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School of Geography

What is Left and What is Right in Populism? Rethinking Populism and Popular Sovereignty in Historical Perspective

5 June 2019

Time: 1:30 - 5:45pm
Venue: Scape 0.11 (Opposite Queen Mary Campus, Entrance on Mile End Road)

We live in a ‘post-democratic’ moment (Crouch, 2000; Mouffe, 2018). Over the course of several decades, parties on the left and the right alike have flocked to the political centre ground in liberal democracies, adopting a similarly neoliberal approach to “government at a distance” (Krippner, 2012) and overseeing a “shrinking” of the (social) state. At the same time there has been a hollowing out of legislative authority with power having gradually shifted to the executive and the judiciary in what is sometimes characterised as a ‘zombie’ parliamentary system. The result is the kind of saga that Brexit has become in the UK and an impetus to more popular democratic movements, as people seek to more actively express their political voice and agency. A growing number of academic and journalistic accounts claim to explain this populist moment (Mudde, 2004; Müller, 2016). Yet the focus has been overwhelmingly on the emergence of the populist right (Betz, 1995; Rooduijn, 2015) with relatively little work of substance on populisms of the left specifically. Worse still, particularly in Europe, right and left populism are often conflated, re-configured and lumped together into a form of illiberal anti-democratic politics (Werner, 2015) threatening the pluralist basis of liberal representative democracies. In this roundtable event we seek to hear from scholars working across a range of disciplines about the relationship between populist and progressive politics as this bears upon the current political climate. Is left populism a ‘myth’? If not, what distinguishes it from right wing populism? Can a progressive vision of the ‘people’ exist (Žižek, 2018) without populism? What do contemporary struggles over popular sovereignty say about core categories of left politics, labour, class, social democracy and democratic socialism?


Running Order

1:30         Welcome and Coffee

2:00         Opening Remarks, Simon Reid-Henry (QMUL): What is left? What is right? What is populism?

2.15-3.00 Philippe Marlière (UCL): Left and right populism in France in a critical perspective
                 Response by Stijn van Kessel 

        3.00-3.45 Stijn van Kessel (QMUL): Populist Parties and the Radical Right
                         Response by Philip Marliere

        3.45-4.00  Coffee 

4.00-4.45   Emmy Eklundh (Kings): Left Populism

                          Response by Lorna Finlayson

         4.45-5.30   Lorna Finlayson (Essex): Populism and Dissent
                           Response by Emmy Eklundh

 5.30           Closing Remarks. Eva Nanopoulos (QMUL)


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