Published on 10/28/2019

The Doha Institute’s School of Social Sciences and Humanities hosted Dr. Chantal Mouffe, Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster, London and one of Europe’s leading political theorists on October 22, 2019. Her lecture addressed “Populism and the Transformations of Contemporary Politics” which came as part of a series called “Dialogues of the Age”, initiated by the School this year.

In her lecture, Dr. Mouffe considered the phenomenon of populism, explaining the mechanisms for understanding left-wing populism in the European context, and addressing the major transformations in the nature of contemporary political practice today. Mouffe focused on the rise of populism as a political phenomenon that has swept the world, having an impact on both major and smaller states, and even becoming a phenomenon in international political action. She called for a “radical democracy,” which seeks to go beyond what she terms the stagnation of traditional Marxism and the bankruptcy of liberalism, and referred to the positive aspects of populism, adding that a positive view of populism has re-energized political action.

Commenting on the lecture, Dr. Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Dean of the School of Social and Human Sciences, commented on how the lecture dealt with the issue of populism in Europe from a specific political viewpoint, based on the radical democracy theory adopted by Dr. Mouffe. He noted how the lecture tried to set out the theoretical framework of left-wing populism.

El-Affendi added that Mouffe believes that populism is not always negative, and that there could be another kind of non-racist populism. He observed how politics contains a clash that must be recognized, and that modern liberalism suffers from many problems because it does not acknowledge this clash, but believes that all differences can be resolved through dialogue. El-Affendi stressed the importance of holding such lectures to contribute to putting the School and the DI at the heart of the global dialogue on these issues.

Dr Chantal Mouffe was educated at the universities of Louvain, Paris, and Essex, and has taught at many universities in North America, Europe, and Latin America. She has also held research positions at Harvard, Cornell, the University of California and the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris. From 1989 to 1995, she was Director of Programs at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. Mouffe achieved international acclaim after the 1985 publication of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, which she co-authored with Ernesto Laclau. This work reinforced her position as one of the pioneers of a new theory of political thought in the framework of “post-Marxism”. In her prolific writings, Mouffe calls for a “radical democracy” that seeks to overcome what she sees as the stagnation of traditional Marxism and the bankruptcy of liberalism, while declaring her rejection of the brutality of neoliberalism and the defeatism of the democratic socialist currents, especially the supporters of the “Third Way” school. Mouffe, contrary to many,  sees a positive side to populism, which has been an inspiration to many currents on the populist left, foremost among them the Podemos movement in Spain.