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“This volume fills a major void in the study of populism, as it pulls together
different strands of scholarship that highlight populism’s socio-cultural and
performative dimensions. The editors and other contributors build on the
foundations of Laclau’s discursive approach to analyze the relational character
of populist appeals, the cultural construction of populist identities, and the
performative element in populist practices. The contributors illustrate the utility
of these conceptual and theoretical insights through case studies of populism from
around the world. This is an original and pathbreaking book, one that is sure to
shape the agenda of populism studies for many years to come.”
Kenneth M. Roberts, Richard J. Schwartz Professor of
Government, Cornell University
“Hitherto, even most sympathetic theories of populism have recoiled from the
corporeality of populist politics. This wonderful volume does more than put
empirical flesh on the bones of theoretical abstraction; it takes the flaunting
fleshiness of populist politics as its starting point.”
William Mazzarella, Neukom Family Professor of Anthropology,
University of Chicago
“One cannot understand contemporary politics without understanding populism,
and this anthology offers a cornucopia of theoretical and empirical insights about
the concept and its multiple and protean uses around the world. It is a scholarly
achievement of the highest order.”
Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University
“In the increasingly crowded space of populist studies, Populism in Global
Perspective stands out as a pathbreaker: it inaugurates a post-Laclauian approach
to populism. The authors take on board Laclau’s discourse-theoretical framework
and move it in another direction by offering a refreshing sociological grounding
to the formalistic arguments about empty signifiers, the leader, and the people.”
Benjamin Arditi, Professor of Politics, National University
of Mexico (UNAM)
“Few doubt the challenges and opportunities posed by the resurgence of populist
politics in the current political conjuncture. Populism in Global Perspective:
A Performative and Discursive Approach is an excellent collection of essays and
reflections, which brings together leading experts in the field to problematize
and engage with the populist moment. Articulating and developing a distinctive
perspective, while injecting a valuable comparative and global focus, the volume
adds vital theoretical, methodological, and substantive contributions to characterize
and explain a pressing political issue across a range of highly pertinent cases.”
David Howarth, Professor, Department of Government,
University of Essex
“This volume constitutes a major contribution to the study of contemporary
populism. With its broad range of diverse cases, its fair and balanced treatment
of the populist phenomenon, both left and right, and its theoretical richness,
it stands out in the field. A masterful tribute to the groundbreaking work of
Ernesto Laclau, it extends and enriches his insights by illustrating the central
importance of style and performance for the understanding of populism’s appeal.
Its innovative and theoretically sophisticated approach is bound to challenge and
inspire anyone interested in the appeal of contemporary populism, which is likely
to persist in the foreseeable future.”
Hans-Georg Betz, Lecturer of Political Science,
University of Zurich
Pathbreaking theoretically and innovative in treatment, Populism in Global
Perspective is a seminal addition to the literature on arguably the most controversial
and fervently discussed topic in political science today.
The book brings together established and rising stars in the field of populism
studies, in an integrated set of theoretical and empirical studies centered on a
discursive-performative notion of populism. Contributors argue that populist
identification is relational and sociocultural, and demonstrate the importance of
studying populism phenomenologically together with anti-populism. The truly
global series of case studies of populism in the US, Western and Southern Europe,
Latin America, South Africa, the Philippines, and Turkey achieves a deliberate
balance of left and right instances of populism, including within regions, and of
populism in government and opposition.
Written in a style approachable to students and specialists alike, the volume
provides a substantial foundation for current knowledge on the topic. Populism in
Global Perspective is a must read for comparativists, political theorists, sociologists,
area studies specialists, and all educated readers interested in populism worldwide.
Pierre Ostiguy is Professor in the Escuela de Administración Pública of the
University of Valparaiso, in Chile. He received his PhD in political science at the
University of California, Berkeley, and has taught as a regular faculty member in
Canada, the United States, Argentina, and Chile. He has been a visiting scholar
at the Kellogg Institute (Notre Dame) and the Scuola Normale Superiore in
Florence. He worked extensively on Peronism and anti-Peronism in Argentina,
before turning to the political and social theory of populism and the comparative
global study of populist politics. He is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of
Populism (2017) and one of three contributors to its Concepts section. He has
POPULISM IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
authored numerous articles on populism and on party systems in Spanish, French,
and English. Extended interviews with Ostiguy have been featured in Esprit
(France), Birikim (Turkey), and, on many occasions, in Argentina.
Francisco Panizza is Professor in the Department of Government at the London
School of Economics and Political Science. He has been a visiting professor
in universities in Argentina, Brazil, France, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, and
Uruguay. His main research interests are populism, democratic politics, and Latin
American politics. He has written extensively on populism and on left-of-center
governments in Latin America. He is a Routledge author and editor. Among his
main publications are “Populism and Identity”in The Oxford Handbook of Populism
(2017); Conceptualizing Comparative Politics (ed. with Anthony Peter Spanakos)
(2016); Moments of Truth: The Politics of Financial Crises in Comparative Perspective
(ed. with George Philip) (2014); The Triumph of Politics: The Return of the Left in
Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (with George Philip) (2011); Contemporary Latin
America: Development and Democracy Beyond the Washington Consensus (2009); and,
key for this volume, Populism and the Mirror of Democracy (Verso 2005).
Benjamin Moffitt is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Australian Research Council
Discovery Early Career Research Award Fellow at the Australian Catholic
University (Melbourne). He received his PhD from the University of Sydney,
Australia. His research focuses on contemporary populism across the globe and is
located at the intersection of democratic theory, comparative politics, and political
communications. He is the author of The Global Rise of Populism: Performance,
Political Style, and Representation (Stanford 2016); Populism (Key Concepts in
Political Theory) (Polity 2020); and Political Meritocracy and Populism (with Mark
Chou and Octavia Bryant; Routledge, 2020). He has also authored articles on
populism in journals including Political Studies and Government & Opposition,
and chapters in numerous edited collections, including The Oxford Handbook of
Populism (2017) and Routledge Handbook of Global Populism (2019). His work has
appeared or been cited in media outlets including The Economist, The Washington
Post, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, BBC News, and The Guardian. In 2018,
he was named among the Top 5 Humanities and Social Sciences early career
researchers in Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Company.
Conceptualising Comparative Politics seeks to bring a distinctive approach to
comparative politics by rediscovering the discipline’s rich conceptual tradition
and inter-disciplinary foundations. It aims to fill out the conceptual framework
on which the rest of the subfield draws but to which books only sporadically
contribute, and to complement theoretical and conceptual analysis by applying
it to deeply explored case studies. The series publishes books that make serious
inquiry into fundamental concepts in comparative politics (crisis, legitimacy,
credibility, representation, institutions, civil society, reconciliation) through
theoretically engaging and empirically deep analysis.
10. The End of Communist Rule in Albania
Political Change and The Role of The Student Movement
Shinasi A. Rama
11. Authoritarian Gravity Centers
A Cross-Regional Study of Authoritarian Promotion and Diffusion
Thomas Demmelhuber and Marianne Kneuer
12. Politics as a Science
A Prolegomenon
Philippe C. Schmitter and Marc Blecher
13. Populism in Global Perspective
A Performative and Discursive Approach
Edited by Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt
Conceptualising Comparative Politics: Polities,
Peoples, and Markets
Edited by Anthony Spanakos
(Montclair State University)
Francisco Panizza
(London School of Economics)
POPULISM IN GLOBAL
PERSPECTIVE
A Performative and Discursive
Approach
Edited by Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza,
and Benjamin Moffitt
First published 2021
by Routledge
52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017
and by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
© 2021 selection and editorial matter, Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza,
and Benjamin Moffitt; individual chapters, the contributors
The right of Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt
to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors
for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with
sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced
or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other
means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and
recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publishers.
Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or
registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation
without intent to infringe.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A catalog record for this book has been requested
ISBN: 978-0-367-55934-2 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-0-367-62656-3 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-1-003-11014-9 (ebk)
Typeset in Bembo
by Apex CoVantage, LLC
Series Prefacexi
Acknowledgementsxiii
List of Contributors xv
1 Introduction 1
Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt
PART I
Theory19
2 Populism, Hegemony, and the Political Construction
of “The People”: A Discursive Approach 21
Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis
3 Who Would Identify With An “Empty Signifier”?:
The Relational, Performative Approach to Populism 47
Pierre Ostiguy and Benjamin Moffitt
PART II
Populist Identification in Global Perspective 73
4 Populism as Synecdochal Representation: Understanding
the Transgressive Bodily Performance of South American
Presidents75
María Esperanza Casullo
5 Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador:
A Case of Left-Wing Non-Hegemonic Populism 95
Samuele Mazzolini
CONTENTS
x Contents
6 Trump and the Populist Presidency 118
Joseph Lowndes
7 Populism, Race, and Radical Imagination:
#FeelingTheBern in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter 136
Laura Grattan
8 Populist Politics and the Politics of “Populism”:
The Radical Right in Western Europe 155
Benjamin De Cleen, Jason Glynos, and Aurelien Mondon
9 Populism in Government: The Case of SYRIZA (2015–2019) 178
Grigoris Markou
10 The High-Low Divide in Turkish Politics and the
Populist Appeal of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party 199
Toygar Sinan Baykan
11 Beyond Demagogues and Deplorables: Democratizing
Populist Rhetoric in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines 223
Nicole Curato
12 Out With the Old, In With the New?: The ANC and
EFF’s Battle to Represent the South African “People” 240
Sithembile Mbete
13 Conclusions: Reflections on the Lessons Learned 255
Francisco Panizza, Pierre Ostiguy, and Benjamin Moffitt
Index275
In 1985, Barbara Mandrell released a song written by Kyle Fleming and Dennis
Morgan in which she reminisced “I was listenin’ to the Opry/ when all of my
friends/ were diggin’Rock ’n Roll and Rhythm  Blues,”before she sang the title
“I was Country, when Country wasn’t cool.” Social scientists go through phases
when they more or less enthusiastically “engage”in the “issues of the day,”and the
last few years have led to a rather boisterous engagement. Specifically, in recent
years, there has been a spate of academic and popular production by academ-
ics over “what went wrong?” and “is democracy dying?” questions which seem
to beg some commentary on populism. There is much in the recent literature
but, to be fair, much seems a response to events, rather than the result of a sus-
tained study of the subject. Most students of Western democracies had devoted
little attention to populism in their course of graduate study, unlike students of
other regions where populism played a more perennial and robust role in politics
(Ostiguy and Roberts 2016). Where populism was studied in Western European
democracies, it was often seen as an aberration and pathology, rather than con-
nected directly to the concept of democracy. Few dared to think of populism as
“the Mirror of Democracy” (Panizza 2005). Moreover, much of the scholarship
on populism—either not recognizing the connection to democracy or, for that
very reason, seeking to further pathologize it—often overlooked anti-populism
(Moffitt 2018). So how should scholars think about and investigate populism?
The editors of this book, each of whose scholarly agenda has focused on
populism, have put together an excellent collection of essays about populism
that looks at manifestations of populism through the words and acts of political
leaders, parties, movements, and governments in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and
Africa. While the chapters draw from diverse contexts and focus on distinct units
of analysis, the essays follow a compelling approach to populism, which is laid out
SERIES PREFACE
xii Series Preface
in full in Chapters 2 (Panizza and Stavrakakis) and 3 (Ostiguy and Moffitt). This
approach begins with Ernesto Laclau’s understanding that there is no preexisting
notion of a, let alone, the people (2005). It must be constituted. For Laclau and his
students, it was especially important to look at how discourse was used to include
and exclude people, groups, ideas, and desires within the so-constituted people.
The people was an “empty signifier” in that it did not have predetermined con-
tent but could be filled, (re)shaped, and embodied differently at different times.
Populist language often is indignant and dichotomous (the people are slighted,
ignored, deserving and so on; the elites and outsiders are not), and it is most vis-
ibly associated with a political leader. This leads many to study populism in terms
of how a leader constitutes a people through speeches (and, for critics, how he or
she tricks and manipulates them) or how a people is yearning for some messianic
figure to speak to them in ways no one has before. Such studies correspond with
supply- and demand-side approaches to politics, respectively. In some ways, they
replicate the dichotomies presented in populist rhetoric.
The editors of this volume are careful to note that populism is not simply a
strategy of leaders (parties, movements, governments) or a yearning of people.
It is relational. We must understand why followers follow, why leaders use cer-
tain appeals and not others, and what role is played by anti-populists in opening
and closing opportunities for populism. Relationality can be seen in discourse
between peoples (speaking and listening) and in public and private performances.
Discourse and performances demonstrate an allegedly agonistic struggle within a
polity which, while fully political, is often expressed primarily in socio-cultural
terms that Ostiguy has characterized as “high” and “low” (see Chapter 3). Popu-
list vulgarity and transgressions of “proper” norms is intentional and constitutive,
as is the condemnation of it. This is true for political struggles and is not without
import for academic writing on the subject.
The above mingling of discursive logics, performance, and socio-cultural
approaches contribute to a remarkably comprehensive and agile concept of pop-
ulism, which offers considerable leverage to scholars trying to explain and under-
stand one of the most enduring phenomena in modern politics. This concept is
proved in compelling empirical studies from across the world and is offered for
other scholars to consider as they try to make sense of one of the most powerful
mobilizing forces in modern politics.
I thank Mishella Romo Rivas for her comments on an earlier draft.
References
Laclau, Ernesto. 2005. On Populist Reason. Verso: New York.
Moffitt, Benjamin. 2018. “The Populism/Anti-Populism Divide in Western Europe.”
Democratic Theory 5 (2). Winter: 1–16.
Panizza, Francisco Ed. 2005. Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. Verso: New York.
Roberts, Kenneth, and Pierre Ostiguy. 2016. “Putting Trump in Comparative Perspective:
Populism and the Politicization of the Sociocultural Low,”Brown Journal of World Affairs,
XXIII (I), Fall/Winter: 25–50.
This edited collection has had a long gestation. Pierre and Ben noticed back in
late 2014 the strong similarities in their theoretical approach to populism, though
they came from very different world regions. In 2015 while in London on a brief
trip from Chile, Pierre decided to pay an impromptu visit to Francisco, whom
he had met only once before, in Paraná, Argentina. Noting their shared concerns
regarding the current state of the field of populism studies, they discussed the
neglected role of identification and the possibility of a very fruitful theoretical
dialogue between current “post-Laclauian” approaches and Pierre and Ben’s per-
formative, relational approach.
A panel convened at the American Political Science Association annual con-
ference of 2016 brought six of the fifteen current authors (from the US, Turkey,
South America, Europe, and Oceania) to Philadelphia to discuss the project, its
core ideas and purpose, and the viability of a volume. The full-fledged project then
took off, in nearly its current form, in the truly global workshop held in 2017 at
the University of Oregon, a stimulating South-North encounter that drew scholars
from five continents to beautiful Eugene. Given the subsequent countless rounds
of revisions and pointed theoretical discussions, the product may be described as
a collective work, helmed by editors working across three continents and time
zones—in Santiago, London, and Melbourne. Given the long road travelled, many
people deserve our thanks for their help in bringing this volume into being.
Certainly, as editors, we wish to thank the contributors to this volume. Very far
from being “just” a collection of chapters coming from a workshop, this book
represents a genuine engagement and conversation arising from an intellectual
community spread across the globe. Our contributors have been kind, thought-
ful, curious, and critical in all the best ways, always willing to “engage and revise”,
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
xiv Acknowledgements
not shying away from big questions, and we are extremely grateful to them for
their excellent chapters, as well as all the illuminating and thought-provoking
discussions and correspondence along the way.
At a practical level, we wish to thank, first and foremost, Joe Lowndes for
organizing and receiving us at the University of Oregon workshop in Octo-
ber 2017 and, second, Dennis Galvan, Vice Provost for International Affairs.
The volume, clearly, would not exist without Joe’s efforts—we thank him not
only for his hard work in terms of the logistics of the workshop, but for his great
warmth and hospitality in welcoming us all to Eugene. We thank the Depart-
ment of Political Science at the University of Oregon for their sponsorship of the
workshop; as well as the College of the Arts and Sciences and the Office of Inter-
national Affairs for their generous financial support, which made our friendly
“tribal gathering” possible.
We also wish to thank those behind the scenes. At Routledge, we wish to
thank Anthony Spanakos, academic co-editor of the “Conceptualising Com-
parative Politics” series, and Natalja Mortensen, senior editor in political science,
who were enthusiastic from the get-go with this volume and who, together with
Charlie Baker, editorial assistant, made this book a reality.
Finally, we want to thank the three anonymous reviewers who took the time
to engage with the original manuscript and offered valuable suggestions and feed-
back that improved the volume immensely.
Pierre would like to thank the Catholic University of Córdoba in Argentina,
and Martha Díaz in particular, for allowing him to carve out time for the volume
during 2019. He also wishes to thank the Scuola Normale Superiore, in Flor-
ence, for hosting him as a visiting scholar in January and February 2019, provid-
ing him time and support to work on the project. In particular, Manuela Caiani
was unforgettable for her tireless energy, hospitality, and ability to “make things
happen”. The SNS seminar’s participants provided very helpful and thoughtful
feedback on a first draft of the volume’s third chapter, including notably junior
colleagues Beatrice Carella, Jacopo Custodi, and Enrico Padoan. Most impor-
tantly, certainly, Pierre wants to thank Elaine Thomas, who, more than a patient
spouse, clearly has been a true intellectual partner in this odyssey, as well as a
thorough editor, up to the very last version of the volume’s title.
Francisco would like to acknowledge the LSE Department of Government
Staff Research Fund for their financial contribution to the project, and to thank
Andreas Sorgen for his help in the editing and proofreading of the manuscript.
Ben would like to thank Ash, Will, and Finn for their endless love and support
in all endeavors academic or otherwise, and to acknowledge that this research
was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research
Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award funding scheme (project
DE190101127), and by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (pro-
ject MMW.20180035).
Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt
June 2020
CONTRIBUTORS
Toygar Sinan Baykan, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and
Public Administration, Kırklareli University, Turkey.
María Esperanza Casullo, Professor, School of Social Sciences, Universidad
Nacional de Rio Negro, Argentina.
Nicole Curato, Associate Professor, The Institute for Governance and Policy
Analysis, University of Canberra, Australia.
Benjamin De Cleen, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Stud-
ies, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, Belgium.
Jason Glynos, Professor, Department of Government, University of Essex, UK.
Laura Grattan, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science, Wellesley
College, USA.
Joseph Lowndes, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Ore-
gon, USA.
Grigoris Markou, Postdoctoral researcher, School of Political Sciences, Aristo-
tle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Samuele Mazzolini, PhD, Government Department, University of Essex, UK.
Sithembile Mbete, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University
of Pretoria, South Africa.
xvi Contributors
Benjamin Moffitt, Senior Lecturer in Politics  DECRA Fellow at the National
School of Arts (Melbourne), Australian Catholic University, Australia.
Aurelien Mondon, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics, Languages  Inter-
national Studies, University of Bath, UK.
Pierre Ostiguy, Professor, Escuela de Administración Pública, University of Val-
paraiso, Chile.
Francisco Panizza, Professor, Department of Government, London School of
Economics, UK.
Yannis Stavrakakis, Professor of Political Discourse Analysis, School of Political
Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Form is often also content. Populists, more than any other kind of politicians,
are certainly highly aware of this. As Samuel Beckett once wrote: “Here, form is
content, content is form. . . . It is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and
listened to”(2005, 1067). Form is a way of relating to people; or more accurately,
specific forms are ways of relating to specific publics. Form includes rhetoric and
style, but also logics, emotions, and affects. That this fundamental and distinctive
aspect of the populist mode of identification, apparent to most observers, has
gone under-theorized is at the very least surprising—particularly in a context
in which the mediated performances of populists, from Donald Trump’s public
rallies, Hugo Chávez’s hours-long improvisations on his television show Alo Presi-
dente, and the inflammatory social media behavior of many a populist is under-
stood as central to their political appeal. This volume aims to change this situation
by elaborating a distinctive approach to the study of the topic centered on the
relational, performative role that populist appeals play in relating to their publics,
and in the constitution of popular identities—one that links content and form.
Several years ago, it was common to begin an article on populism stating how lit-
tle consensus there was on its definition. In European political science in particular,
we may now have gone to the other extreme—with perhaps undue consequences
for intellectual life. Moreover, the presence of a normative debate around the term
should positively be thought of as a source of politically stimulating debates, includ-
ing in the scholarly world, especially when populism is assessed across global regions.
In this book, we partake in the claim that the division of the political field into
two antagonistic groups—the people and its “other” or the establishment—is a
central feature of populism, a notion that had already been formulated in similar
terms by other, earlier versions of populism, not least by Ernesto Laclau in his
1
INTRODUCTION
Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza,
and Benjamin Moffitt
2 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
early writings (1977) and later in Canovan (1999). The volume offers a distinctive
approach to the study of populism centered on how populist appeals construct
and shape popular identities, and on the relational nature of populist identifica-
tion. Contributors argue that populist actors constitute popular political identities
through performative practices that range from political speeches to transgressive
“low culture” performances (Ostiguy 2017), where the relation of the leader and
“the people” is co-constitutive. We moreover highlight the importance of study-
ing populism together with anti-populism, to understand both political polari-
zation and each side of the political cleavage. In showing how the performative
operations that actually constitute the equivalential chain operate (in processes
of popular identification), we thus strongly link the Laclauian and performative
schools. Our approach is, in fact, broadly “post-Laclauian”, an umbrella term that
brings together works that draw on Laclau’s seminal theorization of populism,
but also questions, re-formulates, and develops his concepts and arguments to
different extents and in different directions.1
It is furthermore “post-Laclauian”
not only in terms of theoretical advances made, but also in the sense that, in sharp
contrast to the way Laclau’s writing has often been characterized, our depictions
attempt to be significantly down-to-earth, concrete, and “immanent”.
Certainly, two broad approaches have been particularly influential in recent
decades in contemporary debates on populism: the ideational and the strategic
approaches. The former, particularly strong in Europe, sees populism as a “thin
ideology”, and is associated with the work of Cas Mudde (2007), Jan-Werner
Müller (2016), Kirk Hawkins and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser (2017), among
others. This approach, and more specifically Mudde’s (2007, 23) much-quoted
definition of populism as
a thin-centred ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated
into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, “the pure people” and
“the corrupt elite”, and which argues that politics should be an expression
of the volonté générale (general will) of the people,
has become the most used definition of populism particularly in European aca-
demic circles. The dichotomic division of society and politics into a “people”
and a “non-people,” where “the people” should be dominant, is in fact a widely
accepted and not particularly novel or recent characterization of the populist
logic, across approaches and schools. However, like others we must dismiss that
populism can be defined as an ideology (Aslanidis 2016; Freeden 2017); and we
take it that the divide between the people and its other is political (and perhaps
socio-cultural as well), rather than normative in nature.2
While most ideologies can usually be positioned broadly (with diverse degrees
of standard deviation) on the left-right spectrum, from anarchism and Marxism
Introduction 3
on the one hand, to various forms of conservatism on the other, populism as
such (that is, independently of the “right-wing” and “left-wing” adjectives often
attached to the noun) absolutely escapes this trait. Moreover and yet more impor-
tantly still, in contrast to even “thin” ideologies such as ecologism, nationalism,
and feminism—which Michael Freeden (1996, 2017), the scholar who coined
the concept, identifies—one is at a loss here to know how populism provides
determined, specific, and differentiated answers to societal problems or to general
themes.3
Looking for populism in the realm of political ideas and even more so
in that of specific ideologies would therefore seem to be misguided, and for several
reasons impossible. Populism operates somewhere else, as a logic, as a kind of
argument, as a rhetoric, or more broadly as a style or way in politics of stating,
framing, and performing particular political projects.
The notion of a “corrupt” elite, moreover, while part of the populist reper-
toire, travels somewhat poorly and is particularly Eurocentric. It does not resonate
well, as the main negative adjective, in many instances of populism, not least in
Latin America, one of the main historical world regions of populism, throughout
its history. There, the populist leadership has in fact generally been (and quite
often proudly so) much more openly corrupt, in practice, than the social elite
they were displacing from power; the rub being the perception that although they
might be corrupt, at least populist leaders are “on the side of the people” materially,
politically, and symbolically. More so, second, “the people”in Latin America may
have been “suffering”, “hard working”, “neglected”, “despised”, but they were
(and are) never seen as “pure”, whether morally, ethically, ethnically, or otherwise.
Rather, they are the damaged, the plebs, the un-heard and un-represented who
see themselves as discriminated, exploited, or excluded from civic life. Norma-
tively, what distinguishes populism is not the expression of certain moralism (pre-
sent in fact in all ideologies), but the performative staging of a wrong. Thus, neither
are the people necessarily characterized as “pure”, nor the elite as “corrupt”,
as claimed by the ideational approach. Lastly, the notion that policies should be
the product of the volonté générale, or general will, is absolutely not distinctive of
populism, but has been a (if not the) main tenet of democratic theory ever since
Rousseau—from whom the term even comes.
A second influential approach in the study of populism, the “strategic
approach”, is associated with the work of Kurt Weyland (2001, 2017) and Robert S.
Jansen (2011). It regards populism as a political strategy of power accumulation
and mobilization through which a personalistic leader seeks or exercises gov-
ernment power based on, according to Weyland, direct, un-mediated, and un-
institutionalized support from a large number of mostly unorganized followers,
and where ideas or principles or “ideational views”are not particularly important.
This book shares with the strategic approach the notion that populist politicians
deploy populist appeals strategically to gain political support. However, it diverges
with the strategic approach in a number of regards. First, scholars in our tradition
4 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
have always been puzzled by the lack of attention, if not straight disinterest, on the
part of scholars in the strategic approach to what makes those followers actually
follow, and often over a very long period of time and with a strong sense of loyalty,
that personalistic leadership. In a way, our work begins where theirs stops. Sec-
ond, implicit in the work of many in the “strategic approach”is that the masses, or
numbers, following the leader are not particularly rational, smart, or enlightened,
with a concomitant mépris des masses—also viewed as fickle and unable to put for-
ward interests. In contrast, we study populism in a relational, rather than necessar-
ily top-down, way, and reject the strategic approach’s normative assumption that
customarily associates populism with demagoguery, manipulation, and authori-
tarianism.4
Other scholars of populism have argued that populism can in certain
instances and circumstances play an emancipatory role as, particularly outside
Europe, it has been associated with different forms of inclusion (economic, social,
political, symbolic) of the popular sectors (Aitchinson 2017; Canovan 1999; Col-
lier and Collier 1991; de la Torre 2016; Mouffe 2009, 2018; O’Donnell 1973;
Panizza 2005). Such has been the case in the very separate traditions of populism
studies in the US and in Latin America. In both traditions, populism, in contrast
to elitism or “oligarchical rule”, normatively stood for a movement of the peo-
ple (even if led heteronomously) and for the people, with a strikingly plebeian
form to it. Analytically, moreover, populism can be both personalist and highly
organized—there is absolutely no contradiction there (as was also the case with
fascism). It can refer to a movement, a political party, a leader, or even a regime,
as exemplified by a number of case studies in this volume.
To understand populism adequately, therefore, it is essential not to be cogni-
tively restricted to Eurocentric or even Latin America–centric readings of the
phenomena, but be global and truly cross-regional. We hope to achieve this aim,
not only in terms of the actual phenomena here analyzed, but also with regard
to the backgrounds and regional specialties of the authors. To this purpose, this
book brings together a set of theoretical and empirical studies of populism that
offers a distinctive approach to the study of the topic.
Theoretically and conceptually, the volume brings together the Laclauian school
and the socio-cultural and performative approaches to populism—a convergence
that should be of consequence in the field. Certainly, the populist mode of iden-
tification does not (truly or falsely) describe a certain set of beliefs, or refer to “the
people” as a pre-existing and well-characterized socio-political entity. Rather,
as stated earlier, populist actors constitute popular political identities through
performative practices ranging from political speeches to transgressive “low cul-
ture” performances which resonate locally. The praxis of populism, in our joint
approach, can be analyzed by putting greater accent on two closely related, com-
plementary dimensions: the logico-discursive and the socio-cultural or stylistic.
We outline each of them here.
Introduction 5
The logico-discursive approach to the study of populism is associated with the
work of the late Ernesto Laclau (1977, 2005a, 2005b). It has proven to be one
of the most influential and seminal approaches to populism, spawning a body of
literature that has both engaged with the conceptual claims made in his work, as
well as applying it to cases from across the globe—an influence that has not just
been limited to the halls of academia, but has also included the practice of left-
populist politicians and parties in Latin America and Europe. For Laclau, pop-
ulism refers to a particular logic of articulation (Laclau 2005b, 33–34)—the logic
of equivalences—that involves a “spatial”dimension of social reality. According to
him, the socio-political field can be structured by an equivalential chain of unful-
filled demands into an antagonistic relation between two socio-political blocs: the
people (the plebs or the underdogs) and its Other (the power block or an establish-
ment that is unwilling or unable to address the demands of the people).
In this logico-discursive approach, the signifier “the people” operates as a
nodal point around which different and often politically antithetical signifiers and
ideas are articulated in order to define who are the people and represents the peo-
ple. According to Laclau, the performative constitution of the people does not
take place in a political vacuum. Articulatory practices are the defining elements
of hegemonic struggles for the constitution of popular identities: “It is because
hegemony supposes the incomplete and open character of the social, that it can
take place only in a field dominated by articulatory practices”(Laclau and Mouffe
[1985] 2001, 134). Moreover, hegemonic struggles are never limited to the politi-
cal sphere. Hegemony always extends beyond the political realm. It involves social
and cultural elements that are essential for understanding how and why identifica-
tion takes place and thus how hegemonic struggles are won (and lost), a concept
of hegemony that is highlighted by both Panizza and Stavrakakis as well as Maz-
zolini in this volume, and the study of which has also been the focus of Ostiguy
and Moffitt’s approaches to populism (Moffitt 2016; Ostiguy 2017; Ostiguy and
Moffitt, this volume). This seminal theory of populism has since been further
developed by Chantal Mouffe (2005, 2009, 2018) and other scholars associated
with the so-called “Essex School” of discourse analysis, including among them
Panizza (2005) and Stavrakakis (2017), authors of one of this volume’s two theo-
retical chapters.
There is much theoretical and phenomenological room for complementa-
rity and convergence between the discourse analyses of the Laclauian school and
the socio-cultural and performative understandings of populism, which began
in the 1990s5
and have now taken a significantly larger presence in the study of
populism.6
The study of the socio-cultural dimension of populism has been par-
ticularly associated with Pierre Ostiguy’s (2017) characterization of populism as a
particular form of political relationship between political leaders and their social
base through “low” cultural appeals that have the capacity to resonate and receive
positive reception within particular sectors of society for socio-cultural reasons
6 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
(linked to an antagonistic understanding of socio-cultural differences). The notion
that populism is characterized by a set of performative repertoires—already pre-
sent in the work of Laclau—and stylistic tropes has been advanced by the works of
Benjamin Moffitt (2016) among others, and seeks to make clear populism’s rela-
tionship to our contemporary media environment. These approaches highlight
that when encountering speeches of populist leaders or attending rallies, one is
generally struck by the fact that one of their most noteworthy or peculiar features
is not just the use of particular words or ideas, but the “kind of words” used, the
level of language, the way the speech acts are performed, and even the (infor-
mal or vernacular) way many populists dress, as well as the affective component,
which is often passionate, embodied, and full of emotion. Moreover, populists’
performances tend to display publicly that they embody, in the sense that they
represent in their “flesh” and out-of-place words, “a people”—and perhaps more
precisely, “the plebs from here”. They argue that we therefore need to examine
discourse in the broad sense of meaning-creating praxes—precisely what we do
in this volume.7
This is a praxis marked not by “properness” and formality, but rather by
informality and transgression. The informal stands in many ways as substantive
content for both proximity and antagonism to a certain kind of establishment.
Indeed, populism’s transgressive nature sets itself up in a clearly antagonistic rela-
tionship towards more “proper” ways of doing politics, as well as proving it is
bona fide in terms of proximity to the “real” people. In many ways, this is the
“low” Ostiguy has been writing about (2017) and the “bad manners” Moffitt has
emphasized (2016). This is perhaps best illustrated by a New York Times article
describing the way Trump, in his transgressive, informal “low” manner, mocked
the “proper”, “high” behavior of mainstream politicians. At one point on one of
his most un-presidential of days, President Trump insisted that he knew how to
be presidential:
“It’s much easier being presidential, it’s easy”, he told a stadium full of more
than 20,000 boisterous supporters in MAGA hats and T-shirts cheering his
every word. “All you have to do is act like a stiff.”
He buttoned his suit coat, pursed his lips, squared his shoulders and
dropped his arms rigidly at his sides. “Ladies and gentlemen of Texas”, he
then droned in a sleep-inducing staccato monotone the way he imagined
most of the other 44 presidents had done. “It is a great honor to be with
you this evening”.
The crowd loved it, roaring with laughter. Transforming back into the
un-presidential president America has come to know, Mr. Trump added,
“And everybody would be out of here so fast! You wouldn’t come in in the
first place!” Being presidential, he was saying, is so boring. Who wants that?
(Baker 2019)
Introduction 7
This volume thus brings together the Laclauian school and the socio-cultural
and performative approaches to populism. Drawing these approaches together
in a robust whole, this volume, furthermore, also introduces several innovations,
both theoretically and in case analyses, at the cutting edge of populism studies.
We show how performative presence and operations contribute to the actual
creation of the equivalential chain, creating popular political identification in
the process. Second, the political frontier that ends up being created is not so
much against an administrative “power block”, but against an equally discursive,
identity-based, and socio-political anti-populism. Identification, always rela-
tional and incomplete, involves, third, both horizontal links among the people
and vertical links between the people and the leader, articulating socio-cultural
and political elements. Fourth and most importantly, we show that the empty
signifier playing such a key role in Laclau’s theory of populism (and political
identity more generally) cannot actually be completely “empty” if it is to be
effective. In its stead, we introduce the notion of the “overflowing signifier”, for
understanding the role of the leader (or of “bodily presence” and “performance
in the flesh” for instances of populism where the leader is not central) in pop-
ulism. Fifth, if traditional Marxism was indeed ontologically reductionist (with
class as the central and ultimate category of analysis), we suggest that the post-
modern turn has perhaps gone too far in throwing sociology “out the window”
when it comes to understanding populism, as, independently of any discourse,
society remains fundamentally uneven (not to speak of unequal). “Matter must
be said”, and lived experiences must be interpreted, certainly; but the discursive
text cannot be the alpha and omega of praxis—however tempted intellectu-
als may be to think so. Several of the chapters in this volume in fact argue
that populism entails a particular discursive and praxis-oriented politicization of
existing (and interpreted) social cleavages, whether it is between an indigenous
population and a whiter social elite in Bolivia, between “White Turks” and
less educated and more popular sectors in Turkey, or in the US between a cer-
tain “hinterland” (particularly in the South) and the two coasts. That is, while
there is nothing sociologically predetermined about populist discourse, it does
feed on existing social relations and inequalities (both of which exist outside
of politicians’ discourses). It is, in fact, only in the interaction of interpellations
(Althusser 1994) and lived social differences that new identities can be created,
including political ones.
Therefore, the current “social scientific”trend to study separately the supply side
of populism (content analysis of speeches by political leaders) and its demand side
(“populist beliefs” and voters’ attitudes) (e.g., Spruyt, Keepens, and van Droogen-
broeck 2016) is quite problematic epistemologically. We are skeptical there are
already-constituted populist beliefs just waiting to be activated by a populist
politician—something which would be anomalous considering the omnipresence
of good polling techniques. On the contrary, Laclau is correct that “the people”
8 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
must first be constituted. Populism springs up in the act, or praxis, itself. Of course,
certain attitudinal terrains may be more fertile than others, but the so-called supply
and demand sides of populism do not exist in separation from each other. This is
so, particularly because populism redefines what is sayable, and hence also doable,
in politics. Populism often creates a kind of transgressive cultural revolution of its
own, about what behavior is acceptable in public. One may think of Rodrigo
Duterte’s foul mouth and crude behavior, or Donald Trump’s bullying of his oppo-
nents here.8
Populism is thus neither a matter of an all-powerful strategic leader
who manipulates the masses (as some versions of the “strategic” approach would
have it), nor of an electoral demand that is just “waiting” to meet its supply. There
is thus a fine theoretical line—and, in fact, a space that we occupy—between
undistorted expressions of already-constituted selves and preferences in society,
and the much contingent outcome of an expert strategic manipulator. Populism,
rather, is a relational and performative appeal effective in certain social contexts.
While the volume’s theoretical chapters show, for the first time, how the logico-
discursive and the socio-cultural and stylistic approaches can and should be
brought together, the phenomenological studies of cases across different world
regions also make significant theoretical contributions to this approach and to
the study of populism in general—with, moreover, many case-related insights.
The case studies do not just “apply an approach”, nor are they mostly descrip-
tive; instead, they are, of their own, theoretically innovative and substantive. In
the process, they demonstrate the global productivity of what can be considered
a broad “post-Laclauian” approach to populism. Methodologically inductive, our
case studies are informed by ethnography, participant observation, and discourse
analysis. And context certainly matters greatly. Overall, the volume broadens the
study of populism from political science alone: to sociology, to be sure, but also
to anthropology, cultural studies, and critical studies. Moreover, while most other
edited collections on populism have focused only on Europe or the Americas,
this volume arguably covers one of the widest arrays of instances of populism yet
analyzed in a theoretically coherent, edited collection on the topic, with chapters
on populism in the “usual” settings—the US, Western and Southern Europe,
and Latin America—but also less-examined countries in different world regions,
including Turkey, the Philippines, and South Africa.
In addition, the book provides a much-needed, significant treatment of the
ever more important question of populism in government. The case studies of
Ecuador, Bolivia, Greece, Turkey, the Philippines, and the US show that popu-
lists in office continue to use an antagonistic populist logic and transgressively to
perform the politics of the low (Ostiguy 2017), flouting the conventions of high
office, as well as the institutions that constrain their governmental power. Finally,
something rarely seen in volumes on populism, in the design of the case selection
the volume achieves a deliberate balance normatively of left and right instances
Introduction 9
of populism, including within regions, with both left and right populisms both in
opposition and in government.
The first of the theoretical chapters, entitled “Populism, Hegemony, and the Polit-
ical Construction of ‘The People’: A Discursive Approach”, by Francisco Panizza
and Yannis Stavrakakis, first presents an overview of Laclau’s discursive approach
to populism. Drawing on Laclau, they claim that “the people”as a unified, but not
necessarily pure or homogenous, political identity, is the outcome of particular
political appeals—not, to be sure, a pre-existing social category. In that sense, “the
people” is always retroactively constructed, a performative practice (Moffit 2016)
that creates what it is supposed to be expressing. Moreover, the authors note that
the constitution of the people does not take place in a political vacuum: it faces
political resistance. Hence, they highlight the importance of studying populism in
parallel with anti-populism, in order to grasp what is at stake in a given political
conjuncture (see Ostiguy 2009; Moffitt 2018; Stavrakakis et al. 2018; Stavraka-
kis and Katsambekis 2019; Frank 2020). The chapter subsequently discusses the
significant question of the relationship between populism and democracy, which
brings together the works of Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Panizza and Stavrakakis
argue that Laclau’s rather weak treatment in On Populist Reason of the implica-
tions for democracy of the populist mode of identification does not invalidate
the argument that democracy requires the constitution of a democratic people.
But they claim that in order to have a democratic people, certain practices are
required that are best understood or analyzed through a relational notion of popu-
list identification (Ostiguy 2017; Ostiguy and Moffitt, this volume), not fully
developed in the works of Laclau. While not ignoring the importance of leader-
ship in processes of identification, a relational notion also incorporates complex
and heterogeneous practices of identification that include the moral, political, and
cultural hegemonic struggles that contribute to constituting and defining populist
identities. Everyday practices of association, solidarity, and resistance, not just the
mass–leader relation, also generate the passionate attachments, relations of trust,
and forms of agency that are at the heart of democratic populist identities. Panizza
and Stavrakakis conclude that populism is not, per se, a danger to democracy: it is
something inherent in the democratic revolutions and, like any political project,
can take many different directions in attempting to express social grievances and
represent sectors that do not feel represented by established political actors.
The second theoretical chapter, entitled “Who Would Identify With an ‘Empty
Signifier’? The Relational and Performative Approach to Populism”, by Pierre
Ostiguy and Benjamin Moffitt, first outlines a performative-relational approach
to populism that addresses the social and cultural conditions of identification,
both in and of itself and as an indispensable complement to Laclau’s abstract and
formalist theory. Not eschewing sociology (as the strictly postfoundational formal
model of Laclau does)—something obviously not the same as postulating already
10 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
constituted groups—the chapter interactively connects performances, discourses,
and speech acts with social differences. The chapter argues that “style” is a not a
faddish, superficial topic unworthy of study by serious political scientists, but may
actually be the visible face (to go to another, sociological extreme) of Lipset and
Rokkan’s cleavage theory. That is, style is personal, but is also deeply social as well
as cultural. In that light, the chapter posits an ontology that is mid-way between
the academic extremes of social categories “in themselves” and of the fully con-
stitutive power of words (it is, in that way, closer to Laclau’s own starting point of
social demands and hegemonic struggles).
The chapter centers on the embodied and particularistic dimension of popu-
list identification, especially with regards to the incorporation of the “excess” (in
Laclauian terms). The chapter’s key theoretical contribution is to introduce the
notion of “overflowing signifiers”, more adequate for explaining identification
and the populist logic than “empty signifiers”. “Empty” signifiers, the chapter
argues, never actually become empty; quite on the contrary, what characterizes
them is the inscription of both a surplus of meaning and a “fleshy excess”, itself
generally on “the low” and with a “plebeian grammar”. With regard to the for-
mer, the authors show how multiple—often contradictory—meanings that can
be empirically reconstructed and are grounded in reality are embodied by the
populist leader, who is and acts to make himself closer, in fact, to what Laclau calls
a floating signifier, and not merely a “blank screen”for projecting fullness. It is by
being particularly “excessive”(in both senses) that the populist leader, the actually
overflowing signifier, is able to act as a promise of fullness, responding to the lack.
Identification, moreover, occurs not as the product of a mere hegemonic substi-
tution, as Laclau suggests, but because of something in the praxis and embodied
persona or personae of the populist leader or multitudes that resonates in the
subject experiencing lack, with traits facilitating identification coming to the fore
at the moment of collective embodiment. The chapter thus moves beyond what
might be thought of as the discursively “formal” level of Laclauian political logic,
which also often overlooks the mediatized nature and aesthetic dimensions of
populist performances and the back-and-forth processes at play between populist
leaders—qua overflowing signifiers—and “the people” in populist politics.
We then turn to a series of chapters that seek not just to apply these approaches
to a global set of cases, but to engage and build on these theoretical frameworks
in an iterative and grounded manner. These chapters are organized on a regional
basis, with the first region examined being Latin America, the region with the
longest and arguably richest changing tradition of populism in the world.
María Esperanza Casullo is the author of Chapter 4, “Populism as Synec-
dochal Representation: Understanding the Transgressive Bodily Performance of
South American Presidents”. She first questions the widespread notion of populist
political leadership defined as a certain type of performative self-presentation that
emphasizes virile toughness and machismo. Her chapter then casts light on the ways
Introduction 11
in which socio-cultural matrixes of meaning are, and can be, transformed into
political power, something that the literature on populism has often overlooked.
She also explains the ways in which personal performance becomes a form of
mediation, in the process of political representation. Her chapter furthermore
advances populism study in three main ways: first, it moves from a fixation on the
characteristics of the leader to an approach that focuses on the followers. Second,
it posits that the power of populist performance is rooted in the followers’ belief
that the very persona of the leader embodies their own identity, not in an idea-
tional, but in a concrete, physical, almost synecdochal way. Third, it demonstrates
that there is more than one way to perform the populist bodily transgression. In
her chapter, she examines two templates of bodily performance: the body of the
social or ethnic leader (particularly Evo Morales in Bolivia) and of women lead-
ers (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina and the non-populist Michelle
Bachelet in Chile). Her argument, however, is not that populism is a form of
basic descriptive representation: on the contrary, an indigenous president can “go
non-populist” in self-presentation, as Alejandro Toledo did in Peru, while “older
white males” can transform their bodily appearances in a populist direction, as
with Presidents Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and to a lesser extent Rafael Cor-
rea in Ecuador.
Chapter 5, “Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador”, by
Samuele Mazzolini, studies the birth, evolution, and unravelling of Rafael Cor-
rea’s “Citizens’ Revolution” in Ecuador, between 2007 and 2017, as a case of
left-wing populist government in South America. Correa’s electoral appeal in
2005 was based on the populist simplification of the political space through the
creation of a political frontier between “the people”, as the actors of the citizens’
revolution, and an “other”, identified as the big banks, the traditional political
class, the mainstream media, the agro-exporting sectors, and foreign actors such
as the IMF, the World Bank, and the US and Colombian governments. The
chapter shows how, once in office, President Correa sought to mediate conflict-
ing popular demands in an unstable compromise that addressed some demands,
while he also simultaneously widened the register of the enemies of the Citizens’
Revolution. Combining the analysis of Gramsci with the approach of Ostiguy,
Mazzolini argues that the absence of a strong socio-cultural relation between
Correa and “the people” in what has oddly been called “technocratic populism”
(de la Torre 2013), prevented the building of hegemony for that political project.
We then turn our gaze northward, with two chapters centered on populist
politics in the United States of America. In Chapter 6, “Trump and the Populist
Presidency”, Joseph Lowndes explores the relationship between populism and the
institution of the US presidency through the case of Donald Trump, arguably the
most prominent populist in the contemporary political landscape. It begins with
an examination of the opportunities and constraints for populism made available
through the office of the presidency. It then looks at the ways Trump’s relationship
12 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
to populism operates through his identification with the ur-figure of US pop-
ulism, President Andrew Jackson. It then turns to contemporary discussions of
populism and “norm erosion” in the age of Trump. Finally, the chapter discusses
the populist politics of the permanent campaign; the relationship of right-wing
populism to the Republican Party; and the dynamic between Trump and social
movements on the streets.
Chapter 7 looks at a case of American populism on the left (and in opposition).
Laura Grattan’s “Populism, Race, and Radical Imagination: #FeelingTheBern
in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter” argues that the grassroots coalition that sup-
ported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primaries is the latest example of
“radical democratic populism” contesting the “conservative capture” of populism
in the United States. In doing so, it contends that evaluating populism’s radical
democratic potential also requires analyzing the practices through which grassroots
populists enact collective identity and popular power. Through this lens, Grat-
tan considers the ways in which the Sanders coalition sought to build collec-
tive identification around a centralizing rhetoric of resistance that foregrounded
the disparate visions and disagreements at the heart of their coalition, specifi-
cally focusing on its heterogeneity. The coalition highlighted decentered sites of
power (e.g., Occupy and the Fight for 15) that made Sanders’ campaign possible,
and grassroots-led initiatives (e.g., the People’s Summit) through which disparate
actors negotiated issues and built cross-cutting relationships to carry “the People’s
Revolution”beyond the 2016 election. Yet, as this chapter shows, there are limits
to such a strategy: Grattan narrates how public protests by Black Lives Matter’s
movement activists at rallies and on social media signaled the embodied limits of
the coalition’s radical democratic enactments of “the people” (too often embod-
ied in the white, masculine, middle-class figure of the “Bernie Bro”). Focusing
on the decentering and disruptive practices in, and at the margins of, the coali-
tion, this chapter argues that radical democratic populisms need to engage in
practices of identification and dis-identification, in order to sustain broad-based
grassroots movements.
The book then moves its focus to arguably the most hotly contested region in
the recent political landscape when it comes to populism: Europe. In Chapter 8,
“Populist Politics and the Politics of ‘Populism’: The Radical Right in Western
Europe”, Benjamin De Cleen, Jason Glynos, and Aurelien Mondon question the
very notion of populism in our understanding of “populist radical right” parties,
with an analysis of the role of the signifier “populism”in reactions to these parties
in the press, by other political actors, and in academia. In order to understand
better the nature, role, and impact of populism in Western Europe, they argue—
somewhat paradoxically—that the concept of populism must play a less central
part in our analyses of populist parties on the ideological radical right. This argu-
ment goes against a rather prominent tendency to attach major importance to the
populist radical right’s populism, or even to reduce our understanding of such
Introduction 13
parties as being essentially or predominantly populist. In doing so, they suggest
that we must simultaneously reflect more on the performative effects of discourses
about populism in Europe, understood as a master signifier, used in both academic
writings and everyday political discourse in diagnoses of, and strategies against,
the populist radical right.
Turning to the most successful recent case of populism on the left in contem-
porary Europe, Chapter 9, “Populism in Government: The Case of SYRIZA
(2015–2019)”, by Grigoris Markou, shows that in office, Syriza continued to use
people-centered populist appeals to create and maintain a political antagonism
between the Greek people, on the one hand, and the traditional political estab-
lishment and neoliberalism, on the other, while at the same time enacting the
austerity measures prescribed by the EU, ECB and IMF “troika” Memorandum
that it had previously rejected. The chapter also examines how Syriza set up an
alliance with the radical right party ANEL, based on a shared national-popular
antagonism against the Memorandum, and how this peculiar alliance unraveled
over the issue of Macedonia, which evidenced two different conceptions of “the
people”: a nationalist-nativist one by ANEL and heterogeneous and an inclusion-
ary one by Syriza.
Moving slightly east, Chapter 10, “The High-Low Divide in Turkish Politics
and the Populist Appeal of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party”, by Toygar
Sinan Baykan, analyses the under-examined populism of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
and the Justice and Development Party (JDP) in Turkey. Baykan highlights a
high-low divide in Turkish politics and further draws on Ostiguy’s understand-
ing of populism as a cultural-affective bond between populist leaders/parties and
their followers, established through the antagonistic celebration of the “culturally
popular and native” in politics. Baykan argues that the JDP owed much of its ini-
tial and ongoing political success to the use of a “low”populist style and appeal. In
that light, the JDP elite and the pro-JDP media convincingly depicted the party
and Erdoğan as the true representatives of the despised and belittled, socially and
culturally excluded, downtrodden segments of society. Erdoğan and the JDP suc-
ceeded in articulating the grievances and energy of the lower classes, in a remark-
ably stable cross-class electoral coalition that included upper- and middle-class
conservatives. To showcase the populism of the JDP—and illustrate populism
in general—the chapter draws on material other than speeches, such as images,
videos, public performances, interviews, and first-hand personal observations in
mass rallies and public appearances, alongside written and spoken material gener-
ated by populist and anti-populist forces in Turkey.
Finally, we turn our attention beyond the “usual” homes of populism that
are analyzed in edited volumes, with a case from South-East Asia and a case
from Africa. In Chapter 11, “Beyond Demagogues and Deplorables: Democra-
tizing Populist Rhetoric in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines”, Nicole Curato draws
on the phenomenon of Rodrigo Duterte’s populist rise in the Philippines to
14 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
theoretically challenge the dichotomy often set up between populism and delib-
eration. The chapter argues that populism as a political style is normatively ambiv-
alent, as it can either threaten or deepen democracies, depending on the context
in which populism unfolds. The argument is consistent with the “systemic turn”
in deliberative democratic theory, which goes beyond a micro-level assessment of
discrete speech acts to a broader analysis of the ways in which discourses contrib-
ute to, or obstruct, the democratization of entire political systems. The chapter
proposes shifting the gaze methodologically from the populist leader to his or her
negotiated relationship with the public. As such, it builds on Ostiguy’s concep-
tion of populism as “fundamentally relational” and, like Laclau, it focuses atten-
tion on the contingent and dynamic character of populist claims-making, instead
of depicting populism as a top-down, manipulative, and homogenously spite-
ful rhetoric. Empirically, the chapter argues that ethnographic research on what
Curato call “populist publics” opens a discussion about the possible spaces for the
democratic airing of populist claims.
Finally, in Chapter 12, “Out With the Old, in With the New? The ANC
and EFF’s Battle to Represent the South African ‘People’”, Sithembile Mbete
examines the instance of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). A case of left-
populism in opposition and a political party that has transformed the South Afri-
can political landscape, the EFF was formed in 2013 by the ousted leader of the
African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), Julius Malema. The party
became the third-biggest party in national parliament after elections in 2014. Its
impact, however, goes beyond electoral politics. By performing disruptive politi-
cal engagement in parliament and cleverly using the courts, the EFF has placed
corruption within the ANC, specifically that of President Jacob Zuma, firmly on
the national agenda. It has revived debates about the land question and racially
defined inequalities in economic ownership that still resonate in South Africa,
decades after the formal end of Apartheid. The chapter draws on a performa-
tive understanding of populism to analyze EFF’s politics. The EFF’s politics of
spectacle—including dressing as maids and mineworkers (like “the people”) and
refusing to acknowledge President Zuma in parliament—has redefined acceptable
political conduct in South Africa. Mbete uses theories regarding the performative
and discursive dimensions of politics to explore how ideas of political representa-
tion, political agency, and political legitimacy have changed in South Africa since
the EFF entered the scene.
The concluding chapter explicitly emphasizes how—beyond case specificities—
the chapters engage each other and how, together, they contribute to substan-
tively advancing discussions of five questions at the heart of the contemporary
debates on populism: the relation of identification between the leader and the
people; “the people”as a relational category; populism, anti-populism, and antag-
onism; populism and institutions; and populism and democracy. Contributors
to the volume also demonstrate that the critically minded work that takes place
Introduction 15
under the broad rubric of post-Laclauian populism research is certainly not “too
abstract” for empirical analysis, quite on the contrary, and that it can be particu-
larly relevant to skillfully thinking real-life instances of populism.
Taken together, our hope is that this integrated volume pushes forward the
study of populism in new and interesting directions. Theoretically, it demon-
strates what a broad “post-Laclauian” approach to the phenomenon can accom-
plish; while empirically, it shows the way in which a truly global account of
populism can be developed. The first decades of the twenty-first century have
shown populism to be a more robust and enduring political phenomenon than
many previously believed, and that it is here to stay with us. By focusing on the
processes at play in populist representation, by considering the very methods by
which “the people” are constructed and “re-presented”, and by engaging with
the phenomenon “beyond the text”, this volume hopefully provides important
new pathways for how we can think about and understand populism in the years
to come.
Notes
1. Other prominent authors who may be read through this “post-Laclauian” lens include
include Arditi (2007), Aboy Carlés and Melo (2014), Aslanidis (2016), Gerbaudo
(2017).
2. Furthermore, all ideologies in fact have a strong normative component, whether it
is in socialism the call for solidarity and the condemnation of exploitation; the moral
imperative in liberalism of freedom, respect for differences, and aversion to authori-
tarians; or in conservatism the moral imperative of preserving constitutive traditions
against the dissolving forces of modernity or radicalism.
3. Regarding ideology, a very different approach to that of Cas Mudde has been that of
Margaret Canovan (2002), who has suggested that populism is the “ideology of democ-
racy”. Undoubtedly, the statement is contentious, considering how many scholars view
populism as fundamentally harmful for democratic values. Her smart statement, in
any case, actually and however only moves the whole problem “one notch up”: to
­
democracy itself, with the additional thorn that populism then becomes definitionally
intertwined (in a substantive way that is not clear at face value) with the entire theoreti-
cal corpus on democracy.
4. The argument (both analytical and normative) is in fact very old. It is the same as that
of Aristotle regarding demagogy in its relation to democracy. From Antiquity to the
present, manipulation and “mob rule” have been set as the opposites of (intelligent)
deliberation and (prudent) checks and balances. A tribune through demagogy becomes
the tribune of the people, who once in power turns into, through plebiscitary means,
a dictator and then tyrant. Populism as demagogy, playing on vile instincts and resent-
ments, is negative for the republican form of democracy and tolerance.
5. Here one must mention the work of historians Daniel James (1988), Michael Kazin
(1995), Alan Knight (1998), and Michael Conniff (1999), as well as, to some extent,
essays of Pierre-André Taguieff (1995) and the landmark article of Margaret Canovan
(1999).
6. Not surprisingly, both approaches have had a sensibility that is arguably more on the
left, affiliated with traditions in critical theory, in contrast to the more “mainstream”and
institutionalist defence of liberal democratic institutions (and of an older status quo).
16 Pierre Ostiguy et al.
7. In this regard, our approach is very close to that of Brubaker, who views populism as
“a discursive and stylistic repertoire” (2017, 360) made up of the following elements:
“the claim to speak in the name of ‘the people’ against both ‘the elite’ and outside
groups or forces; the antagonistic re-politicization of depoliticized domains of life; the
claim to speak in the name of the majority against unfairly privileged minorities; the
valorisation of immediacy and directness against mediating institutions; the economic,
securitarian, and cultural protectionism; and the ‘low’ style and deliberate violations of
rules of polite speech and demeanor” (2017, 367).
8. One only has to think of the abrupt transformation in political and discursive mores
brought by the irruption of Trump in American politics, of Chávez in Venezuelan
politics, or of Perón in Argentine politics. Each created a way of doing politics unprec-
edented in his respective country.
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PART I
Theory
Introduction
The discursive theory of populism is one of the main approaches to the study of
the topic. Its main premises were originally outlined by the late Ernesto Laclau
already in the 1970s, well before the current academic interest, political salience,
and moral panic about this often troubling phenomenon. Academically, his works
constitute an important reference for contemporary studies of populism (Hawk-
ins 2009; Moffitt 2016; Taggart 2000). Hence, according to a recent and influen-
tial introduction to the study of populism: “The Laclauian approach to populism
is particularly current within political philosophy, so-called critical studies, and
in studies of West European and Latin American politics” (Mudde and Rovira
Kaltwasser 2017, 3).
Laclau’s theory of populism centers on the priority that populism attributes to
the constitution of “the people” within an antagonistic relation that pits the peo-
ple against a certain Other (typically, the political and economic elite, the oligar-
chy, the establishment etc.). Yet, the dense philosophical prose that characterizes
Laclau’s writings has often deterred empirical researchers from engaging seriously
with his conceptual and methodological innovations. However, during the last
few years there have been attempts at operationalising his theory, making it more
accessible to a wide variety of scholars as well as showing its value for compara-
tive political analysis (Aboy, Barros, and Merlo 2013; Biglieri and Perelló 2007;
De Cleen and Stavrakakis 2017; Panizza 2005; Stavrakakis 2014b; Stavrakakis
and Katsambekis 2014). Laclau’s conceptualisation of populism has also influ-
enced mainstream scholars, although the influence has not always received the
recognition it deserves. Arguably, a discursive theory of populism constitutes the
underlying yet too often unacknowledged kernel of the minimalist definition of
2
POPULISM, HEGEMONY, AND
THE POLITICAL CONSTRUCTION
OF “THE PEOPLE”
A Discursive Approach
Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis
22 Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis
populism that has become a common ground for many contemporary studies on
the topic (for a more detailed elaboration of this argument, see Stavrakakis and
Katsambekis 2014, 121–122). Just to give a few examples: writing in the 1980s,
Margaret Canovan (1982, 544) questioned whether it was at all possible to find a
“reasonably solid core of agreed meaning” behind all uses of the category only to
arrive almost 20 years later at a definition of populism that focuses on populism’s
(discursive) appeal:
Populism in modern democracies is best seen as an appeal to “the peo-
ple” against both the established structure of power and the dominant ideas
and values of the society. . . . They involve some kind of revolt against the
established structure of power in the name of the people.
(Canovan 1999, 3, emphasis added)
Similarly, Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser introduced their edited
volume on Populism in Europe and the Americas by arguing that “the number of
scholars of populism has increased manifold and we are probably even further
from a definitional consensus within the scholarly community” (2012, 4), only to
put forward in the same volume and elsewhere a minimalist definition of populism
that, leaving aside its moralising adjectives (“pure”, “corrupt”), has strong ele-
ments in common with Laclau’s discursive theory (2012, 8).
This chapter first presents Laclau’s discursive approach to populism. It traces
its origins back to the Gramscian theory of hegemony and outlines the theory’s
epistemological, ontological, and theoretical foundations. It then analyses the
theory’s spatial and dynamic dimensions that distinguish populist discourse from
other political discourses. The chapter subsequently discusses the important ques-
tion of the relationship between populism and democracy, which brings together
the works of Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Throughout our argumentation, the
many affinities between discursive, socio-cultural (Ostiguy 2017), and performa-
tive (Moffitt 2016) approaches to the phenomenon will be highlighted.
Epistemological, Ontological, and Theoretical
Foundations
The so-called Essex School of discourse theory (Townshend 2003) originally
formulated by Laclau combines a theoretically sophisticated account of the social
production of meaning with an emphasis on the political and often antagonis-
tic modality that discourses acquire through their articulation around distinct
nodal points (such as “the people”). Here, meaning is regarded as constitutive of
social reality and thus of subjective and collective identities as well. Discourses
interpellate subjects; they seek to hegemonize the public sphere and to shape
decision-making. The struggle for hegemony constitutes the broader horizon
within which these processes operate. As Laclau and Mouffe put it in a text
The Political Construction of “The People” 23
prefacing the second edition of their book, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: “Our
approach is grounded in privileging the moment of political articulation, and the
central category of political analysis is, in our view, hegemony” (2001, x). Laclau
and Mouffe’s conceptualisation of hegemony has moved beyond the remnants of
class reductionism still evident in Gramsci’s work and in Laclau’s early writings on
populism to highlight the importance of the field of representation in account-
ing for the construction and partial sedimentation of political subjectivity, social
objectivity, and hegemonic orders (Stavrakakis 2017a). Three points are crucial in
understanding Laclau and Mouffe’s recasting of hegemony:
1. Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of hegemony is linguistic and materialist, simul-
taneously symbolic and affective. In their work, the term “discourse” does
not refer merely to words and ideas, but denotes all “systems of meaningful
practices that form the identities of subjects and objects’ through the con-
struction of antagonisms and the drawing of political frontiers”(Howarth and
Stavrakakis 2002, 3–4).
2. From an ontological point of view, Laclau and Mouffe’s stress on discourse
and discursive articulations only makes sense against a horizon of continuous
socio-political dislocations indicating the operation of a real (in the Lacanian
sense) that marks the limits of the socio-symbolic order: “It is because hegem-
ony supposes the incomplete and open character of the social, that it can take
place only in a field dominated by articulatory practices” (Laclau and Mouffe
2001, 134). What they call “hegemony” comprises a permanent Sisyphean
struggle to overcome the dislocations, failures, and crises that political pro-
jects encounter from within (from their inherent inability to fully capture and
reshape the real (Lacan 1982, 1993) and to represent their constituencies in a
definitive way), and from without (from the political challenges put forward
by other antagonistic representations and political projects).1
In this sense,
what is at stake in politics is never the end of history or some sort of final
resolution of all contradictions and antagonisms. Rather, it is a temporary
crystallisation, a partial fixation of the balance of forces and representations,
which may retroactively and temporarily be accepted as the “common sense”
of a community, as what the community “takes for granted”.
3. Antagonism and struggle are crucial, as all hegemonic projects eventually
face their politico-discursive limits. If, as Laclau observes, all discourses are
“always already dislocated”, no full identification or social closure are ulti-
mately attainable. If, in addition, there is no predetermined way to deal once
and for all with social problems and political grievances, what is bound to
emerge is an irreducible pluralisation of political projects. Lacking a univer-
sal common ground, competing hegemonic projects end up engaged in
antagonistic wars of positions (Gramsci 1971): “The fullness of society is an
impossible object which successive contingent contents try to impersonate’
ad infinitum’” (Laclau 2000, 79).
24 Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis
It is within this epistemological and ontological context that Laclau worked on
his theory of populism throughout an academic career that spanned the best part
of 40 years. His initial interest in populism arose not from some abstract academic
concern but out of the experience of Peronism in his native Argentina. His view
was that Perón’s political appeal could not be satisfactorily explained by standard
Marxist analysis or by liberal interpretations of political life. Instead, he drew on
Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and on structuralist (Saussure, Althusser) and post-
structuralist (Lacan, Derrida) theories of politics and language to formulate his
theory of populism and account for Perón’s ability to constitute popular identities
and hegemonize Argentinean politics for over half a century.
Populism, Politics, and Hegemony: Fundamentals
of the Discursive Theory of Populism
Most approaches to populism rely on the analysis of the ideological, ideational
or organisational content of particular political projects in order to determine
whether they are populist or not. By understanding populism as a distinctive dis-
cursive logic, Laclauian discourse theory performs a significant displacement of
emphasis from content to form. A formal conceptualisation of populism was already
evident in his early work on the topic, “Towards a Theory of Populism”, first
published in the 1970s (Laclau 1977), and was further developed in On Populist
Reason (Laclau 2005a) and other later works.
Hence, Laclau’s theory of populism does not focus on the ideological con-
tent of a particular discourse, such as its left- or right-wing ideological location,
but rather on how populist discourse shapes our understanding of social reality
and constitutes political agency. Because of its formal constitution, populist dis-
course has no a priori determined normative content. Hence, his approach differs
sharply from—mostly liberal—approaches that denounce populism as a negative
political phenomenon or even as an aberration on the road to liberal democracy,
benign capitalist modernisation, social progress, and rationally driven political
decision-making:
The concept of populism that I am proposing is a strictly formal one,
for all its defining features are exclusively related to a specific mode of
articulation—the prevalence of the equivalential over the differential
logic—independently of the actual contents that are articulated. . . . Most
of the attempts at defining populism have tried to locate what is specific
to it in a particular ontic content and, as a result, they have ended in a
self-defeating exercise whose two predictable alternative results have been
either to choose an empirical content which is immediately overflowed by
an avalanche of exceptions, or to appeal to an “intuition” which cannot be
translated into any conceptual content.
(Laclau 2005b, 44)
The Political Construction of “The People” 25
From a discourse-theoretical perspective, the equivalential logic of articulation
draws on Saussure’s (1959) structural linguistic distinction between the syntag-
matic and the paradigmatic axes of semiotic articulation. In Saussure’s semiology,
the meaning of a particular unit within a system of signification can only be
established via its differentiation from other elements within the same system: “In
language there are only differences”(Saussure 1959, 120; see also Connolly 1991,
ix). Saussure’s relational theory of meaning deeply influenced Laclau’s theory of
identification: “Linguistic identities are exclusively relational”, a point recognized
as the “very principle involved in the constitution of all social identity” (Laclau
1990, 207). Following this distinction, Laclau and Mouffe have established the
logics of difference (syntagmatic axe) and equivalence (paradigmatic axe) as two dis-
tinct logics for the representation of the political space: “We, thus, see that the
logic of equivalence is a logic of the simplification of political space, while the
logic of difference is a logic of its expansion and increasing complexity” (Laclau
and Mouffe 2001, 130).
In advancing a formal theorisation of populism, Laclau singles out two mini-
mal criteria for the identification of populist discourses, movements, parties, and
leaders. The first one, as we have seen, refers to a particular logic of articulation
(Laclau 2005b, 33–34) that involves a spatial dimension of social reality. Accord-
ing to this criterion, the socio-political field is structured as a dichotomous,
antagonistic relation between two socio-political blocs: Us (the marginalized, the
underdogs, “the silent majority”) and Them (the establishment, the 1%, the oli-
garchy, the European Union, the liberal elite etc.). The criterion also implies that
populist actors take sides by claiming to represent the excluded, the silenced (or
silent), the repressed or under-represented. Of course, the politico-ideological
(right or left) profile of the political agent that claims the representation of the
underdogs is never predetermined in advance.2
In our modern political grammar, it is “the people” and “popular sover-
eignty” that most often express populism’s political sensibility, hence its “people-
centrism”, the second criterion. The signifier “the people” operates here as a
nodal point, a point of reference around which other peripheral and often politi-
cally antithetical signifiers and ideas can be articulated. Moreover, the dichoto-
mous articulation performed by populist discourse is never limited to the political
sphere. Hegemony always extends beyond the political realm and involves social
and cultural processes that in the case of populism draw on high/low socio-
cultural divisions, as thematized by Pierre Ostiguy (2017).
In addition, the discursive constitution of “the people” is not a static but a
thoroughly dynamic process. When social and political demands can be addressed
in isolation from each other within an existing institutional structure, they can-
not escape their differential status, their own particularity. When, however, some
dislocatory event intervenes—for example, a crisis destabilising the reproduction
of the extant economic, social, and political order—then unfulfilled demands
often coalesce together and a new representation emerges splitting the social field
26 Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis
by paratactically grouping differences into a single polarity: “Vis-a-vis oppres-
sive forces, for instance, a set of particularities establish relations of equivalence
between themselves” (Laclau and Mouffe 2001, xiii).
This second criterion of the discursive theory of populism is grounded on
Lacan’s understanding of discursive articulation. Lacan (1993) posits that the con-
sistency of every discourse is explained through the contingent elevation of a
particular signifier into a structuring position, what he called the point de capiton
(Laclau and Mouffe 2001), which then morphs, in Laclau and Mouffe, into the
category of the nodal point:
Any discourse is constituted as an attempt to dominate the field of discur-
sivity, to arrest the flow of differences, to construct a center. We will call the
privileged discursive points of this partial fixation, nodal points.
(Laclau and Mouffe 2001, 112)
In that sense, the structuring operation of a nodal point, around which the other
signifiers pertaining to a particular discourse get organized, explains how mean-
ing achieves a (partial) fixation without which socio-political discourse would
disintegrate into psychotic rambling and no political meaning whatsoever would
be possible (Stavrakakis 2007).
Five implications follow from discourse theory’s formal definition of populism:
1. “The people”, as a unified (but not necessarily “pure” or homogeneous)
(Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012, 8) political agent, is the outcome
of particular political appeals and not a pre-existing social category. For
Laclau, the basic unit in the analysis of populism is not “the people” as a
sociological category but the notion of demand. Populist discourse articu-
lates unsatisfied demands in relations of equivalence against a power holder
that is regarded as unwilling or unable to fulfill them. It is only when this
strategy proves successful that “the people” emerges as a powerful politi-
cal force to antagonize the established order. Hence, populism invariably
involves the performative construction of a popular identity out of a plural-
ity of democratic demands (Laclau 2005a, 95). In that sense, “the people”
is always something retroactively constructed, an empty signifier that needs
to be invoked, a performative call that creates what it is supposed to be
expressing:
[T]he construction of the “people” is a radical one—one which consti-
tutes social agents as such, and does not express a previously given unity
of the group. . . . [W]e are dealing not with a conceptual operation of
finding an abstract common feature underlying all social grievances, but
with a performative operation constituting the chain as such.
(Laclau 2005a, 118, 97, emphasis added)3
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
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Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf
Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf

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Ostiguy & Panizza & Moffitt (eds.) - Populism in Global Perspective. A Performative and Discursive Approach [2021].pdf

  • 1.
  • 2. “This volume fills a major void in the study of populism, as it pulls together different strands of scholarship that highlight populism’s socio-cultural and performative dimensions. The editors and other contributors build on the foundations of Laclau’s discursive approach to analyze the relational character of populist appeals, the cultural construction of populist identities, and the performative element in populist practices. The contributors illustrate the utility of these conceptual and theoretical insights through case studies of populism from around the world. This is an original and pathbreaking book, one that is sure to shape the agenda of populism studies for many years to come.” Kenneth M. Roberts, Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government, Cornell University “Hitherto, even most sympathetic theories of populism have recoiled from the corporeality of populist politics. This wonderful volume does more than put empirical flesh on the bones of theoretical abstraction; it takes the flaunting fleshiness of populist politics as its starting point.” William Mazzarella, Neukom Family Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago “One cannot understand contemporary politics without understanding populism, and this anthology offers a cornucopia of theoretical and empirical insights about the concept and its multiple and protean uses around the world. It is a scholarly achievement of the highest order.” Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University “In the increasingly crowded space of populist studies, Populism in Global Perspective stands out as a pathbreaker: it inaugurates a post-Laclauian approach to populism. The authors take on board Laclau’s discourse-theoretical framework and move it in another direction by offering a refreshing sociological grounding to the formalistic arguments about empty signifiers, the leader, and the people.” Benjamin Arditi, Professor of Politics, National University of Mexico (UNAM) “Few doubt the challenges and opportunities posed by the resurgence of populist politics in the current political conjuncture. Populism in Global Perspective: A Performative and Discursive Approach is an excellent collection of essays and reflections, which brings together leading experts in the field to problematize and engage with the populist moment. Articulating and developing a distinctive perspective, while injecting a valuable comparative and global focus, the volume adds vital theoretical, methodological, and substantive contributions to characterize and explain a pressing political issue across a range of highly pertinent cases.” David Howarth, Professor, Department of Government, University of Essex
  • 3. “This volume constitutes a major contribution to the study of contemporary populism. With its broad range of diverse cases, its fair and balanced treatment of the populist phenomenon, both left and right, and its theoretical richness, it stands out in the field. A masterful tribute to the groundbreaking work of Ernesto Laclau, it extends and enriches his insights by illustrating the central importance of style and performance for the understanding of populism’s appeal. Its innovative and theoretically sophisticated approach is bound to challenge and inspire anyone interested in the appeal of contemporary populism, which is likely to persist in the foreseeable future.” Hans-Georg Betz, Lecturer of Political Science, University of Zurich
  • 4. Pathbreaking theoretically and innovative in treatment, Populism in Global Perspective is a seminal addition to the literature on arguably the most controversial and fervently discussed topic in political science today. The book brings together established and rising stars in the field of populism studies, in an integrated set of theoretical and empirical studies centered on a discursive-performative notion of populism. Contributors argue that populist identification is relational and sociocultural, and demonstrate the importance of studying populism phenomenologically together with anti-populism. The truly global series of case studies of populism in the US, Western and Southern Europe, Latin America, South Africa, the Philippines, and Turkey achieves a deliberate balance of left and right instances of populism, including within regions, and of populism in government and opposition. Written in a style approachable to students and specialists alike, the volume provides a substantial foundation for current knowledge on the topic. Populism in Global Perspective is a must read for comparativists, political theorists, sociologists, area studies specialists, and all educated readers interested in populism worldwide. Pierre Ostiguy is Professor in the Escuela de Administración Pública of the University of Valparaiso, in Chile. He received his PhD in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught as a regular faculty member in Canada, the United States, Argentina, and Chile. He has been a visiting scholar at the Kellogg Institute (Notre Dame) and the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence. He worked extensively on Peronism and anti-Peronism in Argentina, before turning to the political and social theory of populism and the comparative global study of populist politics. He is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Populism (2017) and one of three contributors to its Concepts section. He has POPULISM IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
  • 5. authored numerous articles on populism and on party systems in Spanish, French, and English. Extended interviews with Ostiguy have been featured in Esprit (France), Birikim (Turkey), and, on many occasions, in Argentina. Francisco Panizza is Professor in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has been a visiting professor in universities in Argentina, Brazil, France, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, and Uruguay. His main research interests are populism, democratic politics, and Latin American politics. He has written extensively on populism and on left-of-center governments in Latin America. He is a Routledge author and editor. Among his main publications are “Populism and Identity”in The Oxford Handbook of Populism (2017); Conceptualizing Comparative Politics (ed. with Anthony Peter Spanakos) (2016); Moments of Truth: The Politics of Financial Crises in Comparative Perspective (ed. with George Philip) (2014); The Triumph of Politics: The Return of the Left in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (with George Philip) (2011); Contemporary Latin America: Development and Democracy Beyond the Washington Consensus (2009); and, key for this volume, Populism and the Mirror of Democracy (Verso 2005). Benjamin Moffitt is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award Fellow at the Australian Catholic University (Melbourne). He received his PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia. His research focuses on contemporary populism across the globe and is located at the intersection of democratic theory, comparative politics, and political communications. He is the author of The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation (Stanford 2016); Populism (Key Concepts in Political Theory) (Polity 2020); and Political Meritocracy and Populism (with Mark Chou and Octavia Bryant; Routledge, 2020). He has also authored articles on populism in journals including Political Studies and Government & Opposition, and chapters in numerous edited collections, including The Oxford Handbook of Populism (2017) and Routledge Handbook of Global Populism (2019). His work has appeared or been cited in media outlets including The Economist, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, BBC News, and The Guardian. In 2018, he was named among the Top 5 Humanities and Social Sciences early career researchers in Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Company.
  • 6.
  • 7. Conceptualising Comparative Politics seeks to bring a distinctive approach to comparative politics by rediscovering the discipline’s rich conceptual tradition and inter-disciplinary foundations. It aims to fill out the conceptual framework on which the rest of the subfield draws but to which books only sporadically contribute, and to complement theoretical and conceptual analysis by applying it to deeply explored case studies. The series publishes books that make serious inquiry into fundamental concepts in comparative politics (crisis, legitimacy, credibility, representation, institutions, civil society, reconciliation) through theoretically engaging and empirically deep analysis. 10. The End of Communist Rule in Albania Political Change and The Role of The Student Movement Shinasi A. Rama 11. Authoritarian Gravity Centers A Cross-Regional Study of Authoritarian Promotion and Diffusion Thomas Demmelhuber and Marianne Kneuer 12. Politics as a Science A Prolegomenon Philippe C. Schmitter and Marc Blecher 13. Populism in Global Perspective A Performative and Discursive Approach Edited by Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt Conceptualising Comparative Politics: Polities, Peoples, and Markets Edited by Anthony Spanakos (Montclair State University) Francisco Panizza (London School of Economics)
  • 8. POPULISM IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE A Performative and Discursive Approach Edited by Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt
  • 9. First published 2021 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 selection and editorial matter, Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-0-367-55934-2 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-367-62656-3 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-11014-9 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Apex CoVantage, LLC
  • 10. Series Prefacexi Acknowledgementsxiii List of Contributors xv 1 Introduction 1 Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt PART I Theory19 2 Populism, Hegemony, and the Political Construction of “The People”: A Discursive Approach 21 Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis 3 Who Would Identify With An “Empty Signifier”?: The Relational, Performative Approach to Populism 47 Pierre Ostiguy and Benjamin Moffitt PART II Populist Identification in Global Perspective 73 4 Populism as Synecdochal Representation: Understanding the Transgressive Bodily Performance of South American Presidents75 María Esperanza Casullo 5 Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador: A Case of Left-Wing Non-Hegemonic Populism 95 Samuele Mazzolini CONTENTS
  • 11. x Contents 6 Trump and the Populist Presidency 118 Joseph Lowndes 7 Populism, Race, and Radical Imagination: #FeelingTheBern in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter 136 Laura Grattan 8 Populist Politics and the Politics of “Populism”: The Radical Right in Western Europe 155 Benjamin De Cleen, Jason Glynos, and Aurelien Mondon 9 Populism in Government: The Case of SYRIZA (2015–2019) 178 Grigoris Markou 10 The High-Low Divide in Turkish Politics and the Populist Appeal of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party 199 Toygar Sinan Baykan 11 Beyond Demagogues and Deplorables: Democratizing Populist Rhetoric in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines 223 Nicole Curato 12 Out With the Old, In With the New?: The ANC and EFF’s Battle to Represent the South African “People” 240 Sithembile Mbete 13 Conclusions: Reflections on the Lessons Learned 255 Francisco Panizza, Pierre Ostiguy, and Benjamin Moffitt Index275
  • 12. In 1985, Barbara Mandrell released a song written by Kyle Fleming and Dennis Morgan in which she reminisced “I was listenin’ to the Opry/ when all of my friends/ were diggin’Rock ’n Roll and Rhythm Blues,”before she sang the title “I was Country, when Country wasn’t cool.” Social scientists go through phases when they more or less enthusiastically “engage”in the “issues of the day,”and the last few years have led to a rather boisterous engagement. Specifically, in recent years, there has been a spate of academic and popular production by academ- ics over “what went wrong?” and “is democracy dying?” questions which seem to beg some commentary on populism. There is much in the recent literature but, to be fair, much seems a response to events, rather than the result of a sus- tained study of the subject. Most students of Western democracies had devoted little attention to populism in their course of graduate study, unlike students of other regions where populism played a more perennial and robust role in politics (Ostiguy and Roberts 2016). Where populism was studied in Western European democracies, it was often seen as an aberration and pathology, rather than con- nected directly to the concept of democracy. Few dared to think of populism as “the Mirror of Democracy” (Panizza 2005). Moreover, much of the scholarship on populism—either not recognizing the connection to democracy or, for that very reason, seeking to further pathologize it—often overlooked anti-populism (Moffitt 2018). So how should scholars think about and investigate populism? The editors of this book, each of whose scholarly agenda has focused on populism, have put together an excellent collection of essays about populism that looks at manifestations of populism through the words and acts of political leaders, parties, movements, and governments in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. While the chapters draw from diverse contexts and focus on distinct units of analysis, the essays follow a compelling approach to populism, which is laid out SERIES PREFACE
  • 13. xii Series Preface in full in Chapters 2 (Panizza and Stavrakakis) and 3 (Ostiguy and Moffitt). This approach begins with Ernesto Laclau’s understanding that there is no preexisting notion of a, let alone, the people (2005). It must be constituted. For Laclau and his students, it was especially important to look at how discourse was used to include and exclude people, groups, ideas, and desires within the so-constituted people. The people was an “empty signifier” in that it did not have predetermined con- tent but could be filled, (re)shaped, and embodied differently at different times. Populist language often is indignant and dichotomous (the people are slighted, ignored, deserving and so on; the elites and outsiders are not), and it is most vis- ibly associated with a political leader. This leads many to study populism in terms of how a leader constitutes a people through speeches (and, for critics, how he or she tricks and manipulates them) or how a people is yearning for some messianic figure to speak to them in ways no one has before. Such studies correspond with supply- and demand-side approaches to politics, respectively. In some ways, they replicate the dichotomies presented in populist rhetoric. The editors of this volume are careful to note that populism is not simply a strategy of leaders (parties, movements, governments) or a yearning of people. It is relational. We must understand why followers follow, why leaders use cer- tain appeals and not others, and what role is played by anti-populists in opening and closing opportunities for populism. Relationality can be seen in discourse between peoples (speaking and listening) and in public and private performances. Discourse and performances demonstrate an allegedly agonistic struggle within a polity which, while fully political, is often expressed primarily in socio-cultural terms that Ostiguy has characterized as “high” and “low” (see Chapter 3). Popu- list vulgarity and transgressions of “proper” norms is intentional and constitutive, as is the condemnation of it. This is true for political struggles and is not without import for academic writing on the subject. The above mingling of discursive logics, performance, and socio-cultural approaches contribute to a remarkably comprehensive and agile concept of pop- ulism, which offers considerable leverage to scholars trying to explain and under- stand one of the most enduring phenomena in modern politics. This concept is proved in compelling empirical studies from across the world and is offered for other scholars to consider as they try to make sense of one of the most powerful mobilizing forces in modern politics. I thank Mishella Romo Rivas for her comments on an earlier draft. References Laclau, Ernesto. 2005. On Populist Reason. Verso: New York. Moffitt, Benjamin. 2018. “The Populism/Anti-Populism Divide in Western Europe.” Democratic Theory 5 (2). Winter: 1–16. Panizza, Francisco Ed. 2005. Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. Verso: New York. Roberts, Kenneth, and Pierre Ostiguy. 2016. “Putting Trump in Comparative Perspective: Populism and the Politicization of the Sociocultural Low,”Brown Journal of World Affairs, XXIII (I), Fall/Winter: 25–50.
  • 14. This edited collection has had a long gestation. Pierre and Ben noticed back in late 2014 the strong similarities in their theoretical approach to populism, though they came from very different world regions. In 2015 while in London on a brief trip from Chile, Pierre decided to pay an impromptu visit to Francisco, whom he had met only once before, in Paraná, Argentina. Noting their shared concerns regarding the current state of the field of populism studies, they discussed the neglected role of identification and the possibility of a very fruitful theoretical dialogue between current “post-Laclauian” approaches and Pierre and Ben’s per- formative, relational approach. A panel convened at the American Political Science Association annual con- ference of 2016 brought six of the fifteen current authors (from the US, Turkey, South America, Europe, and Oceania) to Philadelphia to discuss the project, its core ideas and purpose, and the viability of a volume. The full-fledged project then took off, in nearly its current form, in the truly global workshop held in 2017 at the University of Oregon, a stimulating South-North encounter that drew scholars from five continents to beautiful Eugene. Given the subsequent countless rounds of revisions and pointed theoretical discussions, the product may be described as a collective work, helmed by editors working across three continents and time zones—in Santiago, London, and Melbourne. Given the long road travelled, many people deserve our thanks for their help in bringing this volume into being. Certainly, as editors, we wish to thank the contributors to this volume. Very far from being “just” a collection of chapters coming from a workshop, this book represents a genuine engagement and conversation arising from an intellectual community spread across the globe. Our contributors have been kind, thought- ful, curious, and critical in all the best ways, always willing to “engage and revise”, ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
  • 15. xiv Acknowledgements not shying away from big questions, and we are extremely grateful to them for their excellent chapters, as well as all the illuminating and thought-provoking discussions and correspondence along the way. At a practical level, we wish to thank, first and foremost, Joe Lowndes for organizing and receiving us at the University of Oregon workshop in Octo- ber 2017 and, second, Dennis Galvan, Vice Provost for International Affairs. The volume, clearly, would not exist without Joe’s efforts—we thank him not only for his hard work in terms of the logistics of the workshop, but for his great warmth and hospitality in welcoming us all to Eugene. We thank the Depart- ment of Political Science at the University of Oregon for their sponsorship of the workshop; as well as the College of the Arts and Sciences and the Office of Inter- national Affairs for their generous financial support, which made our friendly “tribal gathering” possible. We also wish to thank those behind the scenes. At Routledge, we wish to thank Anthony Spanakos, academic co-editor of the “Conceptualising Com- parative Politics” series, and Natalja Mortensen, senior editor in political science, who were enthusiastic from the get-go with this volume and who, together with Charlie Baker, editorial assistant, made this book a reality. Finally, we want to thank the three anonymous reviewers who took the time to engage with the original manuscript and offered valuable suggestions and feed- back that improved the volume immensely. Pierre would like to thank the Catholic University of Córdoba in Argentina, and Martha Díaz in particular, for allowing him to carve out time for the volume during 2019. He also wishes to thank the Scuola Normale Superiore, in Flor- ence, for hosting him as a visiting scholar in January and February 2019, provid- ing him time and support to work on the project. In particular, Manuela Caiani was unforgettable for her tireless energy, hospitality, and ability to “make things happen”. The SNS seminar’s participants provided very helpful and thoughtful feedback on a first draft of the volume’s third chapter, including notably junior colleagues Beatrice Carella, Jacopo Custodi, and Enrico Padoan. Most impor- tantly, certainly, Pierre wants to thank Elaine Thomas, who, more than a patient spouse, clearly has been a true intellectual partner in this odyssey, as well as a thorough editor, up to the very last version of the volume’s title. Francisco would like to acknowledge the LSE Department of Government Staff Research Fund for their financial contribution to the project, and to thank Andreas Sorgen for his help in the editing and proofreading of the manuscript. Ben would like to thank Ash, Will, and Finn for their endless love and support in all endeavors academic or otherwise, and to acknowledge that this research was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award funding scheme (project DE190101127), and by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (pro- ject MMW.20180035). Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt June 2020
  • 16. CONTRIBUTORS Toygar Sinan Baykan, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Kırklareli University, Turkey. María Esperanza Casullo, Professor, School of Social Sciences, Universidad Nacional de Rio Negro, Argentina. Nicole Curato, Associate Professor, The Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra, Australia. Benjamin De Cleen, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Stud- ies, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, Belgium. Jason Glynos, Professor, Department of Government, University of Essex, UK. Laura Grattan, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College, USA. Joseph Lowndes, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Ore- gon, USA. Grigoris Markou, Postdoctoral researcher, School of Political Sciences, Aristo- tle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Samuele Mazzolini, PhD, Government Department, University of Essex, UK. Sithembile Mbete, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
  • 17. xvi Contributors Benjamin Moffitt, Senior Lecturer in Politics DECRA Fellow at the National School of Arts (Melbourne), Australian Catholic University, Australia. Aurelien Mondon, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics, Languages Inter- national Studies, University of Bath, UK. Pierre Ostiguy, Professor, Escuela de Administración Pública, University of Val- paraiso, Chile. Francisco Panizza, Professor, Department of Government, London School of Economics, UK. Yannis Stavrakakis, Professor of Political Discourse Analysis, School of Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
  • 18. Form is often also content. Populists, more than any other kind of politicians, are certainly highly aware of this. As Samuel Beckett once wrote: “Here, form is content, content is form. . . . It is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to”(2005, 1067). Form is a way of relating to people; or more accurately, specific forms are ways of relating to specific publics. Form includes rhetoric and style, but also logics, emotions, and affects. That this fundamental and distinctive aspect of the populist mode of identification, apparent to most observers, has gone under-theorized is at the very least surprising—particularly in a context in which the mediated performances of populists, from Donald Trump’s public rallies, Hugo Chávez’s hours-long improvisations on his television show Alo Presi- dente, and the inflammatory social media behavior of many a populist is under- stood as central to their political appeal. This volume aims to change this situation by elaborating a distinctive approach to the study of the topic centered on the relational, performative role that populist appeals play in relating to their publics, and in the constitution of popular identities—one that links content and form. Several years ago, it was common to begin an article on populism stating how lit- tle consensus there was on its definition. In European political science in particular, we may now have gone to the other extreme—with perhaps undue consequences for intellectual life. Moreover, the presence of a normative debate around the term should positively be thought of as a source of politically stimulating debates, includ- ing in the scholarly world, especially when populism is assessed across global regions. In this book, we partake in the claim that the division of the political field into two antagonistic groups—the people and its “other” or the establishment—is a central feature of populism, a notion that had already been formulated in similar terms by other, earlier versions of populism, not least by Ernesto Laclau in his 1 INTRODUCTION Pierre Ostiguy, Francisco Panizza, and Benjamin Moffitt
  • 19. 2 Pierre Ostiguy et al. early writings (1977) and later in Canovan (1999). The volume offers a distinctive approach to the study of populism centered on how populist appeals construct and shape popular identities, and on the relational nature of populist identifica- tion. Contributors argue that populist actors constitute popular political identities through performative practices that range from political speeches to transgressive “low culture” performances (Ostiguy 2017), where the relation of the leader and “the people” is co-constitutive. We moreover highlight the importance of study- ing populism together with anti-populism, to understand both political polari- zation and each side of the political cleavage. In showing how the performative operations that actually constitute the equivalential chain operate (in processes of popular identification), we thus strongly link the Laclauian and performative schools. Our approach is, in fact, broadly “post-Laclauian”, an umbrella term that brings together works that draw on Laclau’s seminal theorization of populism, but also questions, re-formulates, and develops his concepts and arguments to different extents and in different directions.1 It is furthermore “post-Laclauian” not only in terms of theoretical advances made, but also in the sense that, in sharp contrast to the way Laclau’s writing has often been characterized, our depictions attempt to be significantly down-to-earth, concrete, and “immanent”. Certainly, two broad approaches have been particularly influential in recent decades in contemporary debates on populism: the ideational and the strategic approaches. The former, particularly strong in Europe, sees populism as a “thin ideology”, and is associated with the work of Cas Mudde (2007), Jan-Werner Müller (2016), Kirk Hawkins and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser (2017), among others. This approach, and more specifically Mudde’s (2007, 23) much-quoted definition of populism as a thin-centred ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite”, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people, has become the most used definition of populism particularly in European aca- demic circles. The dichotomic division of society and politics into a “people” and a “non-people,” where “the people” should be dominant, is in fact a widely accepted and not particularly novel or recent characterization of the populist logic, across approaches and schools. However, like others we must dismiss that populism can be defined as an ideology (Aslanidis 2016; Freeden 2017); and we take it that the divide between the people and its other is political (and perhaps socio-cultural as well), rather than normative in nature.2 While most ideologies can usually be positioned broadly (with diverse degrees of standard deviation) on the left-right spectrum, from anarchism and Marxism
  • 20. Introduction 3 on the one hand, to various forms of conservatism on the other, populism as such (that is, independently of the “right-wing” and “left-wing” adjectives often attached to the noun) absolutely escapes this trait. Moreover and yet more impor- tantly still, in contrast to even “thin” ideologies such as ecologism, nationalism, and feminism—which Michael Freeden (1996, 2017), the scholar who coined the concept, identifies—one is at a loss here to know how populism provides determined, specific, and differentiated answers to societal problems or to general themes.3 Looking for populism in the realm of political ideas and even more so in that of specific ideologies would therefore seem to be misguided, and for several reasons impossible. Populism operates somewhere else, as a logic, as a kind of argument, as a rhetoric, or more broadly as a style or way in politics of stating, framing, and performing particular political projects. The notion of a “corrupt” elite, moreover, while part of the populist reper- toire, travels somewhat poorly and is particularly Eurocentric. It does not resonate well, as the main negative adjective, in many instances of populism, not least in Latin America, one of the main historical world regions of populism, throughout its history. There, the populist leadership has in fact generally been (and quite often proudly so) much more openly corrupt, in practice, than the social elite they were displacing from power; the rub being the perception that although they might be corrupt, at least populist leaders are “on the side of the people” materially, politically, and symbolically. More so, second, “the people”in Latin America may have been “suffering”, “hard working”, “neglected”, “despised”, but they were (and are) never seen as “pure”, whether morally, ethically, ethnically, or otherwise. Rather, they are the damaged, the plebs, the un-heard and un-represented who see themselves as discriminated, exploited, or excluded from civic life. Norma- tively, what distinguishes populism is not the expression of certain moralism (pre- sent in fact in all ideologies), but the performative staging of a wrong. Thus, neither are the people necessarily characterized as “pure”, nor the elite as “corrupt”, as claimed by the ideational approach. Lastly, the notion that policies should be the product of the volonté générale, or general will, is absolutely not distinctive of populism, but has been a (if not the) main tenet of democratic theory ever since Rousseau—from whom the term even comes. A second influential approach in the study of populism, the “strategic approach”, is associated with the work of Kurt Weyland (2001, 2017) and Robert S. Jansen (2011). It regards populism as a political strategy of power accumulation and mobilization through which a personalistic leader seeks or exercises gov- ernment power based on, according to Weyland, direct, un-mediated, and un- institutionalized support from a large number of mostly unorganized followers, and where ideas or principles or “ideational views”are not particularly important. This book shares with the strategic approach the notion that populist politicians deploy populist appeals strategically to gain political support. However, it diverges with the strategic approach in a number of regards. First, scholars in our tradition
  • 21. 4 Pierre Ostiguy et al. have always been puzzled by the lack of attention, if not straight disinterest, on the part of scholars in the strategic approach to what makes those followers actually follow, and often over a very long period of time and with a strong sense of loyalty, that personalistic leadership. In a way, our work begins where theirs stops. Sec- ond, implicit in the work of many in the “strategic approach”is that the masses, or numbers, following the leader are not particularly rational, smart, or enlightened, with a concomitant mépris des masses—also viewed as fickle and unable to put for- ward interests. In contrast, we study populism in a relational, rather than necessar- ily top-down, way, and reject the strategic approach’s normative assumption that customarily associates populism with demagoguery, manipulation, and authori- tarianism.4 Other scholars of populism have argued that populism can in certain instances and circumstances play an emancipatory role as, particularly outside Europe, it has been associated with different forms of inclusion (economic, social, political, symbolic) of the popular sectors (Aitchinson 2017; Canovan 1999; Col- lier and Collier 1991; de la Torre 2016; Mouffe 2009, 2018; O’Donnell 1973; Panizza 2005). Such has been the case in the very separate traditions of populism studies in the US and in Latin America. In both traditions, populism, in contrast to elitism or “oligarchical rule”, normatively stood for a movement of the peo- ple (even if led heteronomously) and for the people, with a strikingly plebeian form to it. Analytically, moreover, populism can be both personalist and highly organized—there is absolutely no contradiction there (as was also the case with fascism). It can refer to a movement, a political party, a leader, or even a regime, as exemplified by a number of case studies in this volume. To understand populism adequately, therefore, it is essential not to be cogni- tively restricted to Eurocentric or even Latin America–centric readings of the phenomena, but be global and truly cross-regional. We hope to achieve this aim, not only in terms of the actual phenomena here analyzed, but also with regard to the backgrounds and regional specialties of the authors. To this purpose, this book brings together a set of theoretical and empirical studies of populism that offers a distinctive approach to the study of the topic. Theoretically and conceptually, the volume brings together the Laclauian school and the socio-cultural and performative approaches to populism—a convergence that should be of consequence in the field. Certainly, the populist mode of iden- tification does not (truly or falsely) describe a certain set of beliefs, or refer to “the people” as a pre-existing and well-characterized socio-political entity. Rather, as stated earlier, populist actors constitute popular political identities through performative practices ranging from political speeches to transgressive “low cul- ture” performances which resonate locally. The praxis of populism, in our joint approach, can be analyzed by putting greater accent on two closely related, com- plementary dimensions: the logico-discursive and the socio-cultural or stylistic. We outline each of them here.
  • 22. Introduction 5 The logico-discursive approach to the study of populism is associated with the work of the late Ernesto Laclau (1977, 2005a, 2005b). It has proven to be one of the most influential and seminal approaches to populism, spawning a body of literature that has both engaged with the conceptual claims made in his work, as well as applying it to cases from across the globe—an influence that has not just been limited to the halls of academia, but has also included the practice of left- populist politicians and parties in Latin America and Europe. For Laclau, pop- ulism refers to a particular logic of articulation (Laclau 2005b, 33–34)—the logic of equivalences—that involves a “spatial”dimension of social reality. According to him, the socio-political field can be structured by an equivalential chain of unful- filled demands into an antagonistic relation between two socio-political blocs: the people (the plebs or the underdogs) and its Other (the power block or an establish- ment that is unwilling or unable to address the demands of the people). In this logico-discursive approach, the signifier “the people” operates as a nodal point around which different and often politically antithetical signifiers and ideas are articulated in order to define who are the people and represents the peo- ple. According to Laclau, the performative constitution of the people does not take place in a political vacuum. Articulatory practices are the defining elements of hegemonic struggles for the constitution of popular identities: “It is because hegemony supposes the incomplete and open character of the social, that it can take place only in a field dominated by articulatory practices”(Laclau and Mouffe [1985] 2001, 134). Moreover, hegemonic struggles are never limited to the politi- cal sphere. Hegemony always extends beyond the political realm. It involves social and cultural elements that are essential for understanding how and why identifica- tion takes place and thus how hegemonic struggles are won (and lost), a concept of hegemony that is highlighted by both Panizza and Stavrakakis as well as Maz- zolini in this volume, and the study of which has also been the focus of Ostiguy and Moffitt’s approaches to populism (Moffitt 2016; Ostiguy 2017; Ostiguy and Moffitt, this volume). This seminal theory of populism has since been further developed by Chantal Mouffe (2005, 2009, 2018) and other scholars associated with the so-called “Essex School” of discourse analysis, including among them Panizza (2005) and Stavrakakis (2017), authors of one of this volume’s two theo- retical chapters. There is much theoretical and phenomenological room for complementa- rity and convergence between the discourse analyses of the Laclauian school and the socio-cultural and performative understandings of populism, which began in the 1990s5 and have now taken a significantly larger presence in the study of populism.6 The study of the socio-cultural dimension of populism has been par- ticularly associated with Pierre Ostiguy’s (2017) characterization of populism as a particular form of political relationship between political leaders and their social base through “low” cultural appeals that have the capacity to resonate and receive positive reception within particular sectors of society for socio-cultural reasons
  • 23. 6 Pierre Ostiguy et al. (linked to an antagonistic understanding of socio-cultural differences). The notion that populism is characterized by a set of performative repertoires—already pre- sent in the work of Laclau—and stylistic tropes has been advanced by the works of Benjamin Moffitt (2016) among others, and seeks to make clear populism’s rela- tionship to our contemporary media environment. These approaches highlight that when encountering speeches of populist leaders or attending rallies, one is generally struck by the fact that one of their most noteworthy or peculiar features is not just the use of particular words or ideas, but the “kind of words” used, the level of language, the way the speech acts are performed, and even the (infor- mal or vernacular) way many populists dress, as well as the affective component, which is often passionate, embodied, and full of emotion. Moreover, populists’ performances tend to display publicly that they embody, in the sense that they represent in their “flesh” and out-of-place words, “a people”—and perhaps more precisely, “the plebs from here”. They argue that we therefore need to examine discourse in the broad sense of meaning-creating praxes—precisely what we do in this volume.7 This is a praxis marked not by “properness” and formality, but rather by informality and transgression. The informal stands in many ways as substantive content for both proximity and antagonism to a certain kind of establishment. Indeed, populism’s transgressive nature sets itself up in a clearly antagonistic rela- tionship towards more “proper” ways of doing politics, as well as proving it is bona fide in terms of proximity to the “real” people. In many ways, this is the “low” Ostiguy has been writing about (2017) and the “bad manners” Moffitt has emphasized (2016). This is perhaps best illustrated by a New York Times article describing the way Trump, in his transgressive, informal “low” manner, mocked the “proper”, “high” behavior of mainstream politicians. At one point on one of his most un-presidential of days, President Trump insisted that he knew how to be presidential: “It’s much easier being presidential, it’s easy”, he told a stadium full of more than 20,000 boisterous supporters in MAGA hats and T-shirts cheering his every word. “All you have to do is act like a stiff.” He buttoned his suit coat, pursed his lips, squared his shoulders and dropped his arms rigidly at his sides. “Ladies and gentlemen of Texas”, he then droned in a sleep-inducing staccato monotone the way he imagined most of the other 44 presidents had done. “It is a great honor to be with you this evening”. The crowd loved it, roaring with laughter. Transforming back into the un-presidential president America has come to know, Mr. Trump added, “And everybody would be out of here so fast! You wouldn’t come in in the first place!” Being presidential, he was saying, is so boring. Who wants that? (Baker 2019)
  • 24. Introduction 7 This volume thus brings together the Laclauian school and the socio-cultural and performative approaches to populism. Drawing these approaches together in a robust whole, this volume, furthermore, also introduces several innovations, both theoretically and in case analyses, at the cutting edge of populism studies. We show how performative presence and operations contribute to the actual creation of the equivalential chain, creating popular political identification in the process. Second, the political frontier that ends up being created is not so much against an administrative “power block”, but against an equally discursive, identity-based, and socio-political anti-populism. Identification, always rela- tional and incomplete, involves, third, both horizontal links among the people and vertical links between the people and the leader, articulating socio-cultural and political elements. Fourth and most importantly, we show that the empty signifier playing such a key role in Laclau’s theory of populism (and political identity more generally) cannot actually be completely “empty” if it is to be effective. In its stead, we introduce the notion of the “overflowing signifier”, for understanding the role of the leader (or of “bodily presence” and “performance in the flesh” for instances of populism where the leader is not central) in pop- ulism. Fifth, if traditional Marxism was indeed ontologically reductionist (with class as the central and ultimate category of analysis), we suggest that the post- modern turn has perhaps gone too far in throwing sociology “out the window” when it comes to understanding populism, as, independently of any discourse, society remains fundamentally uneven (not to speak of unequal). “Matter must be said”, and lived experiences must be interpreted, certainly; but the discursive text cannot be the alpha and omega of praxis—however tempted intellectu- als may be to think so. Several of the chapters in this volume in fact argue that populism entails a particular discursive and praxis-oriented politicization of existing (and interpreted) social cleavages, whether it is between an indigenous population and a whiter social elite in Bolivia, between “White Turks” and less educated and more popular sectors in Turkey, or in the US between a cer- tain “hinterland” (particularly in the South) and the two coasts. That is, while there is nothing sociologically predetermined about populist discourse, it does feed on existing social relations and inequalities (both of which exist outside of politicians’ discourses). It is, in fact, only in the interaction of interpellations (Althusser 1994) and lived social differences that new identities can be created, including political ones. Therefore, the current “social scientific”trend to study separately the supply side of populism (content analysis of speeches by political leaders) and its demand side (“populist beliefs” and voters’ attitudes) (e.g., Spruyt, Keepens, and van Droogen- broeck 2016) is quite problematic epistemologically. We are skeptical there are already-constituted populist beliefs just waiting to be activated by a populist politician—something which would be anomalous considering the omnipresence of good polling techniques. On the contrary, Laclau is correct that “the people”
  • 25. 8 Pierre Ostiguy et al. must first be constituted. Populism springs up in the act, or praxis, itself. Of course, certain attitudinal terrains may be more fertile than others, but the so-called supply and demand sides of populism do not exist in separation from each other. This is so, particularly because populism redefines what is sayable, and hence also doable, in politics. Populism often creates a kind of transgressive cultural revolution of its own, about what behavior is acceptable in public. One may think of Rodrigo Duterte’s foul mouth and crude behavior, or Donald Trump’s bullying of his oppo- nents here.8 Populism is thus neither a matter of an all-powerful strategic leader who manipulates the masses (as some versions of the “strategic” approach would have it), nor of an electoral demand that is just “waiting” to meet its supply. There is thus a fine theoretical line—and, in fact, a space that we occupy—between undistorted expressions of already-constituted selves and preferences in society, and the much contingent outcome of an expert strategic manipulator. Populism, rather, is a relational and performative appeal effective in certain social contexts. While the volume’s theoretical chapters show, for the first time, how the logico- discursive and the socio-cultural and stylistic approaches can and should be brought together, the phenomenological studies of cases across different world regions also make significant theoretical contributions to this approach and to the study of populism in general—with, moreover, many case-related insights. The case studies do not just “apply an approach”, nor are they mostly descrip- tive; instead, they are, of their own, theoretically innovative and substantive. In the process, they demonstrate the global productivity of what can be considered a broad “post-Laclauian” approach to populism. Methodologically inductive, our case studies are informed by ethnography, participant observation, and discourse analysis. And context certainly matters greatly. Overall, the volume broadens the study of populism from political science alone: to sociology, to be sure, but also to anthropology, cultural studies, and critical studies. Moreover, while most other edited collections on populism have focused only on Europe or the Americas, this volume arguably covers one of the widest arrays of instances of populism yet analyzed in a theoretically coherent, edited collection on the topic, with chapters on populism in the “usual” settings—the US, Western and Southern Europe, and Latin America—but also less-examined countries in different world regions, including Turkey, the Philippines, and South Africa. In addition, the book provides a much-needed, significant treatment of the ever more important question of populism in government. The case studies of Ecuador, Bolivia, Greece, Turkey, the Philippines, and the US show that popu- lists in office continue to use an antagonistic populist logic and transgressively to perform the politics of the low (Ostiguy 2017), flouting the conventions of high office, as well as the institutions that constrain their governmental power. Finally, something rarely seen in volumes on populism, in the design of the case selection the volume achieves a deliberate balance normatively of left and right instances
  • 26. Introduction 9 of populism, including within regions, with both left and right populisms both in opposition and in government. The first of the theoretical chapters, entitled “Populism, Hegemony, and the Polit- ical Construction of ‘The People’: A Discursive Approach”, by Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis, first presents an overview of Laclau’s discursive approach to populism. Drawing on Laclau, they claim that “the people”as a unified, but not necessarily pure or homogenous, political identity, is the outcome of particular political appeals—not, to be sure, a pre-existing social category. In that sense, “the people” is always retroactively constructed, a performative practice (Moffit 2016) that creates what it is supposed to be expressing. Moreover, the authors note that the constitution of the people does not take place in a political vacuum: it faces political resistance. Hence, they highlight the importance of studying populism in parallel with anti-populism, in order to grasp what is at stake in a given political conjuncture (see Ostiguy 2009; Moffitt 2018; Stavrakakis et al. 2018; Stavraka- kis and Katsambekis 2019; Frank 2020). The chapter subsequently discusses the significant question of the relationship between populism and democracy, which brings together the works of Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Panizza and Stavrakakis argue that Laclau’s rather weak treatment in On Populist Reason of the implica- tions for democracy of the populist mode of identification does not invalidate the argument that democracy requires the constitution of a democratic people. But they claim that in order to have a democratic people, certain practices are required that are best understood or analyzed through a relational notion of popu- list identification (Ostiguy 2017; Ostiguy and Moffitt, this volume), not fully developed in the works of Laclau. While not ignoring the importance of leader- ship in processes of identification, a relational notion also incorporates complex and heterogeneous practices of identification that include the moral, political, and cultural hegemonic struggles that contribute to constituting and defining populist identities. Everyday practices of association, solidarity, and resistance, not just the mass–leader relation, also generate the passionate attachments, relations of trust, and forms of agency that are at the heart of democratic populist identities. Panizza and Stavrakakis conclude that populism is not, per se, a danger to democracy: it is something inherent in the democratic revolutions and, like any political project, can take many different directions in attempting to express social grievances and represent sectors that do not feel represented by established political actors. The second theoretical chapter, entitled “Who Would Identify With an ‘Empty Signifier’? The Relational and Performative Approach to Populism”, by Pierre Ostiguy and Benjamin Moffitt, first outlines a performative-relational approach to populism that addresses the social and cultural conditions of identification, both in and of itself and as an indispensable complement to Laclau’s abstract and formalist theory. Not eschewing sociology (as the strictly postfoundational formal model of Laclau does)—something obviously not the same as postulating already
  • 27. 10 Pierre Ostiguy et al. constituted groups—the chapter interactively connects performances, discourses, and speech acts with social differences. The chapter argues that “style” is a not a faddish, superficial topic unworthy of study by serious political scientists, but may actually be the visible face (to go to another, sociological extreme) of Lipset and Rokkan’s cleavage theory. That is, style is personal, but is also deeply social as well as cultural. In that light, the chapter posits an ontology that is mid-way between the academic extremes of social categories “in themselves” and of the fully con- stitutive power of words (it is, in that way, closer to Laclau’s own starting point of social demands and hegemonic struggles). The chapter centers on the embodied and particularistic dimension of popu- list identification, especially with regards to the incorporation of the “excess” (in Laclauian terms). The chapter’s key theoretical contribution is to introduce the notion of “overflowing signifiers”, more adequate for explaining identification and the populist logic than “empty signifiers”. “Empty” signifiers, the chapter argues, never actually become empty; quite on the contrary, what characterizes them is the inscription of both a surplus of meaning and a “fleshy excess”, itself generally on “the low” and with a “plebeian grammar”. With regard to the for- mer, the authors show how multiple—often contradictory—meanings that can be empirically reconstructed and are grounded in reality are embodied by the populist leader, who is and acts to make himself closer, in fact, to what Laclau calls a floating signifier, and not merely a “blank screen”for projecting fullness. It is by being particularly “excessive”(in both senses) that the populist leader, the actually overflowing signifier, is able to act as a promise of fullness, responding to the lack. Identification, moreover, occurs not as the product of a mere hegemonic substi- tution, as Laclau suggests, but because of something in the praxis and embodied persona or personae of the populist leader or multitudes that resonates in the subject experiencing lack, with traits facilitating identification coming to the fore at the moment of collective embodiment. The chapter thus moves beyond what might be thought of as the discursively “formal” level of Laclauian political logic, which also often overlooks the mediatized nature and aesthetic dimensions of populist performances and the back-and-forth processes at play between populist leaders—qua overflowing signifiers—and “the people” in populist politics. We then turn to a series of chapters that seek not just to apply these approaches to a global set of cases, but to engage and build on these theoretical frameworks in an iterative and grounded manner. These chapters are organized on a regional basis, with the first region examined being Latin America, the region with the longest and arguably richest changing tradition of populism in the world. María Esperanza Casullo is the author of Chapter 4, “Populism as Synec- dochal Representation: Understanding the Transgressive Bodily Performance of South American Presidents”. She first questions the widespread notion of populist political leadership defined as a certain type of performative self-presentation that emphasizes virile toughness and machismo. Her chapter then casts light on the ways
  • 28. Introduction 11 in which socio-cultural matrixes of meaning are, and can be, transformed into political power, something that the literature on populism has often overlooked. She also explains the ways in which personal performance becomes a form of mediation, in the process of political representation. Her chapter furthermore advances populism study in three main ways: first, it moves from a fixation on the characteristics of the leader to an approach that focuses on the followers. Second, it posits that the power of populist performance is rooted in the followers’ belief that the very persona of the leader embodies their own identity, not in an idea- tional, but in a concrete, physical, almost synecdochal way. Third, it demonstrates that there is more than one way to perform the populist bodily transgression. In her chapter, she examines two templates of bodily performance: the body of the social or ethnic leader (particularly Evo Morales in Bolivia) and of women lead- ers (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina and the non-populist Michelle Bachelet in Chile). Her argument, however, is not that populism is a form of basic descriptive representation: on the contrary, an indigenous president can “go non-populist” in self-presentation, as Alejandro Toledo did in Peru, while “older white males” can transform their bodily appearances in a populist direction, as with Presidents Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and to a lesser extent Rafael Cor- rea in Ecuador. Chapter 5, “Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador”, by Samuele Mazzolini, studies the birth, evolution, and unravelling of Rafael Cor- rea’s “Citizens’ Revolution” in Ecuador, between 2007 and 2017, as a case of left-wing populist government in South America. Correa’s electoral appeal in 2005 was based on the populist simplification of the political space through the creation of a political frontier between “the people”, as the actors of the citizens’ revolution, and an “other”, identified as the big banks, the traditional political class, the mainstream media, the agro-exporting sectors, and foreign actors such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the US and Colombian governments. The chapter shows how, once in office, President Correa sought to mediate conflict- ing popular demands in an unstable compromise that addressed some demands, while he also simultaneously widened the register of the enemies of the Citizens’ Revolution. Combining the analysis of Gramsci with the approach of Ostiguy, Mazzolini argues that the absence of a strong socio-cultural relation between Correa and “the people” in what has oddly been called “technocratic populism” (de la Torre 2013), prevented the building of hegemony for that political project. We then turn our gaze northward, with two chapters centered on populist politics in the United States of America. In Chapter 6, “Trump and the Populist Presidency”, Joseph Lowndes explores the relationship between populism and the institution of the US presidency through the case of Donald Trump, arguably the most prominent populist in the contemporary political landscape. It begins with an examination of the opportunities and constraints for populism made available through the office of the presidency. It then looks at the ways Trump’s relationship
  • 29. 12 Pierre Ostiguy et al. to populism operates through his identification with the ur-figure of US pop- ulism, President Andrew Jackson. It then turns to contemporary discussions of populism and “norm erosion” in the age of Trump. Finally, the chapter discusses the populist politics of the permanent campaign; the relationship of right-wing populism to the Republican Party; and the dynamic between Trump and social movements on the streets. Chapter 7 looks at a case of American populism on the left (and in opposition). Laura Grattan’s “Populism, Race, and Radical Imagination: #FeelingTheBern in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter” argues that the grassroots coalition that sup- ported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primaries is the latest example of “radical democratic populism” contesting the “conservative capture” of populism in the United States. In doing so, it contends that evaluating populism’s radical democratic potential also requires analyzing the practices through which grassroots populists enact collective identity and popular power. Through this lens, Grat- tan considers the ways in which the Sanders coalition sought to build collec- tive identification around a centralizing rhetoric of resistance that foregrounded the disparate visions and disagreements at the heart of their coalition, specifi- cally focusing on its heterogeneity. The coalition highlighted decentered sites of power (e.g., Occupy and the Fight for 15) that made Sanders’ campaign possible, and grassroots-led initiatives (e.g., the People’s Summit) through which disparate actors negotiated issues and built cross-cutting relationships to carry “the People’s Revolution”beyond the 2016 election. Yet, as this chapter shows, there are limits to such a strategy: Grattan narrates how public protests by Black Lives Matter’s movement activists at rallies and on social media signaled the embodied limits of the coalition’s radical democratic enactments of “the people” (too often embod- ied in the white, masculine, middle-class figure of the “Bernie Bro”). Focusing on the decentering and disruptive practices in, and at the margins of, the coali- tion, this chapter argues that radical democratic populisms need to engage in practices of identification and dis-identification, in order to sustain broad-based grassroots movements. The book then moves its focus to arguably the most hotly contested region in the recent political landscape when it comes to populism: Europe. In Chapter 8, “Populist Politics and the Politics of ‘Populism’: The Radical Right in Western Europe”, Benjamin De Cleen, Jason Glynos, and Aurelien Mondon question the very notion of populism in our understanding of “populist radical right” parties, with an analysis of the role of the signifier “populism”in reactions to these parties in the press, by other political actors, and in academia. In order to understand better the nature, role, and impact of populism in Western Europe, they argue— somewhat paradoxically—that the concept of populism must play a less central part in our analyses of populist parties on the ideological radical right. This argu- ment goes against a rather prominent tendency to attach major importance to the populist radical right’s populism, or even to reduce our understanding of such
  • 30. Introduction 13 parties as being essentially or predominantly populist. In doing so, they suggest that we must simultaneously reflect more on the performative effects of discourses about populism in Europe, understood as a master signifier, used in both academic writings and everyday political discourse in diagnoses of, and strategies against, the populist radical right. Turning to the most successful recent case of populism on the left in contem- porary Europe, Chapter 9, “Populism in Government: The Case of SYRIZA (2015–2019)”, by Grigoris Markou, shows that in office, Syriza continued to use people-centered populist appeals to create and maintain a political antagonism between the Greek people, on the one hand, and the traditional political estab- lishment and neoliberalism, on the other, while at the same time enacting the austerity measures prescribed by the EU, ECB and IMF “troika” Memorandum that it had previously rejected. The chapter also examines how Syriza set up an alliance with the radical right party ANEL, based on a shared national-popular antagonism against the Memorandum, and how this peculiar alliance unraveled over the issue of Macedonia, which evidenced two different conceptions of “the people”: a nationalist-nativist one by ANEL and heterogeneous and an inclusion- ary one by Syriza. Moving slightly east, Chapter 10, “The High-Low Divide in Turkish Politics and the Populist Appeal of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party”, by Toygar Sinan Baykan, analyses the under-examined populism of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (JDP) in Turkey. Baykan highlights a high-low divide in Turkish politics and further draws on Ostiguy’s understand- ing of populism as a cultural-affective bond between populist leaders/parties and their followers, established through the antagonistic celebration of the “culturally popular and native” in politics. Baykan argues that the JDP owed much of its ini- tial and ongoing political success to the use of a “low”populist style and appeal. In that light, the JDP elite and the pro-JDP media convincingly depicted the party and Erdoğan as the true representatives of the despised and belittled, socially and culturally excluded, downtrodden segments of society. Erdoğan and the JDP suc- ceeded in articulating the grievances and energy of the lower classes, in a remark- ably stable cross-class electoral coalition that included upper- and middle-class conservatives. To showcase the populism of the JDP—and illustrate populism in general—the chapter draws on material other than speeches, such as images, videos, public performances, interviews, and first-hand personal observations in mass rallies and public appearances, alongside written and spoken material gener- ated by populist and anti-populist forces in Turkey. Finally, we turn our attention beyond the “usual” homes of populism that are analyzed in edited volumes, with a case from South-East Asia and a case from Africa. In Chapter 11, “Beyond Demagogues and Deplorables: Democra- tizing Populist Rhetoric in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines”, Nicole Curato draws on the phenomenon of Rodrigo Duterte’s populist rise in the Philippines to
  • 31. 14 Pierre Ostiguy et al. theoretically challenge the dichotomy often set up between populism and delib- eration. The chapter argues that populism as a political style is normatively ambiv- alent, as it can either threaten or deepen democracies, depending on the context in which populism unfolds. The argument is consistent with the “systemic turn” in deliberative democratic theory, which goes beyond a micro-level assessment of discrete speech acts to a broader analysis of the ways in which discourses contrib- ute to, or obstruct, the democratization of entire political systems. The chapter proposes shifting the gaze methodologically from the populist leader to his or her negotiated relationship with the public. As such, it builds on Ostiguy’s concep- tion of populism as “fundamentally relational” and, like Laclau, it focuses atten- tion on the contingent and dynamic character of populist claims-making, instead of depicting populism as a top-down, manipulative, and homogenously spite- ful rhetoric. Empirically, the chapter argues that ethnographic research on what Curato call “populist publics” opens a discussion about the possible spaces for the democratic airing of populist claims. Finally, in Chapter 12, “Out With the Old, in With the New? The ANC and EFF’s Battle to Represent the South African ‘People’”, Sithembile Mbete examines the instance of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). A case of left- populism in opposition and a political party that has transformed the South Afri- can political landscape, the EFF was formed in 2013 by the ousted leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), Julius Malema. The party became the third-biggest party in national parliament after elections in 2014. Its impact, however, goes beyond electoral politics. By performing disruptive politi- cal engagement in parliament and cleverly using the courts, the EFF has placed corruption within the ANC, specifically that of President Jacob Zuma, firmly on the national agenda. It has revived debates about the land question and racially defined inequalities in economic ownership that still resonate in South Africa, decades after the formal end of Apartheid. The chapter draws on a performa- tive understanding of populism to analyze EFF’s politics. The EFF’s politics of spectacle—including dressing as maids and mineworkers (like “the people”) and refusing to acknowledge President Zuma in parliament—has redefined acceptable political conduct in South Africa. Mbete uses theories regarding the performative and discursive dimensions of politics to explore how ideas of political representa- tion, political agency, and political legitimacy have changed in South Africa since the EFF entered the scene. The concluding chapter explicitly emphasizes how—beyond case specificities— the chapters engage each other and how, together, they contribute to substan- tively advancing discussions of five questions at the heart of the contemporary debates on populism: the relation of identification between the leader and the people; “the people”as a relational category; populism, anti-populism, and antag- onism; populism and institutions; and populism and democracy. Contributors to the volume also demonstrate that the critically minded work that takes place
  • 32. Introduction 15 under the broad rubric of post-Laclauian populism research is certainly not “too abstract” for empirical analysis, quite on the contrary, and that it can be particu- larly relevant to skillfully thinking real-life instances of populism. Taken together, our hope is that this integrated volume pushes forward the study of populism in new and interesting directions. Theoretically, it demon- strates what a broad “post-Laclauian” approach to the phenomenon can accom- plish; while empirically, it shows the way in which a truly global account of populism can be developed. The first decades of the twenty-first century have shown populism to be a more robust and enduring political phenomenon than many previously believed, and that it is here to stay with us. By focusing on the processes at play in populist representation, by considering the very methods by which “the people” are constructed and “re-presented”, and by engaging with the phenomenon “beyond the text”, this volume hopefully provides important new pathways for how we can think about and understand populism in the years to come. Notes 1. Other prominent authors who may be read through this “post-Laclauian” lens include include Arditi (2007), Aboy Carlés and Melo (2014), Aslanidis (2016), Gerbaudo (2017). 2. Furthermore, all ideologies in fact have a strong normative component, whether it is in socialism the call for solidarity and the condemnation of exploitation; the moral imperative in liberalism of freedom, respect for differences, and aversion to authori- tarians; or in conservatism the moral imperative of preserving constitutive traditions against the dissolving forces of modernity or radicalism. 3. Regarding ideology, a very different approach to that of Cas Mudde has been that of Margaret Canovan (2002), who has suggested that populism is the “ideology of democ- racy”. Undoubtedly, the statement is contentious, considering how many scholars view populism as fundamentally harmful for democratic values. Her smart statement, in any case, actually and however only moves the whole problem “one notch up”: to ­ democracy itself, with the additional thorn that populism then becomes definitionally intertwined (in a substantive way that is not clear at face value) with the entire theoreti- cal corpus on democracy. 4. The argument (both analytical and normative) is in fact very old. It is the same as that of Aristotle regarding demagogy in its relation to democracy. From Antiquity to the present, manipulation and “mob rule” have been set as the opposites of (intelligent) deliberation and (prudent) checks and balances. A tribune through demagogy becomes the tribune of the people, who once in power turns into, through plebiscitary means, a dictator and then tyrant. Populism as demagogy, playing on vile instincts and resent- ments, is negative for the republican form of democracy and tolerance. 5. Here one must mention the work of historians Daniel James (1988), Michael Kazin (1995), Alan Knight (1998), and Michael Conniff (1999), as well as, to some extent, essays of Pierre-André Taguieff (1995) and the landmark article of Margaret Canovan (1999). 6. Not surprisingly, both approaches have had a sensibility that is arguably more on the left, affiliated with traditions in critical theory, in contrast to the more “mainstream”and institutionalist defence of liberal democratic institutions (and of an older status quo).
  • 33. 16 Pierre Ostiguy et al. 7. In this regard, our approach is very close to that of Brubaker, who views populism as “a discursive and stylistic repertoire” (2017, 360) made up of the following elements: “the claim to speak in the name of ‘the people’ against both ‘the elite’ and outside groups or forces; the antagonistic re-politicization of depoliticized domains of life; the claim to speak in the name of the majority against unfairly privileged minorities; the valorisation of immediacy and directness against mediating institutions; the economic, securitarian, and cultural protectionism; and the ‘low’ style and deliberate violations of rules of polite speech and demeanor” (2017, 367). 8. One only has to think of the abrupt transformation in political and discursive mores brought by the irruption of Trump in American politics, of Chávez in Venezuelan politics, or of Perón in Argentine politics. Each created a way of doing politics unprec- edented in his respective country. References Aboy Carlés, Gerardo, and Julián Melo. 2014. “La democracia radical y su tesoro perdido: Unitinerario intelectual de Ernesto Laclau.” Postdata 19 (2): 395–427. Aitchinson, Guy. 2017. “Three Models of Republican Rights: Juridical, Parliamentary and Populist.” Political Studies 65 (2): 339–355. Althusser, Louis. 1994 [1970]. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” In Mapping Ideology, edited by S. Zizek, 100–140. London: Verso. Arditi, Benjamin. 2007. Politics on the Edge of Liberalism: Difference, Populism, Revolution and Agitation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Aslanidis, Paris. 2016. “Is Populism an Ideology? A Refutation and a New Perspective.” Political Studies 64 (IS): 88–104. Baker, Peter. 2019. “On Day 1,001, Trump Made It Clear: Being ‘Presidential’Is Boring.” New York Times, 18 October 2019. Available at: www.nytimes.com/2019/10/18/us/ politics/trump-presidency.html. Beckett, Samuel. 2005 [1929]. “Dante . . . Bruno.Vico.Joyce.”In Modernism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainy, 1061–1071. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Borriello, Arthur, and Anton Jager. (Forthcoming, 2021). “The Antinomies of Ernesto Laclau: A Reassessment.” Journal of Political Ideologies. Brubaker, Rogers. 2017. “Why Populism?” Theory and Society 46 (5): 357–385. Canovan, Margaret. 1999. “Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy.” Political Studies 47 (1): 2–16. ———. 2002. “Taking Politics to the People: Populism as the Ideology of Democracy.” In Democracies and the Populist Challenge, edited by Yves Mény and Yves Surel, 25–44. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Collier, Ruth Berins, and David Collier. 1991. Shaping the Political Arena: Critical Junctures, the Labor Movement, and Regime Dynamics in Latin America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Conniff, Michael L. 1999. “Introduction.” In Populism in Latin America, edited by Michael L. Conniff, 1–22. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. de la Torre, Carlos. 2013. “El tecnopopulismo de Rafael Correa. ¿Es compatible el carisma con la democracia?” Latin American Research Review 48 (1): 24–43. ———. 2016. “Left-Wing Populism: Inclusion and Authoritarianism in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.” Brown Journal of World Affairs 23 (1): 61–76. Frank, Thomas. 2020. The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. New York: Met- ropolitan Books.
  • 34. Introduction 17 Freeden, Michael. 1996. Ideologies and Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 2017. “After the Brexit Referendum: Revisiting Populism as an Ideology.”Journal of Political Ideologies 22 (1): 1–11. Gerbaudo, Paolo. 2017. The Mask and the Flag: Populism, Citizenism, and Global Protest. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hawkins, Kirk A., and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. 2017. “What the (Ideational) Study of Populism Can Teach Us, and What It Can’t.” Swiss Political Science Review 23 (4): 526–542. James, Daniel. 1988. Resistance and Integration: Peronism and the Argentine Working Class, 1946–1976. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jansen, Robert S. 2011. “Populist Mobilization: A New Theoretical Approach to Pop- ulism.” Sociological Theory 29 (2): 75–96. Kazin, Michael. 1995. The Populist Persuasion: An American History. New York: Basic Books. Knight, Alan. 1998. “Populism and Neo-Populism in Latin America, especially Mexico.” Journal of Latin American Studies 30 (2): 223–248. Laclau, Ernesto. 1977. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory. London: NLR Books. ———. 2005a. On Populist Reason. London: Verso. ———. 2005b. “Populism: What’s in a Name?” In Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, edited by Francisco Panizza, 32–49. London: Verso. Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. 2001 [1985]. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. 2nd ed. London: Verso. Moffitt, Benjamin. 2016. The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Repre- sentation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ———. 2018. “The Populism/Anti-Populism Divide in Western Europe.” Democratic Theory 5 (2): 1–16. Mouffe, Chantal. 2005. “The ‘End of Politics’ and the Challenge of Right-wing Pop- ulism.” In Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, edited by Francisco Panizza, 50–71. London: Verso. ———. 2009. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso. ———. 2018. For a Left Populism. London: Verso. Mudde, Cas. 2007. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni- versity Press. Müller, Jan-Werner. 2016. What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. O’Donnell, Guillermo. 1973. Modernization and Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies. Ostiguy, Pierre. 2009. “The High and the Low in Politics: A Two-Dimensional Political Space for Comparative Analysis and Electoral Studies.” Kellogg Institute Working Paper #360. Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Notre Dame. ———. 2017. “Populism: A Socio-cultural Approach.” In The Oxford Handbook of Pop- ulism, edited by Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, and Pierre Ostiguy, 73–97. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Panizza, Francisco, ed. 2005. Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. London: Verso. Spruyt, Bramn, Gil Keepens, and Filip van Droogenbroeck. 2016. “Who Supports Pop- ulism and What Attracts People to It?” Political Research Quarterly 69 (2): 335–346. Stavrakakis, Yannis. 2017. “Discourse Theory in Populism Research: Three Challenges and a Dilemma.” Journal of Language and Politics 16 (4): 523–534.
  • 35. 18 Pierre Ostiguy et al. Stavrakakis, Yannis, and Giorgos Katsambekis. 2019. “The Populism/Anti-populism Frontier and its Mediation in Crisis-ridden Greece: From Discursive Divide to Emerg- ing Cleavage?” European Political Science 18 (1): 37–52. Stavrakakis, Yannis, Giorgos Katsambekis, Alexandros Kioupkiolis, Nikos Nikisianis, and Thomas Siomos. 2018. “Populism, Anti-populism and Crisis.” Contemporary Political Theory 17 (1): 4–27. Taguieff, Pierre-André. 1995. “Political Science Confronts Populism: From a Conceptual Mirage to a Real Problem.” Telos (103): 9–43. Weyland, Kurt. 2001. “Clarifying a Contested Concept: Populism in the Study of Latin American Politics.” Comparative Politics 34 (1): 1–22. ———. 2017. “Populism: A Political-Strategic Approach.” In The Oxford Handbook of Populism, edited by Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, and Pierre Ostiguy, 48–72. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • 37.
  • 38. Introduction The discursive theory of populism is one of the main approaches to the study of the topic. Its main premises were originally outlined by the late Ernesto Laclau already in the 1970s, well before the current academic interest, political salience, and moral panic about this often troubling phenomenon. Academically, his works constitute an important reference for contemporary studies of populism (Hawk- ins 2009; Moffitt 2016; Taggart 2000). Hence, according to a recent and influen- tial introduction to the study of populism: “The Laclauian approach to populism is particularly current within political philosophy, so-called critical studies, and in studies of West European and Latin American politics” (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2017, 3). Laclau’s theory of populism centers on the priority that populism attributes to the constitution of “the people” within an antagonistic relation that pits the peo- ple against a certain Other (typically, the political and economic elite, the oligar- chy, the establishment etc.). Yet, the dense philosophical prose that characterizes Laclau’s writings has often deterred empirical researchers from engaging seriously with his conceptual and methodological innovations. However, during the last few years there have been attempts at operationalising his theory, making it more accessible to a wide variety of scholars as well as showing its value for compara- tive political analysis (Aboy, Barros, and Merlo 2013; Biglieri and Perelló 2007; De Cleen and Stavrakakis 2017; Panizza 2005; Stavrakakis 2014b; Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014). Laclau’s conceptualisation of populism has also influ- enced mainstream scholars, although the influence has not always received the recognition it deserves. Arguably, a discursive theory of populism constitutes the underlying yet too often unacknowledged kernel of the minimalist definition of 2 POPULISM, HEGEMONY, AND THE POLITICAL CONSTRUCTION OF “THE PEOPLE” A Discursive Approach Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis
  • 39. 22 Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis populism that has become a common ground for many contemporary studies on the topic (for a more detailed elaboration of this argument, see Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014, 121–122). Just to give a few examples: writing in the 1980s, Margaret Canovan (1982, 544) questioned whether it was at all possible to find a “reasonably solid core of agreed meaning” behind all uses of the category only to arrive almost 20 years later at a definition of populism that focuses on populism’s (discursive) appeal: Populism in modern democracies is best seen as an appeal to “the peo- ple” against both the established structure of power and the dominant ideas and values of the society. . . . They involve some kind of revolt against the established structure of power in the name of the people. (Canovan 1999, 3, emphasis added) Similarly, Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser introduced their edited volume on Populism in Europe and the Americas by arguing that “the number of scholars of populism has increased manifold and we are probably even further from a definitional consensus within the scholarly community” (2012, 4), only to put forward in the same volume and elsewhere a minimalist definition of populism that, leaving aside its moralising adjectives (“pure”, “corrupt”), has strong ele- ments in common with Laclau’s discursive theory (2012, 8). This chapter first presents Laclau’s discursive approach to populism. It traces its origins back to the Gramscian theory of hegemony and outlines the theory’s epistemological, ontological, and theoretical foundations. It then analyses the theory’s spatial and dynamic dimensions that distinguish populist discourse from other political discourses. The chapter subsequently discusses the important ques- tion of the relationship between populism and democracy, which brings together the works of Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Throughout our argumentation, the many affinities between discursive, socio-cultural (Ostiguy 2017), and performa- tive (Moffitt 2016) approaches to the phenomenon will be highlighted. Epistemological, Ontological, and Theoretical Foundations The so-called Essex School of discourse theory (Townshend 2003) originally formulated by Laclau combines a theoretically sophisticated account of the social production of meaning with an emphasis on the political and often antagonis- tic modality that discourses acquire through their articulation around distinct nodal points (such as “the people”). Here, meaning is regarded as constitutive of social reality and thus of subjective and collective identities as well. Discourses interpellate subjects; they seek to hegemonize the public sphere and to shape decision-making. The struggle for hegemony constitutes the broader horizon within which these processes operate. As Laclau and Mouffe put it in a text
  • 40. The Political Construction of “The People” 23 prefacing the second edition of their book, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: “Our approach is grounded in privileging the moment of political articulation, and the central category of political analysis is, in our view, hegemony” (2001, x). Laclau and Mouffe’s conceptualisation of hegemony has moved beyond the remnants of class reductionism still evident in Gramsci’s work and in Laclau’s early writings on populism to highlight the importance of the field of representation in account- ing for the construction and partial sedimentation of political subjectivity, social objectivity, and hegemonic orders (Stavrakakis 2017a). Three points are crucial in understanding Laclau and Mouffe’s recasting of hegemony: 1. Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of hegemony is linguistic and materialist, simul- taneously symbolic and affective. In their work, the term “discourse” does not refer merely to words and ideas, but denotes all “systems of meaningful practices that form the identities of subjects and objects’ through the con- struction of antagonisms and the drawing of political frontiers”(Howarth and Stavrakakis 2002, 3–4). 2. From an ontological point of view, Laclau and Mouffe’s stress on discourse and discursive articulations only makes sense against a horizon of continuous socio-political dislocations indicating the operation of a real (in the Lacanian sense) that marks the limits of the socio-symbolic order: “It is because hegem- ony supposes the incomplete and open character of the social, that it can take place only in a field dominated by articulatory practices” (Laclau and Mouffe 2001, 134). What they call “hegemony” comprises a permanent Sisyphean struggle to overcome the dislocations, failures, and crises that political pro- jects encounter from within (from their inherent inability to fully capture and reshape the real (Lacan 1982, 1993) and to represent their constituencies in a definitive way), and from without (from the political challenges put forward by other antagonistic representations and political projects).1 In this sense, what is at stake in politics is never the end of history or some sort of final resolution of all contradictions and antagonisms. Rather, it is a temporary crystallisation, a partial fixation of the balance of forces and representations, which may retroactively and temporarily be accepted as the “common sense” of a community, as what the community “takes for granted”. 3. Antagonism and struggle are crucial, as all hegemonic projects eventually face their politico-discursive limits. If, as Laclau observes, all discourses are “always already dislocated”, no full identification or social closure are ulti- mately attainable. If, in addition, there is no predetermined way to deal once and for all with social problems and political grievances, what is bound to emerge is an irreducible pluralisation of political projects. Lacking a univer- sal common ground, competing hegemonic projects end up engaged in antagonistic wars of positions (Gramsci 1971): “The fullness of society is an impossible object which successive contingent contents try to impersonate’ ad infinitum’” (Laclau 2000, 79).
  • 41. 24 Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis It is within this epistemological and ontological context that Laclau worked on his theory of populism throughout an academic career that spanned the best part of 40 years. His initial interest in populism arose not from some abstract academic concern but out of the experience of Peronism in his native Argentina. His view was that Perón’s political appeal could not be satisfactorily explained by standard Marxist analysis or by liberal interpretations of political life. Instead, he drew on Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and on structuralist (Saussure, Althusser) and post- structuralist (Lacan, Derrida) theories of politics and language to formulate his theory of populism and account for Perón’s ability to constitute popular identities and hegemonize Argentinean politics for over half a century. Populism, Politics, and Hegemony: Fundamentals of the Discursive Theory of Populism Most approaches to populism rely on the analysis of the ideological, ideational or organisational content of particular political projects in order to determine whether they are populist or not. By understanding populism as a distinctive dis- cursive logic, Laclauian discourse theory performs a significant displacement of emphasis from content to form. A formal conceptualisation of populism was already evident in his early work on the topic, “Towards a Theory of Populism”, first published in the 1970s (Laclau 1977), and was further developed in On Populist Reason (Laclau 2005a) and other later works. Hence, Laclau’s theory of populism does not focus on the ideological con- tent of a particular discourse, such as its left- or right-wing ideological location, but rather on how populist discourse shapes our understanding of social reality and constitutes political agency. Because of its formal constitution, populist dis- course has no a priori determined normative content. Hence, his approach differs sharply from—mostly liberal—approaches that denounce populism as a negative political phenomenon or even as an aberration on the road to liberal democracy, benign capitalist modernisation, social progress, and rationally driven political decision-making: The concept of populism that I am proposing is a strictly formal one, for all its defining features are exclusively related to a specific mode of articulation—the prevalence of the equivalential over the differential logic—independently of the actual contents that are articulated. . . . Most of the attempts at defining populism have tried to locate what is specific to it in a particular ontic content and, as a result, they have ended in a self-defeating exercise whose two predictable alternative results have been either to choose an empirical content which is immediately overflowed by an avalanche of exceptions, or to appeal to an “intuition” which cannot be translated into any conceptual content. (Laclau 2005b, 44)
  • 42. The Political Construction of “The People” 25 From a discourse-theoretical perspective, the equivalential logic of articulation draws on Saussure’s (1959) structural linguistic distinction between the syntag- matic and the paradigmatic axes of semiotic articulation. In Saussure’s semiology, the meaning of a particular unit within a system of signification can only be established via its differentiation from other elements within the same system: “In language there are only differences”(Saussure 1959, 120; see also Connolly 1991, ix). Saussure’s relational theory of meaning deeply influenced Laclau’s theory of identification: “Linguistic identities are exclusively relational”, a point recognized as the “very principle involved in the constitution of all social identity” (Laclau 1990, 207). Following this distinction, Laclau and Mouffe have established the logics of difference (syntagmatic axe) and equivalence (paradigmatic axe) as two dis- tinct logics for the representation of the political space: “We, thus, see that the logic of equivalence is a logic of the simplification of political space, while the logic of difference is a logic of its expansion and increasing complexity” (Laclau and Mouffe 2001, 130). In advancing a formal theorisation of populism, Laclau singles out two mini- mal criteria for the identification of populist discourses, movements, parties, and leaders. The first one, as we have seen, refers to a particular logic of articulation (Laclau 2005b, 33–34) that involves a spatial dimension of social reality. Accord- ing to this criterion, the socio-political field is structured as a dichotomous, antagonistic relation between two socio-political blocs: Us (the marginalized, the underdogs, “the silent majority”) and Them (the establishment, the 1%, the oli- garchy, the European Union, the liberal elite etc.). The criterion also implies that populist actors take sides by claiming to represent the excluded, the silenced (or silent), the repressed or under-represented. Of course, the politico-ideological (right or left) profile of the political agent that claims the representation of the underdogs is never predetermined in advance.2 In our modern political grammar, it is “the people” and “popular sover- eignty” that most often express populism’s political sensibility, hence its “people- centrism”, the second criterion. The signifier “the people” operates here as a nodal point, a point of reference around which other peripheral and often politi- cally antithetical signifiers and ideas can be articulated. Moreover, the dichoto- mous articulation performed by populist discourse is never limited to the political sphere. Hegemony always extends beyond the political realm and involves social and cultural processes that in the case of populism draw on high/low socio- cultural divisions, as thematized by Pierre Ostiguy (2017). In addition, the discursive constitution of “the people” is not a static but a thoroughly dynamic process. When social and political demands can be addressed in isolation from each other within an existing institutional structure, they can- not escape their differential status, their own particularity. When, however, some dislocatory event intervenes—for example, a crisis destabilising the reproduction of the extant economic, social, and political order—then unfulfilled demands often coalesce together and a new representation emerges splitting the social field
  • 43. 26 Francisco Panizza and Yannis Stavrakakis by paratactically grouping differences into a single polarity: “Vis-a-vis oppres- sive forces, for instance, a set of particularities establish relations of equivalence between themselves” (Laclau and Mouffe 2001, xiii). This second criterion of the discursive theory of populism is grounded on Lacan’s understanding of discursive articulation. Lacan (1993) posits that the con- sistency of every discourse is explained through the contingent elevation of a particular signifier into a structuring position, what he called the point de capiton (Laclau and Mouffe 2001), which then morphs, in Laclau and Mouffe, into the category of the nodal point: Any discourse is constituted as an attempt to dominate the field of discur- sivity, to arrest the flow of differences, to construct a center. We will call the privileged discursive points of this partial fixation, nodal points. (Laclau and Mouffe 2001, 112) In that sense, the structuring operation of a nodal point, around which the other signifiers pertaining to a particular discourse get organized, explains how mean- ing achieves a (partial) fixation without which socio-political discourse would disintegrate into psychotic rambling and no political meaning whatsoever would be possible (Stavrakakis 2007). Five implications follow from discourse theory’s formal definition of populism: 1. “The people”, as a unified (but not necessarily “pure” or homogeneous) (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012, 8) political agent, is the outcome of particular political appeals and not a pre-existing social category. For Laclau, the basic unit in the analysis of populism is not “the people” as a sociological category but the notion of demand. Populist discourse articu- lates unsatisfied demands in relations of equivalence against a power holder that is regarded as unwilling or unable to fulfill them. It is only when this strategy proves successful that “the people” emerges as a powerful politi- cal force to antagonize the established order. Hence, populism invariably involves the performative construction of a popular identity out of a plural- ity of democratic demands (Laclau 2005a, 95). In that sense, “the people” is always something retroactively constructed, an empty signifier that needs to be invoked, a performative call that creates what it is supposed to be expressing: [T]he construction of the “people” is a radical one—one which consti- tutes social agents as such, and does not express a previously given unity of the group. . . . [W]e are dealing not with a conceptual operation of finding an abstract common feature underlying all social grievances, but with a performative operation constituting the chain as such. (Laclau 2005a, 118, 97, emphasis added)3