A Political Sociology of Populism and Leadership

Lorenzo Viviani


In the face of change in the social bases of advanced European democracies, politics has delayed the articulation of new cleavages characterising a society that can no longer be attributed to the perimeter of belonging and the social classes of the 20th century. The crisis is therefore not an expression of criticism against democracy as a political regime per sé, but rather corresponds to a crisis in the legitimacy of traditional political players. The democratic deficit feeding populism is not weakened by the claimed desire to broaden the participatory dimension of politics, insomuch as it derives from the loss of collective references in a society divided in new winners and new losers of globalization and in the midst of a crisis of the concept of equality. These aspects shall be analysed further as part of the interpretation of populism as a phenomenon comprising an appeal to the people and an opposition to the élite. The purpose of this paper is to address the issue of the politicization of anti-establishment sentiment, where populism is considered not so much as an ideology but as a political strategy of politicization of the rift between society and politics, where political leaders and parties are the key players in shaping the disaffection of the people toward the traditional mass politics.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/SMP-20860

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