On Populism, Planets, and Why Concepts Should Precede Definitions and Theory-Seeking

Takis S. Pappas


Despite its remarkable growth in recent years, the study of populism has long suffered from the lack of a comprehensive theory about its causes, development, and outcomes. Yet, no such theory can be arrived at before previously having resolved what "populism" really is (and what it is not). Good definitions, therefore, require a prior conceptualization of the phenomena we classify as populist, and want explained. Like planets, which are hard to define but easier to conceptualize as the component parts of our solar system, modern populism is better understood as a novel political system that maintains electoral democracy while also working against the principles of political liberalism. Based on such a conceptualization, we may define populism simply as "democratic illiberalism," which opens the door for new empirical research and worthwhile theory-building.


Populism; Democratic Illiberalism; Minimal Definition; Re-Conceptualization; Planetary System; Theory-Building

DOI: 10.6092/issn.1971-8853/9746


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Takis S. Pappas

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.