Populism, Anti-populism and Crisis

DEC Seminar
Yannis Stravrakakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)
13 January, 11h, Sala de Juntas

Recent events like the BREXIT and the Italian referenda as well as the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US elections constitute only the most recent ones in a long chain that elevated ‘populism’ into one of the most hotly debated topics in contemporary politics and academic analysis. And yet, much of the ongoing debate seems to reproduce stereotypes that may in fact obstruct a rigorous analysis of populist politics. In order to start addressing these shortcomings we may first have to question dominant euro-centric approaches and reconsider our minimal criteria for defining and analyzing populism and its conditions of possibility. To develop such an orientation this lecture will focus on two issues involved in the formation and political trajectory of populist representations within political antagonism. In particular, it will purport to (1) capture the complex relation between economic crises, crises of representation and populism, especially within a post-democratic context; and (2) highlight the need to always study populist discourses and movements together with antagonistic anti-populist rhetoric and institutions in order to arrive at a balanced and comprehensive assessment. The former problematic is far from new within theories of populism but has recently taken a new turn that needs to be debated and enriched. The latter, paradoxically, has not attracted equal attention. Highlighting the need to study anti-populism together with populism, focusing on their mutual constitution, we will thus briefly test the ensuing theoretical framework in a series of empirical cases.