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Syriza’s Populism: Testing and Extending an Essex School Perspective

Political Methodology
Political Parties
Populism
Yannis Stavrakakis
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Thomas Siomos
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Yannis Stavrakakis
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
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Abstract

Recent egalitarian movements and parties in Europe (SYRIZA, PODEMOS, Front de Gauche, etc.), not to mention the Corbyn phenomenon in the UK, have radically put in doubt the reified association between populism and the extreme right in the European context. SYRIZA has been the first of these parties to signal this trend and to take power. In this paper, the Greek case is used to illustrate the basic theoretical premises, methodological orientations, conceptual innovations and analytical insights of a discursive approach to populism research. Thus special emphasis is given (1) to the architectonics of SYRIZA’s discourse; (2) to the role of crisis in its articulation; (3) to the polarised language games influencing its trajectory. Accordingly, we explore (1) whether ‘the people’ functions as the main nodal point in SYRIZA’s discourse within an antagonistic representation of the political space; (2) to what extent crisis – as systemic dislocation – triggers and, simultaneously, – as performative construction – is produced by populist discourse; (3) whether such construction takes place within a polarised political culture marked by the mutually established frontier between populist and anti-populist discourses. Our analysis encompasses both the performance of SYRIZA in opposition as well as it record in power.