Dahrendorf: Eight remarks on populism

Dahrendorf: Eight remarks on populism
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Populism is currently such a hot topic that it almost looks like a new problem, a feature of the current political situation. The existence of populism in politics is nothing new. But the fact that populists are succeeding is jarring. This is why a text like Dahrendorf’s “Eight remarks”, republished here without changes, is so important in the current debate. The article originally appeared 15 years ago in the excellent magazine “Transit”, which has unfortunately since ceased production. The text once again illustrates the clarity and lasting profundity of Dahrendorf’s thinking. He perceived and analysed much of what we are having to deal with today when this text was published in 2003. 

Although the world has changed in the 15 years since the text was first published, and despite the need to place Dahrendorf’s theses in their historic context, his remarks remain not only valid, but groundbreaking.

Ralf Dahrendorf

Lord Ralf Dahrendorf (1929 - 2009)

one of the most prominent and influential sociologists in both Germany and the UK, was a professor of sociology at the universities of Hamburg, Tübingen and Konstanz, and a director of the London School of Economics. He also held various offices in the political sphere, including as parliamentary secretary of state at the German Foreign Office, as European commissioner for external relations and trade, and as European commissioner for research, science and education. An active liberal politician, Dahrendorf was initially a member of the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg before becoming a member of the Bundestag. After moving to the UK, he joined the Liberal Democrats and became a member of the British House of Lords in 1993, having been created a life peer by Queen Elizabeth II. From 1967 until 1987, Dahrendorf played a prominent role at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, first as deputy chair of the executive board, then as a member of the board of trustees, and finally, from 1982 onwards, as chairman of the executive board.