This speaking out article argues that populism is not only a phenomenon that characterizes extremist figures such as Farage, Trump or Le Pen. Drawing on Laclau’s conceptualization of populism, we show how French President Emmanuel Macron developed in 2017 a form of anti-extreme electoral populism relying upon (1) the creation of a new political frontier between ‘progressive reformers’ and ‘backward-looking conservatives’, and (2) a number of key empty signifiers, such as ‘Revolution’, ‘(The Republic) onwards’ and ‘and at the same time’. These discursive levers allowed Macron’s campaigns to incarnate a gradually larger plurality of demands, modulating the openness of equivalential chains over three successful electoral steps: the presidential first round, the presidential second round and the parliamentary elections. In parallel, his movement gradually moved from emergent organizing through a partial organization to a bureaucratized and hierarchized party. Thus, our analysis illuminates how Macron organized his own populism, based on a completely new movement: Macron’s electoral populism exploited the middle space left vacant by all other candidates, it relied on its own anti-establishment discourse, and in doing so it succeeded in unifying much more demands than other populisms, leading to a landslide win in the French parliamentary elections.
- 512 Business and Management
- empty signifiers
- equivalential chains
Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)
- AoS: Responsible organising