The 17th Thesis Eleven Forum Annual Lecture ‘Populism and Democracy in Contemporary Europe’

Palonen, E. (Keynote speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Populism and the contemporary emergence of populist movements represent a challenge to traditional politics globally. In Europe, empty-spaced populism – entangling with nationalism and anti-austerity politics – is setting a serious challenge to status quo of integration. Populism is not simply an ideology. An immanent reading of Ernesto Laclau’s work enables us to see how it is an articulation made of affects, conflict, and the political articulation of “us”. Exploring populism deals with dynamics and moments of populism, and the relationship of populism and democracy. Yet, from a radically democratic perspective, populism is not an external challenge to democracy as such but a Janus-faced part of it. Populism has a democratic ethos. The new movements demonstrate how politics is about democracy not socio-economic demography. Instead of TINA argumentation, politics is about generating alternatives even through conflicts. This is what populist movements in Europe left and right claim. Yet, when populism institutionalises – particularly through ‘clientism’ and control of the media – its radical democratic edge flips away. The cases from contemporary Europe that I am examining show how populist movements emerge with different dynamics from that of fringe, mainstream, and even bi-polar competing populism and polarisation and in turn transform what we have come to understand as the traditional forms and practices of modern liberal democratic politics.
Period31 Jul 2018
Held atLa Trobe University, Australia
Degree of RecognitionInternational