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Talks - Nationalism and Populism


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79098 Freiburg im Breisgau

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Anti-Establishment Parties in Central and Eastern Europe

Global Populism and Inter-Nationalism


Squaring the Circle

Populism - new Global Challenge

Nationalism in the US

Populism and Illiberal Democracies


Changing Norms


Goodbye hegemony

Multilateralism & de-Westernization


Global (Dis)Order


Global (Dis)Order

Anti-Establishment Parties in Central and Eastern Europe

July 19, 2017

Less Ideology, more support?

The last event of this academic year was held by Sarah Engler. Ms Engler is a doctoral candidate and assistant at the Chair for Comparative and European Politics at the University of Bern. Her main field of research is exactly the topic of this interactive presentation: anti-establishment parties in Central and Eastern Europe.


During the first part of the event, Ms Engler outlined  the rise of anti-establishment parties in Central and Eastern Europe. The movement started in the Baltic states, and spread over to countries such as Poland and Bulgaria in the 2000s. Before, radical left and radical right parties were alternatingly dominating the governments in the region. However, the two blocs left their citizens largely unsatisfied: corruption issues and ceasing trust in politicians strongly impacted the parties’ popularity. This was the chance for Centrist populist parties to gain momentum. Although they still fed the ideological mainstream, clear differences to the older parties were visible. They clearly positioned themselves as anti-establishment and anti-corruption parties and opted at representing all people and to stand up for their will. Interestingly, however, exactly this anti-establishment attitude seems to be an obstacle for the long-term establishment of the parties. Although very successful in the first election, most of the Centrist populist parties loose in political relevance in their second election. Ms Engler found one of the reasons in their classification as anti-establishment party which has developed as indicator for short-living parties during past years.


After this very informative presentation, the event became more interactive and highly interesting discussions between Ms Engler and the participants arose. In particular, the characteristics of Western European counterparts were examined. It was, for instance, discussed whether En marche in France and the Five-star movement in Italy are also populist parties. Since those parties are highly diverse, it is not as easy to define where on the spectrum they should be located. Furthermore, it was examined how voters and centrist populist parties interact in the respective countries, how supply and demand are balanced. Mostly, low political trust on behalf of the voters increases the incentives to build new parties. After the end of the official event, the discussion was continued during dinner in Café Hermann.


Overall, this event perfectly complemented the talks and workshops of this academic year. Especially interesting was the connection to the talk of Dr Pappas whose theories build some of the groundwork of Ms Engler’s research. The Global Order Team wants to thank Ms Engler for sharing her impressive expertise with us and for making this a worthy closing event of the Global Order Project 2016/2017!

Global Populism and Inter-Nationalism

June 20, 2017

The International Perspective

On June 21, 2017, Dr von Sponeck, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General under Kofi Annan and UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq managing the Oil-For-Food Program, joined us in Freiburg to share his thought on the work of the U.N. and its impact on the global order. Although he readily recognizes that there is room for improvement, he is a fervent supporter of the organization and its action across the globe, and is convinced that giving more leeway to the different bodies of the U.N. will have a positive impact of the current issues that the global order is facing. In particular, Dr von Sponeck sees the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the cornerstone on which every program conducted by the U.N. should refer to. Our guest was so attached to the Declaration that he, always carrying copies with him, happily distributed them among us students. He appropriately balanced the seriousness of the topic by multiple anecdotes from his career at the U.N., notably from his meeting with strong heads of states such as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It would be interesting to hear what Dr von Sponeck has to say about the current attitude of the U.S.A. towards the U.N, especially concerning their claim about the alleged partiality of the organization.

Squaring the Circle

May 31, 2017

A Theoretical Approach to Populism and Socio-Economic Root Causes in the UK

The next talk of our lecture series took place on the 1st of June 2017. It was held via Skype by Dr Constantine Manolchev, who is a researcher and lecturer in Management at the University of Exeter. His talk ‘Squaring the Circle – From Alienation to Populism, and then Moving Forward?’ discussed the role of the precariat in the populist movement in the UK from a socio-economic viewpoint.


He started with portraying the current situation of precarious workers in the UK, exploring some concepts around precarious work. The term ‘precariat’ refers to employment-related insecurities. Manolchev argued that in a contemporary context, alienation can be caused by liberalization and/or dualization. Workers find themselves in precarious, and often de-humanizing, subordinate working conditions. Thus, these workers are likely to feel alienated from oneself, mankind, and other individuals. The question is whether these workers, at the bottom of the social ladder, often stigmatized, have become a dangerous populist force? There is reason to believe so, as one would think they feel angry, anxious and unsatisfied with their conditions.


However, the outcome of Manolchev’s latest study points in a different direction. He studied the narratives of 94 precarious workers from three categories: care, hospitality, and migrants. The result was that their experiences of ‘insecurity’ were very heterogeneous. Instead of populist tendencies, Manolchev discovered three main themes in the narratives: relationality, camaraderie and dignity. Thus, the proposal of a dangerous new class is rather inaccurate and should be adapted. Certainly, tensions exist, and he argued that they are systemic in nature, presenting the constraints and pressures of linear capitalism as their cause. Therefore, populism cannot be avoided in the current socio-economic context.


Lastly, he pointed to a way forward by embracing the new economic concept of ‘circularity’, which includes the three aspects: society, economy and environment, giving hope for change of the working conditions of the precariat. Overall, his talk was perceived very positively and fuelled a good discussion afterwards. Even though the talk was delivered remotely, Manolchev successfully presented an insight into the class of the precariat in the UK and their relation to the populist movement. This was very interesting and we want to thank him for his contribution to our lecture series.

Populism as the New Global Challenge

May 17, 2017

Root Causes and Future Implications

For our third event on Nationalism and Populism, we were happy to welcome Dr Takis Pappas to Freiburg. Dr Pappas has taught at the Central European University, the University of Macedonia, the European University Institute, and at the universities of Oslo, Strasbourg, and Freiburg. After obtaining his PhD from Yale in 1996, Dr Pappas concentrated on his major research fields in democracy and democratization, party systems and political leadership, as well as populism, ideological framing and crisis politics. He has also authored, amongst others, the books “Making Party Democracy in Greece” and “Populism and Crisis Politics in Greece,” and is currently working on the publication of “Democratic Illiberalism: How Populism Grows to menace Democracy.” With his extensive background knowledge in the field of illiberal democracies and populist movements, he was the perfect match for our lecture series and we felt very honored to welcome him in Freiburg.


“Why populism?” This was the main question that we asked ourselves this year, and Dr Pappas tried to answer it. He started off by presenting the mainstream liberal argument for the existence of populism, namely that the liberal idea is fading away and is being replaced by populism. He then introduced his own idea, that populism is a counterrevolution by the people who mistrust the liberal elites and feel betrayed by them. He underlined this idea with his main argument: “Why populism? Because of a shortage of trust of the people in open societies.” In order to explain this thesis, Dr Pappas gave the definitions of Populism as Democratic Illiberalism, and Political Liberalism. According to him, Populism consists of one single cleavage, “the people,” a political conflict that exists between “the people” and “the elites,” and a prevailing majoritarianism. Political Liberalism, then, he defined as having many cleavages (young and old, religion, sexuality), prevailing moderation, rule of law, minority rights, and an “overlapping consensus.” What the Political Liberalism has failed to provide to the people, in Dr Pappas view, is trust, not just in institution, but in the principles of liberal democracy themselves. But why do people increasingly mistrust open societies and liberalism?


According to Dr Pappas, two reasons play a major role in this distrust. The first one is what he called ‘the burden of freedom’. Is freedom valuable? How much freedom should there be? Is there such a thing as too much freedom in a world that might feel increasingly unstable? We came to the conclusion that moral individualism is tough, and that freedom can indeed sometimes be a burden. Especially we as students can probably relate to this: so many options to choose from for a future career and life, and so little guidance in making the right decision. Freedom can become overwhelming, and it might be that liberalism, in providing all this freedom, has left its populations uncertain in how to use it and how to find their place in it. In this context, Dr Pappas also picked up on the stereotype of the liberal, hipster, latte drinking “freak show” that is increasingly identified with liberalism. Is that what liberalism wants to be? Maybe a debate is needed for liberalism to identify its own values and develop a consistent narrative.


The second reason for the increasing distrust in liberalism, is that liberal elites often lack convincing visions. Whereas populists claim to give people some sort of belonging and security, liberalism often seems to only offer liberty. This leads to a storytelling gap, where liberals cannot provide convincing reasons to further pursue liberalism. Dr Pappas emphasized the need for telling and compelling narratives if liberalism was to respond to populism. He concluded his talk with the question: “If liberalism has enabled populism, is it the way to fight it?” This left us thinking about alternatives, and started a vivid discussion about how populism should be defined, how alternatives to liberalism might look like, and how liberalism might fill its storytelling gap. Overall, we could agree on a quote presented by Dr Pappas in the beginning: “Where there is no vision, the people perish”(Proverbs 29:19).


We have had a wonderful evening with Dr Pappas and would like to thank him again for his valuable input, but also express our happiness with the great attendance by the student body and the active engagement in the discussion.

Nationalism in the US

May 08, 2017

From Social Causes to Foreign Policy

On the 9th of May, Dr. Roberta Haar and Dr. Kai Heidemann travelled all the way from UCF’s partner institution, the University College Maastricht, to deliver a lecture on American nationalism. Both American, the dynamic duo presented an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and convincingly presented insider’s view on the matter. Dr. Heidemann, professor of sociology, presented the causes of the rise of nationalism in the United States, linking it to conservative social movements and the Icarus effect, while Dr. Haar, professor of political science, focused on the effect of the rise of nationalism on the Trump administration’s policies, notably abroad. Unlike her colleague, who stated to shy away from “crystal ball gazing”, Dr. Haar presented three possible future Trump scenarios for foreign policy. Substantiated through historical comparisons, international relations theory, and recent examples of Trump’s behaviour, these presented a credible but bleak outlook for world politics and the US’ position in it, particularly. After the lecture, the guest speakers were bombarded with questions and were happy to answer them.

Populism and the Rise of Illiberal Democracies

January 31, 2017

Workshop with Dr. Carras and Dr. Panov

In our first workshop, the Global Order Project strove to provide not only more room for discussion but also input and background information on the focus of the GOP project in the academic year 2016/2017. On February 1st, 2017, a workshop with a focus on populism and illiberal democracies in Europe took place. The workshop was held by Dr Stoyan Panov, lecturer in law at the University College Freiburg in cooperation with Dr Iannis Carras who is an economic and social historian and  works for the EU Center-IES in Freiburg.


Dr Carras started the event with a short lecture on populism in general as well as on the specific situations in Greece and the UK. He acknowledged that populism is a buzz word at the moment, especially with the recent election of Donald Trump as President of the US. Populism was defined as democratic illiberalism that goes hand in hand with anti-pluralism and anti-elitism. Stressing that populism always has to be put into the context of the respective country, Dr Carras explained the factors that made Greece susceptible to populism, such as the vacuum created by the economic crisis. The discussion then focused on populist nature of the Syriza party when it came to power. Especially interesting about Syriza is that they are not right-wing nationalists like many other populist parties but left-wing Europeans.


Dr Carras’ second example was the Brexit referendum in the UK. He argued that while the decision to have a referendum itself was not populist, the debate surrounding it definitely was, with the populist UKIP party heating up the discussion and flaring nationalism and xenophobia topics in society. Dr Carras remarked that generally there is a mainstreaming effect of populist opinions taking place. This happens as European politics, national politics and the global markets are not easily compatible with each other and the EU does not shield countries from globalization which raises fears on both sides of the Atlantic and the Channel. There is the feeling that the nation state has to defend itself against the EU that just tells people what to do. Dr Carras’ final question was therefore, whether the EU has a potent message to deliver to the people or not.


Dr Panov took over to talk about Eastern European populism in Hungary and Bulgaria, both former parts of the Soviet bloc that underwent a transition to democracy and joined the EU. In 2010, Viktor Orbán and his party Fidesz won with a big majority that gave it rather unrestricted power. Constitutional changes followed and liberal values were scraped away one by one, sliding into turning Hungary into an illiberal democracy. There were attempts to control the press and online media. His party is mixing several populist messages, including left-wing economic populism, for instance. By any account, the Hungarian government currently is the most populistic within the EU. Bulgaria, on the other hand, experiences a rather soft populism. After years of difficult transition, with big cleavages in the population people were disillusioned with politics but at the same time easy to fall for populists. However, contrary to Hungary, the constitution has been left intact.


After these interesting perspectives on populism, we had a discussion about various aspects of the topic. We talked about left-wing nationalism and the fact, that especially young people could feel drawn to this mixture of nationalism and social concern and a central-left economy. Furthermore, it was pointed out how populist parties made turns in their ideologies to get most votes, their ideological foundations being very shaky. A point of discussion  was the way one personally should deal with populist developments. A sense of consensus emerged around emotion being an important factor, as populist arguments were not rational. Others suggested that it might help to join political parties to offer good alternatives to populists, and to become more politically active in general. Possibly, more dialogue could help as well. Thoughts were shared on whether the EU has to change as it does not fulfil all its promises and can seem like a top-down, supra-national regime which does not elicit support in the people.


The workshop definitely gave ample food for thought and raised important questions. It was highly interesting to look at so many very different variants of populism while the phenomenon itself is present in almost all European countries. We want to thank Dr Carras and Dr Panov again for making this workshop a success as well as all participants!

For our final talk of the academic year, the Global Order Project welcomed Prof. Dr. Klaus Dingwerth from the Uiversity of St. Gallen. He had been invited in cooperation with the Colloqium Politicum to round up the two-part lecture series.

Giving some very interesting and engaging insights into his own research, Prof. Dr. Dingwerth talked about the legitimacy of international organizations he had looked at during past research projects, especially the shift towards attempts at democratic legitimization which he was able to identify by analyzing statements and publications by international organizations and evaluating the language use within them.

We thank Prof. Dr. Dingwerth for coming and the Collquium Politicum of the Uni Freiburg for a successful cooperation.

Good-Bye Hegemony! Power and Influence in the Global System

May 02, 2016

On May 3, 2016, we welcomed Professor Ned Lebow from King's College London for his talk "Good-Bye Hegemony!" in which he presented the core ideas from his book of the same name. We would like to thank Professor Lebow for coming and giving such an interesting talk with many insights into international politics, US foreign policy, and also academic culture.

Our special thanks go to the Colloqium Politicum which hosted the talk and invited Professor Lebow to speak on this occasion, as well as for cooperating with us for the mini-series "Global Order: New Perspectives on Power, Influence and Norms".

From Unilateralism to Multipolarity: The UN and De-Westernization

April 20, 2016


On April 21st, we were honored to welcome Dr.h.c. Hans-Christof Graf von Sponeck to Freiburg. The former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General gave an insightful talk on the changing world order and the role of the United Nations within this evolving system. As “mega-threats” such as poverty, climate change, youth-disillusion, and terrorism cannot be tackled by a single country, there is a need for an inter-governmental organization such as the United Nations in the current world system. However, with geo-political shifts towards a de-westernized global order, the UN’s structure of 1945 needs to adapt to the current system in order to contribute to the convergence and re-calibration of the global order. Consequently, the multifaceted linkages between uni-and multilateralism need to be taken into consideration.


We would like to thank Dr.h.c Graf von Sponeck for his inspiring talk and we are looking forward to welcoming him as an expert to the track “Global Governance of Migration” at this year’ Global Order Conference in June.

Original Announcement


We proudly announce our next talk by Dr. h.c. Hans-Christof Graf von Sponeck on the topic "From Unilateralism to Multipolarity - The United Nations and De-Westernization".


Mr. von Sponeck was already a guest expert for the 2015 Global Order Conference and now we are honored to be able to welcome him as a speaker and invite you to discuss with him the necessity of and perspectives for UN reform in the 21st century.


About the speaker
Mr. von Sponeck served as a UN diplomat for more than 30 years. A UN Assistant Secretary-General and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq from 1998 - 2000, he eventually resigned to protest against the UN sanctions regime in place in Iraq. Since then he has become a renowned proponent of UN reform and is known for his principled stance in favor of an ethical and humane world politics. He is the author of several books on human development and the Iraq War, and is currently teaching at the United Nations System Staff College in Torino/Italy and at the Center for Conflict Research at the University of Marburg/Germany.


GLOBAL (DIS)ORDER: Conflict - Migration - Capitulation?

December 02, 2015

[Update: Missed the talk? Watch the video right now!

0:00 - Introdution to the Global Order Project

5:19 - Dr. Tim Epkenhans

50:47 - Prof. Dr. Tim Krieger


We warmly thank Prof. Dr. Tim Krieger and Dr. Tim Epkenhans as well as everybody in the audience for coming!]


This year alone, hundreds of thousands of people have fled the Middle East and Africa to escape civil war and terror. As a result, the influx of refugees Europe is currently experiencing poses many challenges.


The Ambiguities of Order: The Disintegration of the Middle Eastern State System
In light of these developments, Dr. Tim Epkenhans elucidates what role the historical legacy of decolonization and the end of the bipolar world order play in the disintegration of the Middle Eastern state system, which is fuelling today's migrant streams.


The Challenges of the Syrian Refugee Movement for European Immigration Policy
Afterwards, Prof. Dr. Tim Krieger gives insights on the significance of the refugee crisis for Europe and its immigration policy, in particular regarding border enforcement mechanisms and the perspectives for a quota system within the Schengen area.

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Good-Bye Hegemony
Nationalism in the US
Changing Norms
Illiberal Democracies
Squaring the Circle
Populism new global challenge
Global Populism Sponeck
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