International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)


Populism Democracy City

The joint research project PODESTA aims at formulating democratic answers to populism in an interdisciplinary exchange between (public) sociology and ethics/ applied philosophy. Populism in this framework is understood as an expression and reinforcer of a crisis of representative democracy due to current occasions and/or structural reasons. The factors contributing to social division are empirically analyzed by taking into account existing conflicts in the context of urban development in Leipzig and Stuttgart. Of particular interest is how extra-institutional political work can contribute to overcome the crisis of representative democracy. In close collaboration with our practice partners “Leipzig- Stadt für alle” and “Die AnStifter” the research project uses an interdisciplinary approach to analyze how different institutional and extra-institutional actors in an urban field of action cope with the challenge of populism. A decisive factor is the perspective chosen: people’s living conditions are examined from a sociologically point of view and at the same time, from an ethical standpoint, taking their moral and political self-conceptions seriously.

The empirical basis for answering the research questions is, on the one hand, a document and media analysis, which considers populism as an expression and reinforcer of problems in urban development. On the other hand, interviews done with representatives of urban social movements, municipal politics and administration as well as with concerned citizens are taken into account. The findings of these examinations will be further analyzed in substudies concentrating on theory of democracy (FSU Jena) and political ethics (IZEW Uni Tübingen) and, in a further step, are processed to applicable models for the use in practice.

Contribution of the Ethics Center

The ethical substudy at the IZEW aims at discussing existing strategies of anti-populism and the complex factors contributing to their success or failure. The central question is in how far the moral charging of the political discourse (either in the self-presentation of populist actors, as well as in the argumentation surrounding anti-populism) can be considered an appropriate or inappropriate means for overcoming the crisis of democracy.

Project Partners

Institute for Sociology, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Research Partner

Leipzig – Stadt für alle (Leipzig),
Practice Partner

Die AnStifter (Stuttgart),
Practice Partner


Duartion: ​​​​​​​01/11/2017 – 31/10/2020