Populism, democracy and a pedagogy of renewal

Margaret Petrie (Lead Author), Callum Mcgregor, James Crowther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Laclau and Mouffe have long argued the democratic possibilities of ‘left populism’ underpinned by their agonistic critique of liberal democracy. We are currently witnessing the attempted application of their theories by European political parties. However, there remains very little international scholarship taking up the challenge of situating these arguments in the broader literature on the relationship between democracy and education. We argue that this is an urgent task, particularly in the context of populist trends which appear inimical to educational practice. Thus, we explore the implications of populism for adult education aimed at defending and extending democratic life. We question the conflation of agonistic democracy with left populism on several grounds, and we consider how a focus
on education might help to ground their theory and clarify its ambiguities. We argue that adult educators can surface aspects of the context which representations of populism on the one hand, and populist representations on the other, often hide. Our argument is illustrated through two vignettes of populist events and the educational problems and opportunities they posed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-502
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Lifelong Education
Issue number5
Early online date23 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2019


  • populism
  • left populism
  • adult education
  • interregnum
  • agonistic democracy


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