Tag Archives: populism

Flávio Eiró: On Bolsonaro: Brazilian democracy at risk

Picture a street handcraft market in a touristic village called Porto de Galinhas in Pernambuco, Northeast Region of Brazil. A few days before the second round of the 2018 presidential elections on 28 October, I observed the following conversation on the market.

“You can vote for him, don’t worry, he won’t kill gay people,” says a local 50-year-old addressing a couple of openly gay, young, black men wearing tight shorts and colorful shirts. They reply: “Yes, he will, Bolsonaro will kill gay people.” While the young men walk away, the Bolsonaro supporter keeps trying to convince them, half-laughing, half-serious, stating that his candidate is not as bad as some people have been arguing. “No, he won’t . . .” he says, “and don’t worry, because if he does kill gays, the environmental agency will come after him—after all, they are animals under risk of extinction!”

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Michal Buchowski: Our coveted Europe

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

Today’s political map of the world, and of Europe in particular, is not the same as in the recent past. Until only a hundred years ago, most states that we now take for granted did not exist. In Central and Eastern Europe, where I happen to come from, the four great empires of Russia, Prussia, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottomans dominated. By the beginning of World War I, only the Ottoman Empire was in recession. A veritable revolution of the political map of Europe came about as a result of WWI when new nation-states were established in Central and Eastern Europe. World War II moved some states westward. The collapse of the Soviet bloc led to the emergence of several new polities. In the newly emerged space of postsocialist Europe, the number of nation-states rose from 9 to 20, including the European part of Kazakhstan. East Germany was the only polity that integrated with another state to form a bigger country. Five countries remained untouched: Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania. The creation and expansion of the hybrid political body of the European Union represents in this perspective a counter-project to the ongoing political fragmentation that took place in this part of the continent over the past hundred years.

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Don Kalb: The EU at 60: the Treaty of Rome is a smoke screen

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

The EU commemorates its 60th birthday today (25 March 2017), at a time when the institution is more contested than ever. The 1957 Treaty of Rome was an indisputable step toward undergirding the Western part of the continent of Europe with a set of international institutions that would help to secure peace, prosperity, and shared social citizenship—the sort of internationalism that had been urged by the likes of Keynes and Monnet long before the war. This happened against a historical background of half a century of deep, recurrent crisis, escalating class conflict, rivalry, and revenge that had unleashed industrialized destruction on an unprecedented scale. Without any irony, therefore, two loud cheers, please, for the Treaty of Rome and what it sought to secure. This is the basis of what majorities on the continent still like to imagine, defend, and wish to become part of, as their common and cherished symbolic home.

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Chris Hann: Beleaguered pseudo-continent: Happy birthday, Europe!

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

Sixty this month, the European Union is almost as old as I am. Should we, in March 2017, celebrate a beacon of liberal-democratic sanity between the populists of Washington and London to the West and those of Ankara and Moscow to the East? Or is it time to pension off the construction launched with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, since it has come to violate basic desiderata of economic efficiency and equity, as well as democratic legitimacy?

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Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Norway and the transformation of the EU

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

In Norway, the second referendum over EU membership in 1994 resulted in almost the exact same figures as the first one, back in 1972. The proposal to join the European Union—backed by the two largest parties (Labour and Conservatives), the main newspapers, and the private sector—was defeated, admittedly by a narrow margin—52 percent against 48 percent—but defeated nonetheless. I found myself in a tiny minority, as a left-of-center intellectual favorable to membership in the union, losing a few friends in the process. In Norway, leftist movements have been staunch nationalists for decades, and the very term “union” had unfortunate connotations in that it recalled the unpopular, enforced union with Sweden that lasted from 1814 to 1905. A widespread view also held that the EU was mainly an economic union whose sole beneficiaries were the already rich and powerful.

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Bruce Kapferer: Ideas on populism: The paradox of democracy and the rise of the corporate state

“All forms of the state have democracy for their truth, and for that reason are false to the extent that they are not democracy.”
— Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

“The power of the people is always greater than that of the people in power.”
— Wael Ghonim, a Google executive at the time of Egypt’s popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak

When Hillary Clinton attempted to counter Donald Trump and his supporters’ populist attacks by explicitly branding them a “basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it,” she was hoist on her own petard. The chant “Lock Her Up” drew its enormous potency from her alleged corruption and from her being a figurehead of the ruling Washington elites who have leached the American state’s democratic egalitarian idealism. Calling Trump and his followers racist and sexist was waving a red rag to a bull. She played on a negative view of populism, an immanent antidemocratic elitism, which elicited outrage, making a mockery of her own populist appeal. The occasionally rank dominant-class prejudice that accompanies antipopulist sentiments (including those that assume it is a working-class phenomenon, when it is frequently cross-class) was egregiously apparent in a CNN pundit’s observation that Trump “was throwing red meat to the base” in his highly controversial travel bans.

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Carlos de la Torre: Trump: Fascist or populist?

Douglas Kellner in American Nightmare writes, “certainly [Donald] Trump is not Hitler and his followers are not technically fascists, although I believe that we can use the term authoritarian populism or neofascism to explain Trump and his supporters” (2016: 20). Kellner is not the only analyst who uses the terms fascism and populism interchangeably to describe Trumpism, nor is it the first time that populists have been branded as fascist. General Juan Perón’s contemporaries from the right and the left considered him a fascist in the 1940s.

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Bruce Kapferer: Brexit and Remain: A pox on all their houses

A crisis is always good for humor. The English satirical magazine Private Eye caught the spirit of uncertainty and the possible tragedy of Brexit—that many of those who voted for it may have intensified their abjection as a result. One spoof comment for The Daily Turkeygraph (a composite of the conservative Daily Mail and Telegraph papers) written by Jeremy Paxo (a reference to the news commentator Jeremy Paxman, also a brand of stuffing mix) was headlined “TURKEYS VOTE FOR CHRISTMAS IN REFERENDUM CLIFFHANGE.R. Another for The Indepandent (sic, The Independent, a liberal/conservative paper) headlined “BRITAIN VOTES TO LEAVE FRYING PAN AND JUMP INTO FIRE.”
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Sian Lazar: Learning to live with crisis: How Brexit brought Latin America home to me

The European Union is a free trade area that enables multinational corporations to take advantage of low tax regimes for their head offices and of low labor costs for their manufacturing, caller center, and human resources operations. It forces countries to pay off the debt owed to private banks at the cost of democracy, jobs, pensions, welfare benefits, and economic stability (let alone growth), enabling public subsidy of private risk. It blocks entry to migrants risking their lives to come and work in Europe, or to escape war and poverty in their countries of origin. Why would anyone support a vote for Britain to Remain?

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Susana Narotzky: Hope for Change: The Problem with Podemos

Podemos is hailed by many as the only hope in a Spanish landscape devastated by austerity. In the elections to the European parliament (2014), Podemos received 7.97  percent of votes and 5 MPs. In the elections to the Autonomous Parliament of Andalucía, it gathered 14.84 percent of the vote and 15 regional MPs, becoming the third party after the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP). The fragmentation of political parties in the regional parliament forewarns of what will be the possible result of the next Spanish general elections at the end of 2015. It underscores the end of bipartisan politics and the need for different alliances and hopefully new priorities. Does Podemos signal a radical political change? A new way of doing politics? Here come the thoughts of an anthropologist who is not yet convinced by their rhetoric or their practice.
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