"Populism as an All-Encompassing Category in Current Political Debate”
Type of item:
Abstract in Atti di convegno
Abstract in Atti di convegno
Eight Annual International Conference on Languages and Linguistics, 6-9 July, 2015
06-09 Luglio 2015
Athens Institute for Education and Research
political discourse; contrastive study; populism; rhetorics
Short description of contents:
The last two decades saw the birth and spread of many political movements increasingly promoting their candidacy as being aligned with the spirit and benefit of “the people” in contrast with usurpers or power groups throughout Europe and America (Forza Italia, Il Popolo della Libertà, La Lega Nord in Italy, The Freedom Party in Austria, The German Party of Democratic Socialism in Germany and The Tea Party in the USA among the others). Moreover, the growing usage of a rhetorical style combining features of the so-called “populist oratory” by parties of different political orientation has recently been observed in several areas in the world (Europe, USA, Latin America), leading scholars to speak of the “rise of a new populism” (Zaslove 2008; Canovan 1999).
Populism is a highly debated concept within political philosophy that can simultaneously refer to both demagogy and demophily (Mazzoleni 2004), while scholars disagree as to whether it can be classified as an ideology, a mentality or just a rhetorical style (Zaslove 2008). Such uncertainty is also to some extent due to the fact that populism has taken different political directions shifting from radical left-wing to radical right-wing in different historical periods and places.
While numerous attempts have been made to outline the common features of the populist ideology and style (cfr. Zaslove 2008; Canovan 1981), the language of populism has not been systematically investigated and we argue that differences can be observed depending on the political orientation of leaders or parties, in a tension between the ideal of self-legitimation and disruption with the system.
Starting from a textual (Merlini Barbaresi 2003) and critical discourse analysis (Chilton 2004; Wodak 2007) perspective, where political discourse and political speeches are seen as planned types of not-highly complex (Lorenzetti 2008) manipulating discourse (Van Dijk 2002, 2006), this paper presents an analysis of the language of some European political leaders who often make reference to “the people” as their target audience (Beppe Grillo, Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Renzi, Pablo Iglesias of Podemos in Spain, Alexis Tsipras in Greece), considering the lexicon, register, and the usage and framing of metaphor (Lakoff 1996) in their speeches. What emerges from our investigation confirms that populism is an inherently ambiguous and fuzzy concept that escapes a clear definition (Laclau 2008). More specifically, given the differences in the rhetorical style, political orientation, and target audience addressed by the politicians analyzed, the idea of a true monolithic and homogeneous entity called “the people” seems to be in doubt, while we argue that similarities and common traits of the populist rhetoric and of populism can be accounted for by positing Wittgenstein’s notion of family resemblance.
Lorenzetti, Maria Ivana,
"Populism as an All-Encompassing Category in Current Political Debate” in Languages and Linguistics Abstracts. Eight Annual International Conference on Languages and Linguistics, 6-9 July, 2015
, Athens Institute for Education and Research
, Proceedings of "Eight Annual International Conference on Languages and Linguistics, 6-9 July, 2015"
, 06-09 Luglio 2015
, pp. 66-67