Populism and Civil Society

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Wednesday, 23 November 2022, online at 8am Sydney time (which will be the evening of Tuesday 22 November 2022 in Europe and the Americas)

Speakers: Professor Andrew Arato and Professor Jean L Cohen

On this occasion, Andrew Arato* and Jean Cohen** will be joining us for a discussion about their recent book, Populism and Civil Society: The Challenge to Constitutional Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2021). The book provides a political assessment and critical theory of the significance of what is now a global phenomenon: the growing populist challenge to constitutional democracy. 

In tackling this phenomenon, the authors examine the challenge it presents in terms of its four main organizational forms: socio-political movement, political party, government, and regime. They focus in particular on the tense relationship of populism to democracy and of populism to constitutionalism. 

Without presupposing the authoritarian logic of the phenomenon in the definition, the book demonstrates it through the reconstruction of the main elements used by advocates to identify populism. To be sure, the authoritarian logic of populism is not realized in every instance of it, and the book analyses why this is so. Across modern history, many populist governments have in fact been ‘hybrid’ regimes, blending authoritarian elements and residual democratic forms. Populism on its own, however, they see as a form of abusive or instrumental ‘constitutionalism’ that typically relies on the alleged permanence of the quasi-revolutionary constituent power. 

The book concludes by outlining a non- and anti-populist project of democratization and social justice, distinguishing between the ‘popular’ and the ‘populist’, and offering a program that is nourished by the plurality of democracies and which rescues some of left populism’s more benevolent ‘host ideologies’.

The discussion panel for this webinar will be leaders of our research project, Honorary Associate Professor Adam Czarnota and Professor Martin Krygier, of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, and Professor Wojciech Sadurski of the University of Sydney.

The event is free, but registration is essential to gain access to this webinar.

This session is co-hosted by the CEU Democracy Institute and our project, with the Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law.

*Andrew Arato is the Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor in Political and Social Theory in the Sociology Department at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He has taught at L’École des hautes études and Sciences Po in Paris, as well as at the Central European University in Budapest. His scholarly research is widely recognized, and conferences and sessions have been organized around his work at University of Glasgow Law School (Spring 2009) and Koc University, Istanbul (December 2009), as well as at the Faculty of Law, Witwaterstrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa (August 2010). Arato was appointed Honorary Professor and Bram Fischer Visiting Scholar at the School of Law, University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg (June 2010-June 2011). Some of his books are The Adventures of the Constituent Power: Beyond Revolutions? (Cambridge University Press, 2017); Post Sovereign Constitution Making: Learning and Legitimacy (Oxford University Press, 2016); Constitution Making Under Occupation: The Politics of Imposed Revolution Iraq (Columbia, 2009); Civil Society, Constitution, and Legitimacy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000).

**Jean L Cohen is the Nell and Herbert M Singer Professor of Political Thought and Contemporary Civilization at Columbia University, New York City. She is the author of numerous books including Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory (University of Massachusetts Press, 1982); Civil Society and Political Theory (co-authored with Andrew Arato) (MIT Press, 1992); Regulating Intimacy: A New Legal Paradigm (Princeton University Press, 2002); Globalization and Sovereignty: Rethinking Legality, Legitimacy, and Constitutionalism (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Professor Cohen has also co-edited multiple volumes and published over 70 articles in journals such as Constellations, Ethics and International Affairs, Global Constitutionalism, Philosophy, and Social Criticism, Political Theory, Social Research, Telos, and Thesis 11, among others.