On Saturday the 2nd June 2018, De Balie talked to a group of inspiring European thinkers & activists about their experience of countering populists, asking how we can counter the populist tide.
If we speak about populism, we immediately think about the vote for Brexit, Trump‘s victory or the popularity of populist leaders, such as Marine le Pen, Geert Wilders or Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. What we seem to forget is that populism takes many forms.
For too long populism has been dismissed, for example by left liberal politicians, as being a solely right-wing problem and its leaders as ignorant racists and xenophobes. And, this way of thinking has created a deeply-rooted political divide, an ‘us’ against ‘them’ which it is currently difficult to see a way out of.
In this debate, professors Jan-Werner Müller and Paul Scheffer will look to define common misunderstandings and to analyse both left and right-wing populisms. What do these forms of populism have in common and how should we react to the different variants?
Bringing inspiring young European thinkers and activists into the discussion, this debate will then aim to take some first steps towards coming up with concrete solutions. Together, the speakers will formulate their own lessons on populism and present their proposals for countering the populist tide.
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Claudia Chwalisz is a political researcher who currently works as a a policy analyst in the OECD‘s Directorate for Public Governance.
A Crook Public Service fellow at the University of Sheffield’s Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics and a former senior researcher for Policy Network, Claudia is an expert on democratic innovations, deliberative democracy and populism.
She is well-known for her book, The Populist Signal: Why Politics and Democracy need to change (2015). In this book, she states that populism is a warning signal to parties and governments to revisit their approaches to governance and representation. New forms of political engagement should not feel like a threat to formal political systems, but rather as much-needed additions that will enrich democracy. Her most recent book, The People’s Verdict (2017), takes a more in-depth look at the democratic innovations giving people a meaningful voice in policymaking.
Claudia also contributes to Carnegie Europe’s Reshaping European Democracy project.
Márton Gulyás is a Hungarian political activist and a co-founder of the leftist activist group Humán Platform.
The former managing director of the Krétakör Foundation (2010-2014) is known for his political activism. In 2017, Márton was arrested for throwing paint at the presidential palace in protest against amendments to Hungarian higher education legislation which targeted the Budapest-based Central European University. Following his arrest, he launched the Country for All Movement, which uses non-violent process to push for reform of the Hungarian electoral system.
Marton is also the face of the Slejm YouTube channel, which analyses Hungarian & European politics.
Flavia Kleiner is the co-founder and co-president of the liberal political organisation, Operation Libero.
Operation Libero was founded by members of the Swiss foreign policy think tank, foraus (its name a play on words, which combines the first letters of its full German title – Forum Außenpolitik – with a similar pronunciation to the word ‘voraus’, which means ‘forwards’ in German) in 2014 and is engaged in promoting international connectedness, freedom, progress and the rule of law.
In 2016, Flavia and Operation Libero established themselves in Swiss politics through their opposition to the SVP referendum iniative for the Implementation of the Expulsion of Criminal Foreigners. Through an extensive campaign, Operation Libero surprised Swiss political analysts by achieving a record referendum turn-out and a surprise defeat of the SVP’s proposal.
Since 2016, Operation Libero has continued to be involved in Swiss politics and is currently engaged in several campaigns on, for example, marriage for all and for a modern, liberal and open Switzerland.
Jan-Werner Müller is a German author and a professor of politics at Princeton University, whose research interests include the history of modern political thought, democratic theory, constitutionalism, religion and politics and the normative dimensions of European integration.
In 2016, he published What is Populism?, which carefully examines one of the defining political characteristics of our age. He warns that populists are both willing and able to govern and may deform democracy in the process. This book gives a timely perspective on the pressing question of what populism actually is and, most importantly, how to respond to it.
Other recent publications by Jan-Werner Müller include Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth Century Europe (Yale UP, 2011) Constitutional Patriotism (Princeton UP, 2007) and A Dangerous Mind: Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought (Yale University Press, 2003). He also regularly contributes articles to The Guardian, the London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books.
Beyond his current role at Princeton, Jan-Werner Mueller has been a fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, the Collegium Budapest Institute for Advanced Study, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, the Center for European Studies, Harvard University, the Remarque Institute, NYU, and the European University Institute, Florence. He has also been a member of the Institute of Advanced Study Princeton and has taught as a visiting professor at the EHESS, Paris, Sciences Po, Paris, as well as Humboldt University, Berlin, and LMU, Munich.
Paul Scheffer is a Dutch sociologist, journalist & author.
From 2003-2011, Paul Scheffer taught urban sociology at the University of Amsterdam. Currently, he is a professor of European studies at Tilburg University and a columnist for NRC Handelsblad. He also publishes regularly in other European journals and magazines.
In 2000, Scheffer wrote an essay entitled Het multiculturele drama [The Multicultural Drama] which was very influential in shaping the debate on multiculturalism and immigration in the Netherlands. His 2007 book, Het land van aankomst, was published in English in 2011 as Immigrant Nations and provides a comparative study of immigration in Europe and America. In 2016, Scheffer updated his thinking an immigration to include the refugee crisis and Dutch membership of the EU in his essay, De Vrijheid van de Grens [The Freedom of the Border].
Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal is a Dutch television journalist, best known as the American correspondent of NOS Journaal.
Eelco studied literature in Groningen, specialising in American Studies. Following his studies, he worked at the Dutch Embassy in Washington for a short amount of time before returning to work as a journalist in the Netherlands in 2012.
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This debate forms part of the Forum on European Culture, taking place in Amsterdam from the 31st May-3rd June.
You can find out more about the forum and access a full programme, by clicking here and visiting our event page.
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This debate 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.
This debate also forms part of the Forum on European Culture, which you can find out more about by clicking here.