ECPS Book Talks — The Great Recoil: Politics after Populism and Pandemic (Apr.21, 2022)

Date/Time: Thursday, April 21, 2022 / 15:00 (CET)

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Speaker: Dr. Paolo Gerbaudo

Discussant: Dr. Anton Jäger

Moderator: Maximilian Wolf

Author Dr. Paolo Gerbaudo will discuss his book The Great Recoil: Politics after Populism and Pandemic (Verso, 2021) with Dr. Anton Jäger of KU Leuven.

The Great Recoil focusses on the political and ideological transformations of the last two decades that have seen a turn away from the triumphalist, universalist attitudes towards globalisation and free trade, fuelled by a shift towards nationalist and nativist attitudes in a number of Western democracies, often called the ‘populist moment’ of the 2010s. Gerbaudo’s contention is that, while the appeal of such inward-focussed discourses was growing for over a decade, the Covid-19 crisis produced the perfect storm for what he terms the exopolitics of globalisation; in his eyes, the coming decades will be dominated, instead, by the endopolitics of a new ‘neo-statist’ impulse. 

Examining the origin and changes in the three ‘master signifiers’ of this Great Recoil, sovereignty, protection and control, he argues that the success of populist radical right parties over the past decade was due to their recognition of the growing salience for this endopolitical discourse, fuelled by what he calls a ‘global agoraphobia.’ Gerbaudo then, in the final part of the book, argues for a strategy of progressive contention, re-capture and re-articulation of the signifiers of sovereignty, protection and control, arguing for a ‘progressive nationalism’ that re-engages the nation and its signifiers external both to nativist impulses and its ‘withering away’ amid a globalised cosmopolitanism. Instead, the nation must become a ‘protective structure’ that actively combats agoraphobia and drives reinstates feelings of control among the population. 

Dr. PAOLO GERBAUDO completed his PhD in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College, London, under the supervision of Professor Nick Couldry. After roles as Associate Lecturer in Journalism and Communication at Middlesex University and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the American University in Cairo, Gerbaudo became Lecturer in Digital Culture and Society at King’s College London in 2012. Today, he is Reader in Digital Politics and Director of the Centre for Digital Culture. His work examines the intersection of media and politics, particularly as it regards populist movements, modern party structures, youth participation and political communication. His first book, Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism (2012) examined the impact of social media on social movements; The Digital Party (2018) turned his attention to how our mediatised world has changed political organisation and communication, before his latest The Great Recoil (2021) examined the transformations of populist discourse in the context of setbacks to globalisation amid nationalism and pandemics. See also review of the book:

Dr. ANTON JÄGER is a postdoctoral fellow at KU Leuven and member of the Institute of Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Brussels. He completed his Ph.D. in History at the University of Cambridge focussing on a revisionist history of the Populist movement in 19th century America. Besides his historical interests in the origins of populist discourse, Jäger’s work has focussed on intellectual history, including critiques of the late Ernesto Laclau and the field of populism studies more broadly. 

MAXIMILIAN WOLF, MPhil, is an intern at the European Center for Populism Studies. Maximilian was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. After receiving his BA in Politics at the University of Exeter (UK), he completed his MPhil in Political Sociology at St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge (UK). His work has focussed on discourse analyses of both right- and left-wing populist phenomena, and an abridged version of his Master’s thesis, entitled Locating the Laclausian Left: Progressive Strategy and the Politics of Anxiety, has been accepted for publication in issue 3/2022 of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Populism (forthcoming). Besides ECPS, Maximilian now works for a governance think-tank in Vienna. 

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