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Shock after the elections and the triumphal march of populism

Jacobs University Fall Open House 2015

November 9, 2016
Just a few days after the surprising presidential election in the USA, prestigious experts will discuss the booming political populism on both sides of the Atlantic on November 17, 2016 in New York City. The discussion event goes back to a joint initiative of the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS), the ZEIT Foundation Ebelin and Gert Bucerius, the Columbia Journalism School, and the German Center for Research and Innovation, New York. This is the conclusion and the high light of a multi-day "think lab" with doctoral researchers from around the world. "At the moment, many of us are reacting with shock and disappointment, but we have to look at it as a challenge: The think lab has set itself the task of simultaneously bringing fresh ideas and order to a highly explosive debate – a debate that affects us all. In addition, we want to promote an international interchange among scientists”, says Dr. Christian Peters, Director of BIGSSS.
Populism, according to the Duden dictionary, is "a type of often demagogic politics marked by opportunism and closeness to the people, with the goal of winning the favor of the masses (in regard to elections) by dramatizing the political situation”. In Europe, this phenomenon is just as widespread as in the USA; for example, the Brexit vote in Great Britain over remaining in the EU.
Populists polarize and simplify. They offer seemingly simple solutions to complex problems. They claim to be particularly democratic, to speak for the "ordinary" people who are allegedly neglected by the established parties, but at the same time, they marginalize many people. 
How can this populist boom be explained?
How can this boom be explained? Why is it being observed at the same time in North America and in many countries of Europe? What role is played by the media, especially social media, in the development and spread of populism? Questions like these will be discussed by the interdisciplinary panel of well known academics, journalists, and communications experts on November 17th in German House in New York. The panel consists of the political science professors Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton University) and Martin Nonhoff (University of Bremen), the journalist and sociologist Professor Todd Gitlin (Columbia University), and Tara McGuiness, Senior Advisor to the Director of the White House's Office of Management. The moderator will be Michael Werz, Professor at Georgetown University and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
The panel will be preceded by an intensive three-day think lab entitled "Booming Populism. On the Language and Practice of Political Polarization”. Participating in this new format will be 13 doctoral researchers from a wide variety of disciplines at BIGSSS, the Columbia Journalism School, and recipients of doctoral stipends from the ZEIT Foundation. Their task is to develop questions and hypotheses regarding political populism, which will then be taken up in the round of discussions on November 17th. The Rector of the University of Bremen, Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter emphasizes the topicality of the event: "Particularly on this day, so shortly after the surprising election results in United States, it has once again become clear how explosive the topic of populism is for all of us. I am particularly pleased that BIGSSS – and thus the social sciences in Bremen – are participating so prominently in these discussions".
BIGSSS is operated jointly by the University of Bremen and Jacobs University. The graduate school for social sciences is currently training 110 doctoral researchers from around the world in the core disciplines of political science, sociology, and psychology. The event "Booming Populism" receives support from the German Research Foundation (DSG) as well as the Bremen Stock Exchange Foundation.
Additional information:
Dr. Christian Peters
Director BIGSSS
E-Mail: c.peters [at]
Tel.: +49 421 218-66400