Should populism be viewed as a cynical political tactic or as a new form of democratic politics? What is the historical moment for populism to emerge, and how is it intertwined with contemporary democratic politics? Can the pandemic stop the populist wave or, on the contrary, will the economic recession strengthen their positions? The main topic of the panel discussion "A Time for Populism", held within the framework of the second day of the Gaidar Forum, was the place of this phenomenon in the present and in the future.
The list of panellists included Pierre Rosanvallon, Head of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Political History at the Collège de France, author of The Time of Populism (2020), and Nadia Urbinati, Professor at Columbia University, author of I Am the People: How Populism is Changing Democracy (2019). The discussion was moderated by Grigory Yudin, Head of the Center for Contemporary Political Studies, RANEPA.
According to Pierre Rosanvallon, populism today is more than just a social movement, and it is quite diverse. In fact, it is not just an idea, but an entire political movement that has strong roots. Populism defines democracy only in terms of elections, without considering it in its full context, including full freedom of the press. In populism there exists a division into good people and bad people.
"Populists believe that they have the right to say that society in principle consists not only of friends, but also of enemies who must be fought," the expert explained. This political movement demands that democracy give people some kind of power, Pierre Rosanvallon says. He added that society is not only governed by interests, but also by emotions: in the US, for example, people care about the emotional aspects of Trump's populism.
The speaker noted that a leader holds an important place in populism. He should represent individuals and the people, but this concept is not easy. A populist leader, for example, does not need a parliament, he's on his own. An active evolution of the political regime is taking place now: we see voting and elections that are necessary to ensure that the leader stays in office as long as possible, says Pierre Rosanvallon. Unlimited power is also one of the elements of populism, the expert added. According to Pierre Rosanvallon, we can no longer go back to the old political system, but we still need to rethink politics, to change democracy.
Nadia Urbinati observed that, with the emergence of an increasing number of mass populist parties, the organization of the institutions of democracy is also changing. In her view, populism weakens the notion of "the people." Populists establish institutional parties, but they no longer unite citizens, they pursue their own political goals. The new populism is making attempts to constitutionalize itself in the eyes of the people, its ambition is to have a true majority, Nadia Urbinati said.
She also highlighted the role of populist leaders. "Populism cannot exist without a leader who is, in a way, the face of the nation," the speaker summed up.
The Gaidar Forum “Russia and the World After the Pandemic” will be held on January 14 and 15 at the Presidential Academy. The Forum will traditionally open the annual business agenda of Russia. In 2021, this large-scale event will be held in a hybrid format, both online and offline.
This time, the main discussion track will be social and economic transformations that have occurred in the country and the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The expert discussions will be focused on the national and global development goals and the search for practical solutions to the most urgent challenges of today. The Forum’s participants include ministers from the Russian Government, members of the Federal Assembly, governors of the Russian regions, largest world experts, representatives of foreign states.
The general partners of the Gaidar Forum are Gazprom PJSC and Gazprombank JSC.
The strategic partners are Russian Railways OJSC, Johnson&Johnson, ACIG Group, Novartis.
The partner of the forum is MasterCard, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)
The discussion partners are Magnit, Pepsi, Huawei, Coca-Cola, AstraZeneca, Takeda, EY.
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