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Seraphim Seferiades “Why calling the Far Right (and the Left) ‘populist’ is a bad idea, and why it is done” – Loukia Kotronaki “Understanding the contemporary far right from the perspective of social movement’s theory”

Seraphim Seferiades
‘Concepts’, wrote Cambridge physicist George Thomson (1856-1940), ‘are ideas which receive names. They determine the questions one asks, and the answers one gets’. Scholars create words (conceptualize) to tell us what they actually ‘see’, to draw our attention to what they think is interesting and critical. But whether they realize it or not, this reflects their values, their normative and ideological beliefs. We always need to know ‒and, if necessary, unearth‒ these values, but what we judge them for is the performance of their concepts on the research field: whether they are able to pose and address questions that expand our cognitive horizons or ‒on the contrary‒ shrink them. Relying on classical methodological principles, this presentation addresses the prolonged cognitive dystopia observed in the so-called ‘populist studies’. I argue that whilst the dominant approaches function as first-rate transmission belts for the two basic value motives that sustain them (either the neoconservative defense of post-democracy or the projection of new reformism ‒aka ‘left populism’‒ the as the only possible answer to the ever-increasing systemic crisis), they result in stunningly poor social science.


Loukia Kotronaki
Not everything that moves deserves to be called a ‘social movement’
. We hardly consider all extra-institutional action to be conducive ‒by definition‒ to social and political change, nor do we assume that all non-established political actors seek to promote a genuine alternative to the mainstream political agenda. And yet, this is precisely what we do when we set out to interpret, comprehend, and explicate the far-/alt-right in terms of social movement politics. Is there a common normative, communicative, or sociological glue binding the two phenomena together? Is it their common ‘power of numbers’, the social discontent they presumably air, or, perhaps, a new political ethos challenging dominant codes? Starting off by offering a theoretical overview of the historical trajectory of social movements, I will emphasize the defining properties of this particular form of contentious politics, whilst also highlighting their affinity with major political processes such as, most notably, democratization. I then turn to an assessment of the so-called ‘populist’ frame in the study of collective action. I argue that, instead of procuring more elaborate conceptual and analytical categories for interpreting recent political phenomena beyond the realm of routine politics, its ‒hardly innocuous‒ (re-)invention and proliferation has had the exact opposite effect: the normalization and mystification of the post-democratic condition.

bio

Seraphim Seferiades (PhD Columbia) is Professor of Political Science at the Panteion University of Social and Political Science, Life Member in Politics and History at the University of Cambridge (CLH) and Director of the Laboratory on Contentious Politics (https://lcp.panteion.gr/). Author of many books and articles, he has been Senior Member at the University of Oxford (St Peter’s College), Fellow and Tutor in the Arts at the University of Cambridge (CHU), Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute, and Hannah Seeger Davis Fellow at Princeton University. His work spans European and Greek labour and social history, contentious politics and social science methodology. He has edited or co-edited volumes on methodology, social movements and the Greek dictatorship, and published extensively in journals such as Comparative Politics, the European Journal of Industrial Relations, the Journal of Contemporary History, the Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Actuel Marx, Pôle Sud, Partecipazione e Conflitto, and the Greek Political Science Review. His latest publications include the books Populism, Democracy, the Left: the Methodological Challenge, Athens: Topos 2021; The Red Thread of a Decade: Analyses and Texts in the Crisis Years, Athens: Topos 2017; On the Pathways of Historiography: Critical Overview from a Social Scientific Perspective, Athens: Themelio, 2014; and Democratic Functioning at a Crossroads: Challenges and Threats in the early 21st Century (editor), Athens, Nissos, 2014.


Loukia Kotronaki is currently a Teaching Post-Doctoral Fellow in Political Science at the Panteion University of Athens (Laboratory on Contentious Politics, Department of Political Science and History) and Principal Investigator in the context of the NSRF Program Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning (Project Title: “The Politics of Solidarity: NGOs and Social-Movement Networks during the Refugee Crisis” ‒University of Crete, Department of Sociology). Her work lies at the intersection of political sociology and contentious politics with a special emphasis on the study of anti-globalization and anti-austerity movements, political violence, political parties, and solidarity-based collective action. She has participated in numerous research projects and has published extensively in collected volumes and journals such as Movements: Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime StudiesPartecipazione & ConflittoThe South Atlantic QuarterlyPôle SudSituations and Actuel Marx. Her book Another world is possible: Collective action in Neoloberal Times is currently forthcoming form Topos Publishers in Athens, Greece.

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Seraphim Seferiades (PhD Columbia) is Professor of Political Science at the Panteion University of Social and Political Science, Life Member in Politics and History at the University of Cambridge (CLH) and Director of the Laboratory on Contentious Politics (https://lcp.panteion.gr/). Author of many books and articles, he has been Senior Member at the University of Oxford (St Peter’s College), Fellow and Tutor in the Arts at the University of Cambridge (CHU), Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute, and Hannah Seeger Davis Fellow at Princeton University. His work spans European and Greek labour and social history, contentious politics and social science methodology. He has edited or co-edited volumes on methodology, social movements and the Greek dictatorship, and published extensively in journals such as Comparative Politics, the European Journal of Industrial Relations, the Journal of Contemporary History, the Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Actuel Marx, Pôle Sud, Partecipazione e Conflitto, and the Greek Political Science Review. His latest publications include the books Populism, Democracy, the Left: the Methodological Challenge, Athens: Topos 2021; The Red Thread of a Decade: Analyses and Texts in the Crisis Years, Athens: Topos 2017; On the Pathways of Historiography: Critical Overview from a Social Scientific Perspective, Athens: Themelio, 2014; and Democratic Functioning at a Crossroads: Challenges and Threats in the early 21st Century (editor), Athens, Nissos, 2014.


Loukia Kotronaki is currently a Teaching Post-Doctoral Fellow in Political Science at the Panteion University of Athens (Laboratory on Contentious Politics, Department of Political Science and History) and Principal Investigator in the context of the NSRF Program Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning (Project Title: “The Politics of Solidarity: NGOs and Social-Movement Networks during the Refugee Crisis” ‒University of Crete, Department of Sociology). Her work lies at the intersection of political sociology and contentious politics with a special emphasis on the study of anti-globalization and anti-austerity movements, political violence, political parties, and solidarity-based collective action. She has participated in numerous research projects and has published extensively in collected volumes and journals such as Movements: Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime StudiesPartecipazione & ConflittoThe South Atlantic QuarterlyPôle SudSituations and Actuel Marx. Her book Another world is possible: Collective action in Neoloberal Times is currently forthcoming form Topos Publishers in Athens, Greece.

seminar video

Play Video

seminar video

Seferiadis-Kotronaki-Cover

seminar

Seraphim Seferiades “Why calling the Far Right (and the Left) ‘populist’ is a bad idea, and why it is done” – Loukia Kotronaki “Understanding the contemporary far right from the perspective of social movement’s theory”

Seraphim Seferiades
‘Concepts’, wrote Cambridge physicist George Thomson (1856-1940), ‘are ideas which receive names. They determine the questions one asks, and the answers one gets’. Scholars create words (conceptualize) to tell us what they actually ‘see’, to draw our attention to what they think is interesting and critical. But whether they realize it or not, this reflects their values, their normative and ideological beliefs. We always need to know ‒and, if necessary, unearth‒ these values, but what we judge them for is the performance of their concepts on the research field: whether they are able to pose and address questions that expand our cognitive horizons or ‒on the contrary‒ shrink them. Relying on classical methodological principles, this presentation addresses the prolonged cognitive dystopia observed in the so-called ‘populist studies’. I argue that whilst the dominant approaches function as first-rate transmission belts for the two basic value motives that sustain them (either the neoconservative defense of post-democracy or the projection of new reformism ‒aka ‘left populism’‒ the as the only possible answer to the ever-increasing systemic crisis), they result in stunningly poor social science.


Loukia Kotronaki
Not everything that moves deserves to be called a ‘social movement’
. We hardly consider all extra-institutional action to be conducive ‒by definition‒ to social and political change, nor do we assume that all non-established political actors seek to promote a genuine alternative to the mainstream political agenda. And yet, this is precisely what we do when we set out to interpret, comprehend, and explicate the far-/alt-right in terms of social movement politics. Is there a common normative, communicative, or sociological glue binding the two phenomena together? Is it their common ‘power of numbers’, the social discontent they presumably air, or, perhaps, a new political ethos challenging dominant codes? Starting off by offering a theoretical overview of the historical trajectory of social movements, I will emphasize the defining properties of this particular form of contentious politics, whilst also highlighting their affinity with major political processes such as, most notably, democratization. I then turn to an assessment of the so-called ‘populist’ frame in the study of collective action. I argue that, instead of procuring more elaborate conceptual and analytical categories for interpreting recent political phenomena beyond the realm of routine politics, its ‒hardly innocuous‒ (re-)invention and proliferation has had the exact opposite effect: the normalization and mystification of the post-democratic condition.

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