Populism and direct democracy: an instrumentalist approach to constitutional law?

Usually, the strong connection – emphasised by Max Weber – between social and institutional pluralism on one hand and consociational democracy on the other hand is deliberately left out by populist forces in power. Those movements generally tend to consider referendums as a key tool to give back power to people and, thus, to boost direct democracy at the expense of the representative one. Far from being just a political option, the anti-representative approach of populist regimes ends up being a real constitutional strategy. As a matter of fact, we can define this strategy as an «instrumentalist approach» to (constitutional) law: since liberal constitutionalism has led to a sidelining of people’s will, the Constitution – irrespective of its writtenness or rigidity – must be amended in order to restore a proper balance between direct and representative democracy.