Michael J. Sandel
Populism, liberalism, and democracy
The right-wing populism ascendant today is a symptom of the failure of progressive politics. Central to this failure is the uncritical embrace of a neo-liberal version of globalization that benefits those at the top but leaves ordinary citizens feeling disempowered. Progressive parties are unlikely to win back public support unless they learn from the populist protest that has displaced them –not by replicating its xenophobia and strident nationalism, but by taking seriously the legitimate grievances with which these ugly sentiments are entangled. These grievances are not only economic but also moral and cultural; they are not only about wages and jobs but also about social esteem.
Democracy and disrespect
The essay takes the widespread complaint that societies today are deeply divided and polarized as a starting point. Affirming that there is no democracy without division, it asks what it means for conflict and disagreement to be dealt with in a respectful and civil manner. As an illustration of the main argument, the way that liberals (in the broadest sense) have engaged with populist leaders is criticized on both a strategic and normative level. An alternative to existing strategies of dealing with the conflict between liberals and populist is then proposed. Finally, the article also asks under what conditions civil disobedience might be an appropriate response to authoritarian populism.
A Reflection on Populism
In Europe, two words currently stand in silent competition: “people” and “populism”. Paradoxically, one is a negative, pejorative term that derives from the positive foundation of democratic life. Populism is loathed, while the principle of the people’s sovereignty is lauded. What lies behind this paradox? How can it be understood? And is there a right and a wrong way to be democratic? a right and a wrong way to be close to the people? These ambiguities need to be resolved. If we are to clarify the issue, we cannot be content with vaguely recognizing the fact that the people are the active, driving force within the democratic system; that they have the unquestionable power to legitimize it. The problem, indeed, is that this power is indeterminate. There is a gap between the clarity of a principle, the sovereignty of the people, the power of the people, and the problematic nature of the people as a social and political subject.
Theology and populism: Clashes and Clarification
Theology is present in controversies surrounding populism with definitely critical profile: as a warning against disturbing tendencies to despise humanity and tendency to exclude others by radicalization on the right wing of the wider party spectrum. This contribution will show that the closer point of view reveals conection between religion and populism. Research of this connection is without any doubts in competence of an expert on university theology. The initial proposition of the article is the dual perspective of clashes and clarification – these are inevitable conflicts in confrontation with ideas, attitudes, political strategies and concrete behaviours and these are unacceptable acording to Cristian ethical norms. Religion must be placed against populism which despise and exclude people. In spite of initial scepsis populism has been till now proved to be a theologicaly professionaly relevant topic with a wide range of aspects, which are discussed in four parts of the text: definitions, the crisis of democracy, attempts at explanations and stragegies.
Against the instrumentalization of Christianity
On the incompatibility of a new right-wing ideology with Christian morality
A new right-wing idelogy has been growing stronger and stronger within the Central Europe. This idelogy comes from matrix offered by Alane de Benoist and brings together politician such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary or Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland. The supremacy of national interests is opposed to sovereignty of human rights which is done in the name of Christian society. This leads Orbán for example to the statement, that we are primarily responsable for our own family, than for the members of our municipality, than for citizens of our country and after that if needed for others. Such a new right wing defence of “Christian West” is exemplary illustration that the synthesis of Christianity and New-Right idelogy leads to a perversion of Christian morality. This stands in contrast to both the parable of Merciful Samaritan and the teachings of Francisco de Vitoria in the 16th century or to the Christian humanism of Jacque Maritain. The European Christianity is dangerously coming closer to a historical failure which put the Christianity together with fascism and National Socialism in the 20th century.
Who are people?
Pope Francis to “legitimacy of term people”
With the first look at the encyclical Fratelli tutti is conspicuous that the pope Fracis uses the term “people” very often and in really different meanings. What is remarcable are extracts of FR 156–157, in which pope regrets, that “those, who stand up for the most vulnerable members of society, are usually criticised as populists” (FT 163). There is a danger that legitimacy of generally accepted meaning of the term “people” will be refuted (FT 157). What does the pope mean by this? Why is this term so important to him? The study expresses, how the pope uses the term in the encyclical; it clarifyies how much pope’s Latin American roots helps to a better understanding of this term. He deals with “popular movements” which the pope evidently considers as really important. Finally, he adds a critical look at Pope Francis’s possible problematic romanticization of the term people.
Populism and gender issue
Fear of gender confusion
The study ponders out the contradiction which dominates in the populist attitude toward gender issues. In the attitudes towards it the populists become closer to the attitudes of conservative Christians. On the one hand populist parties hold on conservative form of a family image where everything has its own set order. Family care is a model of caring for a nation here. On the other hand it sees the populist attitudes of itself as the right heir of the Enlightenment defending individuality, equality and emancipation. The (emancipated) role of a “woman” is becoming a feature of “national culture” which thus contrasts with the “Islam”. Populist ideas portrey itself in the role of a savior of oppressed women from a backward culture. As a result “culture fundamentalism” has emerged. It is no longer claimed the superiority of human race but the superiority of inherently homogeneous culture. This “Enlightenment culture” is – “unlike reactionary culture” an imagined and imaginary community cleansed of fascism and authoritarianism of all kinds.
Language of populists
With language it is possible to lie and disguise, manipulate and deceive. Populist language has repeatedly been cited as an example of such negatively affected language. Populists are seen as manipulative demagogues who “create fear”, present themselves as a homogeneous group, radically exclude other groups, and claim sole interpretative authority on all subjects. The aim of this study is to examine the extent to which populists really differ linguistically from other politicians, whether there is such a thing as a language of populists. In addition, the study deals with the question of how it is possible or appropriate to speak with populists.
This issue of Salve was produced in cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Political Philosophy, Ethics and Religion at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague.