Law & Liberty: Between Demagoguery and Populism
By Charles Zug
“In recent years—particularly since Brexit, Trump’s 2016 election, and the rise of figures such as Marine Le Pen and Victor Orbán—the terms populism and demagoguery have come to be used with increased frequency in political discourse. And yet, the concepts which these terms refer to remain unclear—as testified by the emergence of books (scholarly and general-audience) purporting to clarify what it is, precisely, that makes a demagogue and a populist. Adding to, or perhaps resulting from, this general lack of clarity is the fact that demagoguery and populism tend to be used interchangeably, often to describe those now-familiar political figures whose characteristic attributes include raging against neo-liberalism and globalization in the name of ordinary people, condemning “elites” of all stripes, and advocating a return to traditional local or nationalistic values, particularly as these regard religion, gender, and race.
The temptation to group these two concepts together is understandable, and in some ways, useful. Demagogues are often populists and populists frequently use demagoguery. Yet beyond their obvious similarities, these terms stand for distinct political concepts…”
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Charles Zug is a doctoral candidate in Government at the University of Texas, Austin. His dissertation, “The Uses and Abuses of Demagoguery in American National Government,” argues for a descriptive theory of demagoguery through comparative case-studies of Constitutional officers in the three branches of American government. Zug’s scholarly work has been published in Critical Review, Interpretation, The Australian Journal of Politics & History, and Perspectives on Political Science. He has also written punditry on Constitutional issues for several publications, including The Washington Post and The Austin American-Statesman.
Zug is a Jack Miller Center fellow.
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