instrumental value to protect the socio-political framework for an individual to be able to choose and pursue his or her own values in life. Because of his reliance on the Aristotelean idea of political action as part of human flourishing, Sandel himself is to be situated in the strong branch of republicanism.91 Therefore, it is not only a concern for the common good that is being promoted, but also the intrinsic value of civic virtue. This leaves Sandel vulnerable to the criticism that his view relies on an ethico-political background consensus that simply does not exist in contemporary pluralist societies.92

In light of these problems with Sandel’s strong republicanism, it is tempting to turn instead to moderate (instrumental) republican theories, such as Philip Pettit’s republican theory of democracy.93 However, doing so undermines Sandel’s argument against the liberal public philosophy. Several critics have pointed out that the difference between liberal democratic theory and moderate, instrumental versions of contemporary republicanism is negligible.94 Nothing prevents liberals from promoting civic virtues, they argue, as long as the motivation for doing so is to make people comply with the demands of justice, rather than the claim that civic virtues are intrinsically valuable. Then it can remain fully compatible with the priority of the right over the good. In fact, the literature about civic education within the liberal tradition is quite extensive.95 Therefore, the lack of concern for the common good can be addressed from within the liberal framework and contemporary civic republicanism can be interpreted as an important subset of liberal theory rather than a competing theoretical framework. Relatedly, one could also say that Sandel takes aim at a distinct version of liberalism, with a very narrow interpretation of state neutrality, which is at odds with many current versions of liberalism that cannot be said to cause democracy’s discontent in the same way or to the same extent, or that might at the very least be able to adapt to the concerns he raises.

The latter not only confirms that Sandel’s plea is to be interpreted as a plea for strong republicanism if it is to be consistent; it also highlights the key argument. His point is not that liberalism is incapable of incorporating civic virtue. He only notes that the prevailing liberal political philosophy fails to do so sufficiently. Moreover, he emphasizes that this can hardly be considered a surprise. Liberal civic virtue is possible, but only as a second order concern. We can propose all kinds of amendments to liberal proceduralism in order to add a sense of community and concern for the common good, but they will always remain afterthoughts in uneven competition with the core concern of the philosophy, which is about neutral adjudication of individual rights.96 Even if successful theoretical engineering of that sort would be conceivable, Sandel challenges us to consider whether it would not be more efficient and more effective to abandon the kernel that causes the problem in the first place and to highlight the importance of individual rights within the concern for the common good rather than the other way around.

Ultimately, whether Michael Sandel helps us deal with populism hinges on two open questions. If we accept that what Sandel calls “moderate” republicanism is indistinguishable from more sophisticated variants of liberal proceduralism, his contribution rests first and foremost on the question whether a stronger republicanism is theoretically viable after all. An extensive examination of neo-Aristotelean republicanism exceeds the scope of this article, but we do wish to emphasize that confirmation of its current obsolescence does not answer that question completely. We can still entertain the possibility of a third way, in the form of a republican theory of democracy that is neither reducible to an amended liberal proceduralism nor reliant on an Aristotelian commitment to the intrinsic value of political action. An example of this would be personalist republicanism, as it can be found in the political philosophy of Paul Ricoeur.97

A final but major concern about Sandel’s republican project is its lack of concreteness. He gives some examples of policy measures that fit what he has in mind, but, nevertheless, the project is more wishful thinking than a clear blueprint.98 That brings us to the second major open question. It remains to be seen whether a stronger republicanism is distinguishable in practice from populist moralist and exclusionary appeals to community values. Some of Sandel’s critics have emphasized that his republican arguments are echoed by “civic fundamentalists”99 with a narrow minded “yearning for identity between individual and nation.”100 Trumpism could be cited as a prime contemporary example of this appeal to self-government of the “worthy” citizens as opposed to others deemed unworthy. We mentioned before that Sandel is confident his republican project can steer clear of those dangerous waters by emphasizing plurality and the need for open and bottom-up dialogue about the common good. But a concrete plan about how this inclusivity is to be established and safeguarded in practice largely remains to be developed.101

Conclusion

The remaining open questions should not discourage researchers and activists from picking up the baton and investigating how far Sandel’s approach can aid theorizing on populism. Rather than clear-cut conclusions, an alternative research program is what Sandel contributes to populism studies. He concludes that “the hope of our time rests […] with those who can summon the conviction and restraint to make sense of our condition and repair the civic life on which democracy depends.”102 Although his proposals for republicanism as an alternative to populism will not simply nullify the populists’ success, his reflections may help us address some of the aforementioned key issues that mainstream liberal procedural defenders of democracy have neglected for too long.

Reference List

  • Betz, H. Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe (New York: St. Martins Press, 1994).

  • Carter, E. The Extreme Right in Western Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005).

  • Coman, J.Michael Sandel: The populist backlash has been a revolt against the tyranny of merit.” The Guardian, September 6, 2020, 1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Connolly, W.E.Civic Republicanism and Civic Pluralism: The Silent Struggle of Michael Sandel” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 205211.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Costa, V.Neo-Republicanism, Freedom as Non-Domination, and Citizen Virtue.” Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 8 (2009), 401419.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • De la Torre, C. Populist Seduction in Latin America, 2nd ed. (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010).

  • Deweer, D. Ricoeur’s Personalist Republicanism. On Personhood and Citizenship (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2017).

  • Di Tella, T.Populism and Reform in Latin America.” In Obstacles to Change in Latin America, ed. C. Véliz (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 4774.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Di Tella, T.Populism into the Twenty-First Century.” Government and Opposition 32 (2) (1997), 187200.

  • Downs, A. An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1957).

  • Durkheim, E. The Division of Labor in Society, trans. W.D. Halls (New York: The Free Press, 1997).

  • Golder, M.Explaining Variation in the Success of Extreme Right Parties in Western Europe.” British Journal of Political Science 36 (4) (2003), 432466.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gutmann, A. Democratic Education (revised edition) (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

  • Habermas, J.Three Normative Models of Democracy.” Constellations 1 (1) (1994), 110.

  • Hawkins, K., M. Read, and T. Pauwels. “Populism and Its Causes.” In The Oxford Handbook of Populism, eds. C. Rovira Kaltwasser, P. Taggart, P. Ochoa Espejo and P. Ostiguy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 267286.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Held, D. Models of Democracy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).

  • Kriesi, H. The Transformation of European Social Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

  • Kymlicka, W. Politics in the Vernacular. Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

  • Laborde, C. and J.W. Maynor, eds. Republicanism and Political Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008).

  • Laclau, E. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism (London: New Left Books, 1977).

  • Laclau, E. On Populist Reason (London: Verso Books, 2005).

  • Levitsky, S. and D. Ziblatt. How Democracies Die (New York: Broadway Books, 2018).

  • Lovett, F. A General Theory of Domination and Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

  • Macedo, S. Liberal Virtues: Citizenship, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990).

  • Maynor, J.W. Republicanism in the Modern World (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003).

  • Moffitt, B. and S. Tormey. “Rethinking Populism: Politics, Mediatisation and Political Style.” Political Studies 62 (2) (2013), 381397.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moffitt, B. The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style and Representation (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2016).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moffitt, B. Populism (Cambridge: Polity, 2020).

  • Mouffe, C. For a Left Populism (London/New York: Verso, 2018).

  • Mounk, Y. The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save It (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2018).

  • Mudde, C. Populist radical right parties in Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

  • Mudde, C. The Far Right Today (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2019).

  • Müller, J.-W. What is populism? (London: Penguin Books, 2017).

  • Neufeld, B.Political Liberalism and Citizenship Education.” Philosophy Compass 8 (9) (2013), 781797.

  • Norris, P. Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

  • Orwin, C.The Encumbered American Self” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 8691.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pateman, C. Participation and Democratic Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970).

  • Patten, A.The Republican Critique of Liberalism.” British Journal of Political Science 26 (1) (1996), 2544.

  • Pettit, P. On the People’s Terms. A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

  • Rawls, J. A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971).

  • Rawls, J. Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).

  • Rhodes-Purdy, M. Regime Support Beyond the Balance Sheet: Participation and Policy Performance in Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ricoeur, P. Oneself as Another, trans. K. Blamey (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992).

  • Roochnik, D.Aristotle’s Topological Politics. Michael Sandel’s Civic Republicanism.” In On Civic Republicanism. Ancient Lessons for Global Politics, eds. G.C. Kellow and N. Leddy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), 4158.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rosenblum, N.L.Fusion Republicanism” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 273288.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rosenbluth, F. and I. Shapiro. Responsible parties: Saving democracy from itself (Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2018).

  • Sandel, M.J. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

  • Sandel, M.J.The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self.” Political Theory 12 (1) (1984), 8196.

  • Sandel, M.J. Democracy’s Discontent. America in Search of a New Public Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sandel, M.J. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

  • Sandel, M.J.Reply to Critics” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 319335.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sandel, M.J.What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” The Tanner Lectures on Human Values (Brasenose College, Oxford, May 11 and 12, 1998).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sandel, M.J. Public Philosophy. Essays on Morality in Politics. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

  • Sandel, M.J. Justice. What’s the Right Thing to Do? (London: Penguin Books, 2010).

  • Sandel, M.J. What Money Can’t Buy. The Moral Limits of Markets (London: Allen Lane, 2012).

  • Sandel, M.J.Populism, Liberalism, and Democracy.” Philosophy and social Criticism 44 (4) (2018), 353359.

  • Sandel, M.J. The Tyranny of Merit. What’s Become of the Common Good? (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020).

  • Taylor, C.Living with Difference” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 212226.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tindall, D.B., F.M. Kay, D.M. Zuberi and L.B. Kerri. “Urban and Community Studies.” In Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict, ed. L. Kurtz (Cambridge: Academic Press, 2008), 22242244.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Urbinati, N. Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth and the People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

  • Urbinati, N. Me The People: How Populism Transforms Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019).

  • van der Haak, D.An ameliorative approach to populism.” Azimuth – Philosophical Coordinates in Modern and Contemporary Age IX (17) (2021), 167176.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van Kessel, S. Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent? (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

1

Moffitt, B. The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style and Representation (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2016); Moffitt, B. Populism (Cambridge: Polity, 2020).

2

Mouffe, C. For a Left Populism (London/New York: Verso, 2018).

3

Mudde, C. Populist radical right parties in Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Mudde, C. The Far Right Today (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2019).

4

Müller, J.-W. What is populism? (London: Penguin Books, 2017).

5

Urbinati, N. Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth and the People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014); Urbinati, N. Me The People: How Populism Transforms Democracy (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2019).

6

Durkheim, E. The Division of Labor in Society, trans. W.D. Halls (New York: The Free Press, 1997).

7

Downs, A. An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1957).

8

As identified by Hawkins, K., M. Read, and T. Pauwels. “Populism and Its Causes.” In The Oxford Handbook of Populism, eds. C.R. Kaltwasser, P. Taggart, P.O. Espejo and P. Ostiguy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 267–286.

9

Ibid., 267–286.

10

Ibid., 269.

11

Tindall, D.B., F.M. Kay, D.M. Zuberi and L.B. Kerri. “Urban and Community Studies.” In Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict, ed. L. Kurtz (Cambridge: Academic Press, 2008), 2224–2244.

12

This broader thesis is not entirely identical to Durkheim’s own theory, as it does not incorporate his specific idea of the evolution of societies and their subsequent forms of solidarity.

13

Hawkins, K., M. Read, and T. Pauwels, Populism and Its Causes, 269.

14

Laclau, E. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism (London: New Left Books, 1977).

15

Hawkins, K., M. Read, and T. Pauwels, Populism and Its Causes, 269–270.

16

Ibid., 269–270.

17

Laclau, E., On Populist Reason (London: Verso Books, 2005).

18

Ibid., 37.

19

We do not suggest that Trump is an example of populism of the kind supported by Laclau (Ibid.; Mouffe, For a Left Populism). Our point is only that Trumpism displays the populist logic of articulation that Laclau describes.

20

Hawkins, K., M. Read, and T. Pauwels, Populism and Its Causes, 270.

21

For more on the relation between media, (populist) leaders and citizens, see also: Kurt, W. and R. Madrid, When Democracy Trumps Populism: European and Latin American Lessons for the United States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019); Moffitt, B. and S. Tormey. “Rethinking Populism: Politics, Mediatisation and Political Style.” Political Studies 62 (2) (2013), 381–397.

22

Ibid., 270–273.

23

Betz, H., Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe (New York: St. Martins Press, 1994).

24

Hawkins, K., M. Read, and T. Pauwels, Populism and Its Causes, 272.

25

Kriesi, H. The Transformation of European Social Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

26

De la Torre, C. Populist Seduction in Latin America, 2nd ed. (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010).

27

Di Tella, T. “Populism and Reform in Latin America.” In Obstacles to Change in Latin America, ed. C. Véliz. (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 47–74; Di Tella, T. “Populism into the Twenty-First Century.” Government and Opposition 32 (2) (1997), 187–200.

28

Carter, E. The Extreme Right in Western Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005); Golder, M. “Explaining Variation in the Success of Extreme Right Parties in Western Europe.” British Journal of Political Science 36 (4) (2003), 432–466; Norris, P. Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Van Kessel, S. Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent? (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

29

Hawkins, K., M. Read, and T. Pauwels, Populism and Its Causes, 272–273.

30

Ibid., 274–276.

31

Ibid., 274.

32

Sandel, M.J. Democracy’s Discontent. America in Search of a New Public Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996).

33

Rawls, J. A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971).

34

Sandel, M.J. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

35

Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 27–34.

36

Sandel, M.J. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), ix–xvi; Sandel, M.J. Public Philosophy. Essays on Morality in Politics. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 252–260.

37

Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 175–181.

38

Ibid., 183.

39

Sandel, M.J. “The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self.” Political Theory 12 (1) (1984), 81.

40

Ibid., 93.

41

Ibid., 94.

42

Rawls, J. Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).

43

Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 2nd ed., 184–218.

44

Rawls, Political Liberalism, 212–254.

45

Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 2nd ed., 217.

46

Müller, What is Populism?, 19–20 (original italicization).

47

Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, 4–8, 25–28.

48

Ibid., 42.

49

Ibid., 116–119.

50

Ibid., 3, 294–297.

51

Ibid., 323.

52

Ibid., 322–323.

53

Müller, What is Populism?, 19–25.

54

See also van der Haak, D. “An ameliorative approach to populism.” Azimuth – Philosophical Coordinates in Modern and Contemporary Age IX (17) (2021), 167–176.

55

Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, 299.

56

Ibid., 298.

57

Ibid., 297–299.

58

Müller, What is Populism?, 21, 27, 38, 40, 80, 83–84, 91.

59

Sandel, M.J. “Populism, Liberalism, and Democracy.” Philosophy and Social Criticism 44 (4) (2018), 353–359.

60

Sandel, M.J. The Tyranny of Merit. What’s Become of the Common Good? (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020).

61

Ibid., 33.

62

Ibid., 11.

63

Ibid., 25.

64

Ibid., 129–134.

65

Ibid., 34.

66

Ibid., 59.

67

Ibid., 198–199.

68

Coman, J. “Michael Sandel: The populist backlash has been a revolt against the tyranny of merit.” The Guardian, September 6, 2020, 1.

69

Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit, 203.

70

Ibid., 71.

71

Ibid., 211–212.

72

Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, 6.

73

Sandel, M.J. Justice. What’s the Right Thing to Do? (London: Penguin Books, 2010), 184–207.

74

Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, 4–6.

75

Ibid., 6–7.

76

Ibid., 121–315.

77

Ibid., 338–349.

78

Ibid., 303–304, 333–334.

79

Ibid., 335–336.

80

Ibid., 329–333.

81

Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit, 183.

82

Ibid., 31.

83

Sandel, Justice, 208–269.

84

Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, 320.

85

Levitsky, S. and D. Ziblatt. How Democracies Die (New York: Broadway Books, 2018); Mounk, Y. The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save It (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2018); Rosenbluth, F. and I. Shapiro. Responsible parties: Saving democracy from itself (Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2018).

86

Held, D. Models of Democracy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007); Pateman, C. Participation and Democratic Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970).

87

Rhodes-Purdy, M. Regime Support Beyond the Balance Sheet: Participation and Policy Performance in Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

88

Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, 350.

89

Ibid., 317–321.

90

Ibid., 25–28. This distinction is also referred to as “civic humanism” versus “civic republicanism” or “neo-Athenian republicanism” versus “neo-Roman republicanism.” Cf. Laborde, C. and J.W. Maynor, eds. Republicanism and Political Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008).

91

Sandel clearly expresses his preference for the strong version in his “Reply to Critics” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 325–326.

92

Habermas, J. “Three Normative Models of Democracy.” Constellations 1 (1) (1994), 1–10; Roochnik, D. “Aristotle’s Topological Politics. Michael Sandel’s Civic Republicanism.” In On Civic Republicanism. Ancient Lessons for Global Politics, eds. G.C. Kellow and N. Leddy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), 41–58.

93

Pettit, P. On the People’s Terms. A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Other versions of instrumental republicanism include Maynor, J.W. Republicanism in the Modern World (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003); Costa, V. “Neo-Republicanism, Freedom as Non-Domination, and Citizen Virtue.” Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 8 (2009), 401–19; Lovett, F. A General Theory of Domination and Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

94

Kymlicka, W. “Liberal Egalitarianism and Civic Republicanism: Friends or Enemies?” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 131–148; Patten, A. “The Republican Critique of Liberalism.” British Journal of Political Science 26 (1) (1996), 25–44; Rawls, Political Liberalism, 205–206.

95

See for example Gutmann, A. Democratic Education (revised edition) (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999); Kymlicka, Politics in the Vernacular. Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 293–316; Macedo S. Liberal Virtues: Citizenship, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990). For an overview of the debate within liberal democratic theory, see Neufeld, B. “Political Liberalism and Citizenship Education.” Philosophy Compass 8 (9) (2013), 781–797.

96

Sandel, “Reply to Critics”, 328–330.

97

Ricoeur’s political philosophy is built on the core tenet of contemporary republicanism: freedom as the absence of domination, the idea of a mixed constitution and active citizenship. However, the personalist view of mankind distinguishes this philosophy from what Sandel describes as moderate and strong republicanism. Active citizenship has no intrinsic value in personalist thinking. Its importance relies on the danger of political conditions for the realization of our positive freedom being compromised. Therefore, like moderate republicanism, the personalist political philosophy can also be understood as an instrumental republicanism. Again the personalist anthropology makes an important difference because it is able to link civic virtue to an underlying ethical pursuit for what Ricoeur describes as “the good life with and for others in just institutions.” (Ricoeur, P. Oneself as Another, trans. K. Blamey (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992).) This ethical foundation is incompatible with liberal proceduralism. Deweer, D. Ricoeur’s Personalist Republicanism. On Personhood and Citizenship. (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2017).

98

Cf. Orwin, C. “The Encumbered American Self” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 86–91.

99

Rosenblum, N.L. “Fusion Republicanism” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 273–288.

100

Connolly, W.E. “Civic Republicanism and Civic Pluralism: The Silent Struggle of Michael Sandel” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 205–211.

101

See also Taylor, C. “Living with Difference” in Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on Politics, Law and Public Philosophy, eds. A. Allen and M. Regan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 212–226.

102

Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, 351.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 386 386 141
PDF Views & Downloads 358 358 51