Abstract
Philosophy & Social Criticism, Ahead of Print. This article examines the connection between populism and post-foundationalism in the context of contemporary debates about populism as a strategy for the Left. I argue that there is something “populist” about every constitutional order, including liberal democratic ones. I argue so drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s theories of hegemony, agonistic democracy, and left populism. Populism is the quintessential form of post-foundational politics because, rightly understood, populism constructs the object it claims to represent, namely the people. As such, it expresses the fact that, because there is no ultimate foundation, politics consists in the construction of contingent foundations. I develop this argument through readings of Jan-Werner Müller and Chantal Mouffe, showing the differences between their respective post-foundational approaches. I show that Müller cannot uphold the distinction between populism and democracy in the way he seeks to do, but I also argue that this does not mean that we must jettison all normativity, only that it requires that we rethink normativity in hegemonic terms.
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DOI 10.1177/01914537211066860
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