Should We Fear Populism?

Date: Thursday 2nd May 2019

Venue: Carriageworks Theatre, Room 1

Doors open 6:45pm for 7pm start to 8:30pm

Speakers: Brendan O'Neill (spiked), William Allchorn  (University of Leeds), Lone Sorensen (University of Huddersfield)

Admission: £5 waged/£4 unwaged to pay on the door. To reserve a place, please e-mail us at contact@leedssalon.org.uk

The first of two panel discussions in May on connected, contemporary issues to mark our 10th anniversary.

Populism seems to have become the political buzzward of the day – with many debating its meaning and merits. For example, in his New Year tweet, Labour’s Keir Starmer said: “Let’s hope 2019 is a year where long-established values of internationalism, cooperation and collaboration overcome populism across Europe and the World.” 

Starmer’s comment follows repeated concern over recent years about a rising tide of populism throughout the world – from Brexit to Trump, Turkey to Brazil, and across Europe – with his own party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, often included amongst the left-wing examples of that populist tide. 

However, rather than signal anything progressive, many commentators argue that, in practice, today’s populism is almost exclusively populist radical-right. Some even see it as a worrying portend to a “return to the 1930s” - motored by authoritarianism, and nativist and xenophobic prejudices. 

Others aren’t so negative. While critical of the directions it can go, the authors of a recent book on National Populism nevertheless see is as giving a voice to ordinary people who feel “neglected, even held in contempt, by increasingly distant and technocratic political and economic elites.”  And rather than being authoritarian, they say it actually reflects a demand for more democracy. 

So, what do we make of today’s populism? Are populist movements merely symptoms of an out-of-touch political order, reflecting a desire for democratic renewal? Or is populism a threat to liberal, democratic society, and something to “overcome”? 

Some Readings:

The problem with populism, Cas Mudde, Guardian,  17 February 2015

Us vs Them: The birth of populism, John B Judis, Guardian, 13 October 2016

Why not all populism is bad populism, Antonis Galanopoulos, Newsweek, 2 November 2016

In defence of populism, Desmond Fennell, Irish Times, 23 December 2016

Against populism, the centre must hold, Tony Blair, New York Times, 3 March 2017

 


 


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