Dissidents today – from anti-communism to anti-liberalism?

At 18:30 EET on the 4th December 2017, The Red House held its 2nd Ideological Trajectories: The New Dissidents discussion, speaking with Nikolay Mihaylov about the ideological shifts currently taking place within Europe’s political landscapes.


About the discussion:

Nikolay Mihailov is a political analyst who is known for his often sharp criticism of established and prevailing perceptions. Over the years, his criticisms have been directed against both the Bulgarian left and the Bulgarian right. And, starting with a look at his own diverse public positions, the conversation will focus on the significance of difference and disagreement in politics in the modern neoliberal age. It will seek to find out whether, on the one hand, it is justified to claim that today the imperative to recognise and guarantee difference has turned into a form of dominant cultural, political and ideological position in itself and, on the other hand, whether it is possible to express disagreement with liberal values while seeking democratic alternatives. Furthermore, it will ask what the minimum conditions are that are required for such alternatives to be heard.

About the series:

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”?

Find out more by keeping an eye out for the English-language highlights video which will be produced post-discussion.



Nikolay Mihaylov has worked as a practicing psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and psychology. He was also of member of the Bulgarian parliament for the right-wing party, Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria.


Iliya Valkov is a political journalist and a professor of crisis communications in the Journalism and Mass Communication Department of the University of Sofia.

Video recordings:

An English-language highlights video of the discussion will be produced and uploaded to the TTTdebates.org after the 4th December. A full length Bulgarian-language recording of this discussion will also be uploaded to The Red House’s YouTube channel post-debate.

To stay informed about upcoming video highlights of this and all other TTT debates, you can follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook, where we regularly publish updates about the availability of new material. To keep track of new recordings from The Red House, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel.

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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.