In this paper we argue that mature political democracies require an agonistic form of populism in order to function. Agonistic populism counters technocratic apathy and instrumental reductionism and provides democracies with discursive legitimacy for the expression of antagonisms. We draw on the exemplary case of Brexit to show how the long-term suppression of English populism by an all-conquering British imperial discourse, and the hegemony of technocratic solutions in Europe, transformed populism’s potentially virtuous agonistic effects into an often anachronistic, toxic and ill-directed ressentiment against the European Union. We call upon management scholars to focus on how popular ressentiment can be used as a force for good in two ways: (1) by contributing agonistically to an alternative, emotionally founded discourse about England, the European Union and a new popular civilizational project that could bind them; and (2) by inducing the creation of collective moral categories embraced across the elite/non-elite divide in the image of the post-World War II National Health Service.
- Chantal Mouffe
- Ernesto Laclau