The Once and Future Populist: Fieldnotes on the New German Right
This talk is based on my reporting on the new right-wing Germany political party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The talk consists of three parts: the first part examines how the party is structured and how it cycles between radical provocations and gestures toward the center. The second part traces the intellectual roots of the ideological wing of the party. The third part of the paper consists in an informal analysis of party meetings and conferences, in which I argue that the binding glue of the party is its sense of betrayal and/or exclusion from the cultural and political reformation associated with the liberal gains of 1968 and the further liberal consolidations of the 1990s and 2000s. The paper ends by drawing some connections to the current regime in the US, as well as other populist phenomena around the world, and clarifies what is gained and lost by the current conceptualizations of populism on offer.
Thomas Meaney is the current Einstein fellow in residence at Caputh. He recently completed his doctorate in modern history at Columbia University, where he taught courses on history and literature. He has reported on Germany for the New Yorker, the London Review of Books, and the Guardian Long Read. He is also a regular contributor to the Nation and the Times Literary Supplement. Two current projects include a book on American thinkers and the problem of decolonization, and a short history of the 1990s at the global margins.