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Will vs. Reason: The Populist and Technocratic Forms of Political Representation and Their Critique to Party Government


The article compares analytically populism and technocracy as alternative forms of political representation to party government. It argues that populist and technocratic principles of representation challenge fundamental features of party democracy. The two alternative forms of representation are addressed theoretically from the perspective of political representation. First, the article identifies the commonalities between the two forms of representation: both populism and technocracy are based on a unitary, nonpluralist, unmediated, and unaccountable vision of society's general interest. Second, it highlights their differences. Technocracy stresses responsibility and requires voters to entrust authority to experts who identify the general interest from rational speculation. Populism stresses responsiveness and requires voters to delegate authority to leaders who equate the general interest with a putative will of the people. While the populist form of representation has received considerable attention, the technocratic one has been neglected. The article presents a more complete picture of the analytical relationship between them.

Corresponding author
Daniele Caramani, Professor of Comparative Politics, Department of Political Science, University of Zurich (
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Research has been supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (National Centre for Competence in Research “Democracy in the 21st Century”). For comments on early versions of the article I am particularly grateful to Carlo Invernizzi Accetti, Christopher Bickerton, Ingrid van Biezen, Francis Cheneval, Astrid Séville, Jonathan White, and Lea Ypi. The article has also profited very substantially from the suggestions of the anonymous reviewers and the editors of the journal.
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