Saturday, December 22, 2018

Populism is an Eruption of the Established Symbolic Order

There are many populisms - not one. See this discussion by Paul Street at Counterpunch here. Street's analysis offers many insights but may over-generalize and polarize "good" and "bad" populisms in his account.

Efforts to capture populism in media and academic representations are prone to categorization and simplification but what is critical about populism is that established symbolic and institutional relations are challenged with accusations of corruption and demands for reform and/or revolution.

Populism is not governable in the conventional military-strategic sense but the Army sees social media as the new terrain requiring military surveillance and interventions because populist ideas spread "virally" across it.

I am currently working on an edited book on populism. My interpretation of populism is that is a dislocation produced by convergence of material and symbolic crises symptomatic of fundamental contradictions in societies.

Today, the material crises stem from growing experiential and media shaped awareness of population pressures, resource limits, environmental degradation, and centralization of power/control.

Contradictions between and across ideologies and experiences get interpreted and expressed in images, concepts, and narratives that circulate across the web virally because they mobilize emotion and sharing.

Some populist contagions are peaceful in means and ends, and some see violence as legitimate.

Chantal Mouffe captures this distinction in the context of democratic politics as the difference between "antagonistic" and "agonistic" discourses, with the latter referring to means and ends consistent with democratic ideals.

I prefer agonistic pro-democratic discourses that are inclusive and pluralistic but I realize that not all populist discourses respect pluralist democracy.

I do believe that efforts to promote non-pluralistic and antagonistic populism are both organic, emanating in specific cultures as a response to historical contingencies, and are being intentionally orchestrated by a variety of agents, including American and foreign powers.

Disinformation is a "thing," a tactic deployed by multiple centers of power intent on governing the social media terrain.

That is why AUTHENTICITY of SOURCING and DELIBERATIVE COMMUNICATION (with attention to logos and pathos) are critical factors for audiences who seek to understand the politics of online viral messaging.


  1. Not being accustomed to the more technical, sociological literature I am not sure what you are saying. However, I do detect in the media a disdain for populism whatever it is. It certainly has to do with ordinary people but who in America for example wants to be ordinary? So it is off to a bad start, isn't it.

    Donald Trump is a long way from ordinary. So are his wife and children. Do ordinary people shop at Walmart? Ordinary people may attend a Christian church but probably do not read the dialogues of Plato or know who Kant was. They may not know what karma is about. Or have ever read Beowulf. A college education would probably not suffice to change an ordinary person into a non-ordinary person. However, the more formal education the person has the further he or she moves from being an ordinary person without becoming by that movement extraordinary.

    Trump is a populist president if by that is meant someone who relates to the people who keep the nation running: waitresses, carpenters and plumbers, tree trimmers and truck drivers, engineers and nurses, and so forth. Of necessity in his business he has spent his adult life working with these sorts of people with his hotels and golf courses. So he is a man of the people. Obama and Hillary by contrast are elitists. A majority of people despise attorneys and especially those from elite university law schools.

    Professors Victor Davis Hanson and Jordan Peterson are excellent examples of highly educated persons who have a sound grasp of what is happening in America.

    I find it really amusing that two prominent Democrats,Pelosi and Schumer are fighting with Trump over a WALL! "Immoral, won't work, the people don't want it . . ." I have no idea what people Schumer is talking about, but I do know that Nancy got the immoral thing from the Pope.

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    2. This Pope is a Globalist, and that is not good. He is not addressing the Priests raping young kids issue, at all. That says it all, especially because now it is out in the open "enough", everyone knows.

  2. Sounds like an awesome book. Stay far and balanced and try to see both sides.

    The establishment has become horribly corrupt, and fills the media, and social media with lies / aka their agenda.

    Be happy to proof read any drafts you have and provide say 5 to 8 hours of comment and resources too.


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