Populismi liikkeenä ja retoriikkana / Populism as movement and rhetoric

Populismi liikkeenä ja retoriikkana

Yhteiskunnan nopeat muutokset, monikulttuurisuuden haasteet, sosiaalinen epätasa-arvo ja erilaisten uhkakuvien leviäminen median kautta yleiseen tietoisuuteen ovat Suomessa, kuten muuallakin Euroopassa, synnyttäneet populistisia protestiliikkeitä ja vetoamista kulttuuriarvoihin joissa yleensä yhdistyvät antielitismi ja maahanmuuttovastaisuus kansallisesti ja paikallisesti perusteltuihin sosiaalisen oikeudenmukaisuuden vaatimuksiin. Tämä tutkimushanke keskittyy suomalaiseen populismiin ja sen retoriikkaan. Päähuomio on painettujen ja verkkotekstien analyysissä ja aineistot kerätään Internetin keskustelufoorumeilta, blogeista, sanomalehdistä ja poliittisista ohjelmista. Hanke tarkastelee populismia monilähteisenä ja moniagendaisena ilmiönä. Siinä tutkitaan intersektionaalisesti kansallisuuden, eurooppalaisuuden, etnisyyden, sukupuolen ja ympäristökysymysten artikulaatioita niin että taustalla on ”uusi julkisuus” ja yksityisen ja julkisen rajojen siirtyminen.

Linkki Jyväskylän yliopiston sivuille:  https://www.jyu.fi/hum/laitokset/taiku/opiskelu/nykykulttuuri/tutkimus/projektit/populismi

Populism as movement and rhetoric

In Finland as elsewhere in Europe, rapid social change, multicultural challenges, social inequality, and the way different kinds of threat are disseminated by the media for public imagination, have given rise to populist protests and appeals to cultural values usually combining anti-elite and anti-immigrant nationalism with nationally and locally bounded demands of social justice. This project is focused on the populist movement and populist rhetoric in Finland. The main emphasis is on the analysis of textual documents on the Internet and in print, including discussion forums, blogs, newspaper articles, and political programs. Populism is studied as a phenomenon with multiple sources and multiple agendas. Issues of nationality, Europeanness, ethnicity, gender, and environmental issues are studied in their Finnish articulations in an intersectional manner by five researchers, against the backdrop of the new public sphere and the intermingling of the private and the public in it.

Link to University of Jyväskylä webpage:  https://www.jyu.fi/hum/laitokset/taiku/opiskelu/nykykulttuuri/tutkimus/projektit/populismi

Sub-project 1: Populist discourse as cultural dialogue.

PhD Urpo Kovala, University Researcher, Rersearch Center for Contemporary Culture, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Principle Investigator

The study aims at accounting for the debates over populism and the related discourses in terms of cultural dialogue in a non-idealized sense of the term. What kinds of presupposition concerning the participants, their goals, and the effects of their discourses can be detected in the debates? What kinds of identification are made? What and whom do the participants actually write about, for, and against? What is the connection of the debates with the recent changes in the nature and borders of the new public sphere? This approach via dialogical contexts complements the views stressing ideological content by making the positions more understandable. Theories of Voloshinov, Burke, Simmel, and Foucault will be drawn on.

Keywords: populism; hate speech; identification; dialogue; conflict;  exclusion; inclusion; public sphere

Sub-project 2:  Cultural Populism

Palonen: Logic of cultural populism in contemporary politics: the case of Finland

This sub-project Logic of cultural populism in contemporary politics: the case of Finland investigates populism conceptually. Drawing on Ernesto Laclau’s concept of populism (e.g. On Populist Reason, Verso 2005), it introduces four analytical concepts of populism to grasp the dynamics of different kinds of populism. As Laclau’s notion of populism can be tied to any kind of political movement articulating a radical difference and an emptying out of centre, it serves mainly for the study of extent of populism, and does not really address the way in which populist movements emerge or interacts with other populist movements. ‘Fringe’, ‘mainstream’, and ‘competing’ populisms cover for the emergence of new challenger populist parties from the margins, the existence of populism of the large often centrist parties, and the polarisation of the discursive field into two antagonistic camps.

The fourth concept, ‘cultural populism’, seeks to discuss the emergence of the space for populism, and populisation of politics, following the understanding of populism as articulated by Laclau. This rhetorical abuse of the term of Jim McGuigan to account for something else, offers a link between cultural studies and political theory, that is further explored in this sub-project.

While this framework is developed in the context of analysing Hungarian and Finnish populism, in this project some of the empirical materials for the analysis are Finnish newspapers, more precisely their opinion pieces and editorials, where the emergence of discussion on populism is mapped. The method is poststructuralist discourse theory, which pays attention to the relationality of concepts. It highlights the power of myths and imaginaries on the one hand and fantasmatic identification processes on the other.

Keywords: populism, populist movements, politics, culture, cultural studies, political dynamics, cultural dynamics, articulation, poststructuralism, myth, imaginary, fantasy, Laclau.

Sub-project 3: Erkki Vainikkala; Populist rhetoric, ideological fantasy, and mimetic desire

Erkki Vainikkala, professor emeritus, Contemporary Cultural Studies, Department of Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä.

 Populist rhetoric in the Laclauan sense constitutes a particular social logic, functioning as the driving force of populist movements irrespective of their ideological and political contents. Considering the nature and limits of populism, however, the interplay of different value orientations affects, right from their inception, its status as democratic politics as well as the totalitarian threat it may pose. Such orientations are not rational choices. Rather, they are linked to subject positions where ideological fantasy and “mimetic desire” meet. The latter may give rise to a double bind where, in Girardian terms, the “model” to be imitated can also become an “obstacle” to the fulfillment of the desire. In populisms with a totalitarian bent, phantasmatic ideas of social totality dissolve this ambivalence of the model, but the obstacle is preserved in the form of a scapegoat (assuming the form, for example, of the immigrant). This affects the whole rhetorical manouvering of such populisms, the scapegoat becoming the quilting point of various resentments. As the source of abusive empowerment, it functions as the negative equivalent to the positively charged key signifier of the movement. This equivalence is not always without friction, which engenders different kinds of rhetorical splitting and evasion.

These issues will be addressed in a theoretical article on Ernesto Laclau’s theory of populism (in Finnish), and in two analyses of texts from Finnish right-wing populism (in Finnish and English respectively).

Keywords: Ernesto Laclau, ideology, fantasy, mimetic desire, René Girard, abusive empowerment, Finnish right-wing populism

Sub-project 4: Tuija Saresma; Intersections of gender, class, race, and sexuality in male activist texts

PhD Tuija Saresma, Postdoctoral Researcher, Contemporary Cultural Studies, Department of Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä.

The mechanisms of power and subordination in the so called men’s right activist blogs and printed pamphlets are investigated in relation to gender and other axes of difference, such as race or ethnicity, social class, and sexuality. Male rights activism is a movement that has spread rapidly in Finland and internationally in the neoconservative public climate following the economic recession.  Its populist claims on “women’s equality gone too far” and “women’s sexual power” have guaranteed a vast media coverage. The texts by “masculinists” are affective, even sentimental expressions of resentment, hatred and conservative yearnings, and their rhetoric is grounded in verbal assault and defense.

In this study, I wish to decipher the relations of masculinist movement with ideologies of the racist far right as well as with reactionary, repressive ideologies such as anti-feminism, misogyny, and homophobia that rest on othering, anger and hate. The connections of these movements are analysed by both looking at how the Internet discussions are interlinked and networked and analyzing the common populist rhetoric and widespread discourses used in the texts. The analysis focuses especially on the affective expression and the autobiographical confessional tone of the pamphlets and the blog discussions. I ask on the one hand, how the concept of equality is (mis)used, and on the other hand, how nostalgia for the alleged past with its “natural” gender system now lost is used to legitimize oppression. Methodologically, the concepts of intersectionality and superdiversity are used in order to work against the prejudiced rhetoric, to emphasize the fluidity of identity categories, and to challenge the tendency of uniformity characteristic to populist rhetoric. In addition to intersectional analysis, content and thematic analysis, narrative analysis, and rhetorical analysis are used. The aim of the study is both to increase our understanding of how the contemporary digitalized and globally networked forms of activism work, and to find ways to intervene with hate speech and verbal violence in the internet.

Key words: affectivity, anti-feminism, blogs, gender, hate speech, intersectionality, male activism, ”men’s equality”, performativity, politics of reading, populist rhetoric, social media.

Sub-project 5: Meanings of Europeanness and Finnishness in Finnish nationalist and pro-European discourses

PhD Tuuli Lähdesmäki, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

The sub project investigates the meaning-making processes of Europeanness and Finnishness among two discursive poles: the Finnish nationalist and pro-European discourses. The relation to Europe, European integration, common European identity, and shared European values is one of the core topics which differentiate between views among nationalist and pro-European civil associations and discussion groups in the traditional and social media. Similarly, views to Finnishness, national culture, cultural roots, national legacy and their distinctness and particularity differ in the discourses. The meanings of Europeanness and Finnishness in the nationalist and pro-European discourses are not only related to ideas citizenship, culture, or politics: the discourses are produced through intersectional links to various phenomena, such as the notions of gender, age, social background, ethnicity, religion, world view, etc. Both the nationalist and pro-European discourses include opposing views on the content and borders of the concepts of Europeanness and Finnishness.

Keywords: Europeanness; Europe; culture; discourse; Finnishness, identity; intersectionality; nationalist discourse; pro-European discourse; meaning-making processes.