Christian Rostboll University of Copenhagen
It is common to ask whether populism is a threat or a corrective to democracy. In the empirical literature, the conclusion tends to be that it is both. Mouffe’s normative account promotes populism because of its alleged ability to deepen democracy. Both literatures are inhibited by an observer perspective, which evaluates populism as a phenomenon that affects democracy from the outside rather than as an alternative conception of democracy. This paper proposes an alternative approach, which uses the publicity condition of Kant and Rawls. The publicity condition entails taking a participant perspective, where you regard yourself as involved with plural others in a common enterprise of deliberation. While the observer considers the causes and effects of different doctrines in order to explain, manipulate and/or exploit political practice, the participant asks whether we could make a doctrine our own, something we would promote and use to assess the health of democracy.