Populism, antielitism and the constitution

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Pisa, Italy: Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna – Populism, Constitutional Democracy, and the Rule of Law workshop

In the final paper presentation for the workshop, Lucia Corso, Associate Professor of Legal Philosophy, Kore University of Enna, Italy spoke to the topic of Populism, antielitism and the constitution.

Professor Corse proposed to locate the debate on the relationship between populism and constitutionalism within the much older and broader debate concerning the role that antielitism may play to build, shape, fortify or, on the contrary, jeopardize and eventually destroy a constitutional culture.  From there, the intent was to propose a taxonomy of populist constitutionalism based on the varieties of the antielitist claims ( in part relying on the US constitutional tradition where populism is often referred to as a political ideology whose core element is anti-elitism, rather than the appeal to a unified concept of the people, and where some constitutional theorists qualify themselves as populist).

She argued that while a certain degree of antielitism can be tolerated or even promoted within a constitutional culture, antielitism can pose a threat to the core values of constitutionalism, where it does not accept its inherent limited nature. To take the discussion further, Professor Corso drew out a distinction between a ‘soft populism’ and a ‘hard populism’, based on the intensity and the extension of the antielitist claim.