UCHV executive committee member and Politics Professor Jan-Werner Mueller was part of the Princeton delegation at the World Economic Forum this past week. Mueller concentrated his interventions on the perils currently posed by populism and strategies of countering them. In a panel on the topic of “Strengthening Democracy”, which was broadcast live on Swiss television and in which the Chancellor of Austria and the President of the Swiss Federation also took part, Mueller emphasized that not everyone who criticizes elites is necessarily a populist. Rather, populists claim that only they properly represent what populists often call “the real people” and that any opposition to them is automatically illegitimate. This anti-pluralism, he argued, is a danger for democracy. On the other hand, well-structured institutions of direct democracy that enable citizens to participate in politics continuously – as in Switzerland, but unlike in the case of one-off referendums like Brexit – can help to counter populism (https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2017/sessions/rethinking-democracy).
In a session with the deputy prime minister of Belgium and the Slovak foreign minister, Mueller warned that populists are capable of governing and that such anti-pluralist governance had already led to the serious damage of democracy in Hungary and Poland in recent years (https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2017/sessions/the-post-eu-era)
Read Princeton University's homepage story on the Princeton delegation's involvement, led by President Christopher L. Eisgruber, at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting.
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