Populism: Emotions, Language, Politics
28 scholarship holders from 18 countries met in Brussels from June 6th to 10th to discuss the hotly debated topic of populism. At the outset, the historian and political scientist Hans-Jürgen Puhle (Frankfort University) outlined the characteristics of the phenomenon, clearly distinguishing between “populist” and “populism”. Puhle suggested that the concept of populism be used only if certain definition criteria are fulfilled in order to protect it as an analytical concept. Using historical examples in different countries, he showed how populist movements and policies can harm democratic structures. When asked, what could be done to oppose populist tendencies, the emeritus professor had a clear answer: We are all called upon to support and reform those political parties (if possible as party members!), that want to preserve or strengthen representative democracies and their institutions (e.g. the division of powers).
The group was also invited to various debates with senior officials of the European Commission. The main focus of these discussions was on the tension between freedom of expression and illegal internet statements (hate speeches, racism and xenophobia) and the communication strategies with which the Commission is trying to counteract populist attacks.
The seminar offered to participants a thorough academic introduction to the topic and an insight into the daily handling of the institutions of the European Union with populist parties and movements. Some contributed presentations on populist tendencies in their home countries.