The Challenge of Populism to Representative and Federal Democracy

The Challenge of Populism to Representative and Federal Democracy

11th July 2019

A Global Policy Institute seminar sponsored by the Federal Trust and Max Weber Studies journal and hosted by Coventry University London.

The Global Policy Institute in its publication “Assessing the Liberal International Order – A GPI Overview” places the rise of populism within the context of the breakdown of globalisation and a regression from the international liberal order. Globalisation seemed to offer citizens greater prosperity as the world was more closely integrated. The great financial crash marked the ending of this phase and saw the loss of political legitimacy of core institutions. In addition, the profound economic injustice of the financial rescue measures has driven populism, neo-nationalism, plebiscitary leaders and intolerance of immigrants. Borderless borders are now ‘bordered’. Policy injustice has triggered arbitrary injustice of selective citizen disenfranchisement. Victimization has cascaded down the social ladder.

By this analysis the rise of populism should come as no surprise. Representative democracy has not defended citizen security. Populism, however, requires further critical scrutiny. We have well-worked sociological theories of nationalism, but what of neo-nationalism? The same can be said of plebiscitary leadership, but should not this concept be applied to both prime-ministerial government and populism? Are ‘strong’ leaders capable of delivering policies? Party politics has long since used propaganda, why is social media any different? What are the chances of other forms of direct democracy which offer an alternative to the centralization of political power?


First session 2.00-4.00

Professor Ralph Schroeder, Oxford Internet Institute:
Populism and the role of digital media

Dr Marzia Maccaferri, Goldsmiths, University of London:
Populism and the tradition of direct democracy in Italy

Professor Alan Scott, University of New England, New South Wales:
Populism and neo-nationalism in Austria and the UK

4.00 – 4.15: Tea and Coffee

Second Session: 4.15- 6.00

Professor Sam Whimster, Editor of Max Weber Studies:
Tendencies in plebiscitary leadership and the undermining of representative democracy

Dr Michael Lloyd, Global Policy Institute:
Federal democracy as the alternative to populism

6.00 Drinks reception