“Populism” is a political phenomenon, closely connected with the history of democracy. Presently in official policy and partly in political philosophy it has become a fighting term to qualify so called “populists” as illegitimate profiteers of public anger and politically bungling moralists and opportunists. However, in times of permanent crisis, growing social inequality, and confusing global conflicts in Europe and other parts of the world, in Latin America in particular, populism succeeds politically, confronting established parties and government actions with demands, essential to our understanding of democracy. The term “populism”, common in the Anglosaxon world, where it originated, still has a positive meaning there, in the sense of communitarian self-organization in opposition to private profit and the privileges of the political class. Emerging mass democracy faces the dilemma that the people can execute their sovereignty in acts of periodical voting only, thus delegating every day politics to their representatives. Rulers and ruled find themselves bound in an ambivalent relationship. The “political” in its original meaning of a personal experience and a collective imagination – the “participation of the nonparticipants” which Jacques Rancière has referred to – can never be monopolized completely by official politics. Though different, populist movements have in common that they raise issues of participation as well as those of dissociation and dissent often neglected by political professionals. Lacking a mandate, populists are powerful in their rhetoric, absorbing resentment and animosity, emerging at the fringes of civil society, and also at its heart.
This program of the Mosse-Lectures will deal with the fractures of democracy, the uneasy relationship of democracy and demagogy, of populism and extremism. A cultural critique of populism should guide us to the political experience of a democracy popular with its citizens.
with Joseph Vogl (HU)
»Rage, Rebellion, New Power«
Thursday, October 27, 2016, 07:15 pm, Unter den Linden 6, Senatssaal