Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

Elitism, Populism, and European Politics


In the 1990s there has been an increasingly widespread sense that the governing elites are losing touch with their peoples. leaders are no longer able to count upon the acquiescence of their citizens to which they were accustomed. The disenchantment has resulted in the loss of public support for the political institutions of both the individual European nation states and of the European Union. Taking elitism and populism as the opposite poles between which the political leaders need to steer, the contributors successively consider why there appears to have been a degeneration in the quality of elite leaders, with civil societies turning against their governments and the elite mediators between the powerless and the powerful. The agenda-setting role of the media, the rival appeals to representation and referendum, the problems encountered by political parties and organised interests, and the tensions between public demand and economic constraints are all discussed. The chapters suggest that the need to lead from the front rather than from behind remains indispensable in elitist democracies.


On 17-19 September 1993 the Institute of European Studies of the University of Oxford organized the first of what have become a regular series of Europaeum Conferences. Under the impetus of the initial inspiration and continuing enthusiasm of Lord Weidenfeld and Sir Ronald Grierson, the Europaeum network of academic institutions hold an annual conference on a major theme, bringing together those directly involved in taking decisions, offering advice or assessing them. the theme selected for the inaugural conference was one which continues to preoccupy democrats conscious that popular support for the European integration promoted by their leaders was flagging. the title 'Are European Élites Losing Touch with their Peoples?' posed a rhetorical question which it was the task of those preparing the papers and their discussants to explore. the revised results of our deliberations are placed before you.

Several papers presented at the 1993 conference are not reproduced here, while others have been added subsequently. Particular thanks are due to those who acted as discussants or commentators: Vernon Bogdanor, Alain Camu, Lord Clinton-Davis, John Drew, John Flemming, Timothy Garton Ash, Jacques Gerstlé, David Goldey, Sir Ronald Grierson, Peter Gundelach, Peter Hartmann, Will Hutton, David Levy, Wolfgang Muller, William Paterson, Michel Vanden Abeele, Norbert Walter, Robert Worcester.

It is not possible to thank all those who unstintingly helped to make the conference a success. However, the Oxford Institute of European Studies gratefully acknowledges the generous financial support of arco and the Gruppo Marcucci, which allowed us to make the first Europaeum Conference a convivial as well as an intellectually stimulating occasion.

Jack Hayward . . .

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