Why Radical Democracy is Inconsistent with "Mob Rule"

The Romanian Journal of Society and Politics 15 (1):7-22 (2021)
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Abstract

The word “populism” commonly elicits images of hordes of angry townspeople with pitchforks and torches. That is the classic picture of “the mob,” bolstered by countless movie and television productions, and it is clearly based on such historical events as the English civil wars, the sans-culottes’ terror, the Bolshevik revolution, and the recent genocides in Rwanda and Burundi. Many of the leaders involved in fostering such horrors are seen as radical democrats whose successors today should also be feared. In this paper, I argue that any mob takeovers of the feared sort are actually antithetical to radical democracy. This is because an authentically democratic regime, even of the most extreme type, is necessarily inconsistent with “mobocracy” or any sort of “tyranny of the majority” given its essential procedural aspects. It is argued, in fact, that leaders of legitimately democratic movements have generally been quite vapid because of the fallibilistic, plebiscitary proceduralism inherent in any authentic attempt to require government policy to reflect the “general will.” And this vapidity is argued to inhere regardless of the extent of rhetorical powers of the advocate or advocacy.

Author's Profile

Walter Horn
Brown University (PhD)

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