Populism in the Civil Sphere
Populism in the Civil Sphere
Even as the specter of populism haunts contemporary societies, scholars have not been able to agree about what it is. Except for one thing: a deviation from democracy, the source, it seems, of the precarious position in which so many societies find themselves today. This volume aims to break the Gordian knot of “populism” by bringing a new social theory to bear and, in so doing so, suggesting that normative judgments about this misunderstood phenomenon need to be reconsidered as well. Populism is not a democratic deviation but a naturally occurring dimension of civil sphere dynamics, fatal to democracy only at the extremes.   

Because populism is highly polarizing, it has the effect of inducing anxiety that civil solidarity is breaking apart. Left populists feel as if civil solidarity is an illusion, that democratic discourse is a fig leaf for private interests, and that the social and cultural differentiation that vouchsafes the independence of the civil sphere merely reflects the hegemony of narrow professional interests or those of a ruling class. Right populists share the same distrust, even repulsion, for the civil sphere. What seems civil to the center and left, like affirmative action or open immigration, they call out as particularistic; honored civil icons, such as Holocaust memorials, they trash. How can the sense of a vital civil center survive such censure from populism on the left and the right?    

<i>Populism in the Civil Sphere</i> provides compelling answers to these fundamental questions. Its contributions are both sophisticated theoretical interventions and deeply researched empirical studies, and it will be of great interest to anyone concerned about the most important political developments of our time.
Show More
Buy Now

From Wiley.com

Order Exam Copy

For Lecturers Only

More Info
  • January 2021
  • 316 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509544738
  • Paperback $26.95
  • 9781509544745
  • Open eBook $56.00
  • 9781509544752
Table of Contents
List of Contributors
List of Figures
List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgements
The Populist Continuum from within the Civil Sphere to Outside It
Jeffrey C. Alexander 
Chapter 1
Populism’s Cultural and Civil Dynamics
Marcus Morgan
Chapter 2
#Disente and Duterte: The Cultural Bases of Antipopulism in the Philippines, 2001-2019
Celso M. Villegas
Chapter 3
Uncivil Populism in Power: The Case of Erdoğanism
Ateş Altınordu
Chapter 4
The Populist Transition and the Civil Sphere in Mexico
Nelson Arteaga Botello
Chapter 5
Far-Right Populism in Poland and the Construction of a Pseudocivil Sphere
María Luengo and Małgorzata Kolankowska
Chapter 6
The “Thirteenth Immigrant”? Migration and Populism in the 2018 Czech Presidential Election
Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky
Chapter 7
Memory Culture, Civil Sphere and Right-Wing Populism in Germany – The Resistible Rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)
Werner Binder
Chapter 8
Populism and the Particularization of Solidarity: On the Sweden Democrats
Henrik Enroth
Chapter 9
Left-Populism in a Communist Civil Sphere: The Lesson of Bo Xilai 
Andrew Junker
Chapter 10
A Civil Sphere Theory of Populism: American Forms and Templates, from the Red Scare to Donald Trump 
Jason L Mast
Demarcating Constructive from Destructive Populisms: Civil Translation vs. Civil Mimicry
Carlo Tognato
Is Populism the Shadow of the Civil?
Peter Kivisto and Giuseppe Sciortino
About the Author
Jeffrey C. Alexander is Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University.
Peter Kivisto is Richard Swanson Professor of Social Thought and Chair of Sociology at Augustana College.
Peter Kivisto is Richard Swanson Professor of Social Thought and Chair of Sociology at Augustana College.
Giuseppe Sciortino is Professor of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Trento.
Show More


"Jeffrey Alexander and his collaborators have brought sociological insights drawn from political and social theory to bear on the study of populism.  Alexander’s bold new approach based on civil society theory addresses populism’s central conundrum.  How can populism manifest itself as both a left and right political phenomenon and how do we distinguish one form from the other?  Populism and the Civil Sphere argues that a vibrant democracy depends on social solidarities that develop within a bounded public space of civic discourse.  Within the civil sphere, politics can veer to the left or right—the radical to the conservative—without seriously threatening democracy.  It is only when the center does not hold then extremism on left and right becomes a possibility.   The seventeen exciting and theoretically linked case studies in this cogent and coherent anthology span the globe as they explore left and right variants of populism.  This innovative collection is a  must read for anyone inside and outside of the academy who seeks to understand the major political challenge of our time."
Mabel Berezin, Professor of Sociology, Cornell
Mabel Berezin, Professor of Sociology, Cornell

“The vexed question of the relationship between populism and democracy here receives fresh, subtle, and compelling analysis. The contributors’ thorough examination of cases in light of civil sphere theory tells a new and nuanced story: despite the threats to democracy it can unleash, populism can sometimes even contribute to the vital democratic task of civil repair.”
John S. Dryzek, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
Show More