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Populism, Conspiracy and Common Sense from Thomas Paine to Donald Trump

23 May 2017, 17:00 - 18:30
SG1, CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge


A public lecture with Dr Sophia Rosenfeld (University of Pennsylvania)


Populism is best understood as a style of politics rather than a specific doctrine. But ever since the eighteenth century, its appeal has depended upon a kind of built-in conspiracy theory: that the current crisis stems from the fact that the real people have been robbed (alternately by elites, by foreigners, or by some kind of minority force) of a power that they once naturally possessed, and the situation can only be rectified by a return to their unjustly neglected “common” sense. In the age of Paine, this theory helped spur the development of a democratic political order. Yet already by the time of the French Revolution—and to this day, as the current Trump regime in the US demonstrates—a common sense populism threatens to undermine democracy at every turn in ways that this talk will spell out. 

This event is open to all and will be followed by a wine reception. 

This is part of a series of public talks from the Leverhulme-funded project Conspiracy and Democracy. More information at

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