by Feng Chen
Ideology has been a central force shaping labour movements across the world. However, the role of ideologies in labour activism in contemporary China has received scant scholarly attention. Previous studies on Chinese labour tend to hold that in China’s authoritarian political context, ideologically driven labour activities have rarely existed because they are politically risky; they also assume that ideologies are only related to organised labour movements, which are largely absent in the country. In contrast to these views, I argue that ideologies are important for understanding Chinese labour activism and, in fact, account for the emergence of different patterns of labour activism.
By applying framing theory, this piece examines how ideologies shape the action frames of labour activism in China. Social movements construct action frames by drawing from their societies’ multiple cultural stocks, such as religions, beliefs, traditions, myths, narratives, etc.; ideologies are one of the primary sources that provide ideational materials for the construction of frames. However, frames do not grow automatically out of ideologies. Constructing frames entails processing the extant ideational materials and recasting them into narratives providing “diagnosis” (problem identification and attribution) and “prognosis” (the solutions to problems). Framing theory is largely built on the experiences of Western (i.e., Euro-American) social movements. When social movement scholars acknowledge that action frames can be derived from extant ideologies, they assume that movements have multiple ideational resources from which to choose when constructing their action frames. Movement actors in liberal societies may construct distinct action frames from various sources of ideas, which may even be opposed to each other. Differing ideological dispositions lead to different factions within a movement.
Nevertheless, understanding the role of ideology in Chinese labour activism requires us to look into the framing process in an authoritarian setting. In this context, the state’s ideological control has largely shut out alternative interpretations of events. It is thus common for activists to frame and legitimise their claims within the confines of the official discourse in order to avoid the suspicion and repression of the state. Nevertheless, the Chinese official ideology has become fragmented since the market reforms of the late 1970s and 1980s, becoming broken into a set of tenets mixed with orthodox, pragmatic, and deviant components, as a result of incorporating norms and values associated with the market economy. From Deng Xiaoping’s “Let some people get rich first”, the “Socialist market economy” proposed by the 14th National Congress of the CCP, to Jiang Zeming’s “Three Represents”, the party’s official ideology has absorbed various ideas associated with the market economy, though it has retained its most fundamental tenets (i.e., upholding the Party Leadership, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, Socialism Road, and Proletariat Dictatorship) crucial for regime legitimacy.
Correspondingly, China’s official ideology on labour has since evolved into three strands of discourse: (1) Communist doctrines about socialism vs. capitalism as well as the status of the working-class. (2) Rule of law discourse, which highlights the importance of laws in regulating labour relations and legal procedures as the primary means to protect workers’ individual rights regarding contracts, wages, benefits, working conditions, and so on. (3) The notions of collective consultation, tripartism, and the democratic management of enterprises. These notions are created to address collective disputes arising from market-based labour relations and maintain industrial peace. These three strands of the official discourse, which are mutually conflicting in many ways, reflect the changes as well as the continuity within Chinese official ideology on labour.
Framing Chinese labour ideology
The fragmentation of the official ideology provides activists with opportunities to selectively exploit it to construct their action frames around labour rights, which have produced moderate, liberal, and radical patterns of labour activism. To be sure, as there is no organised labour movement under China's authoritarian state, the patterns of labour activism should not be understood in strict organisational terms, or as factions or subgroups that often exist within labour movements in other social contexts. The terms are heuristic, and should be used to map and describe scattered and discrete activities that try to steer labour resistance toward different directions.
Moderate activism, while embracing the market economy, advocates the protection of workers’ individual rights stipulated by labour laws, and seeks to redress workers’ grievances through legal proceedings. One might object to regarding this position as ideological—after all, it only focuses on legal norms and procedures. However, from the perspective of critical labour law, it can be argued that labour law articulates an ideology, as it aims to legitimate the system of labour relations that subjects workers to managerial control. Moreover, moderates’ adherence to officially sanctioned grievance procedures restrains workers' collective actions and individualises labour disputes, which serves the purpose of the state in controlling labour.
Radical activism is often associated with leftist leanings and calls for the restoration of socialism. Radical labour activists have expressed their views on labour in the most explicit socialist/communist or anti-capitalist rhetoric. They condemn labour exploitation in the new capitalistic economy and issue calls to regain the rights of the working class through class struggle. Unsurprisingly, such positions are more easily identified as ideological than others.
Liberal activists advocate collective bargaining and worker representation. They are liberal in the sense that their ideas echo the view of “industrial pluralism” that originated in Western market economies. This view envisions collective bargaining as a form of self-government within the workplace, in which management and labour are equal parties who jointly determine the condition of the sale of labour-power. Liberals have also promoted a democratic practice called “worker representation” to empower workers in collective bargaining.
To make their action frames legitimate within the existing political boundaries, each type of activist group has sought to appropriate the official discourse through a specific strategy of “framing alignment”.
Moderate Activism: Accentuation and Extension
Accentuation refers to the effort to “underscore the seriousness and injustice of a social condition”. Movement activists punctuate certain issues, events, beliefs, or contradictions between realities and norms, with the aim of redressing problematic conditions. Moderate labour activists have taken this approach. Adopting a position that is not fundamentally antagonistic to the market economy and state labour policies, they seek to protect and promote workers’ individual rights within the existing legal framework, and correct labour practices where these deviate from existing laws. Thus, their frame is constructed by accentuating legal rights stipulated by labour laws and regulations and developing a legal discourse on labour standards. Moderate activists’ diagnostic narrative attributes labour rights abuses to poor implementation of labour laws, as well as workers’ lack of legal knowledge. Their prognostic frame calls for effective implementation of labour laws and raising workers' awareness of their rights.
Extension involves a process that extends a frame beyond its original scope to include issues and concerns that are presumed to be important to potential constituents. Some moderate activists have attempted to extend workers’ individual labour rights to broad “citizenship rights”, which mainly refer to social rights in the Chinese context, stressing that migrant workers’ plight is rooted in their lack of citizenship rights—the rights only granted to urban inhabitants. They advocate social and institutional reforms for fair and inclusionary policies toward migrant workers. While demand for citizenship rights can be seen as moderate in the sense that they are just an extension of individual rights, it contains liberal elements, because such new rights will inevitably entail institutional changes. To extend rights protection beyond the legal arena, moderate activists are instrumental in disseminating the idea of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) and promoting it to enterprises. This aims to protect workers’ individual rights by disciplining enterprises and making them comply with labour standards.
Liberal Activism: Bridging
Frame bridging refers to the linking of two or more narratives or movements that have a certain affinity but have been previously formally unconnected. While the existing literature has paid more attention to “ideologically congruent but structurally unconnected frames regarding a particular issue or problem”, “bridging” can also be understood as a means of “moral cover”. That is, it splices alternative views to the official discourse, as a way of creating legitimacy for the former. This is a tactic that China’s liberal labour activism has used fairly frequently. Liberals support market reforms and seek to improve workers’ conditions within the current institutional framework, but they differ from moderates in that their diagnostic narrative attributes workers’ vulnerable position in labour relations to their absence of collective rights.
Meanwhile, their prognostic narrative advocates collective bargaining, worker representation, and collective action as the solution to labour disputes. The ideas liberal activists promote largely come from the experiences of Western labour movements and institutional practices. As a rule, the Chines government regards these ideas as unsuited to China’s national conditions. To avoid being labelled as embracing “Western ideology”, liberal activists try to bridge these ideas and practices with China’s official notions of collective consultation, tripartism, and enterprise democracy, justifying workers’ collective role in labour disputes by extensive references to the provisions of labour laws, the civil law, and official policies. These are intended to legitimise their frame as compatible with the official discourse.
Radical Activism: Amplification
Amplification involves a process of idealising, embellishing, clarifying, or invigorating existing values or beliefs. While the strategy may be necessary for most movement mobilisations, “it appears to be particularly relevant to movements reliant on conscience constituents”. In the Chinese context, radical activists are typically adherents of the orthodox doctrines of the official ideology, either because they used to be beneficiaries of the system in the name of communism or they are sincerely committed to communist ideology in the Marxist conception. Unlike moderates and liberals, who do not oppose the market economy, radicals’ diagnostic frames point to the market economy as the fundamental cause of workers’ socioeconomic debasement. They craft the “injustice frame” in terms of the Marxian concept of labour exploitation, and their prognostic frame calls for building working-class power and waging class struggles.
Although orthodox communist doctrines have less impact on economic policies, they have remained indispensable for regime legitimacy. Radical activists capture them as a higher political moral ground on which to construct their frames. Their amplification of the ideological doctrines of socialism, capitalism, and the working class not only provide strong justification for their claims in terms of their consistency with the CCP’s ideological goal; it is also a way of forcefully expressing the view that current economic and labour policies have deviated from the regime’s ideological promises.
These three action frames have offered their distinct narratives of labour rights (i.e., in terms of the individual, collective, and class), and attributed workers’ plights to the lack of these rights as well as proposing strategies to realise them. However, this does not mean that the three action frames are mutually exclusive. All of them view Chinese workers as being a socially and economically disadvantaged group and stress the crying need to protect individuals’ rights through legal means. Both moderates and liberals support market-based labour relations, while both liberals and radicals share the view that labour organisations and collective actions are necessary to protect workers’ interests. For this reason, however, moderates have often regarded both liberals and radicals as “radical”, as they see their conceptions of collective actions as fundamentally too confrontational. On the other hand, it is not surprising that in the eyes of liberals, radicals are “true” radicals, in the sense that they regard their goals as idealistic and impractical. It is also worth noting that activist groups have tended to switch their action frame from one to another. Some groups started with the promotion of individual rights but later turned into champions for collective rights.
The three types of labour activism reflect the different claims of rights that have emerged in China’s changing economic as well as legal and institutional contexts. While the way that labour activists have constructed their frames indicates the common political constraints facing labour activists, their emphasis on different categories of labour rights and strategies to achieve them demonstrates that they did not share a common vision about the structure and institutions of labour relations that would best serve workers’ interests. The lack of a meaningful public sphere under tight ideological control has discouraged debates and dialogues across different views on labour rights and labour relations. Activists with different orientations have largely operated in isolation, and often view other groups as limited and unrealistic—a symptom of the sheer fragmentation of Chinese labour activism. Yet the evidence shows that, although they have resonated with workers to a varying degree, these three patterns of activism have faced different responses from the government because of their different prognostic notions. Both liberal and radical activism have been met with state suppression, because of their advocacy of collective action and labour organising. Their fate attests to the fundamental predicament facing labour movements in China.
 For this perspective, see J. Conaghan, ‘Critical Labour Law: The American Contribution’, Journal of Law and Society, 14: 3 (1987), pp. 334-352.
 K. Stone, ‘The Structure of Post-War Labour Relations’, New York University Review of Law and Social Change, 11 (1982), p. 125.
 R. Benford and D. Snow, ‘Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment’, Annual Review of Sociology 26 (2000), pp. 611–639.
 S. Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
 R. Benford and D. Snow, ‘Framing processes and social movements: An overview and assessment’, Annual Review of Sociology 26 (2000), pp. 611–639.
 D. Westby, ‘Strategic Imperative, Ideology, and Frames.” In Hank Johnstone and John Noakes (Eds.), Frames of Protest (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), pp. 217–236.
 R. Benford and D. Snow, “Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment.” Annual Review of Sociology 26 (2000), pp.611–639.
by Noam Hadad and Yaacov Yadgar
How are we to understand a self-proclaimed “religious-nationalist” ideology if we take seriously the critical insights of a wide field of studies that question the very meaning of and distinction between the two organs of this hyphenated identity (i.e., religion and the supposedly secular nationalism)?
A wide field of studies (what is usually termed post-secularism or critical religion) have convincingly situated the emergence of the modern usage of these categories or concepts in specific historical and political configurations of power, debunking the (nevertheless prevalent) notion that they are universal and supra-historical concepts, the distilled essences of which can be found everywhere and everywhen in human history, only the outer appearance of them changing from place to place and from time to time. These critical studies caution us not to accept the assumed distinction between irrational, apolitical and private religion and secular, public and rational politics as a natural “given”. Instead, they encourage us to highlight exactly the specific political and historical makeup of the configuration of power that motivates the very construction and usage of these concepts.
We take Religious-Zionism as a case study to explore the manner in which the so-called religious identity of an ideology whose foundational values are those of nationalism and the nation-state, is shaped. We also explore the ways in which this ideology, bent on “hyphenating” nationalism and religion, deals with the ideational challenges posed by an epistemology that insists that the two are mutually exclusive.
The Western construction of “religion” and “the secular”
Popular imagery, as well as the discourse prevalent in large swaths of the academic field tend to view religion and the secular as universal (that is, culturally agnostic), almost natural and obviously neutral categories, that are used to describe—and to analyse—any given social and political reality. Religion is described in this context as a primordial, non-rational (or irrational) basis of human society, and secularism or secularisation as a rational, enlightened release from the archaic bonds of religion.
Powerful critiques reject this construction of both religion and the secular. Critics retrace the emergence of the conceptual binary to its historical and cultural (modern, Christian, largely Protestant, European) context, and warn against employing this binary as if it were supra-historical and universal. The prevailing concept of religion, they show, has developed in the context of the emergence of the modern, secular nation-state. Religion is charged with a (negative) normative load, often captured in what secularist partisans depict as the violent and irrational nature of religion. The critics further show that the secular is constructed as the mirror image of religion, associated with a positive normative load of reason, rationality, and progress. Most importantly, these critiques highlight the ways in which this Western construction of religion serves the politics of the nation-state, while delegitimising competing claims for authority as religious, hence irrational and danger.
This construction of religion and the secular nourished on Protestant ideas, especially the depiction of religion as a personal, apolitical matter. The Church, this view would claim, should avoid interfering in matters of politics, leaving it for the secular state to conduct. The outcome of this segregation of religion and its distancing from politics is thus inherently political: it dictates that one’s loyalty should be given exclusively to the state. Loyalty to God (and the teachings taught in God’s name by tradition) is to be depoliticised, neutralised of its public power.
The secularist discourse is thus presented with a dilemma when considering the phenomenon of religious nationalism: How to account for this obviously modern “hybrid”, that professes political loyalty to both God and nation-state? The academic discourse on Religious-Zionism, which for the most part has been bound into the secularist discourse suggests that the key for understanding this phenomenon is in the balance of power between the two organs: religion and nationalism. Many of these studies have employed the concept of fundamentalism to study Religious-Zionism. Other studies reject fundamentalism as an irrelevant framework, describing instead this ideology as existentially torn between its competing, incompatible commitments to secular Zionism and the religious Judaism.
What all these approached has in common is their insistence on employing the secularist epistemology, analysing Religious-Zionism through the contrast and tension between a secular nationalist ideology (i.e., Zionism), and religion.
Yet a critique of the ways in which academic literature based on secularist epistemology has struggled to understand Religious-Zionism is not in itself sufficient to overcome this hurdle. This is so since spokespeople and thought leaders of Religious-Zionism themselves also rely on the bipolarity that pits religious tradition against secular politics as an infrastructure of their thought. Religious-Zionism has for decades based its self-perception on this bipolarity, viewing itself as tasked with the challenge of synthetising or reconciling this apparent binary of a thesis and its antithesis.
This is the background against which to appreciate far reaching changes in the ways in which Religious-Zionists have understood the meaning of their religious commitments and allegedly secular nationalist loyalties. Much of the history of the Religious-Zionist thought in the past half-century can thus be explained as a struggle to reconcile what its carriers viewed as an inevitable conflict between the two, potentially conflicting but equally cherished cores of their identity.
As practically all scholars agree, the June 1967 Six Days war mark, in this regard, a watershed, further motivating this ideological soul-searching. But its effect took time to emerge into the foreground. The two decades immediately following the war saw Religious-Zionists continuing to view their guiding ideology as offering a unique combination of secular and religious values into a whole, consistent system of thought. Some viewed this combination as achieving wholeness, while others insisted on preserving the distinction between the two separate yet interlocked arms. The “Western” (i.e., Euro-American) conceptual toolkit remained their primary framework for understanding their politics. This was especially apparent when spokespeople for Religious-Zionism took a leading role in resisting what they depicted as the separation of religion from state politics, demanding that certain aspects of Jewish tradition are granted a substantial place in public life. The epistemological tension entailed in trying to combine and unify what are, according to the very fundamentals of the secularist discourse, separate and mutually exclusive organs has been apparent. Even when it was clear that the writers are acutely aware of the tension, they were unable to solve it, invested as they were in the conceptual framework that nourished it in the first place.
This tension was rapidly coming to a head during the early 1990’s when the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation were negotiating and signing what became known as the Oslo Accords. Religious-Zionists commentators, who read the Accords as an Israeli capitulation, led by secular Zionist leaders, could no longer accept the principal legitimacy of secular dimension of Zionism. They began to question the legitimacy of the so-called secular element in Zionist thought. It is the thin ideological bedrock of secular nationalism, these spokespeople argued, that results in the Israeli inability to safeguard Zionist fundamentals. The only remedy against this precariousness of the Zionist commitments is, they concluded, religion. It is religion, in other words, that safeguards nationalism and guarantees that it is not undermined. Religious-Zionist writers thus solved, in this context, the tension between secular nationalism and religion by transforming the (allegedly secular, even by their own measures) nation-state into a supreme religious value. In effect, this solution meant that any secular Jewish-nationalism is not properly Zionist, since it is only Religious-Zionism that fits bill of authentic Zionism.
Yet this solution, too, remains wedded to the same conceptual framework, where religion and nationalism are understood to be distinct from each other. In retrospect, it is clear that it has not gained much ground. It was during the Religious-Zionist campaign against the Israeli “Disengagement” (namely, the withdrawal of Israeli settlers and armed forces from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank) in 2005 that religion, in its Western-constructed manner, was no longer presented as a foundational element in Religious-Zionist identity. Neither was religion used to distinguish Religious-Zionism from general, secular Zionists. Instead, Religious-Zionist spokespeople focused on the notion of Judaism, which they saw as identical to Zionism writ large. Moreover, there were also calls from within the Religious-Zionist camp to separate religion from realpolitik, or at least to substantially limit its footprint, since it was limiting Religious-Zionism’s ability to confront this realpolitik of the state. While in the past Religious-Zionist spokespeople sought to legitimate religion as worthy of playing a role in politics, they now started to question religion’s political worth, and to position it at the lower ranks of Religious-Zionist ideology, assigning it a utopian more than politically practical and influential role.
In other words, we can see here a renewed “Protestanisation” of Jewish religion among Religious-Zionists. Jewish tradition, seen as mere personal and spiritual “religion,” was gradually pushed aside from matters of national politics, which were fully dominated by the state. Ironic as it may sound, we can speak here of a Religious-Zionist trend of separating religion from politics, that gained power against the background of the Israeli “Disengaging Plan”.
Nationalism and Territory—the Land of Israel
The effects of the secularist, Western epistemology are also apparent when considering the ideological principle of the settlement of the national territory (the Land of Israel) with members of the sovereign nation, a central foundation of Zionist ideology generally. Scholars and commentators of various kinds have tended to single out the principle of settlement as the very core of Religious-Zionism. Critically, they have interpreted it as a matter of Religious-Zionism’s Judaic, religious commitments, depicting Religious-Zionism as promoting the achieving or fulfilling of this end or “commandment” by all available means, including the nation-state, and Zionist ideology itself. At the very least, these scholars have explained the settlement of the Land of Israel as an independent religious value, to which Religious-Zionism is committed as a matter of its religious orthodoxy, regardless of or in parallel to this ideology’s commitment to the nation-state. Accordingly, scholars subscribing to this view have explained various conflictual flash-points—especially since the onset of Religious-Zionist led settlement of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip—as putting Religious-Zionism in an existential dilemma, torn between its religious commitment to settle the land and its political, secular commitment to the state. (Some even presented the latter as a matter of religion too).
Yet careful examination of Religious-Zionist public discourse during the half-century since the June 1967 war shows that the value of settling the Land of Israel was rarely granted an independent, self-fulfilling status. Instead, it was usually tied to and dominated by a broader nationalist view, at the center of which stands the state, the nation and nationalist ideology. The idea of the “undivided Land of Israel”, central and important as it has been in Zionist thought generally and in Religious-Zionist thought specifically, has not been elevated to the status of an absolute value, but remained subservient to the sanctification of nationalism and sovereign statehood.
Moreover, the Religious-Zionist public discourse has not focused on a theological discussion of the sanctity of the Land of Israel (a religious principle from which this ideology allegedly nourishes its commitment to colonising the land, according to the scholarship mentioned above.) Instead, most spokespeople have dedicated most of their and their readers’ attention to matters that are commonly identified as secular (primarily issues of security and strategic concerns, but also those of demography), ultimately revolving around one core issue: sovereignty over the national territory.
Thus, for example, one of the central arguments in the Religious-Zionist discourse on the Land of Israel (mostly following the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967) was about the “historical right”—not the theological one—of the nation-state to rule over the land. This right was presented as an axiom that needs neither proof nor explanation; it is clearly seen as part of a universal, political concept of sovereignty. Another major argument made by spokespeople for Religious-Zionism to defend their maximalist stance on matters of territory had to do with matters of security. Often, these security concerns have overshadowed all other arguments regarding the Land. They have argued that exercising sovereignty and military control over the territory and colonising it are a necessary condition for guaranteeing the security of the state. It is the latter—the state, its security—that held the status of the absolute value.
The Land of Israel—and the project of settling it—were presented as one of the most important means to achieving this primary end, not an ideological absolute in and for itself. Certainly, they were not made into a theological end. Moreover, even when the Land and settlement were dressed in a “religious” garb, they still formed part of a theopolitical argument, that is: as a nationalist, Zionist matter of Jewish nation-statism, not as a traditional Judaic value.
Militarism as the expression of the modern nature of Religious-Zionism
The values of militarism and security, which have gradually grown in dominance, culminating in their occupying the very center of Religious-Zionist ideology in the past decade or so, are also a rather stark expression of the all-encompassing commitment of this ideology to the politics of the sovereign nation-state. Militaristic political ideals that sacralise the security of the state and the nation, rendering this an absolute value and justifying in its name violence and bloodshed are indeed by definition bound to nation-statist thought.
Religious-Zionist ideology’s valorisation of the state’s security was most explicitly pronounced in the context of justifying and rationalising the death of Israeli soldiers as the price demanded for guaranteeing this security. This became all the more pronounced against the background of violent conflicts around which there was no consensus among Jewish-Israelis. Especially when critics (usually coming from the Zionist Left) doubted whether such deaths were justified, questioning the necessity, reason and morality of the violent conflicts into which the Israeli government sent its armed forces, Religious-Zionist pronouncements became all the more dominated by intensive, militant militaristic discourse. Indeed, a dominant theme in the Religious-Zionist militaristic discourse surrounding these events has been the demand that the Israeli military is sent to fight, even if this necessarily entails the death of Israeli soldiers. (This demand was made against a background of public debate which questioned the merit of this military adventures, exactly because of their price in human lives.) The prevalent argument heard over Religious-Zionist platforms (either explicitly or implicitly) was clear: the security of the state is an absolute value, that justifies the highest of sacrifices, that of soldiers’ lives.
Even more pronounced was this valorisation of the state’s security when what was at stake were the lives of civilians from the enemy’s side. There has been little doubt among formulators of the Religious-Zionist stance on these armed conflicts that such conflicts are a normal feature of the lifecycle of states, and that in this context the killing of civilians on the enemy’s side during war, unfortunate as it may be, is wholly justified and acceptable.
A striking feature of this Religious-Zionist militaristic discourse is its utter indifference to the kind of language, argumentation and reasoning that would usually (that is, when seen through the prevalent religious-secular binary) be put under the heading of “religious.” One would be hard pressed to find such “religious” aspects of this militaristic thought, with its focus on “secular” values of security and statism.
God and theopolitics
How are we, then, to understand the theological aspect of Religious-Zionist political thought? One crucial part of the answer has to do with the nature of these theological language and argumentations: they do not fit what the prevalent discourse will mark as the category of “religion”. This mainstream discourse does not consider the traditional Jewish elements within so-called “secular” Zionist ideology to be “religious”, no matter how deeply rooted they may be in what this same discourse sees as “religion”; instead, it would view the appearance of these elements within Zionism as a product of their “secularisation.” This theological language and argumentation is seen as essentially modernised, politicised and “rationalised”, and it is ultimately aimed at the politics of the nation-state: it fits neither within an apolitical, individual and a-rational notion of religion, nor within the frame of “fundamentalism”, which would put the interest of the state under a higher religious diktat.
Furthermore, it cannot be framed as one side of an alleged ideological “synthesis” of two organs that are allegedly separated-in-principle. The Religious-Zionist nation-statist commitment (or its patriotism) does not clash with, serve, or complement theology; rather, it is the very essence of this theology. Like many other modern cases, the political theology at hand sanctifies the modern, supposedly secular and rational nation-state, and positions it in the role of savior, who accordingly demands absolute loyalty and functions as the center of the political order. As William Cavanaugh (2003, 2) puts it (referring, of course, to the general genus of which Religious-Zionism is but a case), “supposedly ‘secular’ political theory is really theology in disguise”. Or, in Carl Schmitt’s famous phrasing, “All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularised theological concepts.”
The God, who has traditionally occupied the very center of Jewish theology, was now joined, if not even pushed aside, by the state. At best, God is seen as sanctifying the state, shifting the focus away from Him to the (political, this-worldly) sovereign. Either way, Religious-Zionist theopolitics marks nationalism and the state, not God, at the ultimate purpose.
A continuing process of blurring the distinctions between theology, Judaism and nationalism has culminated in the relegation religion to the private realm, barred from the field of politics. “Religion” was replaced in the context of this argumentation by “Judaism” or “Jewish identity”, as these are understood by the modern, nationalist, Zionist discourse. Like the founding ideologues of the Zionist movement, a growing number of Religious-Zionist spokespeople, too, came to argue (either implicitly or explicitly) that Judaism is not necessarily (or not even primarily) about “religion”: rather, it is about (political) nationalism, and its primary value is patriotism.
We argue, then, that Religious-Zionism is best understood when considered as a nationalist, Zionist ideology, at the center of which stand not religion or traditional Judaism, but nationalism and the state. Contrary to this ideology’s self-perception, and against a prevalent stream within the academic field that similarly un-self-reflectively employs a modernisation-and-secularisation discourse to construct the meaning of religion and nationalism, we argue that Religious-Zionism should be viewed primarily as a quintessentially modern-Western ideology of the nation-state. The State of Israel, relying on its military power (in which context it is “security” concerns that dominate all others); Zionism; and nation-statist sovereignty over a territory to which the nation claims a “historical right”—these are all the very core of Religious-Zionist ideology, and not merely means to achieving some hidden theological ends such as redemption or the observance of religious praxis.
An understanding of the strong gravitational force of the notion of the nation-state that dominates Religious-Zionist ideology necessitates the release of its analysis from the grip of the Western, secularist epistemology, which developed as in the context of the emergence of the modern, secular nation-state. The modern epistemology serves primarily the state, depicting it as “secular”, thus legitimising it, while rendering some of its competitors “religious” hence illegitimate. Overcoming the dominance of this epistemology allows us to see how its conceptual toolkit shapes Religious-Zionist identity—both in constructing the meaning of its religiosity, and in situating the state as its ultimate value.
 W. T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); T. Fitzgerald, Discourse on Civility and Barbarity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); D. Dubuisson, The Western Construction of Religion: Myths, Knowledge, and Ideology (Baltimore, PA: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007); T. Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore, PA: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).
 G. Aran, ‘Jewish Zionist fundamentalism: The Bloc of the Faithful in Israel (Gush Emunim)’, in M. E. Marty and R. S. Appleby (Eds.), Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 265–344; C. S. Liebman and E. Don-Yehiya, Civil Religion in Israel: Traditional Judaism and Political Culture in the Jewish State (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983); M. Inbari. Messianic Religious Zionism Confronts Israeli Territorial Compromises (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); A. Horowitz, ‘Religious-Zionism – from Zionist radicalism to religious-national fanaticism’, in D. Arieli-Horowitz (Ed.) Religion and Politics in Israel (Tel-Aviv: The Centre for Jewish Pluralism, 1996), 41–55.
 For example, M. Hellinger et al., Religious Zionism and the Settlement Project: Ideology, Politics, and Civil Disobedience (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2018); E. Don-Yehiya, ‘Messianism and politics: The ideological transformation of religious Zionism’, Israel Studies, 19 (2014), 239; A. Cohen, ‘Patriotism and religion: Between coexistence and confrontation’, in Ben-Amos, Avenr and D. Bar-Tal (Eds.) Patriotism: Homeland Love (Tel-Aviv: Haqibutz Hameuḥad and Dyonon, 2004), 453–78.
 A. Sagi and D. Schwartz, Religious Zionism and the Six Day War: From Realism to Messianism, trans. B. Stein (London: Routledge, 2018).
 W. T. Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination: Christian Practices of Space and Time (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2003), 2.
 C. Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 36.
by Sonia Maria Pavel
Imagine two societies. In the first, children are separated at birth from their biological parents and raised collectively by specialised educators. These educators, carefully selected for the task, closely observe the children in order to discern their talents, abilities, and dispositions. Based on how well they perform at various tasks and the ease with which they acquire knowledge, the children are then categorised and assigned what is believed to be their proper place in society. Those who are particularly musically gifted are given the instruments, instructors, and all the conditions they need to become musicians. The ones who are thought to show a great love of truth and distinct reasoning abilities are raised to become the leaders of that society. The desires and wishes of each individual child are irrelevant to this allocation. Nevertheless, most are content with this arrangement because they are taught and come to believe that they are all brothers and sisters who must serve their community by fulfilling their natural, preordained role. The society is just as long everyone contributes to it by minding their business and not interfering in that of others.
In the second society, children are raised in private, nuclear families. The unchosen circumstances of their birth, including who their parents are, where they were born, and their class, race, and gender status shape their life paths, often to a significant extent. From the beginning, their chances of becoming a musician, a politician, an academic, or a service worker are shaped by various factors beyond their control and irrelevant from the perspective of their ability to fulfil such roles. If their parents are highly educated and wealthy, they are much more likely to receive an education that will allow them to occupy a well-compensated and highly respected position. By contrast, if their parents live in a poor, perhaps racially segregated area, the educational and professional paths in fact available to them will be severely limited. Many people are content with this arrangement because they are taught that the competition is fair—opportunities are by law equally open to all those individuals willing and able to seize them, regardless of who they are and to whom they were born. According to the dominant ideology, accidents of birth can be corrected through hard work, which will allow everyone to ‘rise’ as far as their talents take them.
Which of these is a meritocracy? Surely, the first society seems to be governed by merit—each task and role is fulfilled by the person best suited for it. Show yourself to have a keen eye for the visual arts and all the resources to become a great painter or sculptor will be placed at your disposal. Nobody will have a better chance than you at becoming one—it does not matter that they really want to try their luck at painting (perhaps much more than you), that their biological parents were artists, or that they could have afforded tuition at the best art school. That person will only become a painter if the teachers discern that same talent in them. Otherwise, they will be assigned a different task, through which they can best contribute to society. No drop of talent will be wasted.
The second society, which much more closely resembles our own, also seems to be meritocratic, but in a different respect. Regardless of any natural disposition or proclivity, there is no legal barrier to you becoming a visual artist. If you start painting and you are appreciated by other artists or critics, or have success selling your art, then you are free to be a painter. Nobody can tell you that you have no business creating visual art because your talents lie elsewhere and are being wasted. Nor can anyone accuse you of squandering society’s resources in becoming a visual artist when so many others are or would have been much better at this task—the choice to compete with you to make their living in the same fashion was open to them.
In my view, both of these social arrangements can be called meritocracies because the concept of ‘meritocracy’ is far more open-ended than its proponents and critics have so far recognised. Rather than having a standalone meaning, meritocracy is always reliant upon other values and ideals for what a good human life and a good society look like, which can vary dramatically.
To begin with, we should distinguish between the principle of merit and a social, economic, and political arrangement we call a meritocracy. Merit is a principle according to which rewards, positions, and goods are allocated to particular persons on the basis of desert—as a result of certain qualities, feats, or achievements. Both the rewards and the rewarded traits vary in accordance with context—the team who wins the Premier League is awarded a few dozen million pounds and a prestigious trophy, while the winner of my friends’ Fantasy PL Mini-League gets a kit of their choice. But not every context in which judgments of merit are made and rewards allocated on their basis is a meritocracy. A mother might give a treat to the child who is most well-behaved at the doctor, but that does not make the family a meritocracy. For this reason, we should reserve the label ‘meritocracy’ only for those social and political communities and institutions in which goods are primarily or exclusively distributed on the basis of merit.
Where does this leave our current debates and controversies about merit and meritocracy? Some social and political thinkers argue that most contemporary societies are not, nor have they ever historically been, meritocracies. The implication of this view is that ‘true’ or ‘real’ meritocracy would have certain political, economic, and institutional features that are absent from our existing and past arrangements. Other thinkers have articulated trenchant critiques of merit and meritocracy, discussing the “tyranny” of merit and meritocracy, the “meritocracy trap”, the “meritocracy myth” and even the “haunting spectre of meritocracy”. The latter argue that our meritocratic arrangements are deeply unjust, harmful for both ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and that ideologies of merit often function to obscure these realities and justify our social, economic, and political institutions. Elite higher education institutions in the US and UK have been the targets of both types of criticisms. While some have called out the spurious nature of elite universities’ claim that admission is exclusively or even primarily merit-based (see the legacy admissions, class and race bias, bribery, and corruption scandals of the past few years), others have focused on the negative effects that the intense competition pre- and post-college admissions have on students’ mental health and general wellbeing, as well as on society writ-large.
Though both types of criticisms are well-founded, I think that they misidentify merit (or the lack thereof) as the culprits. Because of its open-ended nature, merit as a principle necessarily attaches to other values, ideals, and commitments. For example, universities with a liberal arts focus often evaluate the ‘well-roundedness’ of candidates, including their involvement in arts, sports, activism, etc., as a central merit, while research-focused universities pay much more attention to specialised academic merits such as grades and test scores. Thus, what the resulting meritocratic arrangements look like depends on an institution or society’s conception of individuals and their relationship to the collective, how individuals are expected to relate to each other and the larger group, and the purposes of the collective endeavours and coordination efforts. In other words, merit attaches to a social theory, a set of moral, social, and political norms, as well as an ideal of justice and the good life.
Take the first society described above. The principle of merit serves a vision of social life that prioritises the collective good over and above the good of its individual citizens. In order to achieve justice, each person must fulfil the role they are most suited for, regardless of their personal desires, ambitions, and preferences. The influence of factors that are arbitrary and irrelevant from the perspective of justice—such as class, race, or gender—is therefore neutralised to the greatest extent possible. If I can best make a contribution as a cobbler, I will be given all the resources to become one. At the same time, I am prevented by society from being a ‘busybody’ by attempting to become an opera singer. Regardless of my personal fancies and ambitions, I must submit to the judgment of our communal teachers about my talents and abilities. This arrangement of society will of course strike modern sensibilities as extreme in its lack of concern for individual freedom and its assumptions about natural or innate talent. The point of the example is not to defend this social arrangement as an actionable alternative type of meritocracy, but rather to point out that meritocracies exist on a spectrum, varying from this pole to the more familiar one inherent in the second society described.
In the second example I offered, society is supposed to resemble the free market model of ‘careers open to talents’. Merit is subordinated to the pursuit of private profit within capitalism, as opposed to a vision of the collective good. Judgments about the value of an elementary school teacher’s contribution to society, as compared to a hedge fund manager, are determined by market forces. The social theory is one of extreme individualism and society is not seen as anything more than an aggregate of people, each of them pursuing their interests. Unlike the first example, there is no sense of a collective vision of justice that individuals must contribute to. Even though all opportunities are formally open for anyone willing to compete for, they are in fact limited and circumscribed by structural injustices and inequalities.
These two different examples of social arrangements that can plausibly be called meritocracies show us that the concept should not be understood as describing a single unitary system, but rather as a spectrum of social, economic, and political arrangements that take very different forms depending on the values placed at their core. Like many contemporary critics, I recognise the profound injustices and limitations that characterise our contemporary forms of meritocracy. However, unlike them, I do not think the ideal of meritocracy itself is to blame. Nor is the solution to try to make the current system ‘more meritocratic’. By criticising merit itself we are focusing on an empty abstraction, rather than the deeper political commitments that we should be collectively deliberating upon and changing. Somewhere between the two societies I portrayed at the poles of this spectrum, we might find a more just meritocracy.
 This description is roughly based on Plato’s Ideal City (The Republic, trans. by Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1991).
 On the ‘rhetoric of rising’, see Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?, Chapter 3 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020).
 See, for example, Stephen McNamee and Robert K. Miller, The Meritocracy Myth (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004).
 Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020); Daniel Markovits, The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite (Penguin: 2019); Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 2015); Kai Yu, The Implementation of Inclusive Education in Beijing: Exorcizing the Haunting Specter of Meritocracy (Lexington Books: 2014).
 For a critical analysis of this feature of contemporary meritocracy, see Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? (2020), especially Chapter 5: Success Ethics.
by Ben Williams
A burgeoning area of political research has focused on how the ideas and practical politics arising from the theories of the ‘New Right’ have had a major impact and legacy not only on a globalised political level, but also in relation to the domestic politics of specific nations. From a British perspective, the New Right’s impact dates from the mid-1970s when Margaret Thatcher became Leader of the Conservative Party (1975), before ascending to the office of Prime Minister in 1979. The New Right essentially rejected the post-war ‘years of consensus’ and advocated a smaller state, lower taxes and greater individual freedoms. On an international dimension, such political developments dovetailed with the emergence of Ronald Reagan as US President, who was elected in late 1980 and formally took office in early 1981. Within this timeframe, there was also associated pro- market, capitalist reforms in countries as diverse as Chile and China. While the ideas of New Right intellectual icons Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman date back to earlier decades of the 20th century and their rejection of central planning and totalitarian rule, until this point in time they had never seen such forceful advocates of their theories in such powerful frontline political roles.
Thatcher and Reagan’s explicit understanding of New Right theory was variable, but they nevertheless successively emerged as two political titans aligned by their committed free-market beliefs and ideology, forming a dominant partnership in world politics throughout the 1980s. Consequently, the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ that had traditionally incorporated shared cultural values and military and security co-operation, reached new heights amidst a decade very much dominated by New Right ideology. However, as we now look back over forty years on, debate has arisen as to what extent the ideas and values of the New Right are still relevant in the context of more contemporary political events, namely in relation to how the free market can appropriately react to major global crises. This has been notably applied to how various governments have reacted to both the 2007–8 global economic crash and the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, where significant levels of state intervention have challenged conventional New Right orthodoxies that ‘the free market knows best’.
The New Right’s effect on British politics (1979-97)
In my doctoral research into the evolution of contemporary Conservative Party social policy, the legacy and impact of the New Right on British politics formed a pivotal strand of the thesis, specifically how the UK Conservative Party sought to evolve both its image and policy agenda from the New Right’s free market economic emphasis into a more socially oriented direction.  Yet my research focus began at the tail end of the New Right’s period of hegemony, in the aftermath of the Conservative Party’s most devastating and humiliating electoral defeat for almost 100 years at the 1997 general election.
From this perspective of hindsight that looked back on eighteen years of continuous Conservative rule, the New Right’s influence had ultimately been a source of both rejuvenation and decline in relation to Conservative Party fortunes at different points of the electoral and historical cycle. In a positive sense, in the 1970s it appeared to revitalise the Conservative Party’s prospects while in opposition under the new leadership of Thatcher, and instilled a flurry of innovative, radical and eye-catching policies into its successful 1979 manifesto, which in subsequent years would be described as reflecting ‘popular capitalism’. Such policies would form the basis of the party’s accession to national office and consequent period of hegemonic rule throughout the 1980s in particular. The nature of such party-political hegemony as a conceptual term has been both analysed and explained in terms of its rise and fall by Andrew Gamble among others, who identified various core values that the Conservatives had traditionally stood for, namely ‘the defence of the Union, the defence of the Empire, the defence of the Constitution, and the defence of property’.
However, in a negative sense, by the mid to late 1990s, as Gamble identifies, the party appeared to have lost its way and had entered something of a post-Thatcher identity crisis, with the ideological dynamic instilled by the New Right’s legacy fatally undermining its previously stable equilibrium and eroding the traditional ‘pillars’ of hegemony’ as identified above. While Thatcher’s successor John Major was inclined to a more social as opposed to economic policy emphasis and between 1990-97 sought to distance himself from some of her harsher ideological policy positions, it was perhaps the case that the damage to the party’s electoral prospects had already been done. Not only had the Conservatives defied electoral gravity and won a fourth successive term in office in 1992, but the party’s broader ethos appeared to have become distorted by New Right ideology, and it became increasingly detached from its traditional instincts for pragmatic moderation located at the political centre, and notably its capacity to read the mood with regards the British public’s instinctive tendencies towards social conservatism, as has been argued by Oakeshott in particular. 
Critics also commented that the New Right’s often harsh economic emphasis was out of touch with a more compassionate public opinion that was emerging in wider public polling by the mid-1990s, and which expressed increasing concerns for the condition of core public services. This was specifically evident in documented evidence that between ‘1995-2007 opinion polls identified health care as one of the top issues for voters. The New Right’s focus on retrenchment and the free market was now blamed for creating such negative conditions by some, both within and outside the Conservative Party. Coupled with a steady process of Labour Party moderation over the late 1980s and 1990s, such trends culminated in major and repeated electoral losses inflicted on the Conservative Party between 1997 and 2005 (with an unprecedented three general election defeats in succession and thirteen years out of government).
The shifting spectrum and New Labour
When once asked what her greatest political achievement was, Margaret Thatcher did not highlight her three electoral victories but mischievously responded by pointing to “Tony Blair and New Labour”. It is certainly the case that Blair’s premiership from 1997 onwards was very different from previous Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s, and arguably bore the imprint of Thatcherism far more than any traces of socialist doctrine. This would strongly suggest that the impact and legacy of the New Right went far beyond the end of Conservative rule and continued to wield influence into the new century, despite the Conservative Party being banished from national office.
This was evident by the fact that Blair’s Labour government pledged to “govern as New Labour”, which in practice entailed moderate politics that explicitly rejected past socialist doctrines, and by adhering to the political framework and narrative established during the Thatcher period of New Right hegemony. This included an acceptance of the privatisation of former state-owned industries, tougher restrictions to trade union powers, markedly reduced levels of government spending and direct taxation, and overall, far less state intervention in comparison to the ‘years of consensus’ that existed between approximately 1945-75 (shaped by the crisis experience of World War Two). Most of these policies had been strongly opposed by Labour during the 1980s, but under New Labour they were now pragmatically accepted (for largely electoral and strategic purposes).
Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown tinkered around the edges with some progressive social reforms and there were steadily growing levels of tax and spend in his later phase in office, but not on the scale of the past, and the New Right neoliberal ‘settlement’ remained largely intact throughout thirteen years of Labour in office. Indeed, Labour’s truly radical changes were primarily at constitutional level; featuring policies such as devolution, judicial reform (introduction of the Supreme Court), various parliamentary reforms (House of Lords), Freedom of Information legislation, as well as key institutional changes such as Bank of England independence. The nature of this reforming policy agenda could be seen to reflect the reality that following the New Right’s ideological and political victories of the 1980s, New Labour had to look away from welfarism and political economy for its major priorities.
Conservative modernisation (1997 onwards)
Given the electoral success of Tony Blair and New Labour from 1997 onwards, the obvious challenge for the Conservatives was how to respond and readjust to unusual and indeed unprecedented circumstances. Historically referred to as ‘the natural party of government’, being out of power for a long time was a situation the Conservatives were not used to. However, from the late 1990s onwards, party modernisers broadly concluded that it would be a long haul back, and that to return to government the party would have to sacrifice some, and perhaps all, of its increasingly unpopular New Right political baggage. This determinedly realistic mood was strengthened by a second successive landslide defeat to Blair in 2001, and a further—albeit less resounding—defeat in 2005. Key and emerging figures in this ‘modernising’ and ‘progressive’ wing of the party included David Cameron, George Osborne and Theresa May, none of whom had been MPs prior to 1997 (i.e., crucially, they had no explicit connections to the era of New Right hegemony) and all of whom would take on senior governmental roles after 2010.
Such modernisers accepted that the party required a radical overhaul in terms of both image and policy-making, and in global terms were buoyed by the victory of ‘compassionate’ conservative George W. Bush in the US presidential election in late 2000. Consequently, ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ became an increasingly used term among such advocates of a new style of Conservative policy-making (see Norman & Ganesh, 2006). My doctoral thesis analysed in some depth precisely what the post-1997 British Conservative Party did in relation to various policy fronts connected to this ‘compassionate’ theme, most notably initiating a revived interest in the evolution of innovative social policy such as free schools, NHS reform, and the concept of ‘The Big Society’. This was in response to both external criticism and self-reflection that such policy emphasis and focus had been frequently neglected during the party’s eighteen years in office between 1979 and 1997.
Yet the New Right legacy continued to haunt the party’s identity, with many Thatcher loyalists reluctant to let go of it, despite feedback from the likes of party donor Lord Ashcroft (2005) that ‘modernisation’ and acceptance of New Labour’s social liberalism and social policy investment were required if the party was to make electoral progress, while ultimately being willing to move on from the (albeit triumphant) past.
Overview of The New Right and post-2008 events: (1) The global crash (2) austerity (3) Brexit (4) the pandemic
During the past few decades of British and indeed global politics, the New Right’s core principles of the small state and limited government intervention have remained clearly in evidence, with its influence at its peak and most firmly entrenched in various western governments during the 1980s and 90s. However, within the more contemporary era, this legacy has been fundamentally rocked and challenged by two major episodes in particular, namely the economic crash of 2007–8, and more recently the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both of these crises have featured a fundamental rebuke to the New Right’s established solutions as aligned with the culture of the reduced state, as had been cemented in the psyche of governance and statecraft within both Britain and the USA for several decades.
In the context of the global economic slump, the immediate and instinctive reaction of Brown’s Labour government in Britain and Barack Obama’s Democrat administration in the USA was to focus on a primary role for the state to intervene and stimulate economic recovery, which entailed that large-scale ‘Keynesian’ government activity made a marked comeback as the preferred means of tackling it. While both such politicians were less ideologically wedded to the New Right pedigree (since they were attached to parties traditionally more of the liberal left), this scenario nevertheless marked a significant crossroads for the New Right’s legacy for global politics.
However, once the dust had settled and the economic situation began to stabilise, the post-2010 austerity agenda that emerged in the UK (as a longer-term response to managing the global crash) provided New Right advocates with an opportunistic chance to reassert its former hegemony, given the setback to its influence in the immediate aftermath of 2008. Although Prime Minister David Cameron rejected criticism that austerity marked a reversion to harsh Thatcherite economics, having repeatedly distanced himself from the former Conservative Prime Minister since becoming party leader in 2005, there were certainly similarities in the emphasis on ‘balancing the books’ and reducing the size of government between 2010-15. Cameron argued this was not merely history repeating itself, and sought to distinctively identify himself as a more socially-oriented conservative who embraced an explicit social conscience that differed from the New Right’s primarily economic focus, as evident in his ‘Big Society’ narrative entailing a reduced state and more localised devolution and voluntarism (yet which failed to make his desired impact). Cameron argued that “there was such a thing as society” (unlike Thatcher’s quote from 1987), yet it was “not the same as the state”. 
Following Cameron’s departure as Prime Minister in 2016, the issue that brought him down, Brexit, could also be viewed from the New Right perspective as a desirable attempt to reduce, or ideally remove, the regulatory powers of a European dimension of state intervention, with the often suggested aspiration of post-Brexit Britain becoming a “Singapore-on-Thames” that would attract increased international capital investment due to lower taxes, reduced regulations and streamlined bureaucracy. It was perhaps no coincidence that many of the most ardent supporters of Brexit were also those most loyal to the Thatcher policy legacy that lingered on from the 1980s, representing a clear ideological overlap and inter-connection between domestic and foreign policy issues.
On this premise, the New Right’s influence dating from its most hegemonic decade of the 1980s certainly remained. However, from a UK perspective at least, the Covid-19 pandemic arguably ‘heralded the further relative demise of New Right influence after its sustained period of hegemonic ascendancy’. This is because, in a similar vein to the 2007–8 economic crash, the reflexive response to the global pandemic from Boris Johnson’s Conservative government in the UK and indeed other western states (including the USA), was a primarily a ‘statist’ one. This was evidently the preferred governmental option in terms of tackling major emergencies in the spheres of both the economy and public health, and was perhaps arguably the only logical and practical response available in the context of requiring such co-ordination at both a national and international level, which the free market simply cannot provide to the same extent.
Having said that, during the pandemic there was evidence of some familiar neoliberal ‘public-private partnership’ approaches in the subcontracting-out of (e.g.) mask and PPE production, lateral flow tests, vaccine research and production, testing, or app creation, which suggests Johnson’s administration sought to put some degree of business capacity at the heart of their policy response. Nevertheless, the revived interventionist role for the state will possibly be difficult to reverse once the crisis has subsided, just as was the case in the aftermath of World War Two. Whether this subsequently creates a new variant of state-driven consensus politics (as per the UK 1945-75) remains to be seen, but in the wake of various key political events there is clear evidence that the New Right’s legacy, while never being eradicated, certainly seems to have been diluted as the world progresses into the 2020s. How the post-pandemic era will evolve remains uncertain, and in their policy agendas various national governments will seek to balance both the role of the state and the input of private finance and free market imperatives. The nature of the balance remains a matter of speculation and conjecture until we move into a more certain and stable period, yet it would be foolish to write off the influence of the New Right and its resilient legacy completely.
 Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, (1944)
 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, (1962)
 Ben Williams, The Evolution of Conservative Party Social Policy, (2015)
 BBC ON THIS DAY | 2 | 1997: Labour routs Tories in historic election (2nd May 1997)
 Andrew Gamble, The Crisis of Conservatism, New Left Review, (I/214, November–December 1995)
 Michael Oakeshott, On Human Conduct, (1975)
 Rob Baggott, ‘Conservative health policy: change, continuity and policy influence’, cited in Hugh Bochel (ed.), The Conservative Party and Social Policy, (2011), Ch.5, p.77
 Jesse Norman & Janan Ganesh, Compassionate conservatism- What it is, why we need it (2006),
 Ben Williams, Warm words or real change? Examining the evolution of Conservative Party social policy since 1997 (PhD thesis, University of Liverpool), https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/11633/1/WilliamsBen_Apr2013_11633.pdf
 Michael A. Ashcroft, Smell the coffee: A wake-up call for the Conservative Party, (2005)
 Ben Williams, The Big Society: Ten Years On, Political Insight, Volume: 10 issue: 4, page(s) 22-25 (2019)
 Margaret Thatcher, interview with ‘Woman’s Own Magazine’, published 31 October 1987.
Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/106689
 Society and the Conservative Party - BBC News (9th January 2017)
 Ben Williams, Brexit: The Links Between Domestic and Foreign Policy, Political Insight,
Volume: 9 issue: 2, page(s): 36-39 (2018)
 Ben Williams, The ‘New Right’ and its legacy for British conservatism, Journal of Political Ideologies, (2021)
by Federico Tarragoni
In an old textbook on populism, the psycho-sociologist Alexandre Dorna described the phenomenon as a 'volcanic eruption': a surge of the repressed impulses, instincts and fantasies of the masses onto the political scene. This analysis is very common today, especially in relation to the so-called 'far-right populisms', such as the governments of Trump, Bolsonaro, or Orbán. We will not be talking here about the fantasies (in a Freudian sense) of which populism would be the political vector, but about those that it expresses in the speaker who speaks about it. What exactly are we saying when we categorise something as 'populist'? It is well known that the word is used more to stigmatise than to designate positively. Its proliferation in public debate over the past decade has been unprecedented: in 2017 the Cambridge Dictionary awarded it 'word of the year'. Its inflation in the public debate points to the undeniable re-emergence of the ‘people’ as political operator, especially since the subprime crisis of 2008. On the extreme right, this resurgence is expressed in xenophobic nativist movements that oppose the national people to immigration and to ethnic and sexual minorities. On the far left, it appears in plebeian movements that oppose the ‘people’ as a democratic subject to a ruling class, judged to be in collusion with neoliberal economic elites, and accused of corrupting democracy. Both renewals emerge in the global political space. While the former may be compatible with a neoliberal economic orientation, as in the cases of Trump and Bolsonaro, the latter is in frontal opposition.
The fantasies of populism
Contemporary uses of populism, whether they see it as a threat or as a chance to radicalise democracy, assume that both phenomena lie in the same direction; that they are politically and historically univocal. This is the fantasy I am talking about: in the Freudian sense, the main imaginary production by which those who speak of populism today escape from reality. Here, the historical and sociological reality is that the 'people' of the extreme right have very little to do with the 'people' of the far left. Each of us can easily see that their projects, situated on opposite sides of the political spectrum, have more differences than similarities. In spite of this, the majority of studies in political science persist in seeing in these two phenomena some variants of the same reality: populism. This would be anchored in the extremes, which would therefore be strictly comparable in terms of their political use of the ‘people’. With a touch of irony, I call 'populology' the scholarly discourse structured around this thesis, which takes up the old 'horseshoe theory' in French political science. A thesis that seems to describe, in a clear and transparent way, our political actuality in the 21st century. But its simplicity tends to oversimplify it to the point of obscuring its real socio-political dynamics for at least three reasons.
The first reason is that the only thing in common between the extreme-right and the far-left 'populists' is nothing other than the opposition between the 'people' and the 'elites'. However, this opposition takes on such different and even opposite meanings in its two ‘variants’ that it is no longer sufficient to qualify something common. The 'people' is an extremely polysemous concept, since classical Greece, where there are about twenty words used to describe it: dèmos or the whole of the citizens, laos or the whole of the individuals sharing a common culture, ethnos or the whole of the members of a clan, genos or the whole of the individuals sharing a common ancestor, hoi polloi (‘the most numerous’) or the social majority of a population, ochlos or the people in tumult, ekklesia or the assembled people, etc.
Each of these terms designated this intangible and ineffable entity that was the ‘people’, based on a specific property or operation that it is supposed to perform in the polis. This definitional difficulty has been further complicated by modern political ideologies, all of which have more or less adopted this central word of democratic modernity. This is why the term is now invoked to designate political projects that have more differences than similarities between the extreme right and the radical left. Unless we consider, as the vast majority of contemporary theorists of populism do, that it is an essentially discursive phenomenon. That it is therefore extremely plastic, reflecting the emptiness of the word ‘people’ and the appeals that invoke it. But are the affects and political behaviours that these populist appeals aggregate really comparable? In reality, if populism is discursive by nature, all politics is discursive; in the same way, liberalism would be a political discourse centered on the word 'freedom', which is also fundamentally ambiguous. Would we then be ready to assert that all political actors who have claimed or are claiming today 'freedom' against a regime that deprives them of it, whatever the political project defended, are comparable? Are we ready to compare feminists, socialists, Berlusconi, the Austrian FPÖ, and so many others? We should recognise that almost all the political phenomena of our modernity are 'liberal' in this sense. Just as today we end up thinking that everything is potentially populist, when we talk about the 'people' against the 'elites'.
The second reason is that behind this idea that populism refers to any appeal to the ‘people’, we are in fact confusing distinct political phenomena: social movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, the Indignados or the Gilets jaunes, all structured by the opposition ‘people vs. elites’; political organisations, such as the Rassemblement national, Podemos, and the Labour-affiliated group Momentum, all calling for the ‘people’ against the establishment; modes of appealing to the electorate by the ruling class, more or less demagogic, such as those of Silvio Berlusconi, Nigel Farage, or Donald Trump; finally, political regimes based on the principle of the embodiment of the people by the Head of State, such as those of Erdogan, Putin, or Orbán. These phenomena are ontologically heterogeneous. Here the concept of populism is more confusing than elucidating, because it leads to abandon more precise historical concepts, such as demagogy, neo- or post-fascism, Bonapartism, and authoritarianism, in favour of a vague and fuzzy word. In other terms, there is more in common between authoritarian regimes, whatever their modes of legitimation, than between an authoritarian regime claiming to represent the people against corrupt elites, and a social movement claiming to constitute one against the ruling elites. Similarly, if populism describes modes of appealing to the electorate based on proximity, illusion, and overpromising, it would be more correct to speak of demagogy; it would then be necessary to question the reasons for its rise in contemporary political communication, as much among the establishment parties as among the anti-establishment ones.
The third reason is that behind the idea that populism is a plastic discursive construction, there is a tendency to confuse positive and value judgements. The ‘people’, like all our political terms, is a controversial normative word: as a synonym for collective sovereignty, it can be seen as the quintessence of democracy, or as a symbol of an oppressive totality, representing a threat to individual freedoms. If we do not empirically observe the concrete practices that this 'people' produces in the social space, we can be led to take our own value-judgments about 'the people' as science. Depending on the different ways of defining democracy (this concept which is also inseparably descriptive and normative), one will thus make a different case for populism. If, like Jan-Werner Müller, we define democracy as a procedural horizon for safeguarding individual liberties, the 'people' inevitably becomes suspect, both in the political discourse of the extreme right and the far left. If, like Chantal Mouffe, we define democracy as an agonistic horizon of conflictuality, the ‘people’ becomes the very quintessence of the democratic dynamic, because it is always constructed by opposing groups claiming democracy against the elites. Thus, on Müller's side, we lose sight of certain emancipatory uses of the ‘people’, which can radicalise a democracy conceived in a strictly procedural way. But on Mouffe's side, we lose sight of the fact that certain conflictual constructions of the ‘people’ are actually anti-democratic, such as those proposed by the neo-Nazi movement FPÖ in Austria or by the ‘Golden Dawn’ in Greece, because they challenge the liberal foundations of our democracies.
A new genetic approach
In fact, before we can even discuss whether populism is progressive or regressive for our democracies, we need to agree on what we are talking about. We need to clear up the many ambiguities to which contemporary uses of populism give rise: ambiguities in the classification and in the comparison that is proposed. In reality, we still do not know what populism is: not only do we not really know how to explain it, but we continue to disagree, among scholars, on what it encompasses empirically.
Despite the huge inflation of books and articles on the subject, we are still at the first steps of a scientific method. This makes the enterprise questionable for those who consciously choose not to use the concept. But it also makes it exciting and thrilling for those who take the problems posed by the concept seriously, seeking new solutions to its enigma. I propose a new 'genetic' approach, which consists in going back to the founding experiences of populism: the Russian narodnichestvo (between 1840 and 1880), the American People's Party (at the end of the 19th century) and the national-popular regimes in Latin America (between 1930 and 1960). Why them and not others? Why this return to the past when populism is such a current phenomenon? For one simple reason: these three historical experiences are defined by the entire scientific community as populist; they do not carry the ambiguities of what is too broadly called populism today. It is therefore a solid starting point for a new analysis. This is all the more true since historical distance makes it possible to look at current events in a more complex way. If there is one lesson of social sciences since Max Weber, it is this: we must analyse the present from the past, and not the opposite. Yet, concerning populism, we often move between presentism (the idea of the radical newness of our present, disjointed from the past) and anachronism (the distorted reading of past populisms from our present).
By comparing these founding experiences of populism, we obtain an ideal type: in the sense of Max Weber, a 'logical utopia' resulting from the stylisation of reality and the deliberate accentuation of certain features, which help to understand empirical reality by comparison with the model. The first recurring feature, which will be accentuated, is that populism always appears within the crisis of governments claiming to be legitimated by the people, but excluding them socially, economically, and politically.
The second recurring feature is that populism is structured by the opposition between the 'people' and the 'elite', but it gives an ideologically singular interpretation of this opposition, which defies any comparison between the far left and the extreme right. The 'people' appears as the name of a utopia: a democracy restored to its sovereign subject, involved in a dynamic of radicalisation of both freedom and equality. Populist democracy is conceived against the reduction of democracy to representative governments: an ‘elective aristocracy’ that is always potentially oligarchic. The 'elite' is the force that opposes this project of founding a populist democracy. The 'people' and the 'elite' thus do not define two concrete social groups, but two forces of democratic modernity: the 'people' is associated with the insides, with life and tradition; the 'elite' with the outsides, with reason and modernisation. This idea is central to the writings of the founder of populist ideology, the Russian Alexander Herzen (1812–70), who provided a systematic version of it at about the same time as Marx and Engels were working on the idea of communism. The Russian populists (narodniki), who were to deeply influence Lenin (his brother had been one of them), were convinced that the peasantry, the social majority of the people, could provide the organisational forms on which the future democracy could be built.
As a radical political ideology, populism is accompanied by the expression of a certain revolutionary charisma. This is the third recurrent feature of the phenomenon. In the Russian and American cases, this charisma is ‘available’ to the actors of the social movement, who can all aspire to embody the mobilisation: it is an ‘acephalous’ charisma. When the American farmers created their own party, the People's Party, this charisma was gradually personalised: the party acquired two brilliant charismatic leaders, James B. Weaver and William Jennings Bryan.
The latter, a great critic of the financial system of the Gold Standard, deemed responsible for the American social crisis, gave a speech in 1896 with eschatological connotations: the ‘Cross of Gold’ Speech. This young lawyer from Nebraska attacked the idle holders of capital in the ‘great American cities’, accusing them of strangling the working classes and draining the country's ‘broad and fertile prairies’. ‘The humblest citizen in all the land’, he said, ‘when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring. I come to speak to you in defense of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty, the cause of humanity’. ‘You come to us’, he replied to the supporters of the Gold Standard, ‘and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the Gold Standard. I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country’. ‘If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the Gold Standard as a Good thing’, he concluded, ‘we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a Gold Standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold’.
In the Latin American case, populism had powerful charismatic leaders too: Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina, Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico, Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Colombia, Rómulo Betancourt in Venezuela, Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre in Peru, Víctor Paz Estenssoro in Bolivia, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo in Chile.
Finally, a last recurring feature of populism is the socially heterogeneous nature of the mobilisations. They involve alliances between impoverished working classes and middle classes made precarious by the economic crisis: they all share the view that the ruling class is disconnected from the needs of the population's majority. Moreover, these mobilisations have no real class basis: they bring together different democratic causes carried by ‘subaltern groups’ in the sense of Antonio Gramsci, whose relations of domination go from class, to gender, to race.
Populism is therefore an ideology of crisis. It appears in a context of socio-economic crisis which becomes a legitimacy crisis of a government which, claiming to rule in the name of the people, appears collectively as the expression of an oligarchy's interests. Because of this context, populism operates as a crisis phenomenon. Thus, we can speak of 'populist moments' because populism can hardly survive beyond the crisis that institutes it. Despite its mobilising potential, because of the revolutionary charisma it brings to the stage and its capacity to federate several social demands, it is not sustainable. Why is this so?
The Latin American case provides some answers to this tricky problem. From the outset, it is difficult to achieve a programme as ambitious and vague as founding a radical democracy. On the one hand, such a programme should cover all spheres of social life, from culture to education, employment, citizenship. Let's think of Perón's Partido Justicialista, founded in 1946 and charged with democratising Argentinian society in the areas of education, university, civic and social rights, work and social inequalities, gender, culture ... A project that can lead to many disappointments among the mobilised popular base once populism is in power. The radical wing of Peronism—the Montoneros—and the communist left constantly deplore public policies that do not meet the democratic expectations of the Argentinian people. On the other hand, such a maximalist project runs the risk of removing all obstacles to State intervention in society: an intervention which, adorned with the noble objective of radicalising democracy, may end up subjecting to it the preservation of certain freedoms, such as those of the press or the unions.
In short, as much as populism is useful and necessary as a protest ideology, it is not very effective as an ideology in power. This is all the more the case because, by giving a central place to charisma, it leads, in the conditions of the organised competition for power, to a strong personalism. The mobilisation's leader who becomes the charismatic Head of State tends to introduce into populism a strongly vertical dimension, which is opposed to the horizontality of the social movement. The opposition between the 'people' and the 'elite' also tends to change once it is transformed into an ideology of public action: from a radically democratic opposition (deepening democracy by injecting more popular sovereignty), it tends to polarise society between 'friends' of the people and 'friends' of the elite. During my fieldwork in Venezuela (2007-11), one of the countries of the populist revival in the twenty-first century, I was confronted daily with the harmful effects of such polarisation, which ultimately undermines democratic communication. In institutional politics as well as in ordinary life, people had stopped debating, and instead fought each other in the name of imaginary plots attributed to one part of society against the other. This logic, combined with personalism and statism, finally legitimated an authoritarian turn within the State that began in 2005 and was reinforced with Nicolas Maduro's election.
What is left of populism?
As the Latin American case shows, this is the main problem with populism in power: an ideology that aims to re-found or radicalise democracy quickly comes into conflict with the logic of the State. This reflection is useful when considering what to do with populism today.
What remains of this historical ideology? What is left is clearly left-wing populism. From an ideological point of view, the so-called 'right-wing populism' refers to a completely different historical matrix: that of ethnic nationalism (or nativism), with strong antisemitic connotations, which was born in Europe at the end of the 19th century, irrigated the fascist movements, and was rebuilt in the 1980s against the migratory globalisation and the emancipatory struggles of the 1970s. Left-wing populism, by contrast, emerged in Europe and the United States after the Latin American ‘left turn’ in a similar context to that of past populisms: a socio-economic crisis, the subprime crisis, which revealed the disconnection of neoliberal elites from the social needs of the majority. The democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Labour Momentum, Podemos, the Five Star Movement, Syriza, La France insoumise: they have canalised the new populist mobilisations.
For those of them that have come to power, the same structural problems of Latin American populisms can be observed, even if the danger of an out-of-control statism is less pronounced there, due to the smaller role of military elites in the socio-historical construction of States. Like past populisms, populisms of our time are very ephemeral: none of them are in the same place as they were three years ago. The concessions made to the establishment have almost erased some of them from the electoral map, like Syriza. All of them have strong internal cleavages. One is the opposition between a ‘pragmatist’ wing and a ‘radical’ wing, as in the Italian Five Star Movement during Mario Draghi's government. The other is the split between 'populist strategy' and 'leftist strategy', as in Podemos (between Íñigo Errejón and Pablo Iglesias) and La France insomise (between Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Clémentine Autain). In short, populism still appears as a singular political moment; a moment that already seems, in part, to be behind us. If the populist moment of 2008 has closed, with the disappointments that populist parties in power have generated in their falling electorates, another one may arise in the future.
Two points should then be borne in mind. Firstly, populism does not remain the same between the destituting, contesting phase and the reinstituting phase in power; it changes politically. It is therefore necessary to control this mutation. Secondly, it is becoming urgent to separate the destiny of the extreme right and that of the radical left: the idea that there would be a populist dynamic common to both prevents us from thinking about the necessary renewal of a left-wing populism. On the contrary, this idea causes systematic haemorrhaging of left-wing voters who see in a supposedly common strategy with the extreme right a legitimate reason for disgust. Thinking about a left-wing populism for the years to come can only be done on the basis of these two analytical and strategic observations.
 Alexandre Dorna, Le populisme (Paris : PUF, 1999).
 Federico Tarragoni, L’esprit démocratique du populisme. Une nouvelle analyse sociologique (Paris : La Découverte, 2019). On the 'horseshoe theory', see Jean-Pierre Faye, Le siècle des idéologies (Paris : Press Pocket, 2002). For a critical point of view, cf. Annie Collovald and Brigitte Gaïti (eds), La démocratie aux extrêmes. Sur la radicalisation politique (Paris : La Dispute, 2006).
 Quentin Skinner, ‘The Empirical Theorists of Democracy and Their Critics’, Political Theory, 1, Issue 3 (1973), pp. 287-306; John Dunn, Setting the People Free. The Story of Democracy (New York: Atlantic books, 2005).
 Jan-Werner Müller, What is Populism? (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
 Chantal Mouffe, For a Left Populism (London: Verso, 2018).
 Federico Tarragoni, « Populism, an ideology without history? A new genetic approach », Journal of Political Ideologies, 26, Issue 3 (2021). DOI : 10.1080/13569317.2021.1979130.
 Bernard Manin, The Principles of Representative Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
 Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks [25 §4, 1934] (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).
 Federico Tarragoni, L’Énigme révolutionnaire (Paris : Les Prairies ordinaires, 2015).
by Nicolai von Eggers
The presidency of Donald Trump and the rise of far-right movements and politicians across the globe has triggered a resurgence in the use of the concept of fascism to describe our contemporary political situation. Former US foreign minister, Madeleine Albright, wrote “a warning” about the similarities between Trump and former fascist leaders, while philosopher Jason Stanley published a bestseller on the tell-tales of fascist discourse. Both books focused on discourse and the role of the leader, while less attention was given to forms of organisation, political ideology, or more ingrained cultural factors.
But while both books got a lot of attention, they were also widely criticised by critics who held that we are by no means living in a fascist moment, that Trump and similar acts by no means possess the kind of mass organisations that enabled fascism, and that for all of their ultra-populist shortcomings these leaders did not hold ‘core-fascist’ beliefs or aspirations to totalitarian rule.
The mainstream debates over the nature of fascism and whether it is a useful category for understanding contemporary politics reflects a wider debate within the study of fascism and political ideologies more widely. Is fascism an ideology on a par with the other ideologies such as liberalism, socialism, and conservatism? Or is it a rather a subset or perversion of one or more of these ideologies? Or is it something entirely different, like a purely negative ideology—antiliberal, anticommunist—as Noberto Bobbio once argued? Such debates over the exact definition of fascism may seem overly academic, but they are nonetheless important, for the way we define fascism has consequences for how we understand fascism today—whether it exists, whether it should be taken seriously, how widespread it may be said to be, how much of a danger it consequently poses, and ultimately how it should be fought. This discussion, however, often makes little sense in the abstract and only becomes concrete through contextualised analyses of concrete movements, political situations, and the ideological output of specific currents.
One ideological current that has received some attention in recent years is the so-called European New Right, which has influenced not only currents such as the alt-right and the Identitarians but also political parties and public debate more widely. Specific identifiably far-right talking-points and language, such as ‘the great replacement’ and a ‘ethnopluralist’ way of speaking about ‘tradition’, ‘cultural difference’, and ‘defence of European values’ have increasingly moved out of the fringe culture of the far right and into mainstream discussions.
Researchers have long debated how exactly this current should be understood. Most researchers have settled on the somewhat vague definition of the European New Right as ‘neo-fascist’, which some use to emphasise the current’s ideological relation to fascism (thus emphasising the fascist part) while others argue that the current is better understood as something altogether new and different (thus emphasising the neo part). One of the main reasons for doing so is the lack of reference to biological race theories, the lack of reference to white supremacy (which was substituted for the idea of ethnopluralism), and, most importantly, the lack of references to a uniformed mass movement led by a Führer or Duce and a concomitant imperialist-nationalist agenda. Within New Right ideology this has been replaced by the idea of federalism and a ‘Europe of a hundred flags.’ Thus, Steve Bastow argued some time ago that the New Right’s turn to federalism took the movement out of fascist ideological space more broadly construed.
The question, however, is how exactly we should understand federalism as it is promoted by the New Right. One way to answer this is to look more closely at how the key ideologue of the European New Right, Alain de Benoist, has defined, understood, and deployed the concept of federalism.
A key point of reference for Benoist’s conception of politics, I argue in a recently published article, is the French Revolution. Positioned thoroughly within the reactionary, counter-revolutionary tradition of political thought, Benoist sees the French Revolution as the Fall, the moment in which European society went decisively awry. According to Benoist, the French Revolution saw the rise of two opposed movements, two opposed logics of politics and societal organisation. One, he calls ‘Jacobinism’, by which he understands a modernising, rationalising project based on individual liberties and the rights of man, centralising administration, and governing through universal laws and standardised systems of administration. This also entails a culturally unifying and homogenising project, which seeks to render all members of society equal independently of gender, language, status, occupation, and area of origin. Thus, in France, ‘Jacobinism’ introduced universal education, a universal language (French), and universal laws, all animated by a central, singular entity: the French state.
Against Jacobinism, and what Benoist sometimes calls ‘the ideology of the Same’, Benoist argues that an antagonistic counter-project of federalism was born. Benoist identifies this counter-revolutionary, federalist tradition with the anti-revolutionary uprising in the Vendée and, more generally, with the aristocratic counter-offensive against the revolution. But federalism first and foremost signifies a much deeper logic of society and politics. Unlike the ideology of the Same, federalism is an ideology of difference, according to Benoist. Thus, Benoist champions the causes of local ‘peoples’, such as Bretons, Flemings, Catalans, and so on, to preserve their own language, culture, and identity in the face of ‘Jacobin’ encroachments. Benoist does not deny the existence of France and Frenchness, but he is critical of what he views as its tendency to wipe out local identity. Thus, Benoist rather views ‘nationalist’ identity as one of scale: local identity, national identity, and regional (i.e. European) identity. Thus, it is possible to be both Breton, French, and European.
What is not possible, however, is to be both ‘foreign’ and French and European. To believe so would be to succumb to the ideology of Sameness. What is at stake for Benoist and the New Right is instead to understand identity as fundamentally based on difference: Difference between various regional peoples who are nonetheless members of the same national and regional ‘family’, and difference between Europeans and non-Europeans who are different on a much more fundamental level.
This conception of identity is based on a mythico-historical—but ultimately essentialist—conception of human beings, which conflates culture, politics, and ethnicity. According to Benoist, it can meaningfully be said that an Indo-European ethnicity exists. In some of his texts, Benoist even lends credence to the so-called Hyperborea-Thule-thesis, which is quite widespread among some segments of the far right, and which is a polygenetic theory of human evolution holding that the Indo-European ‘race’ originated in Northern Europe and was only later, and only partially, mixed with other races originating in the South. Benoist weighs his words carefully, but it is clear that these texts toy with a conception of ethnic purity as the road towards happiness and the good life. And in less esoteric texts, Benoist still argues that there is a direct connection between ethno-cultural roots and values and political systems. Thus, Benoist has argued that “unlike the Orient, absolute despotism has been rare in Europe”, and that in “Indo-European societies, kings were usually elected”. This quote precedes a paragraph in which Benoist goes on to praise the electoral processes of the Germanic tribes described by Tacitus, while in other places Benoist refers to the Icelandic Althing as proof that a democratic culture was deeply embedded in premodern European life.
Benoist’s political model is therefore not one of a mass-party led by a Führer engaged in expansionist, militarised politics. What he envisions instead is a federalist Europe of purified local peoples that will govern themselves in accordance with their supposed ‘original’ political culture, and which will furthermore federalise on a European level in order to draw up agreements and protect themselves against a foreign, non-European enemy. In contrast to an ideology of the Same, which according to Benoist “annihilates” differences between peoples, the federalist project is to be built on an ideology of difference that respects these ‘original’ ethno-cultures.
Does federalism then take the New Right out of the fascist space, as Steve Bastow has argued? I will argue that it does not. The federalist element only provides the New Right with a specific version of core fascist beliefs, not something different from them. I here largely agree with Roger Griffin that fascism should be defined as the attempt to bring about the rebirth of mythical ‘nation’ through struggle, which also entails purifying it of contaminating elements. Thus, as Griffin has emphasised elsewhere, “the single party, the secret police, the public displays of Caesarism, even the presence of the Führer are not necessarily attributes of fascism”. This also means that many “features highlighted in the ‘check-list’ definitions of fascism . . . have been ‘accidental’, contingent on the way the vision of the total politico-cultural renewal of the ‘people’ was conceived in the unique conditions of interwar Europe”. There are, in this sense, various contemporary forms of fascist ideology, and I believe the notion of ‘federalist fascism’ best captures the specific New Right tendency.
There are three reasons as to why I think the notion of ‘federalist fascism’ is a useful category when it comes to understand the ideology of the New Right.
First, ‘federalist fascism’ incorporates a term—federalism—that Alain de Benoist himself sees as the best description of his own political-ideological beliefs. It goes a long way to describing the adherents of the political ideology of the New Right in the same terms in which they understand themselves. Further, ‘federalist fascist’ is a promising way to redescribe the potentially misleading term ‘ethnopluralist’. Ethnopluralist language, which speaks about the right to defend local identity against modernity, often confuses what is really at stake— namely, ethnic cleansing and the belief that the true nature of a people can only be realised through living in ethno-cultural, homogenous, traditional communities (which is clearly an essentialist and fascist conception of human beings and the good life). ‘Federalist fascist’ is much clearer in that regard, because it emphasises that we are not dealing with standard notions of white supremacy, biological racism, and imperialist ambitions but rather a more defensive project, ‘protecting’ European values and the ‘Europe of a hundred flags’. The notion of ‘federalist fascism’ thus has the double function of describing the New Right ideology partially in terms that lie at the heart of the New Right’s own self-understanding (federalist), while at the same time refusing to rely on that self-description entirely and consequently also redescribing the movement in terms of a social-scientific assessment that uses a widely accepted and well-established typology of political ideologies (fascism).
Second, the notion of ‘federalist fascism’ points in the direction of what we might call the political (organisational, governmental) aspect of the New Right. As we have already seen, the party, secret police, Caesarism, and the Führer are more incidental or contingent expressions of fascism. In other words, the specific political form of fascism may vary according to specific political situations— historically, geographically, culturally, etc. The question then is what political form fascism takes today. It does not necessarily take one single form, and the form it does take can be malleable, in the sense that the question of what political form to take often depends on what is strategically feasible. Still, when it comes to the New Right, the political form is closely linked to the notion of ‘federalism’. This means potentially arguing in favour of some level of democracy, of focusing on inter-regional and international collaboration (against the common enemy of the Other, often identified with Muslims and the Arabic world), and having a flatter movement structure than was the norm under traditional fascism. Identifying fascism too closely with the Führer principle, dictatorship, the mass party, and military hierarchy can make it hard to identify real fascists who do not quite fit this mould, and thus to understand what exactly is going on. The more fine-grained notion of ‘federalist fascism’ works better, I believe, when trying to understand who can meaningfully be described as fascist and who cannot.
Third, the notion of ‘federalist fascism’ underlines the direct links the New Right has to the fascist tradition. It has been argued that the New Right is not really fascist, or not directly fascist, because it does not invoke figures such as Hitler or Mussolini and the politics they stood for. But this is a very narrow definition of the fascist project and overlooks the fact that many currents of various beliefs assembled under the banner of fascism for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, the New Right does in fact draw explicitly on an avowedly fascist tradition—namely, what we may call the ‘aristocratic-intellectual’ current within the larger tent of the fascist movement. This included intellectuals such as Julius Evola, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger, and Carl Schmitt. Especially the former is a key point of reference for the New Right. What these thinkers have in common is a critique of many of the völkisch aspects of actually-existing fascism as well as the mass political nature of the fascist project. What they championed instead was an aristocratic fascism that emphasised spiritual races and the leadership of an elite, drawing on the traditionalist idea of a priestly warrior caste of officers. The ideal here is not the Führer embodying the vulgar spirit of the people but that of intellectual aristocracy taking care of politics. This intellectual current is what is widely known as ‘the conservative revolution’, a term coined by the Swiss fascist, Armin Mohler, who after World War II tried to delink this part of the broader fascist movement from actually-existing fascism. Mohler, who worked as Jünger’s secretary and since became a major influence on the New Right, explicitly referred to ‘federalism’ as one of the “fundamentals of conservatism”, of the revolutionary (i.e., aristocratic, fascist) kind he himself promoted. The New Right is thus a direct descendent of the conservative revolution, which was an integral part of the broader movement that made up actually-existing fascism. Referring to it as ‘federalist fascism’ highlights this connection.
Overall, ‘federalist fascism’ is a better concept for understanding New Right ideology than the concept of ‘neo-fascism’, which remains diffuse and insufficiently clear in its indications of what exactly is ‘neo’ about new forms of fascism, such as that of the New Right. ‘Federalist fascism’ has the merit of highlighting the ethnopluralist ideas of the new right, its tendency to experiment with organisational and potentially governmental forms that are different from the hegemonic current within traditional fascism, while retaining the key insight that we are dealing with a fascist ideology which believes in ethno-cultural homogeneity as a prerequisite for the good life. In this way, the notion of ‘federalist fascism’ can contribute to the debate on what fascism is in the 21st century, what forms it takes, and how best to counter it.
 Madeleine Albright, Fascism: A Warning (HarperCollins, 2019), Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works (Random House, 2018).
 Dylan Riley, “Introduction to the Second Edition” in The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe (Verso, 2019), pp. xxii-xxx; Enzo Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism (Verso, 2019), p. 21l; Ross Douthat, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” in New York Times, 3 December 2015.
 Norberto Bobbio, ’Lïdeologia del fascismo’ in Daæ fascismo alla democrazia (Baldini & Castoldi, 1997).
 Amongst the former is Tamir Bar-On Where Have All the Fascists Gone? and Rethinking the French New Right; Thomas Sheehan, focusing on the early period of the New Right, argues in favour of employing the notion of fascism, see Thomas Sheehan, ‘Myth and Violence: The Fascism of Juluis Evola and Alain de Benoist,’ Social Research 48, no. 1 (1981): 45-73; Roger Griffin, ‘Between Metapolitics and “Apoliteia”: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the “Interregnum”,’ Modern and Contemporary France 8, no. 1 (2000); Nigel Copsey with reference to Bar-On opts for defining the New Right as a ‘revisionist permutation of neo-fascism’ see Nigel Copsey, ‘“Fascism… But with an Open Mind”: Reflections on the Contemporary Far Right in (Western) Europe,’ Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies 2, no. 1 (2013): 13. Somewhat more hesitant to employ the notion of fascism are Pierre-André Taguieff, Sur la Nouvelle droite ; 351-168; Alberto Spektorowski, ‘The French New Right: Differentialism and the Idea of Ethnophilian Exlcusionism,’Polity 33, no. 2 (2002) and ‘The New Right: Ethno-Regionalism, Ethnopluralism and the Emergence of a Neo-Fascist Third Way,’ Journal of Political Ideologies 8, no.1 (2003): 111-130.
 Steve Bastow, “A Neo-Fascist Third Way: The Discourse of Ethno-Differentialist Revolutionary Nationalism,” Journal of Political Ideologies 7:3 (2002).
 Nicolai von Eggers, “Federalist Fascism: The New Right and the French Revolution,” Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies 10, pp. 298-322, available online via open access:
 For this tradition, see Zeev Sternhell, The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition (Yale University Press, 2009) and Darrin McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2001).
 Benoist’s project is decidedly anti-modern, and the mythical nation that is to be revived is that of tribal, pre-statal Europe. Benoist himself is a pagan because he sees Christianity as a perversion of European culture, and his writings are sprinkled with references to Georges Dumézil and his theory of an ‘original’ tripartite division of society into priests, warriors, and commoners (the so-called trifunctional hypothesis). Benoist furthermore draws on Julius Evola’s esoteric belief that it is the rule of a spiritually superior warrior caste that will redeem society and cast of the yoke of modernity. Such ideas provide an identity for members of the new right who see themselves as warriors fighting to implement the ‘original’ social structure of Indo-European societies, and is reflected in the Generation Identity’s use of the symbol ‘lambda’, which for them represents the Spartan military class and its self-sacrifice in defending ‘Europe’ against the ‘Barbarian’ enemy at Thermopylae.
 Alain de Benoist, Indo-europeans: In Search of a Homeland (Arktos, 2016) and Runes and the Origins of Writing (Arktos, 2021).
 Alain de Benoist, ‘Democracy Revisited,’ Telos, no. 93 (1993), 66-67.
 Alain de Benoist, ‘Jacobinisme ou fédéralisme?’ from alaindebenoist.com, no date (ca. 2000). All translations from French and German are mine.
 Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (Pinters Publisher, 1991) and for a good discussion of this definition in relation to the current state of the art ‘Studying Fascism in a Postfascist Age: From New Consensus to New Wave?’ Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies 1, no. 1 (2012).
 Roger Griffin, ‘Introduction,’ in Where Have All the Fascists Gone?, Tamir Bar-On (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), xi; Griffin, ‘Studying Fascism in a Postfascist Age,’ 17.
 Griffin, ‘Between Metapolitics and “Apoliteia”,’ 38.
 Following Mohler, Benoist himself has made this argument on several occasions, as has Pierre-André Taguieff and Paul Piccone, who in the 1990s and 2000s as editor of the journal Telos published a series of articles by Benoist alongside a series of articles discussing his works and related topics. Similar lines of argumentation often pop up in public debate and, to a lesser extent, in the academic literature.
 Armin Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932: Ein Handbuch (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1972), p. 236.
There is always someone more populist than you: Insights and reflections on a new method for measuring populism with supervised machine learning
by Jessica Di Cocco
The debate on populism and its effects on society has been the subject of numerous studies in the social and non-social sciences. The interest in this topic has led an increasing number of scholars to analyse it from different perspectives, trying to grasp its facets and consider the national contexts in which populist phenomena have developed. The scholarly literature has increasingly highlighted the need to adopt empirical approaches to the study of populism, both looking at the supply side (i.e., how much populism political actors ‘offer’) and at the demand side (i.e., how much populism citizens and potential voters ‘demand’).
The transition from almost exclusively theoretical to quantitative studies on populism has been accompanied by several issues of no small importance concerning, for instance, problems of a statistical nature or related to data availability. From the point of view of the demand for populism, studies have shown that its determinants are numerous and often interconnected—ranging, for instance, from social status to institutional trust, from the deterioration of objective well-being to perceptions of subjective well-being. Analyses aimed at studying the causes and effects of populism generally come up against the statistical issues we mentioned earlier. Scientists familiar with empirical analyses might be aware of the problems of endogeneity, reverse causality, and omitted variables that can affect the reading of the final results. For example, the literature has often focused on the links between populism and crisis. However, the direction of what influences what (and, therefore, the causal relationship between them) remains controversial. As Benjamin Moffit has highlighted, rather than just thinking about the crisis as a trigger of populism, we should also consider how populism attempts to trigger the crisis. Populist actors participate in the ‘spectacularisation’ of failure underpinning crisis. Therefore, crises are not purely external to populism; they are internal key elements. Another example concerns reverse causality. There is general agreement that economic conditions impact people’s voting choices. Nevertheless, it is still unclear whether facts or perceptions of these conditions impact more on voting choices. Larry Bartels has argued that it is not the actual economic conditions that matter, but rather that it is how this is interpreted by political parties that shapes perceptions. Hence, there could be reverse causality at play, in which populist parties might impact wider perceptions of economic conditions. From a populist supply perspective, studies have long focused on the classifications that scholars in the field have periodically drawn up. Other scholars have gradually adopted alternative methods, such as focusing on the textual analysis of programmes, speeches, and other textual sources of leaders and parties.
Our work is situated within this field of research on populism and, more generally, on ‘populisms’. We use the plural because we refer to different forms of populism that can develop along the entire ideological continuum and in very diverse national contexts. The diversity in the forms of populism has called for a deeper reflection on how we can compare them across the countries and measure them to consider the possible intensities and nuances.
Indeed, one of the main challenges in comparative studies on populism is how to measure it across a large number of cases, including several countries and parties within countries. We address this issue in our recent work, in which we use supervised machine learning to evaluate the degrees of populism in evidence in party manifestos. Previous literature had already explored the possibility of using different methods, including textual analysis,  and machine learning has cleared the way for further research in this direction. What are the advantages of using automated text-as-data approaches for investigating diversified political questions, populism, and others? For example, these techniques allow for the analysis of large quantities of data with fewer resources, inferring actors’ positions directly from the texts, and obtaining more replicable results.
Furthermore, they make it possible to focus on elites and their ideas, and thereby obtain continuous populism measures which, unlike dichotomous ones, better account for the multi-dimensionality of populism and differentiate between its degrees. Finally, automated textual approaches can help capture the rapid changes and transformations of the party landscape. We used automated textual analysis to derive a score which acts as a proxy for parties’ levels of populism. We validated the score using different expert surveys to check its robustness and verify the most correlated dimensions based on the literature on populism. We obtained a score that we can use to measure parties' levels of populism per year and across countries. In an ongoing study, we have applied the score for testing the Populist Zeitgeist hypothesis. According to Cas Mudde, a populist Zeitgeist is spreading in Western Europe, which means that non-populist parties are becoming increasingly populist in their rhetoric in response to populists’ increasing success. We found that the entrance of populist contents into the debate within non-populist parties seems to be an Italian peculiarity. Prompted by this finding, we started investigating the possible issues connected with this specific trend and concluded that Italy has exhibited sharper decreases in crucial socio-economic dimensions, such as satisfaction with democracy, trust towards institutions, and objective and subjective well-being. For this exploratory analysis, we used data from European Social Survey over the last two decades.
The French case
We can use the same method to investigate other textual sources and answer different questions within the field of populism analysis. For this purpose, we have collected a small corpus composed of 300 sentences drawn from TV interviews and debates available on YouTube and involving some of the candidates for the French Presidential Election that is due to take place in April 2022. The field of candidates is currently still somewhat unclear, since Eric Zemmour, an outsider leaning towards the far right who has enjoyed a degree of insurgent popularity in recent opinion polling, has not yet formally announced his candidacy. Given the limited availability of data, at the moment, we only focused on Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marine Le Pen, and Eric Zemmour.
Even if the corpus needs further improvement, we can already offer a number of interesting insights for more profound reflections and future studies. For those unfamiliar with French politics, the three leaders we chose for analysis exhibit radical and (or) populist traits. However, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen are already well-known to the general public, the third figure mentioned, Eric Zemmour, is new to the political scene. He has gained prominence chiefly as a controversial writer and columnist, politically positioned to the right of Marine Le Pen. Zemmour’s positions are so radical that they have succeeded in overtaking those of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National on the right, ranging from the theory of ‘ethnic replacement’ and anti-abortionism to the repeal of gay rights and nostalgia for the ‘golden age’ of French colonialism. Convicted several times for inciting racial hatred, he has recently be in court for his remarks on unaccompanied migrant minors. For this trial, he is accused of “complicity in provoking racial hatred” and “racial insult”.
Interestingly, by comparison, when listening to Marine Le Pen speaking, she might appear almost moderate, if not progressive, even though she is a notoriously radical right-wing populist. Is this just a feeling, or is this the case? Undoubtedly, Zemmour’s racist and sexist statements would put many extreme right-wingers to shame, and he himself has described Le Pen as a ‘left-wing’ politician. At the same time, the familiar theories of electoral competition also teach us that the electoral arena is made up of spaces in which parties and their demands are located. On that basis, it cannot be ruled out that in the presence of such an ‘extreme’ candidate, Marine Le Pen may opt for (or find herself choosing) more moderate or progressive positions, while still maintaining her attachment to her ideology’s cardinal elements, such as anti-immigration arguments, anti-Islam positions, economic nationalism, and anti-establishment claims.
In all of this, the figure of radical left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon stands out; at the time of writing this article, he is the only leader who has accepted a televised confrontation with Zemmour. Some interesting reflections also arise on how the extreme right and left can share aspects as for what they offer to their potential electorate, especially if the games are played out on populist terrain. To perform the analysis, we derived the scores by applying the methodology we proposed in our work. The algorithm that we use is capable of discriminating between sentences belonging to populist or non-populist parties of a given country. The final party score that we obtained is the fraction of sentences that the classifier considers as being more likely to belong to prototypically populist partisan speech in France. Therefore, the score measures the probability that a sentence is drawn from an speech of a prototypical French populist party. According to our analysis, Zemmour is the most populist leader, with Mélenchon close behind and Marine Le Pen increasingly isolated in the rankings (see Fig. 1 below).
And Macron? What of the other candidates? At the time of writing, Macron has not yet officially launched his election campaign, limiting himself to giving speeches and interviews in his capacity as head of government rather than as a future presidential candidate. As for the other candidates, firstly they belong to more ideologically moderate parties; secondly, they are starting to give their first interviews at the time of writing. The association between moderate stances and anti-populism on the one hand, and extremism and populism on the other, is not new in the literature on populism to the extent that the terms ‘populist’ and ‘radical’ have been almost used interchangeably. On the contrary, moderate parties tend to be anti-populist by nature, since they do not exhibit the traits that are typically attributed to populist actors (for example, anti-elitism, people-centrism, the Manichean worldview). Although many French moderate parties have launched their electoral campaign, they are far from generating the same levels of public outcry as the three populists mentioned above. A clamour that seems to confirm the old saying that, as Oscar Wilde puts it, ‘there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about’. Even if it means finding out that there is always someone more populist than you.
For this article, we have limited ourselves to showing how our method based on supervised machine learning has allowed us to obtain quick and valuable results to start new analyses and reflections. However, we shall have to wait a little longer to build a complete and comprehensive corpus, and to validate our results with further speeches as they take place and enter French political discourse. There are many questions that deserve to be investigated in the coming months. How will the French electoral campaign evolve? Will the levels of populism increase as the presidential elections approach? Does our method allow us to distinguish between left- and right-wing populisms? Is it possible to calculate the distance (or proximity) between the various leaders’ substantive rhetoric? These are just some of the questions to ask ourselves as time goes on. We will try to provide some answers in the coming weeks and months, expanding our analysis to include new leaders, first and foremost the current President Macron, new speeches, and new validations. For now, it remains to be seen how far the populist clamour convinces others to shift in their direction.
 Meijers, Maurits J., and Andrej Zaslove. "Measuring populism in political parties: Appraisal of a new approach." Comparative political studies 54.2 (2021): 372-407.
 Gidron, Noam, and Peter A. Hall. "Populism as a problem of social integration." Comparative Political Studies 53.7 (2020): 1027-1059.
 Algan, Yann, et al. "The European trust crisis and the rise of populism." Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2017.2 (2017): 309-400.
 Guriev, Sergei. "Economic drivers of populism." AEA Papers and Proceedings. Vol. 108. 2018.
 Guiso, Luigi, et al. Demand and supply of populism. London, UK: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 2017.
 Moffitt, Benjamin. "How to perform crisis: A model for understanding the key role of crisis in contemporary populism." Government and Opposition 50.2 (2015): 189-217.
 Bartels, Larry M. "Beyond the running tally: Partisan bias in political perceptions." Political behavior 24.2 (2002): 117-150.
 van Leeuwen, Eveline S., and Solmaria Halleck Vega. "Voting and the rise of populism: Spatial perspectives and applications across Europe." Regional Science Policy & Practice 13.2 (2021): 209-219.
 Van Kessel, Stijn. Populist parties in Europe: Agents of discontent?. Springer, 2015.
 Di Cocco, Jessica, and Bernardo Monechi. "How Populist are Parties? Measuring Degrees of Populism in Party Manifestos Using Supervised Machine Learning." Political Analysis (2021): 1-17.
 Jagers, Jan, and Stefaan Walgrave. "Populism as political communication style." European journal of political research 46.3 (2007): 319-345.
 Rooduijn, Matthijs, and Teun Pauwels. "Measuring populism: Comparing two methods of content analysis." West European Politics 34.6 (2011): 1272-1283.
 Hawkins, Kirk A., et al. "Measuring populist discourse: The global populism database." EPSA Annual Conference in Belfast, UK, June. 2019.
 Zaslove, A. S., and M. Meijers. "Measuring Populism in Political Parties: Appraisal of a New Approach." (2020).
 Mudde, Cas. "The populist zeitgeist." Government and opposition 39.4 (2004): 541-563.
 EUROPE, POPULIST RADICAL RIGHT PARTIES IN, and C. Mudde. Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 2007.
 Hawkins, Kirk A., and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. "The ideational approach to populism." Latin American Research Review 52.4 (2017): 513-528.
Fig. 1: The ranking of the leaders based on their TV speeches and debates. The corpus is a sample of speeches, further sentences will be added to expand the analysis to other leaders and validate the results.
by Luke Martell
Following the explosion of the internet since the 1990s, and of smartphones and the growth of big tech corporations more recently, the politics of the digital world has drawn much attention. The digital commons, open access and p2p sharing as alternatives to enclosures and copyrighting digitally are important and have been well covered, as providing free and open rather than privatised and restricted online resources. Free and open-source software (FOSS) has been important in projects in the Global South. Also discussed has been the use of social media in uprisings and protest, like the Arab Spring and the #MeToo movement. There is consideration of the anxiety of some when they are not connected by computer or phone, which raises questions of the right or perceived obligation to be connected and, on the other hand, the benefits of digital detox. There are many other important analyses in the digital politics literature about matters such as expression, access, equality, the digital divide, power, openness, and innovation. I focus here on alternatives in the light of recent surveillance and privacy concerns that have come to the fore since the Snowden affair in 2013, the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, and the Pegasus spyware revelations in 2021. US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed widespread phone and internet surveillance by US and other security agencies. The firm Cambridge Analytica collected extensive personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users, without their consent, for political advertising, although they may have exaggerated what they did or were able to. The NSO technology company were found to have installed Pegasus surveillance spyware on the phones of politicians, journalists, and activists for number of states. There have been numerous hacks and mega-leaks of individual and company data.
Big tech corporations like GAFAM—Google (Alphabet), Amazon, Facebook (Meta), Apple, and Microsoft—have come to dominate and create oligopolies in the digital and tech worlds (another acronym FAANG includes Netflix but not Microsoft). More internationally communications social media like WeChat, Line, Discord, and QQ have become pervasive. GAFAM have an extensive hold over sectors such that we are constrained inside their walled gardens to get the online services we want or have come to rely on. Google is a prominent example; it is difficult, for instance, to operate an Android phone without using them, the company’s early motto ‘Don’t be Evil’ not to be seen any more these days. These companies’ oligopolies over tech and the digital are of concern because they limit our ability to choose and be free, and so is their invasion of personal spaces with surveillance and the capturing of personal information. Many of the corporations gather information about our digital activities, searches, our IP addresses, interests, contacts, and messaging, using algorithmic means. The information is captured and aggregated, and value is created from surveillance, the extractive process of data mining, the selling of personal information, and the creation of models of user behaviour for directing advertising and nudging. In this system, it is said, the user or consumer is the product, the audience the commodity. Data is seen as the new oil, where the oil of the digital economy is us. The produce is the models created to manipulate consumers.
We are often so reliant on such providers it is difficult to avoid this information being collected, something done in a way which is complex and opaque, so hard for us to see and respond to. It is often in principle carried out with our consent but withdrawing consent is so complicated and the practices so obscure and normalised for many that in effect we are giving it without especially wanting to. The information gathered is also available on request, in many cases to varying degrees in different contexts, to governments and police. Sometimes states use the corporate databases of companies like Palantir, avoiding legal restrictions on government use of citizen data, especially in the USA, to monitor some of the most mainstream, benign, and harmless groups and individuals. There are reports of a ‘chilling effect’ where people are hesitant about saying things or using online resources like searches in a way they feel could attract unjustified government attention.
Questioning approaches to this situation have focused on critique, and action has homed in on boycotts, e.g. of platforms like Facebook, and more general disconnection and unplugging. There is a ‘degoogling’ movement of people who wish to go online and use the Internet, computers and smartphones in ways that avoid organisations like Google. For many, degoogling (or de-GAFAMing) is a complex process, technically and in the amount of work and time involved. Privacy concerns are also followed through by the avoidance of non-essential cookies and using tracking blockers, encryption, and other privacy tools like browser extensions and Virtual Private Networks. Apple builds privacy and blocking means into its products to the consternation of Facebook who have an advertising-led approach. Mozilla has taken a lead in making privacy tools available for its Firefox browser and beyond.
At state level, responses have been oriented to attempting to limit monopolisation and ensure competition, although these have not stopped oligopolies in digital information and tech. There is variation internationally in anti-monopoly attempts by states or the supranational EU. States have varying privacy laws limiting access to personal information digitally, with governments like the Swiss being more rigorous and outside the ‘eyes’ states that share intelligence, while states like the Dutch have moved from stronger to weaker privacy laws. The ‘five eyes’ states Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and USA have a multilateral agreement to spy on citizens and share the collected intelligence with one another. So, those beyond the ‘eyes’ states are not obligated to sharing citizens’ private data at the request of other powers. EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation is important in this context.
The radical politics of alternatives in the Arab Spring, and the Occupy and anti-austerity movements have often relied on social media such as Twitter to organise and act. Many in such movements believe in independence and autonomy including in conventional media but do not go much beyond critique to digital alternatives, which can remain the preserve still of the tech-minded and committed. The latter sometimes have a political critique and approach but often just privacy concerns within an effectively liberal or libertarian approach. One approach, ‘cyber-libertarianism’, is against obstacles to a free World Wide Web, such as government regulation and censorship, although Silicon Valley that it is identified with is also quite liberal, in the USA sense, and concerned with labour rights. An emphasis of activists on openness and transparency can be given as reason for not using means, such as encryption and other methods mentioned above, for greater privacy and anonymity in information and communication.
There is less expansion beyond critique, boycotting and evasion of privacy incursions to alternatives. However, alternatives there are, and these involve decentralised federated digital spaces where individuals and groups can access internet resources for communication and media from means that are alternative to GAFAM and plural, so we are not reliant on single or few major corporations. Some of these alternatives promise greater emphasis on privacy, not collecting or supplying our information to commerce or the state and, to different degrees, encryption of communication or information in transit or ‘at rest’, stored on servers. In some cases, encryption in alternatives is not much more extensive than through more mainstream providers, but we are assured on trust that that our data will not be read, shared, or sold. Many alternatives build free and open-source software provided not for profit or gain and sometimes, but not always, by volunteers. Code is open source rather than proprietary so we can see and access it and assess how the alternatives operate and can use and adapt the code. Some provide alternatives to social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit (such as Mastodon, Diaspora, and Lemmur) and to mainstream cloud storage, messaging (e.g., Signal) and email, although some of the alternative fora have low levels of users and activity and many critical and alternatives-oriented activists are still pushed to using big corporate suppliers for quantity of content and users.
Groups like Disroot, a collective of volunteers, provide alternative email which limits the collection, storage and sharing of personal details. Disroot offers links to many platforms alternative to the big corporations for email, messaging, chatting, social media and cloud hosting. Groups like Riseup, a leftist and activist platform, provide invite-only email, data storage on their own servers, and other means for digital activity beyond big corporations and prying eyes to whom they intend to not divulge information, although sometimes limited by levels of encryption and the laws of the states where they are sited. Email providers like Protonmail and Tutanota promise not to collect information about users and to encrypt our communication more rigorously so we can avoid both GAFAM and surveillance. Some of these are still capitalist corporations, but with a privacy emphasis, although semi-alternative companies like Runbox and Infomaniak are worker-owned. Autistici, like Disroot, is volunteer-run on non-capitalist lines, monetary aspects limited to voluntary donation. Both have an anarchist leaning, Autistici more explicitly committed to an autonomous anti-capitalist position. Some alternative providers (like Runbox, Tutanota, and Posteo) have green commitments, using renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions. Others go beyond a corporate form and have more of a social movement identity. There are campaigning organisations that focus on digital rights and freedom, and crypto-parties that help people adopt privacy and anonymity means in their digital activity.
Some alternative privacy-oriented platforms gained more attention and users after the Snowden affair, but many otherwise alternatives-oriented people continue to use providers like Google because they do not know about the alternatives or switching to them is, sometimes justifiably, seen as a big job. Others are resigned to the belief that email and such online activity can never be private or take alternative tracking blocking measures while continuing to use mainstream resources in, for example, email. For some users there is much to be gained by what data harvesting allows, for instance personalisation of content and making connections with others across platforms like Facebook and Instagram, or they feel that most of the data collected is trivial for them and so accepted. In such cases the dangers and morality of data harvesting and selling are not worrying enough to resist or avoid it. There may also be less individualistic benefits for social research and improvement of tech and the digital that, for some, make some of the data gathering outweigh privacy incursions.
Many of the alternatives are at the level of software and online providers, but this leaves the sphere of hardware and connectedness, where it is possible for states to stop resistance and rebellion by turning the internet off or censoring it, as in China, Egypt, and Iran amongst many other cases. There are alternatives for hardware, for instance in the open-source hardware movement, and for connectedness through devices linked independently in infrastructure or mesh networks. Interest in these lags behind that in software alternatives and their effectiveness depends on how many join such networks.
So, the alternatives are around a politics of privacy, independence and autonomy alongside anti-monopoly and sometimes non-capitalist and green elements. It has been argued that the digital world as it is requires the insertion of concepts of anonymity alongside concerns such as equality, liberty, democracy, and community in the lexicon of political ideas and concerns, and anonymity rather than oft advocated openness or transparency, a key actor in digital alternatives having been the network ‘Anonymous’.
While anonymity is desirable, just as it is when wished for in the offline world, it faces limits in the face of what has been called ‘surveillance capitalism’. Firstly, this is because, as offline, anonymity and privacy are difficult to achieve if faced with a determined high-level authority like a government, as the Snowden and Pegasus affairs showed. Secondly, seeking anonymity is a reactive and evasive approach. For a better world what is needed is resistance and an alternative. Resistance involves tackling the power of big tech and the capturing of data they are allowed. Via social movements and states this needs to be challenged and turned back. And in the context of alternatives, alternative tech and an alternative digital world needs to be expanded. So, implied is a regulated and hauled back big tech and its replacement by a more plural tech and digital world, decentralised and federated. One advocate of the latter is Tim Berners-Lee, credited as the founder of the World Wide Web. Anonymity may be desirable individually and for groups, but collectively what is required is overturning of big intrusive tech by state power, through regulation, anti-monopoly activity and public ownership. The UK Labour Party went into the 2019 General Election with a policy of nationalising broadband, mainly for inclusivity and rights to connectedness reasons, but opening up the possibility of other ends public ownership can secure. But state power can be a problem as well as a tool so the alternative of decentralised, collectivist, democratic tech is needed too in a pluralist digital world.
So, to recap and clarify key points. Oligopoly and the harvesting and selling of our digital lives has become a norm and a new economic sector of capitalism. State responses, to very different degrees, have been to resist monopolisation and ensure modest privacy protections or awareness. Individual responses and those of some organisations have been to use software that blocks tracking and aims to maintain privacy and anonymity. But positive as these methods are, they are in part defensive, limited in what they can achieve against high-level attempts at intrusion, and some of these individualise action. Alongside such state and individual processes, we need a more pro-active and collective approach. This includes stronger regulation and breaking up and taking tech into collective ownership. In the sphere of alternatives, it means expanding and strengthening a parallel sphere, decentralised and federated. And alternatives require putting control in the hands of those affected, so collective democracy with inclusive participation. Then oligopolies are challenged and there is a link between those affected and those in control.
But alternatives must be made accessible and more easily understandable to the non-techy and beyond the expert, and do not just have to be an alternative but can be a prefigurative basis for spreading to the way the digital and tech world is more widely. This involves supplementing liberal individual privacy and rights approaches, often defensive within the status quo, with collective democracy and control approaches, more proactive and constructive of alternatives. If there is an erosion of capitalism out of such an approach so there will be also to profit incentives in surveillance capitalism. With an extension of collective control not-for-profit, then motivations for surveillance and data capture are reduced. But this must be done through inclusive democratic control (by workers, users and the community) as much as possible rather than the traditional state, as the latter has its own reasons for surveillance. It should be supplemented by a pluralist, decentralised, federated, digital world to counter oligopoly and power. Democratisation that is inclusive globally is also suited to dealing with differences and divides digitally, e.g. by class or across the Global North and Global South. Taken together this approach implies pluralist democratic socialism as well as liberalism, rather than capitalism or the authoritarian state.
I am grateful to David Berry for his very helpful advice on this article.
 Berry, D. (2008) Copy, Rip, Burn: The Politics of Copyleft and Open Source, London: Pluto Press.
 Pearce, J (2018) Free and Open Source Appropriate Technology, in Parker, M. et al (eds) The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization, London: Routledge.
 For a good overview and analysis of the area see Issin, E. and Ruppert, E. (2020) Being Digital Citizens, London: Rowman and Littlefield. See also Bigo, D., Issin, E., and Ruppert, E. (eds) (2019) Data Politics: Worlds, Subjects, Rights. London: Routledge, and Muldoon, J. (2022) Platform Socialism: How to Reclaim our Digital Future from Big Tech, London: Pluto Press.
 See Lopez, A. and Bush, M.E.L., (2020) Technology for Transformation is the Path Forward, Global Tapestry of Alternatives Newsletter, July. https://globaltapestryofalternatives.org/newsletters:01:index
 Rossiter, N. and Zehle, S., (2018) Towards a Politics of Anonymity: Algorithmic Actors in the Constitution of Collective Agency and the Implications for Global Economic Justice Movements, in Parker et al (eds) The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization, London: Routledge.
 Zuboff, S., (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, London: Profile Books.
 See Liu, W. (2020) Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Technology from Capitalism, London: Repeater Books.
by Aline Bertolin
‘There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief’. Except there isn’t. We all know it; some have known for longer. We stand bewildered before the cusp of a new world once promised to us fading away at the horizon. A world that may be within reach elsewhere, who knows; a unified world some minds and hearts glimpsed, and that perchance still hides in an Einsteinian fifth dimension amidst a warren of other hatching modern truths that we are still striving to decipher and from whose weight we can get no relief. And the thieves, and the jokers, and all the other outcasts seem to have the upper hand in this state of ideological affairs because they have known since jadis that there is no rest for the wicked: the game is rigged, and it has always been. It might be time we listen to them.
Truth and certainty
Science is certainly not answering the paramount questions on this quantic leap we have failed to take. It has become too deeply entrenched in the current ‘nice v. nasty Twitter game’ and its ‘hermetically self-contained, self-referential certainty’. Meanwhile, the portal to that dimension of global solidarity—where supranational and international institutions united would enhance development throughout the globe, development that we are all geared up for—is closing. The inheritance of this quest remains with us, nonetheless: the neuroplasticity and semantics created by the language of snaps and ‘snirks’ of the noosphere, carved by the ‘anxieties of the global’, led us to fear, numbness, and exhaustion, a direction diametrically opposed to the ‘spirit of solidarity (Solidaritätsgeist) promised by globalism; their ways certainly have not spared Science either.
Au contraire, it has plastered it together with all our gnoseological senses, which would have caused Popper’s dismay, and curbed it in a much harder shell than the one envisaged by Max Weber—a shell of virtue-signalling and fear. And that fear disconnected us from each other, and that shell became the equivalent of a platonic cave of over-assumptions. Hiding in our certainties only made us feel even more acutely the ‘solostalgic’ effects of both. If self-absorption and overreaching are what is holding us back from taking that leap, the supplicant question, borrowing the term from coding, is: how did it start, so how can we end it?
Reading the works of fellow social scientists about European ideology being tantamount to the book of revelation of exclusion, an analogy emerges with some neo-Durkheimian tools that are lent powerful new sophistication by Elizabeth Hinton’s ‘social grievances theory’. The effervescent ideas on how, from Europe to the globe, the Judeo-Christian morality—not tradition, for terminology’s sake—is the proto-code deeply rooted into the code of law and ethos by which we live, which thus must answer for the ‘unweaving’ of people from the fabric of contemporary society, could be neatly tied together with some of the causes in Hinton’s depiction of what lit ‘America on Fire’. It gives us the sense, though—and history has seemed to agree—that religious affiliations were rather a pitiful root cause.
While the effects of the ‘discovery doctrine’ are well-documented and deeply-felt by many hearts across the globe, so too is the scapegoatism of blaming religion for historical upheavals. Gender bias, labour un-dignification, racial hierarchisation knotted by a rating of intellectual capital to ethnicities, among the vast spectrum of pain as we now know inflicted on humans by debasing individuals and populations for what they hold dearest in their existential core, seem to be a modus operandi esquisé by Europe. A carrefour of civilisations, as many other geopolitical spaces were from age to age, Europe misappropriated ideas plentifully, and it certainly cannot be denied the position of the epicentre of postmodern ideological mayhem; rather it seemed to have ‘nailed it’—since it was ‘Europeans’ who crucified the Jewish Messiah, and who disenfranchised him and his disciples from their beliefs of communion and universality, putting in motion the whole shebang of religious morale to be spread around the globe, in the same way as one has to admit that Islam started as a countermovement to save Europeans from doing precisely this, just to become their next disenfranchising target.
Approaching Eurocentrism to this end in Social Sciences’ turf, was, therefore, nerve-wrenching. In contemporaneity, all scientific fields seem to share the sense of being cloistered by Science’s own gregarious endogenies, taunted by the reality of postmodern global pain. This is because scientific results stem from the same source of common cravings for logic, cleaved only by the appeal such results may have to peer-reviewing and method; as society now stands, their gratification has been dangling on a fickle flow of likes and shares as much as any other gnoseological reasoning. Thus, unsurprisingly, the closing of the portal to the realm of necessary ideological epiphanies laced by humanism has received a more lucid treatment from fantasy and fiction, in other words, from Art.
‘Art and epistemology’ makes for an enticing debate, but remaining with the aspect of art being the disavowed voice in logic’s family midst, cast out by epistemological puritanism—like the daughter in Redgrave’s painting, ‘The Outcast’—is just enough to bring ourselves to see its legitimacy in leading the way towards unspeakable truths. In the adaption of Isaac Asimov’s masterpiece, Foundation, Brother Day says ‘art is politics’ sweeter tongue’—but it can also be, and it often is, ‘tangy’. In the comfort of our successful publications and titles, we gave in to the idea of abdicating the freedom to speak about the truth as an essential step into Socratic academic maturity. How truth has become an intangible notion in the mainstream of the social sciences and a perilous move in the material world of politics—as Duncan Trussel so trippily, yet pristinely, described in Midnight Gospel—is another story.
To the outcasts making sense of contemporary times through art, nevertheless, this comfort was not agreed-upon; even less so, and principally, among the economic and societal outcasts stripped from their dignity. Living at the sharp end of this knife, they had to muster wisdom with every small disaster, and, with hearts of glass and minds of stone torn to pieces, face what lay ahead skin to bone; and then to fall, and to crawl, and to break, and to take what they got, and to turn it into honesty.
Science as it stands, relying on applauses, can hardly tap into this ‘real-world’; whereas Popperian truth and critical reasoning are in short supply. Mustering the voices from the field and presenting them to our fragile certainties and numbed senses has been the work of Art.
Eurotribalism, Americanism, and Globalism
In ‘How we kill each other’, a team of data scientists looking into the US Federal Bureau of Investigation succeed in clustering profiles of murder victims across all the states with the aim of discerning more information about the relevant perpetrators. They explored a data set from the FBI Murder Accountability Project, identifying trends in a thirty-five-year period (1980–2014) of murders, looking to build a predictive model of the murderer’s identity based on its correlations to victims’ traits—age, gender, race, and ethnicity—and murder scenes. Grouping victims’ profiles could prove to be useful in identifying, in turn, a murderer’s type for victims. While facing difficulties in achieving this goal, the research results were insightful in confirming some typical depictions of crimes in the US—the mean murder in the prepared data set is a thirty-year-old black male killing a thirty-year-old black male in Los Angeles in 1993, using a handgun—but also revealing different clusters of perpetrators tied to uncalled-for-methods of murder, for instance, women’s prevalent use of personal methods, involving drug overdoses, drowning, suffocation, and fire, going against the expectation of females ‘killing at distance’. The spawn of novelty introduced by this research seemed to have less to do with ‘how’ Americans kill, but ‘how consistently’ Americans kill within certain groups, i.e., in proximity. In all clustered groups, crime seemed to be the result of an outburst against extenuating circumstances specific to that type of crime. And, though a disreputable fact, it is also one of rather universal than domestic interest.
The social grievances in American society studied by Hinton can be pointed to as causes of this consistency in ‘proximity violence’. They have been, moreover, better approached by Art than Science during our unbreathable times. Art has certainly done a better job of giving us hints about the roots of the evil of contemporary violence. Looking at the belt of marginalised people around society, Art has been trying to tell us to grieve together, appealing to our senses and the universality of pain. It has moreover educated us on the remittance of public outcry for the protection of fundamental rights in the history of the US. How guns have been used unswervingly and in deadly ways in this peripheric belt that surrounds the nucleus of entitlement, and in ways that those communities victimise themselves rather than any other group, speaks volumes about ideological global dominance, where the echoes of past Eurocentric ideology can still be heard.
Sapped of all energy and aghast of being praised for their ‘resilience’, the African descendants’ forbearance from acting against unswerving European subjugation was counterbalanced by cultural resistance. It made the continent richer beyond the economical sense, i.e., in flavours and sounds and art that benefited greatly and continuously not only the Americans lato sensu—remembering how the roots of slavery are intertwined with the southern countries of the continent—but Europe as well. Currently, it is not surprising that the advocacy for gun control rises from the population that had suffered by and large from being armed in the peripheries of the US, whereas those entitled to protection inside the belt cannot relate to the danger guns represent. Guns are made to protect their entitlement after all, and the system works, directly or indirectly, as guns are mainly used by outcasts to kill outcasts. The question lying beneath these grounds is how strong the mechanics of exclusion and violence crafted by Europeans centuries ago is still operating and entrapping us in cyclic violence, despite our best efforts as scientists, social engineers, and legal designers suffering together its outcomes.
A scene from ‘Blackish’ where a number of African Americans refrain from helping a white baby girl lost in the elevator may explain something about the torque of these mechanics. For generations, black men in the Americas were taught not to dare to look, much less to touch, white girls, and changing their disposition on it is not an easy task, and for most, an objectionable one—anyone who sees the scene played so brilliantly with the blushes of comedy will not suspect the punch in the stomach that accompanies it, as the spectator cannot escape its actuality. ‘The Green Mile’ goes deeper into the weeds to explain this. When we confront, on the one hand, the reality of Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) in ‘Blackish’, as taught by his ‘pops’ (Lawrence Fishburne), with, on another hand, Ted Lasso’s loveable character Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), who is also very close to his father (uncredited in the show), but comes from Nigeria to England, concerning white women, another important point comes out to elucidate the differences on both sides of the Atlantic in how Africans and African descendants interact with gender and race combined. Andre is taught about the ‘swag’ of black males and how to refrain from wasting it on white women; whereas Sam is highly supported by all around him as the love interest of the most empowered female character in the show, Rebecca Walton (Hannah Waddingham), and winds a loving delicate sway over his peers and all over the narrative due to his affable nature. Africans and unrooted African descendants experience differently this combination of gender and race, accrued by geography, since it matters which sides of the Atlantic they may be on. These few examples add shades and textures to the epitomic dialogue between T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in the final scenes of ‘Black Panther’, on what could be seen as the consequences of what Europe did to the globe by forcefully uprooting Africans from their natal homes.
Misogyny, Eugenics, and Radical Ecologism
Like in Redgrave’s painting-within-the-painting—where the dubiousness of the biblical story depicted in the picture in the wall, either of Abraham and Hagar and Ishmael or of Christ and the Adulterer, is purposedly ‘left hanging’ in juxtaposition to the paterfamilias power justification to the father to curse his progeny out of his respectable foyer—religion in Europe remains fickle towards the real problem, which has always been the persistent European ways of weaponising ideologies. The farcical blame on Christianity to justify Eurotribalism has in this light been a growing distraction among social scholars.
That Judeo-Christian morality—not tradition, since this idea of an ensemble tradition was antisemitic in its base—has revamped or revived in itself in many echelons, including neo-Nazi ecologism—which certainly is astonishing—should not be concerning in itself: it is the 101 of Kant on moral and ethos. This new ‘bashing’ of religion is another form of European denial, a refusal to take responsibility for its utilisation just like any other ideology Europe has used to justify violence. European tribalism and the game-of-I-shall-pile-up-more-than-my-cousin that Europeans have been playing for centuries answers better for the global roots of evil sprawl through self-righteousness dominance. It crossed the Atlantic and remained in play.
The Atlantic may be a shorter distance to cross, though, in comparison with the extent of the abyssal indifference displayed by other groups within American and European domestic terrains. Women’s rights, for instance, are not on the agenda of international migratory law. Violence against the black community is disbelieved by many, even among equally victimised groups by violence in the United States, such as migrants—Asians or Latinos alike—and survivors of gender-based violence. ‘I can’t believe I am still protesting about this’ has been a common claim in feminist movements that decry Euro-based systems of law that debase women’s rights in both continents, and used in a variety of other manifestations, but the universality of the demands seems to stop with protest posters. The clustering and revindication of exclusion and violence by groups in their separate ways remain great adversaries of universal humanity, which should ultimately bring us all together to solve the indignities at hand. As the SNL sketch on the ‘five-hour empathy drink’ shows us, the fact we all hurt seems an unswallowable truth.
An ocean of commonalities in the mistreatment of women in both continents, travestied of freedoms and empowerment, could be added into evidence to speak of the misappraisal of Western women’s ‘privileged’ position in the globe. Looking into some examples brought by streaming shows—our new serialised books—we see how the voices of ‘emancipated’ women in contemporary Europe are still muffled by the tesserae of Eurotribalist morality. In 30 Monedas, Elena suffers all the stereotypical pains of a Balsaquian in rural Spain, fetishised as a divorcee, ostracised, in agonising disbelief and gaslit by her village, only to be saved by the male protagonist; in Britannia, which was supposed to educate us about the druidic force of women and ecologism, the characters fall into the same traps of love affairs and silliness as any teenager in Jane Austen’s novels; and in Romulus, Ilia, who plays exhaustively with manipulation and fire—in the literal sense—surrenders to hysteria in ways that could not be any closer to a Fellini-an character and the Italian drama cliches imparted upon Italian females by genre cinema. Everything old is new again, including misogyny.
In this realm of using fictional history to describe women as these untamed forces of nature, Shadow and Bones, based on the books of Leigh Bardugo, makes an exception in speaking accurately of women’s leeway in past Judaism, which was inherited by ‘true’ Christianity, as the veneration of Mary—another casualty in the European alienation of religions—attests. Alina is the promised link to all cultures, and her willpower among the Grisha, a metaphoric group of Jewish people at the service of the Russian empire, promises to free them from slavery and falsity and bring light to the world, since she is the ‘Sun-summoner’—a reference, perhaps, to the woman clothed with the sun in Christianity. Confronting their distinct traits could help us understand better how the European specialism and skill in hating and oppressing has sprawled around the globe. What Social Sciences can make out of Art in the era of binge-watching remains to be seen.
Let’s not speak falsely
Enlightened by lessons like those, we are left by Art without a shred of doubt that (i) Science has been all but evasive and has tiptoed around the sheer simplicity of hate; (ii) the European haughtiness vis-à-vis the Americas, founded by their progeny, and the globe in a large spectrum of subjects such as gender bias, migration, racism, and climate is peevish, to say the least. Their internal struggle with all those pressing issues is tangible, and religion is not to blame; using a modicum of the counterfactual thinking allowed by Art, we can imagine a world where Europeans had decided to use Confucianism or Asatro as a means to spread their wings, only to realise the results would have hardly been any different.
The very idea of a ‘global hierarchy of races’, albeit barbaric—another curious term born out of European Hellenic condescension—and one that should have fallen sharply down with the downfall of imperialism, remains entrenched in all those discussions, and Christianity has nothing of the sort to display. The same, unsurprisingly, is true of ‘development’, as a goal which is still measured in much the same ways as it was when European tribes fought among themselves, which then leads us to nothing but tautological havoc. It is as if “we don’t get it”.
In the meantime, those who do get it can only look at one another, and can say nothing but “There are many here among us, who feel that life is but a joke, but you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”.
 Dylan’s lyrics, one has to note, do not fully convey the reeling effect of ineluctability, surrendering to the no-other-option but to fight within the bulk of indescribable feelings transliterated by Hendrix’s composition.
 See Rosie Holt https://twitter.com/RosieisaHolt/status/1425361886330200066 cf. Marius Ostrowski, “More drama and reality than ever before” in Ideology-Theory-Practice, 23/8/2021.
 Ostrowski, Marius. Ibid.
 ‘Snirk’, a slang term defined by the Urban Dictionary as: “a facial expression combining a sneer and a smirk, appears sarcastic, condescending, and annoyed”. At https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Snirk
 Appadurai, Arjun. “Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination” in Public Culture 12(1): 1–19. Duke University Press, 2000.
 After all Popper was in the quest of a better world represented by an open society. Cf. Popper, Karl. In search of a better world: Lectures and essays from thirty years. Routledge, 2012. Cf. also Popper, Karl R. The open society and its enemies. Routledge, 1945.
 See comments by Daniel Davison-Vecchione, at “Dystopia and social theory” in Ideology-Theory-Practice, 18/10/2021, on Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, as quoted translated by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells, London: Penguin Books, 2002.
 We use here Gleen Albrecht’s terminology, ‘solostalgia’, to describe the disconnection with the world in what can be our synesthetic experience in it, as well as with the feelings of fruition of this experience, from our reasoning of those experience, in a narrower version of what the author described as the “mismatch between our lived experience of the world, and our ability to conceptualise and comprehend it”. Cf. Albrecth, Glenn. “The age of solastalgia” in The Conversation. August 7, 2012.
 Elizabeth Hinton describes ‘social grievances’ both as the cause for lynching Afro-Americans who were accused of transgressing determined rules, such as “speaking disrespectfully, refusing to step off the sidewalk, using profane language, using an improper title for a white person, arguing with a white man, bumping into a white woman, insulting a white woman, or other social grievances,” anything that ‘offended’ white people and challenged racial hierarchy (pp. 31–32 of Lynching Report PDF)”, as well as the social grievances hold by the black community as reason for the riots and manifestations from the 1960’s to present BLM. Cf. Hinton, Elizabeth. America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s. Liveright, 2021.
 Hinton. Idem, particularly Chapter 8 ‘The System’.
 Deleuze, Gilles. La logique du sense. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1969.
 Here we refer to Popperian concepts and notions again, principally to how he explains the nature of scientific discovery at The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routledge, 1959.
 Brother Day (Lee Pace) commend his younger clone, Brother Dawn, for looking into an artifact brought by diplomats to the Imperials as a gift and the lack of a certain metal in it as a metaphor to that people need for that specific metal, therefore, an elegant request to the Galactical Empire for trade agreements, thus leading to the phrase: ‘Art is politics’ sweeter tongue’. It is not a directions quotation from the original work of Asimov in the Foundation trilogy; whether is an implication stemming from any other of his writings is unknown.
 ‘Virtue signaling’ and ‘virtue vesting’ have been described in a variety of ways, but ‘Mr. President’ in Midnight Gospel’s pilot shed some light on the notions assuring they are rather democratic: centrists, leftists, rightists, all can use them indistinctly, since the fear of being disliked seems to be the only real motivation behind pro and cons positions, accordingly with Daren Duncan. The dialogue between Mr. President (who has no party) with the Interviewer: “Interviewer: - I know you've gotta be ncredibly busy right now with the zombie apocalypse happening around you./ Mr. President: - Yeah, zombies... I really don't wanna talk about zombies./ Interviewer: - Okay. What about the marijuana protesters?/Mr. President” -Those assholes? -Yeah. - First of all, people don't understand my point of view. - They think somehow I'm anti-pot or anti-legalisation./ Interviewer: - Right./ Mr. President: -I'm not actually "pro" either. - I'm pro human liberty, I'm pro the American system, pro letting people determine their laws./ Interviewer: -Right./ Mr. President: -I don't think this is... -If I had to... -[sniffs] ...have a... You know, if somebody pressed my face to the mirror and said,"Is it gonna be good or bad?" I think it might end up being kinda not so good for people…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kQWAqjFJS0&t=45s
 Anderson, Jem; Kelly, Justin; Mckeon, Brian. “How we kill each other? FBI Murder Reports, 1980-2014” In Applied Statistics and Visualization for Analytics. George Mason University, Spring 2017.
 Yellow Horse AJ, Kuo K, Seaton EK, Vargas ED. Asian Americans’ Indifference to Black Lives Matter: The Role of Nativity, Belonging and Acknowledgment of Anti-Black Racism. Social Sciences. 2021; 10(5):168. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10050168
by Daniel Davison-Vecchione
Social theorists are increasingly showing interest in the speculative—in the application of the imagination to the future. This hearkens back to H. G. Wells’ view that “the creation of Utopias—and their exhaustive criticism—is the proper and distinctive method of sociology”. Like Wells, recent sociological thinkers believe that the kind of imagination on display in speculative literature valuably contributes to understanding and thinking critically about society. Ruth Levitas explicitly advocates a utopian approach to sociology: a provisional, reflexive, and dialogic method for exploring alternative possible futures that she terms the Imaginary Reconstitution of Society. Similarly, Matt Dawson points to how social theorists like Émile Durkheim have long used the tools of sociology to critique and offer alternative visions of society.
As these examples illustrate, this renewed social-theoretical interest in the speculative tends much more towards utopia than dystopia. Unfortunately, this has meant an almost complete neglect of how dystopia can contribute to understanding and thinking critically about society. This neglect partly stems from how under-theorised dystopia is compared to utopia. Here I make the case for considering dystopia and social theory alongside each other. In short, doing so helps illuminate (i) the kind of theorising about society that dystopian authors implicitly engage in and (ii) the kind of imagination implicitly at work in many classic texts of social theory.
The characteristics and politics of dystopia
A simple, initial definition of a dystopia might be an imaginative portrayal of a (very) bad place, as opposed to a utopia, which is an imaginative portrayal of a (very) good place. In Kingsley Amis’ oft-quoted words, dystopias draw “new maps of hell”. Many leading theorists, including Krishan Kumar and Fredric Jameson, tend to conflate dystopia with anti-utopia. It is true that numerous dystopias, such as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1940), concern the horrifying consequences of attempted utopian schemes. However, not all dystopias are straightforwardly classifiable as anti-utopias. Take Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). The leaders of the patriarchal, theocratic Republic of Gilead present their regime as a utopia, which one might consider a kind of counter-utopia to what they see as the naïve and materialistic ideals of contemporary America, and at least some of these leaders sincerely believe in the set of values that the regime realises in part. One might therefore conclude that the novel is a warning that utopian thinking inevitably leads to and justifies oppressive practices. However, I would argue that The Handmaid’s Tale is not a critique of utopia as such, but rather of how actors with vested interests frame the actualisation of their ideologies as the attainment of utopia to discourage critical thinking. This reading is supported by how, for many members of Gilead’s ruling elite, the presentation of their society as a utopia is little more than self-serving rhetoric they use to brainwash the women they subjugate. Other dystopian works contain anti-utopian elements but subordinate these to the exploration of other themes. For instance, a subplot of Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan (2017) concerns a celebrity-turned-dictator’s dream of a technologically “improved” humanity, but resource wars, global warming, and other factors had already made the novel’s setting decidedly dystopian before this utopian scheme arose. Finally, there are major examples of dystopian literature, such as Octavia Butler’s Parable series (1993–1998), that depart from the anti-utopian template altogether.
Tom Moylan has begun to rectify the dystopia/anti-utopia conflation via the concept of the critical dystopia. In his words, critical-dystopian texts “linger in the terrors of the present even as they exemplify what is needed to transform it”. Put simply, critical dystopias are dystopias that retain a utopian impulse. Although this helps us understand many significant dystopian works, such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Gold Coast (1988) and Marge Piercey’s He, She and It (1991), the idea of the critical dystopia runs into its own problems. By labelling as “critical” only those dystopias that retain a utopian impulse, one makes it seem as if dystopia does not help us to understand and evaluate society in its own right—dystopia’s critical import becomes, so to speak, parasitic on utopia.
To illustrate how this sells dystopia short, consider the extrapolative dystopia; that is, the kind of dystopia that identifies a current trend or process in society and then imaginatively extrapolates “to some conceivable, though not inevitable, future state of affairs”. Many of Atwood’s novels fall into this subcategory. In her own words, The Year of the Flood (2009) is “fiction, but the general tendencies and many of the details in it are alarmingly close to fact”, and MaddAddam (2013) “does not include any technologies or biobeings that do not already exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory”. These texts, which together with Oryx & Crake (2003) form Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, consider possible, wide-reaching changes that are rooted in present-day social and technological developments and raise pressing questions as to environmental degradation, reproduction and fertility, and the boundaries of humanity. Similarly, Butler constructs the dystopian future in her Parable series by extrapolating from familiar tendencies within American society, including racism, neoliberal capitalism, and religious fundamentalism.
My point is not simply that these extrapolative dystopias are cautionary tales. It is that one cannot reduce their critical effect to either the negation or the retention of a utopian impulse. They identify certain empirically observable tendencies that have serious socio-political implications in the present and are liable to worsen over time. As such, they are critiques of present-day social phenomena and (more or less) plausible projections of how a given society might develop. The implicit message is that we can avoid the bad future in question through intervention in the present. This is how dystopia can translate into real-world political action. Taking perhaps the most famous twentieth century dystopia, in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) George Orwell was not simply satirising Stalin’s USSR or Hitler’s Germany. He was also considering the nature and prospects of the worldwide developments he associated with totalitarianism, including centralised but undemocratic economies that establish caste systems, “emotional nihilism”, and a total skepticism towards objective truth “because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuehrer”. In Orwell’s words, “That, so far as I can see, is the direction in which we are actually moving, though, of course, the process is reversible”.
In the last couple of decades, dystopian texts have frequently sought to make similar points about global warming, digital surveillance, and the “new authoritarianisms”. One can certainly argue that taking dystopia too seriously as a means of critically understanding society risks sliding into a catastrophist outlook that emphasises averting worse outcomes rather than producing better ones. However, one should bear in mind that dystopia does not (and should not) aim to provide a comprehensive political program; rather, it provides a speculative frame one can use to consider current developments, thereby yielding intellectual resources for envisaging positive alternatives.
The social theory in dystopia and the dystopia in social theory
This brings us to the more direct affinities between dystopia and social theory. To begin with, protagonists in dystopian texts like Orwell’s Winston Smith, Atwood’s Offred, and Butler’s Lauren Olamina tend to be much more reflective and three-dimensional than their classical utopian counterparts. This is because, unlike the “tourist” style of narration common to utopias, dystopias tend to be narrated from the perspective of an inhabitant of the imagined society; someone whose subjectivity has been shaped by that society’s historical conditions, structural arrangements, and forms of life. As Sean Seeger and I have argued, this makes dystopia a potent exercise in what the American sociologist C. Wright Mills termed “the sociological imagination”; that is, the quality of mind that “enables us to grasp [social] history and [personal] biography and the relations between the two”, thereby allowing us to see the intersection between “the personal troubles of milieu” and “the public issues of social structure”.
Since dystopian world-building takes seriously (i) how a future society might historically arise from existing, empirically observable tendencies, (ii) how that society might “hang together” in terms of its political, cultural, and economic arrangements, and (iii) how these historical and structural contexts might shape the inner lives and personal experiences of that society’s inhabitants, one can say that such world-building implicitly engages in social theorising. Conversely, the empirically observable tendencies from which dystopias commonly extrapolate, and the ethical, political, and anthropological-characterological questions dystopias frequently pose, are central to many classic texts of social theory.
For instance, Max Weber saw his intellectual project as a cultural science concerned with “the fate of our times”. He extrapolated from such related macrosocial tendencies as rationalisation and bureaucratisation to envisage modern humanity encased and constituted by a “shell as hard as steel” (“stahlhartes Gehäuse”) and feared that “no summer bloom lies ahead of us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness”. This would already place Weber’s social theory close to dystopia, but the resemblance becomes uncanny when one also considers Weber’s central interest in “the economic and social conditions of existence [Daseinsbendingungen]” that shape “the quality of human beings” and his related emphasis on the need to preserve human excellence and to avoid giving way to mere “satisfaction”. This is a dystopian theme par excellence, as seen from such classics in the genre as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1951), which gives additional significance to the famous, Nietzsche-inspired moment at the end of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-1905). Here Weber wonders who might “live in that shell in the future”, including the ossified and self-important “last men”; those “specialists without spirit, hedonists without a heart” who “imagine they have attained a stage of humankind [Menschentum] never before reached”. Like a good extrapolative-dystopian author, Weber provides a conceptually rich account of social phenomena by reflecting on what is currently happening and speculating about its further development and implications. It therefore seems that the dystopian imagination has always been at play within the sociological canon.
While the extent of the overlap between dystopia and social theory is yet to be fully determined, much of this overlap no doubt stems from how central social subjectivity is to both endeavours. It is true that, in their representations of societies, dystopian authors as writers of fiction are not subject to the same demands of accuracy as social theorists. Nevertheless, the critical effect of much dystopian literature relies heavily on empirical connections with the world inhabited by the reader and, conversely, social theory often evaluates by speculating about the possible consequences of current tendencies. As such, one cannot consistently maintain a straightforward separation between the two enterprises. I am therefore confident that this nascent, interdisciplinary area of study will be productive and insightful for both social scientists and scholars of speculative literature.
My thanks to Jade Hinchliffe, Sean Seeger, Sacha Marten, and Richard Elliott for their helpful comments on an early draft of this essay.
 H. G. Wells, “The So-Called Science of Sociology,” Sociological Papers 3 (1907): 357–369, 167.
 Ruth Levitas, Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
 Matt Dawson, Social Theory for Alternative Societies (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016).
 Zygmunt Bauman is a partial exception. See Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Cambridge: Polity, 2000 ), 137; Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity, 2000), 26, 53–64; Zygmunt Bauman, Retrotopia (Cambridge: Polity, 2017), 1–12.
 This essay raises and builds on points Sean Seeger and I have made in our ongoing collaborative research on speculative literature and social theory. See Sean Seeger and Daniel Davison-Vecchione, “Dystopian Literature and the Sociological Imagination,” Thesis Eleven 155, no. 1 (2019): 45-63.
 Kingsley Amis, New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960).
 Krishan Kumar, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (London: Blackwell, 1987), viii; Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future (London: Verso, 2005), 198.
 Tom Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia (New York: Routledge), 198-199.
 Seeger and Davison-Vecchione, “Dystopian Literature and the Sociological Imagination,” 55.
 Quoted in Gregory Claeys, Dystopia: A Natural History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 482.
 Quoted in Kumar, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times, 292-93.
 This is complicated by the “critical utopias” that arose in the 1960s and 70s, which emphasise subjects and political agency much more than their classical antecedents.
 Seeger and Davison-Vecchione, “Dystopian Literature and the Sociological Imagination,” 50; C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000 ), 6, 8.
 See, e.g., Lawrence A. Scaff, Fleeing the Iron Cage: Culture, Politics, and Modernity in the Thought of Max Weber (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1991); Wilhelm Hennis, Max Weber’s Central Question (Newbury: Threshold Press, 2000).
 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trs. Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells (London: Penguin Books, 2002), 121; Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation,” in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, eds. H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005) 77-128, 128. “Iron cage” is Talcott Parsons’ mistranslation of “stahlhartes Gehäuse”.
 Max Weber, “The National State and Economic Policy” (1895), quoted in Scaff, Fleeing the Iron Cage, 30.
 Weber, Protestant Ethic, 121.