Populism Specialist Group Newsletter - Issue 3.

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Populism Newsletter of the Populism Specialist Group Political Studies Association

Issue 3 February 2021

Contents Editorial

1 Announcements

2 Populist News

3 Conversations

4 Trump, Populism, the US elections and after

12 Book Reviews

16 Publications alert


Editorial The Populism Specialist Group Team Emmy Eklundh Cardiff University (co-convener)

Giorgos Katsambekis Loughborough University (co-convener)

Marina Prentoulis University of East Anglia (co-convener)

Andy Knott University of Brighton (treasurer)

Alen Toplisek King’s College London (Social Media and Communications Officer)

Giorgos Venizelos Scuola Normale Superiore (Social Media and Communications Officer)

Newsletter Editor Giorgos Venizelos

Contact Us Populism Specialist Group

@populismPSA https://issuu.com/populism

The third issue of ‘Populism’ is released amid extraordinary circumstances. The ongoing pandemic creates uneasy conditions that directly affect our everyday lives at both personal and professional levels. The work-life balance is becoming increasingly obscure while uncertainty casts a shadow over the future, especially for junior researchers. We hope to offer you something interesting and stimulating to read during these times. Until we meet again in person, we will try to sustain an active community of populism researchers – not only at the professional but also at the interpersonal level. Beginning with our group’s news, we are delighted to announce two new Calls for Papers: one for our 5th Populism Specialist Group Workshop - ‘Populism: New Perspectives’ - which will be taking place online in June 2021, and second, a conference co-organised with the Populism Group Initiative of the German Political Science Association, entitled ‘Populism, Protest and New Forms of Political Organisation: Ten Years after the Movements of the Squares’, which will take place in Berlin in September 2021. For more information check page 2. This issue contains a lot of material which is generated thanks to you, our members, with your direct or indirect contributions. We include an overview of the engaging discussions that we had as part of our online workshop back in September 2020 and two interviews with the keynote speakers for that event, María Esperanza Casullo and Simon Tormey. Perspectives on the U.S. elections could not be absent from this issue, with a neck and neck race amid increasing polarisation in US politics and the mobilisations that followed. On page 4 you will find commentaries by two junior researchers working on U.S. politics and populism. The book review section is gradually becoming an established part of our newsletter. Four junior scholars of populism are reviewing freshly published books offering an opportunity for critical and engaging discussions. Last but not least, our publications alert includes a selection of newly published contributions to the state of the field! If you have comments or suggestions, or if you want to contribute with a short commentary or a review, please get in touch.

© 2021. This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND licence

The Editor, Giorgos Venizelos



5th Populism Specialist Group workshop 10-11 June 2021, Online ‘Populism: New Perspectives’ Keynote speaker: Aurelien Mondon (University of Bath) Populism remains as hotly debated as ever with relevant studies proliferating in recent years to an unprecedented extent. This has led many to talk about the emergence of a distinct field of ‘populism studies’ which spans disciplines from political theory and comparative politics to anthropology and international relations. Within this context, and on the theoretical/methodological level, we have seen new critical perspectives on the phenomenon as well as substantial critiques to established approaches. Similarly, in empirical research, we have seen studies of actors and regions previously ignored or underresearched but also the ‘usual suspects’ being scrutinised with new tools and methods, shedding light on aspects previously missed or downplayed. In this sense, the field is not only expanding, but is currently going through a period of maturation and critical reflexivity in which cross-disciplinarity and theoretical/methodological innovation play a key role. At the forefront of this movement there is a new generation of early career researchers (PhD students and postdoctoral researchers) that have come of age in a period of overlapping crises and tectonic shifts that have been reshaping societies and political systems across the world. At this workshop we aim to take stock of these novel developments in the field and give the floor to this new generation of populism scholars in order to promote both theoretical and empirical innovation in today’s critical juncture and to further cultivate the links among this vibrant community of younger researchers. There are no limitations as to the thematic scope of the workshop, but we would particularly encourage people to present papers on the following topics: Critiques of established approaches to populism New perspectives in populism research


Analyses of under-researched actors and regions (e.g. Africa, Middle East) Populism and the pandemic Populism, gender and race Populism’s ‘double hermeneutics’ / The role of populism scholars in normative debates Please send a paper title and abstract (max. 200 words), along with a brief biographical note (max. 70 words) as one PDF or Word document to eklundhe@cardiff.ac.uk by 15 February 2021. The subject line of your email should read ‘Abstract PopulismSG 2021 Workshop – author name.’ Accepted participants will be notified by 31 March 2021. Notes: (1) Given the still fragile and uncertain situation with the COVID19 pandemic, this workshop will take place fully online. More details will be sent to accepted participants in due course. (2) There are two specialist events that the Populism Specialist Group of the PSA will be (co)coordinating for 2021 – the second one in Berlin, in collaboration with the DVPW Populism Group Initiative on 8-10 September. We remain committed to generating and sustaining a scholarly community and, for this reason, we will prioritise a wider breadth of applicants for both events over duplication of personnel and/or presentations.

‘Populism, Protest, and New Forms of Political Organisation: Ten Years after the Movements of the Squares’ September 8-10, 2021, Free University Berlin Joint conference of the DVPW Populism Group Initiative & the PSA Populism Specialist Group The past decade has seen the emergence of – and growing scholarly interest in – populism in conjunction with a wide range of protest phenomena from below: from the Arab Spring to Hong Kong, from the Indignados and Occupy to Euromaidan and PEGIDA, from the Tea Party to Extinction Rebellion to the COVID-19 anti-lockdown protests – protest movements worldwide have taken to public squares with the claim to represent “the people,” “the citizenry,” or “the 99%” against entire political systems deemed unresponsive or undemocratic. The sheer diversity of these phenomena has challenged both the notion that the post-2010 movements of the squares constitute straightforwardly radical-democratic phenomena without wider implications for institutionalised politics, on the one hand, and the assumption that populism (from a Eurocentric perspective) is the exclusive domain of the nationalist right, on the other. In the wake of these movements, competing

political forces have emerged in turn with the claim to represent the legacy or objectives of these movements within the institutions, transforming in the process the ways in which politics as we know it is practiced and organised: from “movement parties against austerity” to “radical right movement parties,” from “populism 2.0” to the rise of “digital parties” or “platform parties,” new forms of political organisation, new categories of academic debate, and arguably new forms of populist phenomena – left and right, radical-democratic and authoritarian, progressive and reactionary – have come to the fore in the aftermath of mass protest episodes. This conference seeks to bring together this interest in populism, in all its diversity, in relation to the manifold forms of contentious politics that have emerged in the last ten years, with a particular interest in new forms of political organisation, institutionalisation, radicalisation, and transformation of populist movements and/or in specifically populist fashion vis-à-vis other types of movements. Possible lines of inquiry include: the relationship between populism and party organisation, populism and radical democracy, populism in and out of or against power, populism and authoritarian consolidation, or populism and digital activism, just to name a few examples. The conference is jointly organised by the German Political Science Association (DVPW) Populism Group Initiative and the Political Studies Association (PSA) Populism Specialist Group. We expressly welcome theoretical and empirical contributions alike as well as different conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of populism. The conference is being planned in strict accordance with COVID-19 protocols. In the event that a switch to a digital format becomes necessary, an announcement will be made as soon as possible. Confirmed keynote speakers: Cristina Flesher Fominaya (University of Loughborough); Paolo Gerbaudo (King’s College London)

Populist News

Our fourth annual workshop – ‘The Populist Moment: Temporality, Transformations, Crises’ – which was originally scheduled to take place in Brighton in April 2020, was postponed due to the pandemic and transferred online. It took place between 14 and 18 September 2020 via Zoom. We hosted 25 different papers presented by participants from 24 different academic institutions and an audience of around 30 people who were registered as external participants to attend the sessions, and who contributed to lively discussions and exchanges. Dr María Esperanza Casullo from the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Argentina, and Professor Simon Tormey from the University of Bristol, keynoted the workshop. Casullo’s talk, ‘Populism and myth: crafting explanations for uncertain times’, explored the critical role that the body plays in (distinct typologies of) populist identification. Through an original socio-cultural theoretical approach, she developed a Latin American perspective on populism. Tormey’s talk, ‘Temporalities of populism – or towards a sociology of “populisation”, offered a critical overview of the transformations of ‘doing’ and thinking about populism over the last five or six decades. He dealt with questions such as: What was populism like in the 1960s and how did we think about it? How does contemporary populism adjust to the technological and socio-political changes of our (spectacular) times? You can watch the Keynote lectures on our YouTube channel. For María Esperanza Casullo’s keynote click here and for Simon Tormey’s here.

Please submit abstracts no longer than 250 words by February 15 to berlinpopulismconference2021@gmail.com Organising team: Andreas Eder-Ramsauer (FU Berlin); Seongcheol Kim (University of Kassel); Andy Knott (University of Brighton); Marina Prentoulis (University of East Anglia)


Conversations There cannot be ‘one true’ approach to the study of populism Interview with Maria Esperanza Casullo

This is not the first time you participate in events organised by the Populism Specialist Group but it is the first time you are the keynote speaker. What are your general impressions? The field of populism studies is having an amazing moment. More people are interested in the phenomenon than ever before, and the quality (not to mention the quantity) of the production being published is simply outstanding. When I started researching populism for my dissertation in 2005, I was advised to choose a “more mainstream” topic; that would be unthinkable today. To be able to participate in the PSA Populism Specialist Group has been a career-changing event for me. I found a space where a variety of perspectives and approaches were able to interact, and where the dialogue proceeded in an open minded manner. There are people there studying the five continents, using a variety of methods, and that allowed me to really embrace my own somewhat heterodox line of research. I felt I had found an intellectual community. In your work you combine two approaches which, although very prominent, were for long rather marginalised within the field of ‘populism studies’. You use the theory of Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe and ‘the Essex School’ who perceive populism as a discursive logic, as well as a Bourdieu-inspired socio-cultural approach, with which scholars such Pierre Ostiguy and Benjamin Moffitt work as well, that stresses the performative side of populism. Why those two? What can they offer more than the ideational or the strategic approaches, for example? I have given up on the idea that there must be a


“one true” approach to populism studies. Populism is multiform, proteic, and hard to pin down per se, so I do not think that there ever will be “one true definition to rule us all”. This is rooted in what we are studying, and in the methods that we use. The study of populism operates inductively: they work from the cases to the theory, and not the other way round. This is understandable, since there cannot be a normative theory of populism. We can discuss what democracy should be, but populism is not a normative concept. The strategic approach, for instance, is very valuable when one is looking at the impact of populist leadership on party systems and party structures. The ideational approach is focused on party or movement ideology rather than on the characteristics of the leadership, largely because it mainly focuses on European populism, which is party based. My own way in to populism studies has focused on the Latin American experience, in which leaders take precedence over parties and ideology, so my own research is no doubt informed by that (although I take efforts in trying to broaden the scope of my case comparisons, and I am satisfied that my own approach has held on beyond Latin America.)

‘Populist representation seems to be uniquely based on talking, persuasion, and the public use of the spoken word.’ I have long been fascinated by populist discourse. Populist representation seems to be uniquely based on talking, persuasion, and the public use of the spoken word. Populist leaders often enter the public space with very little besides their own discursive inventiveness: they cannot rely on tradition, or the law, or any preconceived authority invested on them: they must persuade a bunch of people to follow them. And they do so! Isn’t that a distillation of what politics is about? So that is what I wanted to understand. However, I hesitate to say that I use the Essex School approach, because I operate at a lower degree of abstraction. I found the notion of repertoires or genres to be a useful middlerange mediation between Laclau’s concept of an impersonal social discourse and the strategic

deployment of tropes by the individual leader. As I was analysing the discourses of presidents, I found that certain narrative templates, figures of speech, and bodily performances kept showing up: a narrative based on damage, the presentation of the leader as redeemer, the presence of a dual adversary, the creation of bodily synecdoque through selfpresentation. So I chose to focus on that. Performativity, you stress, is key in understanding the formation of popular identities. You view ‘the body’ as one of the most effective instruments of representation. Gestures, ways of talking and behaving in public, one’s habitus so to speak, are important in the mobilisation of affects and the institution of collective identifications. These features of politics are often neglected by mainstream political science but, as you argue, they are central as to why populism works. Could you expand on that? My interest in the body was born out of a serendipitous moment. When I was putting together the corpus of presidential speeches that I analysed for my book, I opened a document with photos of the populist presidents whose speeches I wanted to analyse. And it struck me how different they looked. Hugo Chávez, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Evo Morales: all of them were in possession of bodies that marked them as unusual, as out of the mainstream. Even those populist leaders that had the advantage of inabiting the body of a white, cis, middle class man, like Rafael Correa and Néstor Kirchner, went to great lengths to perform something different thorugh their clothes and stances. And that naturally led to thinking about populist representation in terms of a public performance, which is my current project. How can politicians present themselves as one with ‘the people’ when they clearly constitute part of ‘the political establishment’? Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi are good examples of millionaires or billionaires who have arguably more to share with ‘the elite’ than ‘the people’. Yet, they were voted by millions of common people and became cult-like figures in their countries. This is, I think, a common misconception. That is one of the reasons why I think one should always have some actual empirical dimension to the study of populism. Because one thing that became very clear to me after analysing presidential speeches is that all populists present themselves like outsiders and they all designate an adversary as the establishment or

the elite. All of them do that. True outsiders like Evo Morales did it, but also consummate insiders like Néstor Kirchner did the same. Two things, I believe, are central to studying populism: first, to remember that people and leaders co-constitute one another. The second one is to let go of the question whether the statements of populist discourse are true or false. They are always true, because they use pieces of factual information; and they are always false, because their goal is to make sense and explain a certain aspect of the world in a way that creates a perspective for action, not to write a scientific treaty of reality. Again, this brings us back to the notion of performance. ‘Outsiderism’ and ‘anti-elitism’ make sense insofar they are performed: the performance itself creates outsiderism, regardless of the ‘objective’ provenance of the leader. By performing anti-elitism the leader (or the leader/movement) designates who is the adversary, and thus creates it. That is why I chose to focus on the notion of “populist myth”, because myths are neither true nor false, or they are both things at once.

‘we have to let go of the question whether the statements of populist discourse are true or false’ Your spatial distinctions between ‘upward-punching’ and ‘downward-punching’, as well as between ‘forward-looking’ and ‘backward-looking’ populisms are central in your understanding of populism. How do they relate with the left and right typologies of populism? are they supplementary or contradictory? I have long felt uncomfortable using the right and left populism terminology, because one of the core features of all populisms is that they mix and combine ideological elements that once were thought to be ideologically incompatible. Right populism can push for greater welfare expenditures, or for curtailing globalisation, while some Latin American populists have embraced some socially conservative positions, like Ecuador’s Rafael Correa stance on abortion. If one looks strictly at the substance of policies, there are always inconsistencies. Also, it has always been weird to me to read about populism’s essential antielitism when so-called right-wing populisms usually rally against people


‘so-called right-wing populisms usually rally against people who are not part of the elite in any meaningful sense: immigrants, people of Islamic faith, feminists’

populism? Can a meaningful core be found even with these differences? These are very productive discussions.

who are not part of the elite in any meaningful sense: immigrants, people of Islamic faith, feminists. It is more fruitful to look at the direction of antagonism, who they mobilise against. Left leaning populisms are upward punching: they designate social and economic elites as adversaries, and their policies reflect this. Downward punching populism focuses on excluded or “down” groups, and elitism comes in those supposedly “cultural” elites who are allied with them or defend them. I think this dichotomy is more explicative than left v right. Populists have a lot of leeway in choosing policies, as long as the general direction of the antagonism does not change.

No, I really believe that is another big misconception. Populists are not necessarily bad at governing. On the contrary, they tend to be good at it, at least in the Latin American context if one defines “being good at governing” as “being able to stay in power and win elections”. The upwards punching populisms of the last wave governed ten or more years, in average. Even though downward punching populists do not seem to relish governing as much, they are also resilient and hard to dislodge once they ascend to power. The malleable nature of populist antagonism, and the ability to form multi-class coalitions are a key in this respect. A populist needs to have a founding myth, a hero and an adversary, but the designation of who precisely is inside or outside the us/them frontiers is situational and changeable. Yesterday’s adversary can be today’s ally, and vice versa. This gives populism an enormous flexibility.

You come from a region that has its own political and intellectual tradition on populism. A great portion of the burgeoning bibliography on populism stems from Europe which also has its own way of understanding populism. To be sure, scholarship in both regions has helped us advance our understanding of the phenomenon at a global level. But, what we often see is highly contrasting conceptualisations of populism rooted in and filtered by regional experience. In what ways the two ‘region-based’ scholarships ‘contaminate’ one another? Do you think there is good communication in the field between European and Latin American scholars? What can European scholars learn from Latin American scholars and vice-versa? The dialogue and interaction between the European and Latin American tradition has been the most positive feature of the last ten years or so. That dialogue has really helped to focus the attention, to make the concepts more precise, and to weed out non-central elements of theories of populism. Ethnonationalism, for instance, is not as relevant in the Latin American context; conversely, personalistic leadership is not as relevant for European cases. Should they be regarded as essential features of


Unlike Europe, where populism was until recently mostly a feature of the opposition, in Latin America populism is frequently an instrument of discursive governance. What challenges and limitations do populists encounter in their process of institutionalisation? Do they necessarily fail once in government and turn mainstream as Canovan, Mény and Surel and others have argued?

‘Populists are not necessarily bad at governing’ This interview was conducted by Giorgos Venizelos

María Esperanza Casullo is a political scientist. She has a PhD in government from Georgetown University and is an associate professor at Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Argentina. She has written the book ¿Por qué funciona el populismo?: El discurso que sabe construir explicaciones convincentes de un mundo en crisis.

Populism is not a break from representative politics Interview with Simon Tormey

You keynoted the 4th Populism Specialist Group workshop titled the ‘Populist Moment’: Temporality, Transformations, Crises, but this was not the first time you participated in one of our events. How do you think did the themes and the issues researchers of populism study change over the years? What are the new questions that emerged? Yes I’ve enjoyed the Populism Specialist Group’s events. It’s been a great barometer as to what is and should be of interest to scholars of populism. That means getting away from the event-ness of populism which is the preoccupation of the mainstream media towards looking at how populism works in particular settings with particular actors using particular kinds of tools. This latter question is particularly interesting to me given the centrality now of social media to our lives, the importance of the image as the text, and the manner by which leadership is manifest in a virtual and digital environment, and so on. What also comes across in the work of the group is the variety of populism(s) in a way which is perhaps not fully reflected in mainstream or media approaches, which tends as we know to focus on right wing politics, to the exclusion of left and indeed centrist forms of populism. I’ve also noticed increasing interest in the ways in which civil society actors and social movements seek to use populist tactics and strategies to further their aims. We’re still not quite used to the idea of populist social movements, but I see this is a big area of interest and something coming through in the work of some of the PhD students.

‘the PSG’s events great barometer as to what is and should be of interest to scholars of populism’

In your work, you have explored the cycles of political mobilisation that had emerged in response to the representational crisis that became evident after the collapse of the markets in 2008. You referred to contentious events as ‘politics from below’, ‘new democratic experiments’, ‘democratic laboratories’ and so on in that they put forward demands for change, popular sovereignty etc. What is the state of democratic politics ‘from below’ now, ten years after their emergence that shook the hitherto stable political order? Yes I was very interested in the ways in which new technologies enabled new forms of activism to emerge. As you know I developed this interest through looking in particular at Spain after the protests of 2011 and the various attempts to challenge and alter the political landscape in the country since then. In particular, I was interested in what would happen to representative politics given what seemed to be the anti-representational thrust of these actions and the Occupy movement which emerged at the same time. To cut a long story short,

‘there’s no escape from representation and indeed a certain degree of “verticality”’ what we found in Spain is that a lot of activists realised that there’s no escape from representation and indeed a certain degree of “verticality”. “Hegemony” was a bridge too far for many at the outset, but even the wariness with questions of power and the state came to be seen in a new light. Quite quickly new political parties like Podemos emerged, or citizen platforms etc. new twists on the old political form: the party. I had expected the political party to, if not die, then certainly to perhaps find itself competing with other new kinds of actors such as Internetconnected social movements and the like. But actually a key part of the story over the past 10 years has been both for adaptation of existing parties to the new technology, as we have seen most significantly in relation to the Labour Party in the UK and perhaps the Democrats in the US, and also the mutation of horizontal, connective initiatives into political parties. Some of these initiatives were never really horizontal to begin with, such as Podemos and 5SM, but others really were born of an activist milieu. So I


think one of the findings of my own research is that the binary between vertical and horizontal political initiatives has become blurred and less pertinent. More generally, citizens have become more active and better connected. You don’t see many texts these days with titles referencing the “apathy” or “indifference” of citizens, do you? That’s not to say we have escaped “crisis” however defined. It’s more that citizens, and particularly the young, have become more politicised, not less. This is both opportunity and a threat for progressive politics of course. The right is also resurgent after all.

‘the binary between vertical and horizontal political initiatives has become blurred and less pertinent’ In what phase is representative politics after having been scrutinised and profoundly delegitimised by populist actors and popular movements from below? I think I would put this matter somewhat differently. As my comments above indicate, I think the emergence of populist movements has served to relegitimate representative processes, not least because numerous movements have competed for power. So whereas in Spain 10 years ago we might have had discussions about the legitimacy of political institutions and democracy more generally, now we find much less of a preoccupation with the system as such, and more reflection about how to build on some of the successful initiatives that have taken place and which have indeed in some cities and regions resulted in quite radical figures coming to power. I think this underlines the key points that Laclau and Mouffe make, which is that populism is not a break from representation or from representative structures. Far from it. Populism fully embraces the logic of representation in a way that other parts of left discourse, and in particular those influenced by anarchism and some variants of libertarian socialism would reject. For Laclau and Mouffe there is always representation, representative claims, and therefore representatives. This has been a difficult message for horizontal activists to accept. There is always a moment of alienation of those


who represent and those who are represented. The danger is in disavowing this alienation in the search for something more “authentic” or “democratic”. Once activists in Spain realised this, as many did after 2011, then they could reach out to that great part of the public that doesn’t have the time or wherewithal to engage directly in political activism to offer them a new set of choices and a certain experiment charity to engage them in the governance of their own environment. Does populism really constitute a threat to representative politics as liberal thinkers and commentators argue? I take populism to be what a form of hyperrepresentation. This may or may not be a very good label, so let me explain what I mean. Populism arises when we have lost faith in our representatives to – as it were – represent. We are as Henrik Bang puts it, “uncoupled” from our representatives, and in extremis from the system of representation itself. In such a situation we then have the choice either to turn our backs on politics altogether, which is the phenomenon that political scientists are interested in when they talk about apathy or political disinterest. Or we look around to someone who is able to articulate this discontent, and thus to represent us in our discontent with our representatives and perhaps the system of representation. Populism is thus almost by definition a politics of “outsiders”. Populism represents a critique of mainstream politics, of elites, of “Washington” or whatever. So then the question is posed, does populism on this basis represent a

‘Populism fully embraces the logic of representation in a way that other parts of left discourse, and in particular those influenced by anarchism and some variants of libertarian socialism would reject’

threat to representative politics? Not really. What it poses a threat to is obviously representation by a particular group of people, the elites. But this is of course where liberal commentary gets nervous. This is because since John Stuart Mill we have come to associate democracy with the governance of elites, and in the case of Schumpeter, with the rotation of elites in power – nothing more and nothing less. In its anti-elite discourse, populism might thus be thought to represent an inherent risk to liberal democracy. But of course as we have learnt, while some populists are consistent in their critique of elite-based democracy, others aren’t. Left populists are often committed to a more participatory basis for democracy. Other variants of populism offer a critique of elites based on their performance as opposed to their position within the political division of labour. So the critique of “Washington” that we hear in Trump’s discourse is not a critique of elite variants of democracy, so much as a critique of what he regards as the lazy, bureaucratic self-serving behaviour of recent administrations, the fact that it is too far removed from the “ordinary people”, and so on. So in sum, I don’t think populism represents a threat to representative politics either considered as a critique of elite democracy or as a critique of the performance of elites of the kind just discussed. Populism is the attempt to represent those who do not feel represented, those who feel that down by the system, ripped off by taxation, or whatever. It’s a kind of hyper-representation-of those who do not feel “represented”. Last year you published a book with the title Populism: a beginners’ guide. Those of us who study populism are all aware of the wide and often uncritical ways in which the term is used by pundits. We are also very aware of the struggle over the definition of populism, which is often accompanied by heated academic debates. Scholars in the field have somehow reached a consensus on the ‘definition’ of populism: they see populism as a particular political logic, style, or discourse which juxtaposes ‘the people’ against ‘the elite’. Despite this consensus which is supposed to be bridging research gaps in the study of populism however, little else is being agreed. The normative debates on whether populism is good or bad as well as the alarmist discourses around it still remain at high levels. Why is that? Is populism a useful concept in the end?

‘there is enough of a core to the concept for us to have quite productive conversations nonetheless’ I’m probably the only person on the planet who welcomes the fuzziness and uncertainty of the concept of populism, and who sees it productive for all sorts of discussions, not the least of which would be how do we address this apparent crisis of democracy? On the other hand, I also get that scholars and others can feel that we spend a lot of time reflexively critiquing each other, or equally having to retread our steps every time we want to have any kind of conversation. My way of putting this is to refer to Jean-Francois Lyotard’s notion of a “genre”. There are different genres of discourse when it comes to discussing populism. Comparative political science has one set of interests or puzzles that it is seeking to resolve. Media commentary has another set of puzzles it’s interested in. And those who follow the Essex school approach, have some other purposes. This isn’t to say that populism is an “essentially contested concept”. I don’t see it as a value laden concept in the manner of “freedom” or “equality”. Whilst there are certainly normative differences at work between these different genres, I just think we are all trying to do slightly different things with the concept, and this means in turn that we can speak at cross purposes. But as you indicate in your question I think there is enough of a core to the concept for us to have quite productive conversations nonetheless. As my comments above indicate, I think that at heart we are discussing a kind of outsider politics, a politics that is premised on a discontent with the performance of elites, and thus one that evinces a desire for something new or something different to take us in a different direction. It’s just that those directions can be multiple, which in turn indicates to me the lack of an ideological component to populism. I don’t think there’s a populist ideology as such, but rather a populist discourse. Everyone in the Populism Specialist Group will understand the importance of the difference here, but the nuance is often lost in mainstream discussions, where


‘ I don’t think there’s a populist ideology as such, but rather a populist discourse. [...]the nuance is often lost in mainstream discussions, where populism becomes a proxy for nasty right wing politics’ populism becomes a proxy for nasty right wing politics. Populism can take on lots of different guises with lots of different effects. The point is not to as it were turn one’s back on populism, or to dismiss it out of hand, but rather to craft a productive conversation about the contemporary crisis, and what we can do meaningfully to resolve it. At some point in your book, you also define populism as the ‘politics of incivility’. Populism is presented as an extraordinary style of politics which is contrasted to the ordinary, standard, or perhaps ‘boring’ style of politics. However, if populism is becoming more and more common these days should we still consider it as an extraordinary style of politics? Or should we better speak of a new ‘normality’? Do you think that the label ‘uncivil’ contributes to further mystifying the term ‘populism’? The idea that we can demarcate populism in terms of incivility, or more generally in terms of a pattern of behaviours is much more Benjamin Moffitt’s position than my own, notwithstanding our joint piece explaining the centrality of all this to populism! I take a more formal approach, as I think my answers above indicate. This is to say that I think that at heart, populism concerns a discourse or a form of politics in which the idea of the people is being mobilised against the elite. Benjamin’s view is that this is normally accompanied by a particular repertoire of performances, what he terms “bad manners”. I think that whilst this may often be the case, it is not intrinsic to populism as such. And of course having spent quite a lot of time over the past decade in Spain


observing the emergence of populist movements and initiatives at close hand, I would contend that it is not at all intrinsic to populist politics to be lacking civility or accompanied by bad manners. Far from it. One of the most impressive features of these populist initiatives in Spain is the calmness, maturity and civility of many of its key protagonists such as Manuela Carmena, Ada Colau, and Inigo Errejon. No one could accuse any of these figures of being anything other than serious, thoughtful representatives of their various interests. We could perhaps allow a slight exception for Pablo Iglesias, who as we know can be given to a rather excitable, emotive style of discourse, but really we are scrabbling around for scraps of evidence here. And we could go on to discuss the likes of Alexis Tsipras, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, etc. Of course it’s always open to us to say that “Well these are not populists”, but then what is the utility of the term? Those who have read my book will know that I do think they are populists, and I think they are populists because they mount a serious critique of the performance of elites, and in a number of cases of elite democracy as such. They do this in the name of the people, which of course is the classic banner for populist initiatives. So I know I may be associated with the view that populism is to be judged on the basis of performance, bad manners, etc., but all I can do is point, as you have done to my book, to offer a corrective! How does contemporary democracy look like ‘after’ populism? I think at one level populism has succeeded in its task, which is to disrupt the comfort of elites around the world, and to put in motion a renewal of interest in politics, how it works, and for whom. For those of us with long memories, this all seemed quite unlikely until the financial crisis disrupted the terrain in 2008. Prior to that point we had been regaled with stories about “the end of history”, the triumph of the “third way”, the necessity for market solutions to every kind of common problem, and so on. In other words we were in the midst of a neoliberal triumphalism that seemed to have no end. That triumphalism was rudely crushed in the banking crisis and in the unleashing of austerity politics thereafter. This is of course the background to the emergence of both right-wing and left-wing populism over the past decade. These initiatives would not have been possible were it not for the crisis of neoliberalism

and by extension the crisis of the hegemonic idea that has governed most democratic societies for the past four decades. Now I think we are in the midst of a new “return of the political”, as my friend Chantal Mouffe might put it. We are in an environment where many of the old coordinates either no longer seem fit for purpose or have had to be rebadged and repackaged for a new audience. And in addition, we have a whole series of new issues that prompt discontent or doubt about the ability of elites to manage what lies ahead. These include most obviously the climate crisis, the crisis of the liberal cosmopolitan vision of globalisation, the collapse of the middle-class with growing precarity and employment insecurity, the emergence of “surveillance capitalism”, and of course most immediately the rise of a kind of resilience-wellness agenda that prompts a new age of medicalised statism. Notwithstanding the admittedly unpromising nature of the terrain I do think there are opportunities for progressive forms of populism to make advances, although it will do so faced by a newly confident and quite assertive anti-immigrant neo-nativist right. It will for example be interesting to observe what happens in France in 2022. It’s quite conceivable there that we will see a contest between the old National Front and either Macron, or quite possibly Mélenchon.

sustaining, and that ultimately one can do very little without competing and winning power; but equally one can’t even conceive of winning power and doing something productive with it without the help and support of everyone on the left, including every variety of libertarian horizontalist. That was definitely an important lesson for many activists in Spain over the period of time that I was researching the evolution of progressive responses after 15 M. So, in short, populism’s hour is definitely here, and there will be many more populist initiatives and projects for members of the group to study! This interview was conducted by Giorgos Venizelos

Simon Tormey is a Professor of Politics at the University of Bristol. He works in the fields of political theory, European politics, social critique and continental thought. His most recent books are The End of Representative Politics (Cambridge: Polity, 2015), The Refiguring of Democracy (London: Routledge, 2017), and Populism (Oxford: Oneworld, 2019).

‘we have a whole series of new issues that prompt discontent or doubt about the ability of elites to manage what lies ahead’ To put this into a more global perspective I still think that “centrist politics” is under strain and that therefore a more radical politics, often populist in nature, will be regarded as a natural choice for the electorate. What I also observe is that there is now much less resistance on the left and broadly speaking to adopting populist strategies, tactics, tropes. I do think that the old battle between “horizontalism” and a more populist style, party-based radicalism is less marked now than it was perhaps 20 years ago. I think many activists get that these neatly packaged positions are not self-


Trump, Populism, the US elections and after Elections in the United States always received increased attention from global media, experts and researchers. The November 2020 elections did not break this tradition - perhaps, though, for different reasons than in the past. The increasing polarisation in the country, and the disruptive figure of Donald Trump, president and contender for another term in office, generated a number of controversies but also bigger social, political and scientific questions to ask? We asked two of our members who research populism in the United States, focusing on the case of Donald Trump, to provide short commentary that draws on their own research. How did Donald Trump’s tweeting change over time? What will happen to Trumpism after Trump?

The Shifting Narrative of (Un-)Patriotic Justices in Trump’s Twitter Discourse

After the 2020 presidential election, courts and the Supreme Court in particular played an important role in Donald Trump’s tweets. Trump, having gained less votes than his opponent, tried his best to turn the election with one court case after another. Anticipating a tight election, the President had hoped the conservative judges whom he had appointed to so many federal courts as well as the Supreme Court would decide in his favor, despite the election results delivering the presidential election to the Democrats. Looking at Trump’s Twitter feed, one can see that the portrayal of courts and judges shifted after the election, reflecting his disappointment in the justice


system which did not react in the way he wanted. With over 88 million Twitter followers, the President had a global platform to promote populist attitudes vis-à-vis democratic institutions such as the justice system. An analysis of tweets posted between June 16, 2015, the date on which he announced his run for the presidency, and December 13, 2020, shortly after the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit contesting the election’s results, revealed a long-term narrative in which Trump ties judges and their rulings to patriotism. He follows the principle: If courts rule in his favor, the ruling is good for the country; if courts rule against him, the ruling is bad for the country. The President also makes judges personally responsible for these ‘unpatriotic acts’. In his Twitter discourse, this principle was particularly poignant for the Supreme Court and its justices. Prior to the 2020 presidential election, Trump’s tweets praise his appointees for court positions. Throughout his time in office, Trump had the opportunity to appoint over 200 judges and three Supreme Court justices. He frequently assured his followers that his appointees would act in the country’s best interest, even though the judiciary is independent from the executive branch of government, meaning that Trump has no influence over court rulings. Yet, he is particularly proud of his nominees of Supreme Court justices, presenting them as great, patriotic judges who will benefit the country: “Last night, we made history and confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court! Justice Barrett will defend our rights, our liberties, and our God-Given FREEDOM!” (2020a) Trump thereby highlights her patriotism, promising a great future for “us” – himself and the country. In the days after the election, Trump stayed confident that his appointees would help him win the election. When state courts had rejected cases and a Texas lawsuit reached the Supreme Court, Trump tweeted: “If the Supreme Court shows great Wisdom and Courage, the American People will win perhaps the most important case in history, and our Electoral Process will be respected again!” (2020c) This underlines Trump’s narrative that the great Supreme Court justices who he nominated will act patriotically by supporting him and, thus, the country, and it illustrates his disregard for the judiciary’s independence. The Supreme Court is presented as the last reliable bastion to protect the country from the alleged election fraud. With Americans having more confidence in the Supreme Court than in other

institutions such as Congress or the military, this narrative of support for Trump’s cause – in spite of the justice system’s impartiality – is especially powerful. One day after the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Texas lawsuit, Trump posted the following tweet:

According to Trump’s interpretation, despite viable evidence and support, which Trump presents as a sign of his just cause, the Supreme Court did not take the time to examine the case, thus supporting a “Rigged Election.” His ‘great’ justices therefore failed both him and the country. To emphasise his opinion, Trump also starts to portray the justices, once framed as good and patriotic men and women, as cowards: “[…] They just ‘chickened out’ and didn’t want to rule on the merits of the case. So bad for our Country!” (2020f) In this view, the court’s ruling against Trump’s interest is hurting the country. Looking at Trump’s tweets shows how his framing of Supreme Court justices has changed, shifting from ‘great’ and ‘patriotic’ to ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘cowardly’ justices who are unwilling and afraid to act. His narrative, however, – tying judges’ rulings to Trump’s idea of patriotism (or the lack thereof), meaning unconditional support for his own interests – continued after the loss of the election and the subsequent legal action against its results. He portrays the justice system as inadequate and ‘bad’ for the country, thereby discrediting an institution which is vital for America’s democratic system and which should guarantee due process and equal treatment for everyone before the law. Yet, Trump warns his followers: “The Supreme Court decision on voting in Pennsylvania is a VERY dangerous one. It will allow rampant and unchecked cheating and will undermine our entire systems of laws. It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!” (2020b)

trust in institutions and feeds into the skepticism many Americans already feel towards the political system and its actors. With millions of Twitter followers and news outlets worldwide reporting on every word President Trump says, he has a massive influence on public discourse and a broad platform to promote his populist views. Framing the Supreme Court as ‘unpatriotic’ in particular has the potential to further foment distrust in the justice system amongst the general public.

Maren A. Schäfer, PhD Candidate, Heidelberg Center for American Studies, University of Heidelberg

References Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (2020a, October 27, 2020, 9:34 PM EST). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/ status/1321188538596032513 Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (2020b, November 2, 2020, 8:02 PM EST). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/ status/1323430341512622080 Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (2020c, December 11, 2020, 3:28 PM EST). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ realdonaldtrump/status/1337494507756072961 Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (2020d, December 12, 2020, 5:04 AM EST). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ realdonaldtrump/status/1337790419875352576 Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (2020e, December 12, 2020, 6:24 AM EST). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ realdonaldtrump/status/1337629305405321216 Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (2020f, December 13, 2020, 11:16 PM EST). “The fact that the Supreme Court wouldn’t find standing in an original jurisdiction matter between multiple states, and including the President of the States, is absurd. It is enumerated in the Constitution... They just ‘chickened out’ and didn’t want to rule on the merits of the case. So bad for our Country!” Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/1338246403164954629

Although Trump is unable to truly act on this warning, his rhetoric is deeply problematic as it undermines


What will happen to Trumpism after Trump? The 2020 US election was historical as it marked the highest voter turnout in the country’s history, with Joe Biden winning the popular vote with 81.2 million votes, more than any presidential candidate, while Biden became the first Democrat to flip Georgia since President Clinton in 1992. Donald Trump’s defeat was celebrated as the end of an administration that was considered an aberration and was followed by triumphant declarations about the end of the era of populism in the United States. Trump’s series of failures, including his impeachment trial, his failure to meet the hyperbolic promises to restore the greatness of the US, his mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis, and inability to extend his voting base, did not dent his appeal. Not only he managed to maintain 92% of his voters from the 2016 elections, but also to secure 74.2 million votes, an extra 11.2 million votes since the last election. These facts indicate that the support for Trump is still widespread and enduring among Americans, while his discourse remains influential, proving that Trumpism will far outlast Trump’s presidency. This comes as no surprise if we examine his 2020 campaign. Building on the experience of 2016, Trump’s 2020 discourse was a rebranding of rightwing ideas, tapping on the unmet demands of the American society with a populist discourse infused with nativist elements. Trump appealed to the American people and their accumulated anger, while creating frontiers to divide society in antagonistic camps. Specifically, he divided the socio-political space in two, ‘us’ and ‘them’, claiming to give voice to the ordinary American people whom he juxtaposed against their ‘other’ – a controlling political and economic establishment who ‘allowed in’ an unruly enemy (‘immigrants’, ‘Mexicans’, and ‘Muslims’). His unwillingness to condemn far-right groups that incite violence, like the Proud Boys, or evenactively mobilising them, while at the same time his presentation of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters as ‘the enemy’, the ‘thugs’ that were responsible for looting, polarised the American society and tapped on white racial insecurities. His slogan ‘Make American Great Again’ was a rather nostalgic promise for a return to ‘the good old days’ with a less diverse society and a reinforced white male role; a promise that proved to be rather successful with part


of the electorate, and especially with white males, who consisted the majority of his voting base. His discourse was unique for a politician of a major party due to his distinctive indifference to civility, political correctness, and facts. Belittling adjectives for his opponents (‘Sleepy Joe’), confrontational style of campaigning, references to conspiracy theories and misinformation were recurring in his discourse. Adopting such a behaviour allowed him to normalise politicians who were politically incorrect, changing the Republican base to accept more extreme political actors. Therefore, themes of desperation of the ‘ordinary voter,’ degradation of an America that is presented as a ‘loser’ to the international trade game, and a xenophobic and racist construction of the ‘other’, were consistent in his campaign discourse and as reflectedin the election results they were still popular with the electorate albeit to a lesser extent that in the 2016 elections. Trumpism was also reinforced through Trump’s appointments to the federal Judiciary that will further enhance its conservative character and exercise influence for years to come. The institutions have managed at times to stop Trump’s effort to bypass checks and balances and put him under investigation and trial for his ties with Russia before and after the 2016 elections. However, the lack of political will, especially from the Republicans in the Senate, not only allowed Trump to avoid conviction but has also revealed the extent of his influence in the Republican Party. The meteoric rise of Trump in the GOP was remarkable for a candidate that entered the race as an independent and outsider with an antiestablishment rhetoric and a critical tone against the elite of the Republican Party. From a generalised resistance to Trump’s candidacy within the party and a ‘Never Trump’ movement in 2016, we have, in 2020, the majority of Republicans holding a positive view of Trump’s presidency with many of them pondering a Don Jr candidacy for the near future. This change towards Trump can be attributed to his winning of the GOP nomination in the 2016 elections and bringing a unique political brand to the Republican Party, notwithstanding the fact that his beliefs about trade protectionism, isolationism and expansion of social security benefits were incompatible with the traditional Republican values

of limited government and the primacy of national security in the political agenda. His populist nativist discourse with politically incorrect and emotive language, that motivated the alienated middle-class American, presented a different but winning formula for the next Republican candidate. This indicates that although Trump is gone, his political brand will remain an influential force in the US political arena. Trump’s grip on the Republican Party was such that even the accusations of electoral fraud and refusal to concede, did not inspire a self-preservation feeling in his most loyal Republicans that would lead them far from the losing candidate, but on the contrary, his claims were met with either support or lack of mounting disapproval. With this new round of misinformation, Trump alarmed people that their votes are not being counted and their rights of representation are being suppressed adding thus to his populist discourse. Moving the Republican Party further to the right could make Biden’s goal of achieving bipartisan collaboration hard to achieve. With almost half of the electorate supporting Trump, Trumpism will be difficult to eradicate. Only if Biden manages to meet the needs of the American people that remained unfulfilled even from before Trump’s presidency will he win the trust of Trump’s voters, minimise polarisation and prevent xenophobic populists like Trump to thrive.

Maria Tsiko, PhD candidate at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Loughborough University


Book reviews The linguistic construction of populism: between pronouns and social media Book reviewed: Politics and Populism Across Modes and Media (2020) Ruth Breeze and Ana María Fernández Vallejo Peter Lang ISBN:978-3-0343-3725-0 Reviewed by Luca Manucci The central topic examined in the volume Politics and Populism across Modes and Media edited by Breeze and Fernández Vallejo, namely populist communication, has already received much scholarly attention. The innovative perspective adopted by the authors, however, makes this book an important contribution. Working at the intersection of political science, media studies, and critical discourse analysis, this edited volume offers a valuable insight on the relationship between populist communication and social media across different contexts. One of the most interesting features of the volume lies in the inclusion of often-neglected cases such as Pakistan and Puerto Rico, showing that — by abandoning Eurocentrism — the study of populism acquires fascinating nuances and convincingly challenges many assumptions that are often taken for granted in the literature on European populism. Another strong feature of the volume is its eclecticism. The authors rely on both quantitative and qualitative methods, and analyse several types of populist discourses: right- and left-wing, in interaction with Islam, in power and in opposition, generated by politicians and also as a reaction from citizens. While this, at times, produces a very heterogeneous array of styles and approaches, the focus remains convincingly clear and enjoyably entertaining. The overall impression is that populist actors build a sense of crisis that in turn generates the conditions for the rise of charismatic leaderships. Leaders claim to be one with the people, protecting the common citizen from corrupt elites and out-groups presented


as a threat. This sense of looming catastrophe is created linguistically through an aggressive narrative that builds a Manichean antagonism between the followers of the populist leader or movement and corrupt elites, and is often done by exploiting frustration, fear, and anger. Politicians rely on populist discourses to be perceived as ordinary, accessible people, like Tsipras in Greece, while Trump mobilises his voters by creating a category of ‘un-American’ enemies that include Latinos and Muslims. Populist actors claim to be champions of the national good, but while this brings Salvini to produce nativist messages, Imran Khan in Pakistan promotes a modernising agenda focusing on women’s rights and minority protection. Moreover, as the interesting case of Romania shows, populist strategies are widespread across the political spectrum and mainstream parties articulate populist messages too. The main merit of this volume consists in presenting the characteristics of populist communication in different cultures and political systems across the world. Another interesting aspect that emerges is the analysis not only of how populism works across media, but also how specific media influence the messages and the way people receive them. Finally, it is praiseworthy the use that the different authors make of the toolkit offered by discourse studies. The potential applications of discourse analysis to populist communication are virtually endless, and this volume constitutes an excellent demonstration of the possible directions for research. For example, the authors address several crucial issues concerning the growing polarisation in contemporary politics and the formation of extreme political views, suggesting that this might be a direct consequence of the impact of unmediated channels of communication. The volume presents an extremely interesting introduction to the potential that discourse analysis can offer in analysing mediatised populist messages, but also shows two main weaknesses. First, the volume could have approached more systematically the issue of how different media influence the diffusion and reception of populist messages. For example, it would have been interesting to devote less attention to Twitter — which certainly remains together with Facebook the main channel for unmediated political

communication— and focus more on emerging channels of unmediated communication between political actors and citizens such as Instagram, TikTok, Telegram, and Medium to mention just a few. The second limit of the volume lies in the disproportionate attention it devotes to Donald Trump: four of the twelve chapters analyse Trump’s populist communication from different perspectives. While the relevance of the dramatic changes Trump introduced in both political communication and the use of social media are undeniable, the volume could have continued its precious exploration of less-known and too often neglected cases. Another element that the volume touches only indirectly, is the enormous transformation introduced by social media. Political communication in general — and the diffusion of populist messages in particular — rely on the direct transmission of content between political actors and citizens: the anthropological and linguistic mutation caused by this phenomenon could be fruitfully investigated in future volumes of this interesting book series. This edited volume will certainly constitute a point of reference for studies on these topics and on the interplay between populist communication, media and language. Luca Manucci is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Lisbon, Institute of Social Sciences. He studies populism, parties, and political communication. His work focuses on the connection between populism and collective memories of the authoritarian past.

‘The definitive introduction to populism’ Book reviewed: Populism (2020) Series: Key concepts in political theory Benjamin Moffitt Polity Press ISBN: 978-1-509-53433-3 Reviewed by Théo Aiolfi The field of populism studies can be overwhelming for any newcomer. Especially since the popularity of the term grew exponentially in recent years, prompting the emergence of a massive wave of new academic work, the mere task of keeping up to date has become a monumental one. More than this, research on populism is often loaded with implicit normative judgement and theoretical biases that are difficult to detect, even – or perhaps especially – to those deeply immersed in the literature. Benjamin Moffitt’s latest book Populism is a contribution to the Polity series ‘Key Concepts in Political Theory’, and it is undoubtedly the introductory work that I would recommend to those seeking to get a definitive overview of the discipline, equally to undergraduate students and to more experienced scholars. Writing with a clarity of prose that many of us in academia could learn from, Moffitt develops in this work a concise exploration of the conceptual debates on populism and, building from that, links them to five other fundamental concepts of political theory: nationalism and nativism, socialism, liberalism and democracy. In a remarkably synthetic format, he manages to tackle through each of these short chapters most of the central questions at the heart of the field and offers a nuanced overview of why studying populism matters and what it means more generally to the broader discipline of political studies. Moffitt argues that what makes his book standout from other introductory accounts on the topic is that it is primarily grounded in political theory, and not prompted or guided by empirical concerns. While he is wary that theory can be a “dense and difficult lingua franca” (4), his bet proved successful as he managed to make even the most theoretically challenging jargon accessible. More than this, Moffitt is careful to constantly link each point he makes to relevant examples in an attempt to “illustrate, flesh out, challenge and make sense of the conceptual arguments at play” (5). At times, this concern


to weave theory and practice leads him to rely excessively on examples, as is for instance the case of his discussion on populism at the sub-national (municipal and regional) level which is very light in theoretical analysis and ends up only superficially tackling the questions raised by mobilising ‘the people’ within the traditional unit of the nation-state. Especially given that he develops it in only one chapter, it is a real tour de force for Moffitt to summarise so concisely the main approaches to populism studies without sacrificing too much depth. Shifting from the position he adopted in his 2016 book, The Global Rise of Populism and getting closer to the collective direction established in the 2017 Oxford Handbook of Populism, Moffitt develops three overarching approaches to populism: ideational, strategic and discursiveperformative, the latter of which combines under a broad church what he called in his earlier work ‘populism as a discourse’, ‘populism as a logic’ as well as his own ‘stylistic approach’ to populism. Urging not to give up definitional discussions as “irrelevant or as mere nitpicking” (11) which may be interpreted as a hegemonic move to monopolise the field, Moffitt’s book provides a heartfelt plea for theoretical eclecticism. Demonstrating that a rich and diverse conceptual debate is not the sign of an immature field of research, he convincingly argues that “the kind of phenomenon one thinks populism to be tends to reflect very different ontological, epistemological and methodological approaches to the subject” (ibid.). Although his work admittedly falls in what he calls the “discursive-performative approach” (21), Moffitt manages to strike a delicate balance in his comparative endeavour between impartial distance and his own biases that inevitably lead parts of his discussion, most notably his rejection of antipluralism in populism as a normative judgement (83) or his discussion of nationalism as a discourse (34). That said, this apparently balanced programme has its own limitations as the bulk of his analysis revolves on the contrast between ideational and discursiveperformative approaches, leaving the strategic approach surprisingly absent in later chapters – an absence that Moffitt willingly acknowledges, claiming that, in spite of its “great impact on the comparative literature on populism”, the strategic approach “is not taken up in the theoretical literature to a great extent” (28). Finally, what is most unique and refreshing about


this book is the deft way Moffitt confronts populism to other concepts with which it is typically compared, conflated or contrasted. Not only is this book synthesising his own work on liberal illiberalism as well as the recent discussions on the need to separate populism from nativism, the fourth chapter on how populism relates to socialism is a welcome addition to a part of the literature that remains underdeveloped. Last, but certainly not least, the final chapter on democracy serves as an excellent conclusion that ties the whole book together by tackling the most important questions raised by populism in relationship to democratic politics. All in all, and in spite of some of its flaws that are hard to avoid within such an abridged format, Moffitt’s Populism is an impressive piece of scholarship that is both didactic and ambitious, with the potential to become a standard introduction to the study of populism. Théo Aiolfi is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and International Studies working in conjunction with the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies of the University of Warwick. He holds an MSc in Global Governance & Ethics from University College London (UCL) as well as a BA in International Relations from the University of Geneva (UNIGE).

The Populist Manifesto: A partisan view on (left-wing) populism Book reviewed: The Populist Manifesto (2020) Emmy Eklundh and Andy Knott (eds.) Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield International. ISBN: 978-1-78661-263-2

Reviewed by Enrico Padoan Emmy Eklundh and Andy Knott’s edited book, The Populist Manifesto, is a much-needed work for the academic community and, potentially, for a broader public engaged with progressive politics. As stated by the editors already in the Introduction (p. 2), the book has a “clear position – on politics, on populism, and left populism more particularly”, which is often in contradiction of an equally clear but opposite position – populism as an “aberration” – held by most other commentators who write on the subject. Emanating from different angles and touching different aspects of populism, all contributors attempt to “demystify” (p. 8) the notion of populism and emphasise the transformative potential of left-wing populism in the eight chapters that follow. Andy Knott criticises Cas Mudde’s (2004) well-known definition of populism as a “thin-centred ideology” and emphasises, as almost all other contributors do, that populism has no content: it is not an ideology, instead it is a “form of doing politics”, which finds fertile terrain during moments of “crisis” or “transition”. María Esperanza Casullo discusses the role of myth in populist phenomena. She argues that left-wing populist narratives are “forward-looking” in terms of time orientation and “upward-punching” in that they attack groups at the very top of the socioeconomic ladder, while the exact opposite holds true for “downward-punching” right-wing populisms. Paolo Gerbaudo discusses the relation between the rise of populism and the popular demand for “control” in times of advanced globalisation and crisis of neoliberalism. While right-wing populisms advocate for regaining border control and cultural homogeneity, for leftwing populist projects “control mostly expresses the need for asserting power internally to the political community, empowering the state to keep big economic powers in check and enforcing economic redistribution” (p. 41). Emilia Palonen (Chapter 4) puts forward ten theses

on populism, emphasising its performative features, its intimate (and complex) relationship with the deep theoretical foundations of both politics and democracy, as well as the relationship between populism and its constitutive other – namely, antipopulism. Emmy Eklundh (Chapter 5) deconstructs the ideological, classist and discriminatory theoretical foundations of the axiomatic, (even in the academia) opposition between “rational” (associated with anti-populism) and “emotional” (associated with ‘dangerous populists’) politics. Mark Devenney argues for the need of a “transnational populism” in order to overcome the unavoidable exclusions provoked by any definition of a “people” on the basis of a specific statehood and/or nationhood, for example, of indigenous populations, as often occurred in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador, where state-led developmentalist projects were pursued. Marina Prentoulis elaborates on why leftwing populism must be transnationalist, since, as the author writes: “no matter how powerful concepts like the ‘nation’ are in forging emotional identifications… this cannot be a left-populist project” (p. 104). She also questions the supposed “homogeneity” of the (populist) “People” as in Mudde’s and Jan-Werner Müller’s (2016) widely appealing theorisations, as well as the allegedly purely “top-down” form of representation in populist phenomena. At the same time, Prentoulis offers a sharp discussion over the (sometimes more tenuous, in the historical praxis) differences between left-populist logic and Marxism. In the concluding chapter, Knott focuses on the challenges brought by climate change and emphasises how a left-populist turn, based on the promise of an inclusive and pluralist Green New Deal, may successfully oppose both neoliberalism and right-wing populisms, which indeed have very little to offer to address environmental issues. This book should be welcomed and endorsed by socially-engaged scientists and theorists in that it highlights the transformative dynamics of populism as a potential strategy for the left. One should take into account that, since the beginning of the Great Recession in Western Europe (and since the end of the Washington Consensus in Latin America), left-wing populist projects have formed most of the electorally successful new projects on the Left – while both ‘old’ and ‘new’ ‘lefts’ have, with few exceptions, been ‘in trouble’. From an academic point of view, the critiques exposed in the book against the ‘mainstream’ definitions and theories, and against their (not so hidden) normative underpinnings, are well founded. Still nowadays, such critiques are too often not even


taken in consideration by academic articles that take for granted a “shared definition” which is ironically not shared at all. Having stated this, the major weakness of The Populist Manifesto is its excessive dedication to attacking Mudde’s definition and to emphasise how populism “is not an ideology, is not a content… instead is a form or a logic”. First, this makes the book excessively jargonised and focused on academic debates that may be far from being interesting for broader audiences. Second, and related to the first point, many of the contributions fail to underscore why understanding populism as a form or logic should be that relevant. For instance, is the distinction between “upward-punching” and “downward-punching” so different from that between the “inclusionary” and “exclusionary” populisms of the ideational paradigm? Is arguing that populism is a “form of politics” that finds fertile terrain during “crises” so different from arguing that “populist ideologies” become electorally attractive during “crises”? In this reviewer’s opinion, while acknowledging the deep ontological differences (and methodological consequences) between the different approaches, perhaps the main problem of Mudde’s definition (which is undoubtedly the most widespread and perhaps the closest to the journalistic use of the concept) does not lie in seeing populism as an “ideology”. Instead, the main problem is that this definition is elaborated by having only right-wing populist parties in mind. Said otherwise: the (main) problem is not that Mudde considers populism as a “content”. The (main) problem is that Mudde offers a very partial description of what that content is (and can be). The distinction between “inclusionary” and “exclusionary populisms” is a late, and in my personal view unsuccessful attempt to make the definition better suited to include left-wing populisms. However, what about “pluralism” as a necessary “populist enemy”? How can someone convincingly argue that projects such as Podemos or Syriza – or even the experience of MAS-IPSP in Bolivia - are “anti-pluralist”? Consequently, perhaps The Populist Manifesto would have benefitted from just some brief introductory reflections over how and why the most widespread theorisations are simply not adequate to understand the progressive potential of populist politics. More generally, many contributors de facto spent many words, and rightly so, to add some content to left-populism in order to differentiate it from both its right-wing (and even, non populist or anti-populist) counterparts. Gerbaudo’s chapter over the politics


of control and the concept of sovereignty is a (very good) example. Gerbaudo’s essay, in this sense, seems quite at odds with Prentoulis’ and Devenney’s arguments about the necessity of looking at forms of “transnational populisms”. While the shortcomings brought by “national populisms” are well addressed by Prentoulis and Devenney, it seems to this reviewer that both scholars are concretely (and legitimately) claiming for “more leftist and less populist” political projects. Indeed, as Prentoulis highlights the frontier between Marxist and populist modes of articulation has often been blurred. The debate over the shortcomings of left-populism is pressing. It remains to see if such shortcomings were due to their statistnationalist dimension – and their primary attention to the question of sovereignty, as this reviewer argued elsewhere (Padoan, 2020) – or, as for example Yannis Stavrakakis and Giorgos Venizelos (2020) suggested, due to left-populisms’ failures in “impacting considerably on the modes of production and the psychosocial framing of consumption which conditions the majority of social identities”. Overall, the book deserves much, much attention, and, most importantly, thanks to its forceful arguments, it can serve to relaunch a wide debate amongst scholars adopting different approaches to the topic. The goal of such a debate should not be to come to a “shared definition”. Instead, scholars could have an opportunity of refining the existing approaches in order to reply to often repeated criticisms, even to reach the conclusion that right-wing and left-wing populisms may need very different analytical tools to be fully understood in their features, causes and consequences. Enrico Padoan is a post-doc researcher in the Faculty of Social and Political Studies at the Scuola Normale Superiore. He is the author of Anti-Neoliberal Populisms in Comparative Perspective: A Latinamericanisation of Southern Europe? His research interests focus on populism, labor politics and social movements. References Mudde, Cas (2004) The Populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition 39(4), 541-563. Müller, Jan-Werner (2016) What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Padoan, Enrico (2020) Anti-Neoliberal Populisms in Comparative Perspective. A LatinAmericanization of Southern Europe? London: Routledge. Venizelos, Giorgos and Stavrakakis Yannis (2020) Left-Populism Is Down but Not Out. Jacobin Magazine, 22 March 2020, https://jacobinmag.com/2020/03/ left-populism-political-strategy-class-power

Populism enters the field of International Relations Book reviewed: Populism and World Politics: Exploring Inter- and Transnational Dimensions (2019) Frank Stengel, David B. MacDonald and Dirk Nabers, (eds.) Palgrave ISBN: 978-3-030-04620-0 Reviewed by Syed Tahseen Raza Populism and World Politics: Exploring Inter- and Transnational Dimensions is a new addition to the literature of populism, but also international relations. The editors, Frank Stengel, David B. MacDonald, and Dirk Nabers, deserve appreciation for their bold and timely attempt, not just to explain the term ‘populism’ but also to try and understand its use in a hitherto less explored area: International Relations. The editors have done a wonderful job of including examples from diverse regions of the world, accounting for the differing use of the word populism in a myriad of contexts, and helping untangle the enigma surrounding the usage of the term ‘populism’. This work uniquely distinguishes itself from the plethora of recently churned out accounts on populism in having an account of populism from international perspectives specifically trying to understand the reasons for the emergence of movements like the Arab Spring, Occupy or DIEM 25 which defy national boundaries in different ways. This is arguably the first work of its kind in being an attempt to explore the inter- and trans-national dimensions of populism and world politics. It broadens its appeal by keeping the canvas of its exploration quite wide – from examining populist trends in countries like New Zealand, Canada, India, Spain and the United States – while applying a multiplicity of approaches from empiricism to theories of anthropology and sociology, to help explain the growing rise of populism in different regions of the world. Meticulously divided into three parts, this volume carries twelve academically enriched chapters besides an excellent Introduction and a crisp Conclusion. The introduction of the volume very nicely sets the tone of the work by giving a theoretical

account of the importance of understanding populism’s inter- and trans-national aspects in a more systematic manner. It particularly highlights the increasingly more observable characteristics of international politics, of late, in terms of ‘the denationalisation of political rule’ complemented with the ‘politicisation of international authority’ and ‘cross border interaction between populists’ (p.7). Moreover, the success and the failure of populist parties and movements, as we see, are more often contingent upon transnational interactions. The first part of the book, titled ‘Theoretical Issues in Global Populism Research’, which contains three chapters, highlights the need to study populism beyond the confines of national borders. It draws on the connection between populism and global media to underline the significance of looking at populism as a ‘transnational communication logic’ that operates in a range of distinct communicational arenas, such as social media, tabloids but also established broadcasters. The second part of the volume, titled ‘Populism and Foreign Policy’, carries six different chapters, each explaining the tactics of populist leaders of different countries. Of critical interest in this part is the chapter by Brian Budd wherein the author, by exploring the failed populist attempt of Canadian Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, explains how the form of populism which remained successful in the United States failed to find takers in Canada because, ‘… the diffusion of populism from one country to the next is contingent on distinct political culture’. Cases from Latin America, New Zealand and India are incisively discussed in successive chapters to further buttress the points. Entitled ‘Populism and International Politics’, the third part of the book, consisting of three chapters, emphasises the global and international dimension of the rise of populism. Robert G. Patman in his chapter proffers the idea that the rise of populism has, in fact, resulted in intensifying the spirit of liberal order to address its shortcomings like the rising civil conflicts or environmental decline or increasing inequality. Shane Markowitz posits the idea that the rise of populism owes a lot to the ‘socio-material phenomenon’ and not just the employment of rhetoric by populist leaders. Building his argument on the rancorous issue of ‘genetically modified organisms’ in the European Union, he shows how material, natural and technological forces play their


part in sustaining the issues. The chapter by Amy Skonieczny brings forth the critical role of emotions in populist discourse by deeply analyzing the debate surrounding the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the surge in populist anti-trade narratives. Finally, the Conclusion, through a combined take by the editors Frank Stengel, David B. MacDonald and Dirk Nabers, succinctly summarises the entire argument of the book by outlining a three point agenda for studying the connection between populism and world politics, which includes analysing specific ideologies and foreign policy positions of the populists, taking account of their respective domestic opportunity structures and, of course, the nature of the prevailing international context. As a line of suggestion for those willing to pursue research on populism and international relations, the editors of this volume propose exploring issues, such as the organisation by the populist leaders in transnational networks, foreign powers’ involvement in domestic elections and the common intellectual roots of the populists. Overall, Populism and World Politics: Exploring Interand Transnational Dimensions is a very well-timed and extremely welcome addition to the literature of International Relations and Populism studies that can help us understand the relationship between the two. This volume fills a vital gap in existing literature related to populism. Dr. Raza is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Strategic and Security Studies, Faculty of International Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. He has recently authored “United States and Pakistan in the 21st Century: Geostrategy and Geopolitics in South Asia�, Routledge, 2020.


Publications Alert Books

Anti-Neoliberal Populisms in Comparative Perspective A Latinamericanisation of Southern Europe? Padoan, E. (2020) Routledge

For the People: Left Populism in Spain and the US Tamames, J. (2020) Lawrence and Wishart

Left Populism in Europe: Lessons from Jeremy Corbyn to Podemos Prentoulis, M. (2021) Pluto Press

Populism and New Patterns of Political Competition in Western Europe Albertazzi, D., Vampa, D. (2021) Routledge

Populism in Global Perspective a Performative and Discursive Approach Ostiguy, P., et al. (2021) Routledge

Seven Essays on Populism: for a Renewed Theoretical Perspective Biglieri, P., Cadahia L. (2021) Polity Press

Populism Moffitt, B. (2020) Polity Press

The People, NO: a Brief History of Anti-Populism Frank, T. (2020) Picador



Anastasiou, M. (2020) The spatiotemporality of nationalist populism and the production of political subjectivities. Subjectivity 13, 217–234

Marcinkiewicz K, Dassonneville R. (2021) Do religious voters support populist radical right parties? Opposite effects in Western and East-Central Europe. Party Politics.

Borriello, A. & Jäger, A. (2020). The antinomies of Ernesto Laclau: a reassessment, Journal of Political Ideologies.

Markou, G. (2020). Anti-populist discourse in Greece and Argentina in the 21st century, Journal of Political Ideologies.

Brown, K., & Mondon, A. (2020). Populism, the media, and the mainstreaming of the far right: The Guardian’s coverage of populism as a case study. Politics Caiani, M., & Padoan, E. (2020). Populism and the (Italian) crisis: The voters and the context. Politics. Casullo, M. E. (2020). The Body Speaks Before It Even Talks: Deliberation, Populism and Bodily Representation. Journal of Deliberative Democracy, 16(1), 27–36. Custodi, J. (2020) ‘Nationalism and populism on the left: The case of Podemos’, Nations and Nationalism De Barros, T., Z. (2020). ‘Not All Claims Are Representative Claims’: Constructing ‘The People’ in Post-Representative Movements. Representation De Cleen, B., Glynos, J. (2020). Beyond populism studies. Journal of Language and Politics De Cleen, B., Speed, E. (2020). ‘Getting the Problem Definition Right: The Radical Right, Populism, Nativism and Public Health; Comment on “A Scoping Review of Populist Radical Right Parties’ Influence on Welfare Policy and its Implications for Population Health in Europe”’, International Journal of Health Policy and Management. Dean, J. (2020). Left politics and popular culture in Britain: From left-wing populism to ‘popular leftism.’ Politics Finlayson, A. (2020). YouTube and Political Ideologies: Technology, Populism and Rhetorical Form. Political Studies. Katsambekis, G. (2020). Constructing ‘the people’ of populism: a critique of the ideational approach from a discursive perspective, Journal of Political Ideologies, Kim, S. (2019), ...Because the Homeland cannot be in opposition: analysing the discourses of Fidesz and Law and Justice (PiS) from opposition to power, East European Politics


Matijasevich, D. (2020). Populist hangover: Lessons from Southeast Asia. Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, 5(3), 193–208. Mazzolini, S., & Borriello, A. (2021). The normalization of left populism? The paradigmatic case of Podemos. European Politics and Society. Mazzolini, S. (2020). Populism Is not Hegemony: Towards a Re-Gramscianization of Ernesto Laclau. Theory & Event 23(3), 765-786. Moran, M., & Littler, J. (2020). Cultural populism in new populist times. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 23(6), 857–873. Palonen, E. (2021). Democracy vs. demography: Rethinking politics and the people as debate. Thesis Eleven. Potamianos, N. (2020). Populism in Greece? Right, Left, and Laclau’s “Jacobinism” in the Years of the Goudi Coup, 1908–1910. Journal for the Study of Radicalism. 14 (2) Rueda, D. (2020). Is Populism a Political Strategy? A Critique of an Enduring Approach. Political Studies. Schulte-Cloos J, Leininger A. (2021) Electoral participation, political disaffection, and the rise of the populist radical right. Party Politics. Stavrakakis, Y. (2020). On Laclau’s Alleged Monism. POPULISMUS Working Papers. No.11. Thessaloniki Stavrakakis, Y. (2020). The (Discursive) Limits of (Left) Populism. Journal of Language and Politics Thomassen, L. (2020). Introduction: New Reflections on Ernesto Laclau’s Theory of Populism. Theory & Event 23(3), 734-739.

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