A spectre is haunting Europe — or the world, so it seems — the spectre of populism. At no time since the 1920’s have such large waves of mobilization frightened, excited, and rattled so many, sparking omens of a collapsing world order.

From Brexit to Trump, from Duterte to Podemos, populism seems to be the word of the age. The question this puts to we students of social theory, then, is the extent to which the history of social movements can clarify — or complicate — our understanding of the unique moment in which we are living. It is the variety of ways that (potentially) populist movements are gathered together — as crowds, mobs, masses, and publics — that we are seeking to better understand in the Annual New School for Social Research Sociology Conference.

In beginning to think through these issues in preparation for what we hope will be a stimulating conference, it has not escaped our notice how strikingly diverse are these new social forms. They are varied in terms of their composition, their practices, and their political agendas. Yet at the same time we seem to see some striking similarities between these diverse movements as well, especially in the tendency of such movements to challenge established elites and to break with long-standing political and economic affiliations. This contemporary iteration of the problem of the one and the many, of the similar and the different, has begun to make us ask a number of, we think, provocative questions. Are we are seeing new vectors of instability emerge within previously consolidated democracies? Is this a historically unique mixture of authoritarianism and tribalism? Or should the varieties of populist groupings be read more hopefully, as fertile grounds for deeply democratic change and perhaps a final end for neoliberalism?

With these issues in mind, we invite interested persons — undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students as well as the faculty and independent researchers — to join us this Saturday, April 8, 2017 to think through these pressing questions as new and innovative critical research is presented on this ever-ancient, ever-new phenomenon.

We are happy to welcome Professor Jürgen Mackert, from the University of Potsdam, as our opening speaker. Professor Mackert, along with CUNY’s Bryan S. Turner, is the co-editor of a three-volume book series, The Transformation of Citizenship. In his opening speech, Professor Mackert will be discussing the re-emergence of populism within Western democracies, and its various manifestations from a relational perspective.

image1And we are exceedingly pleased that Professor Mabel Berezin, author of Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe and the prominent scholar of right nationalism from the Department of Sociology at Cornell University, will join us as our keynote speaker. Professor Berezin recent work on such topics as the backlash against globalization and Post‐Security Europe will provide us with deep contextual understanding of the crises that are calling these popular social forms into being.

In addition to these opening and closing speakers, throughout the day presenters from the NSSR, Cambridge, Sorbonne, Boston University, and Edinburgh University (amongst others) will discuss a provocative variety of issues ranging from Benjamin’s conception of crowds to racial cleavages in the American working-class and Bolivian mobilization and political party forms.

The full schedule and more information regarding the conference can be found on our website and on our Facebook event.

We hope that you will join us this Saturday, April 8th.

Leave a Reply