I participated this morning (February 22) in an international symposium at the Körber Forum in Hamburg Germany on occasion of what would be Helmut Schmidt’s 100th birthday. The event — “Rethinking Europe: Celebrating Helmut Schmidt at 100” — was organized by the Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Foundation.
I spoke on a panel entitled “Keeping Europe United: Institutional Remedies for Countering Anti-EU Populism” along with Anna Diamantopoulou, President of the DIKTIO Network for Reform in Greece and Europe and former EU Commissioner and Greek Government Minister; Simon Hix, Harold Laski Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science; Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and Permanent Fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna; and Pascal Lamy, President Emeritus at the Jacques Delors Institute, former EU Trade Commissioner, and former Director General of the WTO. The session was moderated by Henrik Enderlein,President and Professor of Political Economy at the Hertie School of Governance and Director of the Jacques Delors Institute Berlin.
On Wednesday, February 20, I gave the annual Max Weber Lecture at the European University Institute on “The Rhetoric of Discontent: A Transatlantic Inquiry into the Rise of Populism.” The lecture was introduced by Stefano Bartolini and chaired by Mirjam Dageförde.
The rise of what is often called ‘populism’ constitutes the biggest challenge to liberal democracy since the 1920s or 1930s. The voices of populist dissent speak in different languages but mostly convey similar messages-against globalization and free trade, immigration and open borders, Europeanization and the euro. They draw from the same range of sources-the economics of those feeling ‘left behind,’ the sociology of those worried about the ‘changing faces of the nation,’ and the politics of those who want to ‘take back control.’ And they employ rhetorical strategies via social media to create ‘post-truth’ environments that reject experts, demonize conventional political elites and parties, and excoriate mainstream media while using them to amplify their messages. The question is: Why and how have populists had such success today in channeling public fear and anger? Scholars often respond by focusing on the sources of discontent—economic, social, or political—and trigger moments. But a complete answer demands an investigation of what populists say, meaning the substantive content of leaders’ ideas and discourse; how they say it, involving the discursive processes of interaction via activist social movements, party networks, and direct links with ‘the people;’ and what they do, in opposition and/or in power in their differing national contexts.
Ahead of the lecture, I talked with Mirjam Dageförde on the present state of Europe, politics at the time of populism, and what should be the response of academics. A video of that conversation can also be found on YouTube.
I just gave a talk on my 2006 book Democracy in Europe for the European Parliamentary Research Service in Brussels. The book itself was named by the European Parliament in 2015 as “one of the 100 books on Europe to remember.” The event, in interview form, was part of their book talk series with authors of important books on Europe. The talk was introduced by the Director-General of the Research Service, Anthony Teasdale, and the Discussant was Deputy Direct General of the Council Secretariat, Jim Cloos. A podcast of the talk is available: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/160480/1003.MP3. Enjoy!