Giorgos Katsambekis public lecture at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on 'Populism and antipopulism in times of crisis: a discursive perspective.'

The lecture focuses on the following:

From Brexit to the rise of Donald Trump and from Syriza to the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, populism is nowadays everywhere. An increasingly global force, it seems to threaten powerful economies with instability, democracies with authoritarianism, the world of information with ‘fake news.’ Or at least this is the narrative that one often finds in mainstream media, on the lips of public intellectuals, pundits and esteemed politicians. This lecture will seek to problematize such widespread and often overly simplistic views, highlighting the always ambivalent relationship of populism with (liberal) democracy.

By calling for power to be restored in the hands of ‘the sovereign people,’ populists can pose both a threat and a corrective to democratic institutions, depending on the ideological commitments and specific causes to which their project is attached. Such an assumption seems to be common in most recent studies, but disagreements on how to define and empirically analyse populism persist. In this lecture we advocate an approach that draws its inspiration from the work of Ernesto Laclau and the so-called ‘Essex School’ of discourse theory, trying at the same time to establish a creative dialogue with other analytical models that understand populism as ideology, political style and strategy.

Two additional notions that are considered key in critically assessing populism in today’s western democracies will be introduced: ‘antipopulism’ and ‘crisis.’ Turning to the empirical analysis of populism, lessons will be drawn from the recent experience of the populist radical left in Greece, focusing on the discursive strategy of Syriza but also on the proliferation of antipopulist discourses and communicative strategies in times of severe socio-economic crisis.

Monday 11 December - 10.00-12.00
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, campus Plein, room E.012

The public lecture is part of a one week research stay by Giorgos Katsambekis at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The research stay takes place in the context of collaboration in the DESIRE research centre, and is financially supported by the COST Action Populist Political Communication in Europe: Comprehending the Challenge of Mediated Political Populism for Democratic Politics

Next to this public lecture and informal meetings on research and education collaboration, the research stay also includes:

- a masterclass on radical left populist politics with students working on a master thesis on the topic (Monday 11 December, 12.00-14.00)

- a feedback and discussion session on ongoing research with VUB PhD students and postdoctoral researchers of the DESIRE research centre (Wednesday 13 December, 11.00-16.00)