The current success of populist movements and politics is not limited to Germany and Europe. It is rather the symptom of times of crises on both sides of the Mediterranean: Europe is currently witnessing the rise of successful opposition parties labelled as populist. Populist politicians have in fact formed governments in countries such as in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. In many Arab countries, historically, populist rhetoric has been part of the communication strategies of post-independence leaders. Five years after the Arab Spring, a revival of populist strategies has been observed in order to restore political leadership and tame dissent.
The main goal of the conference was to understand and compare different forms of populist politics. The word “populism” is a central concept in current media debates, but as a political buzzword it is used to denote very diverse phenomena: a catch-all political rhetoric, an exclusive and polarizing style of governance, a personalized media strategy, short-lived but successful movements, the message of elites acting contrary to “the people”, and charismatic leadership.
Secondly, the conference participants seeked to explore the current situation of civic institutions facing populist politics as well as their coping and counter strategies within an interdisciplinary context. In five different panels, communication scientists, sociologists, and political scientists debated the role of the media, civil society actors, political parties, and interest groups among others.
The specific added value of the conference was the decidedly European-Arab perspective on scientific debates about populism. The comparative perspectives on forms and concepts of populism can help to understand this phenomenon and reflect upon counter strategies.
'From Fringes into the Mainstream: The Surge of Populism in Europe and Beyond'
by Prof. Reinhard Heinisch (University of Salzburg)
3 October 2016, 8 pm
Pentahotel Leipzig, Room P1