Populism and Elitism in Contemporary Russia
Research Professor, National Research University Higher School of Economics, firstname.lastname@example.org_id: 137227 |
Ph.D. Candidate, Center for European and Eurasian Studies, National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), email@example.com_id: 980779 |
In light of the recent political tendencies in multiple regions across the globe, including Europe and Northern America, populism has become one of the most prominent subjects of research among political scientists. However, in Russia populism studies still remain unsystematic, and many scholars tend to define populism as “rhetoric”, while paying little attention to its role in the political process. By contrast, we argue that one should combine an ideational approach with an approach considering populism as a strategy of political mobilization in order to grasp the populist phenomenon in the Russian context. By focusing on the main political actors in today’s Russia, who are often described as populists, we seek to clarify the relationship between two forms of modern demagoguery, i.e. populism, based on the flattering of “the people”, and elitism which disdains “the people” in one or another way. Thus, we demonstrate that the major problem in Russia is elitism, not populism. On the other hand, we argue that populism is not an essentially negative phenomenon and can have positive impacts on the political process both in liberal democracies and non-democracies. Instead of regarding populism as a dangerous threat to democracy, it is more fruitful to consider it as a “simplified” vision of democracy. As such, populism, both in its social and national forms, can contribute to spread basic democratic principles among the population under authoritarian and post-authoritarian conditions, when political pluralism is significantly restrained, ideological attitudes are poorly differentiated, and civil society is weak.
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