Research Political Sciences

The Thin Line Between Pluralism and Populism

, by Claudio Todesco
The relationship with the idea of pluralism is what distinguishes populism from liberal democracies, as Giunia Gatta explains in a book and a paper that recover the ideas of Judith Shklar

The affirmation of populist movements across Europe, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom: these three experiences, and populism in general, are defined by liberals in antithesis to pluralism.
Unfortunately, the potential for conflict generated by pluralism is underestimated in liberal theory. Values, classes and cultures are not ordered horizontally and peacefully. They are arranged according to fossilized hierarchies that create a sense of alienation on the part of those who find themselves on the losing side of the game.

In her most recent book Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought) and in the working paper Which Pluralism Against Populism? Judith Shklar and the Pluralism of Permanent Minorities, Giunia Gatta of the Department of Social and Political Sciences turns to the American political theorist Judith Shklar (1928-1992) to define a version of pluralism that can resolve these conflicts without being antagonistic nor condescending towards populism.

"In her book Legalism, Shklar articulates the notion of pluralism of permanent minorities. It means that, in our societies, citizens are ordered hierarchically along the lines of class, religion, ethnicity. This should not be underestimated. We must actually make an effort to protect these minorities and to prevent their creation. In The Faces of Injustice, Shklar invites us not to dismiss any claim of injustice and to value it as a mechanism that allows us to see policies from the point of view of minorities". Shklar firmly believed that democracy is not just a matter of procedures. She therefore called on the elites to relate on an equal basis with minorities. "Respect is as important as voting".

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