The European Journal
[Re]Discovering Conservatism
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Episode #09

Frank Furedi

Democracy, Besieged

What Lies Behind the Fashionable Contempt for “Populism”?

Democracy never had a smooth run, the Western mind long presuming the people’s consent to be a Pandora’s box of vexations. Yet two and a half millennia after Plato’s Republic first formulated democracy’s kinship with anarchy, all worthwhile regimes of government seemed to share, at least for a short while, a modicum of democratic features. That hiatus has come to an end, argues Frank Furedi, if it ever truly existed. The post-1945 liberal democratic consensus didn’t embrace democracy per se, but merely as a reliable mechanism for delivering liberal policy. The present furore around “populism” has merely exposed the frailty of democratic pieties, such as by typecasting Euro-realist and conservative victories as somehow foreboding authoritarianism. While elite British opinion came out of the Brexit referendum more distrustful of democracy, Furedi’s recalcitrant democratism inspired him to write Democracy Under Siege, which he discusses here with Jorge González-Gallarza.