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Why is Populism not Consistent with Liberal Democracy? (worksheet)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with Russian President Vladimir Putin, 2015. Orban is a democratically elected populist leader. Credit: Kremlin (CC)

Political ideologies such as democracy, socialism, and fascism have flexible definitions that can depend on the government you are describing, the point in history, and the person who is explaining the term, among many other variables. For example, the type of socialism that was practiced in the Soviet Union in the 1950s is different than the current platform of the Socialist Party in France. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs has gathered excerpts from archived lectures and articles so that students can analyze and build their own understanding of political ideology terms.


What is a liberal democracy? What is populism? Why is this political ideology and "political strategy" diametrically opposed? The attached worksheet allows students to evaluate how the populist idea of majoritarianism erodes the concept of pluralism, a basic tenet of liberal democracies.

The worksheet is based on an excerpt from Brookings Institution's William Galston's March 2018 talk at Carnegie Council entitled "Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy." The full transcript can be found here.