Abstract

Populism, as both ideology and social movement, is nearly a universal, albeit sporadic, feature of all modern democratic political systems. Populism is also arguably the only example of an indigenous radical mass movement in America and, after the discredited state of socialism, the only continuing source of democratic protest. Yet populism does not enjoy a central place in democratic theory. In fact, many writers contend that when populism arises, it has a destabilizing effect on democratic regimes. Even when others attempt to credit populism, they acknowledge the existence of significant negative features. This essay reviews the contested status of populism and suggests a greater appreciation of its positive contribution to democratic theory can be reached through an analysis of Philip Roth's "American Trilogy." Like Roth, students of populism place their assessments in the context of historical narratives. Thus, Roth's fictional recreations of post-war America can be compared to the analyses of "populist moments" in America as analyzed by both populist critics and defenders. Unlike most democratic theorists, however, Roth is willing to explore the nature and source of populist anger and its related expressions, and thus to expose its poignant dimensions. By appending Roth's insights, it is possible to ameliorate populism's contested status in democratic theory by acknowledging the positive role of emotion, properly understood, in political protest.

Le populisme, en tant qu'idéologie et mouvement social, est presque une caractéristique universelle, quoique sporadique, de tous les systèmes politiques démocratiques modernes. Malgré cela, le populisme n'occupe pas une place centrale dans la théorie démocratique. En effet, bon nombre d'écrivains sont d'avis que, lorsque le populisme fait surface, il a un effet déstabilisateur sur les régimes démocratiques. Le présent essai jette un coup d'oeil sur l'état contesté du populisme et suggère qu'il est possible de mieux apprécier sa contribution positive à la théorie démocratique par le truchement d'une analyse du livre de Philip Roth « American Trilogy ».

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 431-452
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-10
Open Access
No
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