'Speak for me!': How populist leaders defy democracy in Latin America

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Title 'Speak for me!': How populist leaders defy democracy in Latin America
Author Di Piramo, Daniela
Journal Name Global Change, Peace and Security
Editor Stephen James (last year George Myconos)
Year Published 2009
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Routledge
Abstract Populist charismatic leaders have power to mobilise the people. According to Laclau, the articulation of a populist discourse, where a leader will typically claim to speak on behalf of the people, can provide a valid alternative to an increasingly discordant dominant ideological discourse. Furthermore, and this is particularly true of Latin America, populist leadership has been most successful in political terrains where first, the political culture has traditionally endorsed personalised forms of leadership and second, where political institutions have traditionally been weak. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the ever-present spectre of authoritarianism continues to undermine the fragile democracies of Latin America. It is also true that such forms of leadership pose serious constraints to the possibility of a shift towards more horizontal organisational forms in politics. But, as this article argues, there are problems with the assumptions that radical democrats make, particularly in regard to representation and popular sovereignty; furthermore, the fundamental premise that 'the people' are able to organise and lead themselves seems unduly optimistic. It is concluded that leadership is essential to the political process, and in particular that populist and/or charismatic leaders are effective agents of political transformation, whilst acknowledging that they can be dangerous to egalitarian socio-political causes attempting to enhance the autonomy of civil societies. These dynamics are illustrated by the ambiguity inherent in the role played by Mexico's Subcomandante Marcos; whilst he deliberately avoids populist tactics that might undermine the ideals of horizontal anti-hierarchical politics, ironically it is his personal appeal that has been crucial in promoting his political message.
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
Alternative URI http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14781150902872067
Copyright Statement Copyright 2009 Taylor & Francis. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.Please refer to the journal link for access to the definitive, published version.
Volume 21
Issue Number 2
Edition June 2009
Page from 179
Page to 199
ISSN 1478-1158
Date Accessioned 2009-06-30
Language en_AU
Faculty Griffith Business School
Subject Political Theory and Political Philosophy
URI http://hdl.handle.net/10072/28419
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1

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