Northwestern University

Fri 4:00 PM

Debt and the New Populisms - Craig Calhoun

Debt Dialogue Series graphic

When: Friday, March 3, 2017
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM  

Where: Kresge Hall, Room 1515 (The Forum), 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Contact: Jill Mannor   847.467.3970

Group: Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities

Category: Lectures & Meetings


A range of political movements in the developed world have been lately labelled ‘populist.’ Often closely related to resurgent nationalist politics, each tends to be narrated in national terms. The story of Trump is American, Brexit is British, LePen and the National Front have French provenance, Gert Wilders is a Dutch phenomenon, and so forth. And, of course, the populisms have not all inclined to the Right, with Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain mobilizing on the Left and Italy’s Five Star very hard to classify in Left-Right terms. Indeed, populism itself is not per se a phenomenon of Left or Right but ideologically labile, a sense of popular solidarity and grievance that can be harnessed to different ideologies and analyses. In any case, as the list suggests, similar things are going on in too many places to be simply parallel domestic stories in different countries. They are linked as responses to globalization as well as failures of national governments, conventional political parties, and economies that seem to offer many people little optimism about the future. Immigrants become scapegoats, but the core feature of globalization that lies behind this is the financialization of everything, the massive conversion of capital into portable financial instruments, and centrally, debt. Forty years ago, only a quarter of the wealth of OECD countries was held in the form of financial assets. By 2008 this had become three quarters. The explosion links consumer debt and vulnerability to corporate takeovers and national accounts. Its bubbles have financed both transformative new technologies and deindustrialization of the West. And its consequences are worked out not only through financial crisis but transformation of domestic politics and international cooperation.

The talk will be followed by a reception with refreshments.

Craig Calhoun is president of The Berggruen Institute. From 2012 to 2016, he was Director and President of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Calhoun received his doctorate in Politics (with an emphasis on Sociology and Modern Social and Economic History) from Oxford University. He is the author of several books including The Roots of Radicalism (2012) on the 19th Century origins of modern political movements, and Nations Matter (2007), which predicted rising nationalist and populist challenges to cosmopolitanism grounded in a highly unequal global economy.

This talk is co-presented by the Center for Global Culture and Communication and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities as part of the Institute's 2016-2017 Debt Dialogue Series.

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