The Global Rise of Populism as a Socio-material Phenomenon: Matter, Discourse, and Genetically Modified Organisms in the European Union

  • Shane MarkowitzEmail author
Part of the Global Political Sociology book series (GLPOSO)


Among the most influential perspectives examining populism are discursive and ideological approaches. The recent “material turn” though has put to challenge many of the conventions of social science scholarship, highlighting the vibrant and agentive capacities of material things. Employing Karen Barad’s agential realism perspective premised on the notion of phenomena as constituted by the entanglements between matter and discourse and facilitated by interview fieldwork, this chapter interrogates the global rise of populism as a socio-materially constituted process, specifically examining the case of plant biotechnology in the European Union. Farmer mobilization patterns and the nuances therein—rejection of GMOs in food but tolerance toward GM animal feed—are argued to have not simply emerged from social contestation, but rather to have been contingent phenomena constituted socio-materially through the relations between pollen, soybeans, and landscapes and different practices, including production and consumption patterns, regulatory frameworks, and food retailer branding moves, within and across conventionally conceived political borders. The broader intelligibility gained is that certain policy prescriptions, deemed populist (or not), emerge out of decision-making landscapes that materialize socio-materially through complex relations between local and global with implications on the types of political interventions that can be introduced to improve the world.


Populism Biotechnology Agriculture Environment New materialism Constructivism European union 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central European UniversityBudapestHungary

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