Charles Acland (Concordia University)
The Longest Revolution, or Notes on 'Authoritarian Populism' for Media Critique
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Stuart Hall’s concept of “authoritarian populism” has proven to be a powerful, prescient, and lasting contribution to cultural critique. And yet, beyond providing a general description of seemingly contradictory political movements, what can it reveal of the specificities of our current historical moment and the role media plays in populist formations? This presentation argues that an intensified relationship between political culture and the popular in the United States and elsewhere has posed a challenge to the cultural left. Post-truth, “fake news,” anti-humanist, and accelerationist critiques will not suffice, however tentatively productive they may at times be for scholarly debate. Writing of the critical failures of his time, Antonio Gramsci attacked intellectual decadence and negative critique that sowed the seeds of doubt, skepticism, and mistrust. He was especially critical of what he called “pocket-geniuses” found in “facile journalistic improvisations.” Extending to our age, this presentation provides a genealogy of “authoritarian populism” and assesses how it might help us find the critical purchase we need to provide better descriptions, understandings, and engagements with contemporary popular media.