Populism as the Performance of Crisis: A Case Study of the 2014 LBC Europe Debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch

  • Michael Joseph Bossetta Jr
The novelty of approaching populism as social performance, as opposed to discourse or ideology, is the holistic focus on the supply and demand side of populism. Most studies of populism aim to descriptively measure the ‘degree’ of populism in a party or politician through the discursive content they supply. However, these approaches do not capture how this content is performed, and, more importantly, the effects that populist performances have on an audience. I argue that successful populist performances can produce ritual-like effects; that is, they can dissolve previous social identifications in an audience and form new cohesions. By claiming to represent an economically, politically, and/or socially marginalized ‘people’ in response to a crisis, successful populists actively construct and reify new social identities that can lead to political and social cleavages.

My study, using the 2014 Europe debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, looks at how populism is performed by the former vis-à-vis the technocratic style of the latter. I hypothesize that Farage will perform crisis not only through discursive content but also through a certain performative repertoire (e.g. facial expressions, gestures, body language). After coding for both the content and style of each politician, I will explore the audience’s reception of their performances through an analysis of YouTube comments. I will explore whether Farage’s performance was successful by examining the saliency of crisis in the comments. The results will be discussed in terms of the consequences of populist performance, and the perpetuation of crises, for Western liberal democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateNov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
EventPSA Media and Politics Group Annual Conference: Mediating Democracy - Chester, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Nov 20156 Nov 2015


ConferencePSA Media and Politics Group Annual Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom

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