At 19:30 EET on Wednesday the 25th October 2017, The Red House hosted a discussion with the renowned public intellectual, Ognian Minchev, on the changes taking place in our political landscapes.
Ognyan Minchev has been a key public intellectual figure in the interpretation and analysis of the processes of democratic transformation in Bulgaria since 1989. Yet, with the onset of the so-called “refugee crisis” he has become increasingly critical of the European Union’s policies. Is this the result of ideological repositioning or a rational political analysis?
How does the rise of populist and anti-immigrant movements in Europe compare to the personal ideological developments of those involved in or related to these changes? Are we witnessing the collapse of liberalism as we know it? This discussion is an attempt to analyse the processes taking place in our societies and to look beyond the familiar tropes of values and identity conflicts.
Radical changes are taking place within our political landscapes. In the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Germany and the United States, new anti-elite parties and candidates with little to no experience within classical politics are gaining broad support, winning elections and, in general dictating, the political agenda. Their positions are varied, leaning both to the left and the right, but they all claim to champion a common criticism of traditional elites who have lost touch with the concerns and interests of the so-called ordinary voter. These new players have been met with a great deal of opposition amongst the political establishment and are often defined as populists, with public appeals for their exclusion from politics. After decades of scepticism and apathy amongst voters, confrontation and passion are, however, returning to the core of political life in Europe. Yet, while this also has its positives, the negative side of this development is the trend towards conflict-based identity politics and the ever-narrowing space for dialogue it creates.
In this series, Time to Talk centres seek to analyse without prejudice the ideological displacements in contemporary societies and the to find out which origins a series of prominent public figures believes these changes to have. Why, for example, are politicians and intellectuals who were actively engaged in the first years of democratic change in the former Eastern bloc countries now turning against the suddenly omnipresent conceptualisation of a European elite? What turns a convinced pro-European into an advocate of Brexit? Which recent changes have made such ideological shifts possible? What does it cost to leave the comfort zone of your own reference group, and does such behaviour constitute a new form of dissidence? Are we seeing the end of liberalism’s hegemony and the end of the “end of history”?
Ognyan Minchev is the executive director of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, the chairmen of Transparency International Bulgaria and a professor of political science at the University of Sofia.
The Red House‘s Ideological Trajectories: The New Dissidents series of discussions is part of Time to Talk‘s Understanding the Populist Turn: The Ex-Debates series and has been supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundation Institute in cooperation with the OSIFE of the Open Society Foundations.