Populist Appeals and Populist Conversations


  • Corrado Fumagalli




This article sheds light upon the role of the audience in the construction and amendment of populist representative claims that in themselves strengthen representative-represented relationships and simultaneously strengthen ties between the represented who belong to different constituencies. I argue that changes in populist representative claims can be explained by studying the discursive relationship between a populist representative and the audience as a conversation in which both poles give and receive something. From this perspective, populist representative claims, I also argue, can be understood as acts of bonding with the intended effect of constituting ‘the people,’ and inputs from the audience can be seen as conversational exercitives. Populist appeals therefore may change when the audience enacts new permissibility facts and signals to populist representatives that there is another way to strengthen relationships between several individuals belonging to otherwise-different constituencies.