How to explain the huge success of such populist leaders as J. Bolsonaro, D. Trump ou V. Orban? Sociological interpretations are mainly based on contextual datas: the economic crisis, unemployment, immigration, unsecurity, attributed to the failure of the representative political “system”. The aim of this article is to complement these approaches by adopting a specifically semiotic perspective which consists in analysing the kind of almost intimate relationships that populist leaders manage to establish with their supporters. The article also includes a typology of political regimes (totalitarianism, absolutism, representative democracy, “direct” democracy and its caricature, demagogy) which is based on the differenciation between the respective interactional regimes underlying each of them (programming, accident, manipulation, adjustment).
adjustment; contagion; democracy; aesthesis; populism