The populism/anti-populism frontier and its mediation in crisis-ridden Greece: from discursive divide to emerging cleavage?

Abstract

Along with other South-European countries, since 2008, Greece has experienced deep economic and social dislocation, leading to a crisis of representation and triggering populist mobilisations and anti-populist reactions. This article focuses on the antagonistic language games developed around populist representations, something that has not attracted much attention in the relevant literature. Highlighting the need to study anti-populism together with populism, focusing on their mutual constitution from a discursive perspective, it articulates a brief yet comprehensive genealogy of populist and anti-populist actors (parties and media) in Greece, exploring their discursive strategies. Moving on, it identifies the main characteristics this antagonistic divide took on within the newly contested, crisis-ridden sociopolitical field, highlighting the implications for a contemporary understanding of cleavages, with potentially broader implications.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) was founded by Andreas Papandreou in 1974. Emerging initially as a radical-left political force, it adopted a more moderate profile in the 1980s, to gradually join the trajectory of third-way European social democracy from the mid-1990s onwards. It was one of the main pillars of the Greek two-party system, but its popular support deteriorated after its implementation of the first wave of austerity (2009–2012).

  2. 2.

    Founded in 1974 by Konstantinos Karamanlis, ND is a centre-right conservative party and one of the pillars of the Greek two-party system.

  3. 3.

    For a discursive, performative theory of charisma, see Scott (1990) and Stavrakakis (2015).

  4. 4.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Golden Dawn (GD) have always and consistently refused to provide a list of email addresses for their candidates. They were thus not included in the survey (see Stavrakakis et al. 2016: 8–9).

  5. 5.

    Greece cannot bear you anymore Mr Tsipras. Leave.’ read the motto of Mitsotakis’s Twitter campaign, initiated in March 2016, while SYRIZA’s slogan in 2012 was ‘You are destroying the country. Leave now’. See https://twitter.com/kmitsotakis/status/714880661719486466; https://left.gr/news/i-sygklonistiki-paroysia-ton-voyleyton-toy-syriza-ekm-sti-sygkentrosi-toy-laoy-vinteo.

  6. 6.

    Such accusations have intensified following the failure of an attempt by the government to regulate the media field (issuing a limited number of television licences) and disagreements with the judiciary on many court decisions affecting its media law and taxation policies.

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Acknowledgements

This article draws on the conclusions of the POPULISMUS research project (www.populismus.gr), which was undertaken at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (2014–2015), with funding from the European Union (European Social Fund) and National Funds (Greece) within the framework of the Operational Programme ‘Education and Lifelong Learning’ (Action ‘ARISTEIA II’). Giorgos Katsambekis wishes to thank the Research Committee of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (https://www.rc.auth.gr/) for its generous support through the ‘Excellence Scholarship’ for postdoctoral researchers (2016).

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Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G. The populism/anti-populism frontier and its mediation in crisis-ridden Greece: from discursive divide to emerging cleavage?. Eur Polit Sci 18, 37–52 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-017-0138-3

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Keywords

  • Populism
  • Anti-populism
  • Cleavage
  • Greece
  • Crisis
  • Mediation
  • SYRIZA