The discursive work of populist politicians: An historical perspective on English populism

Ron Kerr, Sarah Robinson, Martyna Sliwa

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper argues that populist politics involves discursive work performed by maverick elite fractions. Bringing together literature on elites and populism and applying a methodology of discursive juxtaposition, we historicise four waves of English right-wing populist discourse: the British Brothers League (BBL) (1901-23), the British Union of Fascists (BUF) (1930-40), Conservative politician Enoch Powell’s anti-immigration campaigns (1968-75), and pro-Leave Brexit campaigns. On this basis, we identify the ontological presuppositions shared by the Brexit elite with three previous waves of right-wing populism from 20th C English history. In addressing the questions: who are the populists? and what do populist politicians do?, we demonstrate how, in all of these cases, outsider elite fractions engage in the discursive political work of constructing internal and external threats to the nation and its people. We contribute to the study of elites and of populism through identifying a specific populist political ontology and an associated political methodology operationalised by maverick elite fractions to unsettle established power relations in the field of national politics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • AOM Annual Meeting Proceedings 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'The discursive work of populist politicians: An historical perspective on English populism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this