Politics in the age of the double-bind: anti-elitism and anti-populism

A workshop on Kent's Canterbury campus
Hosted by Kent Law School’s Research Group on Political Theologies of Juridification in association with the Centre for Research in Political Theology (CRIPT) at Birkbeck College, University of London; Kent Law School’s Research Group on Social Critiques of Law (SoCriL); and Kent’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Spatial Studies (KISS)

Please find further details and register here: https://bit.ly/2Fol2nW

Unimpeded by the interminable motions of no-confidence tabled against the term "populism", the debate about populism continues its fatberg-growth, helplessly blocking an ever more disproportionate part of the sewers of political decision-making. The post-Leviathan bugbear populism defends the values of democracy on the basis of a re-possessed socialist anti-elitism, cast in a new power-elite's rhetoric. Melodramatically, it admonishes those unimpressed with populism that they show a "loss of faith in politics", that those who "play with fire" will eventually "reap [..] the whirlwind" (T. May and B. Johnson resp., January 2019), or that "government is the servant of the people, not of parliament" (L. Fox). As everyone knows since long, the essential bits in matters of politics and society is to be found outside of the text. Candidates for self-reference exist (e.g. text in Derrida, society in Luhmann); -isms demand an extimate angle, genealogical inquiry, careful contextualisation and re-description, while avoiding what has been called the monographical bias (in a nutshell: that which is central to my inquiry must be equally central to the world in which it emerges). Furthermore, populism will not be referred to as part of the furniture of the world (a "substance", in older language), but as a merely emerging, contingent phenomenon. With an important proviso: Industries of sense-making, such as current academe and news media, have no problem in giving rise to phenomena: yet, being deprived of a stop-rule, they ignore how to "get over it", and must rely on spontaneous/collateral processes of oblivion and replacement. This is why the workshop will aim to discuss the main methodological division, whether populist movements need to be inscribed on a map based upon the traditional divides (right and left, liberalism and democracy, etc.) or demand a wholly new cartography, where populism appears as the counter-power to social elite, political establishment and mainstream media. We will focus on at least these four themes: 

1) the historical position of populism within the post-history/ "withering away" of universalism, geo-politics and the "question" (?) of the refugees. Populism as a "movement", and as such a candidate to "replace" universalism. 

2) the position of populism within the sphere of politics in modern and contemporary society. Is populism insteadof politics, or part of politics? Do we dispose of a concept of politics that allows to describe and analyse, rather than only transcend, suspend, etc., political actuality? 

3) populism and the evolution of politics. How will professionalised politics coexist with anti-elitist claims such as to the sovereignty held by the sphere of politics over everything else? 

4) future evolutions of the concept of democracy in the face of anti-elitist radicalisations that have emancipated themselves from their universalist anti-opportunism "back-stop". 


Professor Agata Bielik-Robson (University of Nottingham, Theology & Religious Studies)

Dr Anton Schütz (Paris; University of Kent, Visiting Fellow, CRIPT)

Professor Yannis Stavrakakis (School of Political Science, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; by Skype)

Professor Carsten Juhl (Copenhagen)

Professor David Ayers (University of Kent, School of English)

Professor William Watkin (University of Brunel, Philosophy & Literature)

Professor Angus McDonald (As. Professor Emeritus, Staffordshire University)

Dr Ward Blanton (University of Kent, School of Religious Studies)

Dr John Ackerman (University of Kent, School of Law)

Dr Gian Giacomo Fusco (University of Kent, School of Law)

Dr Tamara Cărăuş (New Europe College Institute for Advanced Studies, Bucharest)

Dr Manuel Clemens (Australia National University, German Studies; by Skype)

Dr Thorben Päthe (University of Zurich, Literature)

Also Participating

Dr Iain MacKenzie (University of Kent, Politics, Co-Director, Centre for Critical Thought)

Dr Julia Ng (Goldsmiths, Co-Director, Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought)

Professor Maria Drakopoulou (KLS, Co-Director, Centre for Critical Thought)

Dr Sean Molloy (University of Kent, Politics)

Dr Thanos Zartaloudis (University of Kent, School of Law, CRIPT)

Organising Committee:

Dr Thanos Zartaloudis (University of Kent, School of Law)

Elena Paris (University of Kent, School of Law)

Dr John Ackerman (University of Kent, School of Law)

Taylor Weaver (University of Kent, Religious Studies)

Everyone welcome.

KISS Socril Political Theology