Mittwoch, 10.1.2018, 17:00h

Bart Bonikowski

The Resonance of Radical Politics

Scholarly and journalistic accounts of the recent successes of radical-right
politics in Europe and the United States, including the Brexit referendum and
the Trump campaign, tend to conflate three phenomena: populism, nationalism,
and authoritarianism. While all three are important elements of the radical right,
they are neither coterminous nor limited to the right. The resulting lack of
analytical clarity has hindered accounts of the causes and consequences of
ethno-nationalist populism. Existing research shows that both the supply and
demand sides of radical politics have been relatively stable over time, which
suggests that in order to understand public support for radical politics, scholars
should instead focus on the increased resonance between pre-existing attitudes
and discursive frames. Drawing on recent research in cultural sociology, I
argue that resonance is not only a function of the congruence between a frame
and the beliefs of its audience, but also of shifting context. In the case
of radical-right politics, a variety of social changes have engendered a sense
of collective status threat among national ethno-cultural majorities. Political
and media discourse has channeled such threats into resentments toward
elites, immigrants, and ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, thereby
activating previously latent attitudes and lending legitimacy to radical
political campaigns that promise to return power and status to their
aggrieved supporters. Not only does this form of politics threaten
democratic institutions and inter-group relations, but it also has the potential to
alter the contours of mainstream public discourse, thereby creating the
conditions of possibility for future successes of populist, nationalist, and
authoritarian politics.
(by video link)

Bart Bonikowski is Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University,
Resident Faculty at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and
co-director of the Weatherhead Center Research Cluster on Global Populism.
Relying on survey methods, computational text analysis, and experimental
research, his work applies insights from cultural sociology to the study of politics
in the United States and Europe, with a particular focus on nationalism,
populism, and radical politics. In studying populism, Bonikowski has reframed
the phenomenon as a dynamic feature of speech acts rather than a stable
ideological property of political actors, revealing that variation in populist claimsmaking, on both the left and the right, is a function of political actors’ shifting positions within and across political fields. Bonikowski’s research has been published in the American Sociological Review, the Annual Review of
Sociology, Social Forces,
the British Journal of Sociology, the Brown Journal of World Affairs, and a number of other journals and edited volumes.

Veranstaltung in englischer Sprache