On Saturday the 22nd October 2016, the Institute of Ideas discussed what is commonly described as the new populism, looking at how new movements are suddenly replacing traditional political parties throughout Europe and the US.
This debate formed part of the 2016 edition of the Battle of Ideas debates festival, which you can find more information on via the links below. Other recordings from the Battle of Ideas will be being uploaded in the coming days and weeks and to receive up-to-date information about recordings from both these and other Time to Talk events, you can follow us on our Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, where we regularly publish information about new material.
Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is the latest electoral event to be widely interpreted using the concept of populism. For many commentators, the unexpected triumph of the Brexit campaign was yet another manifestation of the sort of populist sentiment which has become increasingly familiar across the Western world. Leave campaigners, such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, have taken their places in a rogues’ gallery of demagogic leaders of rising anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic movements throughout Europe and (in the form of Donald Trump) the US. The declining appeal of the traditional parties of both the Left and the Right has been apparent for a generation and now seems to have come to a head, to the consternation of those who see this new populism as a rejection of common sense. At the height of the referendum campaign, The Guardian’s Martin Kettle articulated the exasperation of the political establishment at the evident disaffection of the masses when he described support for Brexit as “part bloody-mindedness, part frivolity, part panic, part bad temper, part prejudice”.
Indeed, the concept of populism is generally used in a pejorative way. It is often preceded by the implicitly disparaging adjective “right-wing” and directly linked to notions such as racism, xenophobia or Islamophobia. Yet, in the past, it has been as common for populist movements to have had a left-wing as a right-wing character. They have often expressed an inchoate animosity towards a corrupt elite. Such movements are inherently unstable and tend to evolve in, dependent on the circumstances, either a radical or a reactionary direction. Recent political phenomena, such as Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Five Star Movement in Italy, and the successes of Bernie Sanders in the USA and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, show the complexity of the popular movements which have emerged to fill the vacuum left by the decay of the old politics.
Mainstream politicians and commentators fear the polarisation resulting from the rise of populist movements, but seem unable to engage the public through open debate. Others argue that the upsurge of popular discontent with the stagnant political order points the way towards the revival of democratic politics and is worth celebrating even if it unleashes uncomfortable sentiments. Are populist movements merely “morbid symptoms” of a decadent political order or harbingers of a democratic renewal?
More recordings from the Battle of Ideas 2015 will continue to be uploaded in the coming days and weeks. To receive up-to-date information about recordings from the Battle of Ideas and other Time to Talk events, you can follow us on our Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, where we regularly publish information about new material.
Nick Cater – Executive Director, Menzies Research Centre, Australia; Columnist, The Australian
Ian Dunt – Editor, Politics.co.uk; Political Editor, Erotic Review
Ivan Krastev – Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia; Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna
Jill Rutter – Programme Director, Institute for Government
Bruno Waterfield – Brussels Correspondent, The Times; Co-Author, No Means No
Claire Fox – Director, Institute of Ideas; Panellist, BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze; Author, I Find That Offensive