Filling the Vacuum? Passion, ‘the People’, and Affective Communities

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This chapter deals with the vagueness and ambiguity of the term ‘the people’, and the vacuum derived from the mechanism of representation. Populism – in its different forms – makes this emptiness visible and, at once, attempts to fill it. While formal and proceduralist liberal approaches assume this emptiness, populists tend to supply an answer to the ‘who’ of politics. Drawing on current developments in populist and discourse theory, the purpose is to stress the central role of the affective dimension and emotional dynamics in the construction of democratic subjectivity. In this context, this paper argues that emotions are precisely the way in which the empty space of democracy – the ‘who’ of the People – is currently filled out. This in turn enriches the normative debate around the relationship between populism and democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPopulism and passions: democratic legitimacy after austerity
Number of pages147
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • People
  • Populism
  • Emotion
  • Communication

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