Why Democracy Survives Populism

Issue Date January 2024
Volume 35
Issue 1
Page Numbers 43–58
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This essay suggests that while populism certainly can be a mortal threat to democracy, the worst outcome is less common than observers have feared. The author’s research shows that among forty populist governments in Latin America and Europe from 1985 to 2020, only seven led to authoritarian rule. It concludes that democracy often shows considerable resilience, with most populist leaders failing to suffocate liberal pluralism due to institutional checks, balances, and opposition mobilization. While the threat of populism requires constant attention and energetic countermeasures, there is no need for global alarmism.

About the Author

Kurt Weyland is the Mike Hogg Professor in Liberal Arts at the University of Texas–Austin. His books include Assault on Democracy: Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism During the Interwar Years (2021).

View all work by Kurt Weyland