All posts by Aurelien Mondon

É essencial lutar contra a paranoia (O Globo)

Os ataques em Paris são os mais mortais em solo francês desde 1945. E não que a França não estivesse preparada. Medidas antiterroristas estavam no nível mais alto desde janeiro, após o ataque ao “Charlie Hebdo”. Soldados armados tornaram-se parte de Paris. No entanto, não foram suficientes para evitar o que se acredita ser o ataque mais exitoso do Estado Islâmico (EI) cometido fora da sua área de domínio.

Agora, Hollande declarou estado de emergência: controle nas fronteiras e escolas e universidades fechadas. Mas um clima de medo e paranoia pode ter consequências graves. Medidas emergenciais são necessárias, mas devem continuar emergenciais. Caso tornem-se permanentes, põem a França num caminho extremamente perigoso.

Continue reading É essencial lutar contra a paranoia (O Globo)

Paris terror attacks: France now faces fight against fear and exclusion

The attacks that took place at a series of venues in Paris on November 13 were the deadliest on French soil since 1945. At least 129 people have been killed in six different places. Reports say that nearly 100 are in a critical condition. Police have reported that eight people believed to have carried out the attacks are also dead – seven by blowing themselves up.

It was not as though France had not prepared itself to face such a tragedy. Anti-terrorist measures have been at their highest level in Paris since January, when two brothers attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12.

This was obvious to any bystander over the past few months. Armed soldiers have become part of the Paris experience. Yet the government’s security plan, the plan vigipirate, was not enough to stop what is so far believed to be the most organised and coordinated attack Islamic State has perpetrated outside its territory. Details are still thin on the ground, but IS has claimed responsibility. President François Hollande has blamed the group and made it clear that he sees this as an act of war.

Continue reading Paris terror attacks: France now faces fight against fear and exclusion

The French secular hypocrisy: the extreme right, the Republic and the battle for hegemony


The success of the extreme right in France in the past two decades has not been limited to its electoral rise. A more long-lasting victory has taken place in the ideological field, where the discourse of the extreme right now occupies a prominent place in the mainstream liberal democratic agenda. Increasingly, its ideas are seen in the media and in the platforms of mainstream parties as ‘common sense’ or at least acceptable. The growing acceptance of this ‘common sense’ is the result of very carefully crafted strategies put in place by extreme-right thinkers since the 1980s. For over three decades now, in order to change perceptions and renew extreme right-wing ideology, New Right think tanks such as the French GRECE believed it was necessary to borrow the tactics of the left and, more specifically, the Gramscian concept of hegemony: cultural power must precede political power. With the use of contemporary examples, Mondon’s article demonstrates the continuing impact these ideas have had on the Front national and French politics and society, and how this change originated in the association of populist rhetoric with the neo-racist stigmatization of the Other.

Mondon A. (2015) The French secular hypocrisy: the extreme right, the Republic and the battle for hegemony. Patterns of Prejudice 49: 1-22.

UKIP, from a single issue party to the radical right: real symptom, wrong diagnosis

Mondon, A (2015) ‘UKIP, from a single issue party to the radical right: real symptom, wrong diagnosis’, TOR, Vol.1, 25-27

UKIP has been given an important amount of media space, both as a contender and issue in the 2014 EU elections and 2015 General elections. While the party created an ‘earthquake’ a year ago when it won the European contest, its results in the General Elections have proven harder to gauge either positively or negatively. UKIP only managed to send one candidate to Westminster (Douglas Carswell, a defector from the Conservative party), losing not only the second seat it had acquired after another Tory defection, but also with Nigel Farage himself failing to win South Thanet. On paper, it seems that the ‘purple revolution’ has petered out. However, it would be mistaken to reduce UKIP’s electoral performance to the number of seats in parliament it will occupy. On the whole, the party performed well when considering it polled second in 125 seats across England and Wales  (Steafel et al. 11 May 2015). Such contradictory accounts of UKIP’s performance are further nuanced when abstention is taken into account. With 33.9% abstention, UKIP’s overall share of the registered vote falls to 8.3% – a figure which is even lower when non-registered voters are taken into account. This suggests therefore that while the performance of UKIP should not be downplayed, it is not the alternative it has been painted to be in much of the media as the party has failed to appeal to more than one out of ten British voters despite very favourable circumstances  (Mondon Forthcoming 2015).

Continue reading UKIP, from a single issue party to the radical right: real symptom, wrong diagnosis

Populism, the people and the illusion of democracy – the Front National and UKIP in a comparative context

Mondon, A (2015) ‘Populism, the People and the Illusion of Democracy’, French Politics, 13, 141–156. doi:10.1057/fp.2015.6

The 2014 European elections confirmed the prominence in the media of what is commonly called the far right. While parties such as the Front National and UKIP were successful in the elections, their performance has since been exaggerated and they have benefited from a disproportionate coverage. Aiding their apparently ‘irresistible rise’, their normalisation was greatly facilitated by their description as ‘populist’ parties. However, while this term ‘populism’ has been almost universally accepted in the media, it remains a hotly debated concept on the academic circuit, and its careless use could in fact prove counterproductive in the assessment of the current state of democracy in Europe.

Instead of focusing on the reasons behind the rise of these parties, similarities and differences already widely covered in the literature, this article hypothesises that a skewed and disproportionate coverage of the European elections in particular, and the ‘rise’ of ‘right-wing populism’ in general, have prevented a thorough democratic discussion from taking place and impeded the possibility of other political alternatives.

Keywords: Front National; UKIP; populism; democracy; media

Owen Jones is not where the British left should look for answers

[This review was written soon after The Establishment was published, but has sat on my desktop ever since. It felt timely to publish it now]

Owen Jones’ recent book provides a detailed and well-researched overview of the ‘Establishment’ in the United Kingdom, and its role in the construction of a deeply unfair, unequal and divided society. Jones explores in great detail the various segments of society which he concludes represent this loose ‘Establishment’, from outriders to the ‘Westminster cartel’, the media to tycoons and ‘tax-dodgers’ and lists their manifold evils. The Establishment makes for a depressing read, but it is hardly a wakeup call, as most of its likely audience are already broadly familiar with the issue.

This does not mean that the detail in which Jones explores the often detestable misbehaviour of our political, intellectual and economic elite is not important, but simply that he is preaching to the converted. His narrative will stir the well-educated middle class who will feel rightly outraged, but who ultimately do not suffer the brunt of the injustice plaguing this country. The many graphic examples Jones provides make ‘Us’ feel closer to those who suffer, but ‘We’ remain all too able to turn our backs on them when push comes to shove. Upon closing the book readers will feel warm and fuzzy at the thought that exposing such an unjust society will finally change things. But many will subsequently go on with their life, partaking in the consumerist orgy responsible for the very plight they feel so strongly about in their leisure time, yet all but rebuke to the darkest corners of their minds when it counts. In this manner the book acts as a therapy session for those who chafe against the social iniquities of the world live in and yet profit very much from it. Others, of course, will continue their daily struggle to turn the social justice Jones advocates into reality. Yet, it is those who dedicate their lives to effect change whom, I would argue, Jones misleads in his book by claiming his vision is radical and his alternative world view anything but a band-aid. Continue reading Owen Jones is not where the British left should look for answers

Charlie Hebdo attack: this is not a clash of civilisations

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was an abominable tragedy. It struck the heart of one of our capitals and symbols of our democracies as terrorists attacked our freedom of the press. It is now essential to pay our respects to those who lost their lives yesterday and hope that those responsible for the attacks are arrested as soon as possible.

In terrible circumstances, where shock and confusion prevail, it is also crucial to remain level-headed in our response to these horrendous events. While we must stand on the side of the victims and in defence of our inalienable rights, this should not lead us to simplistic, uncritical conclusions and further divisions.

Much of the reporting so far has had the tendency to pit a “Muslim community” against a French or European one in the most essentialist manner. While most commentators, be they journalists, politicians or academics, have warned against laying indiscriminate blame against Islam, their initial disclaimers have too often been lost in simplistic and stigmatising analysis. Many have inadvertently blamed Islam in their subsequent arguments. In the prevalent discourse, the “Muslim community” is commonly described as foreign to our land, values and beliefs.

Continue reading Charlie Hebdo attack: this is not a clash of civilisations

Creating the people

Interview with Antonis Galanopoulos

AG: Let’s start with the most important question. In recent years, there have been too many debates in the media and in academia about populism. And we ourselves will now have a discussion focusing on populism. But, what is populism? Which is, in your opinion, the best way to define the term?

AM: That is a crucial point indeed, and too often commentators talk about populism without clearly defining it. Because the concept of ‘the people’ is central to the word populism and because of its highly polemical political content, a definition is necessary before anything else can be discussed. Populism is usually understood either as an ideology (be it a thin one) or as a style or discourse.

My own research, based loosely on the so-called Essex School, sits firmly within the latter understanding, wherein populism is a political style or discourse whereby the populist creates her/his ‘people’ according to her/his ideological goals. ‘The people’ therefore can take many shapes and forms and be used in both inclusive and exclusive ways (e.g. against global injustice, against minorities, for democracy, for discriminatory purposes etc.). Essentially, populism is not intrinsically positive or negative, it is a tool to create a political commonality. Continue reading Creating the people

Nuancing the right-wing populist hype

While right-wing populism is certainly one expression of democratic discontent, disproportionate media focus risks reinforcing these parties as serious contenders and adversaries of the status quo, and alienating those who do not believe that the Le Pens and Farages are a viable solution to their political and democratic demands. A more ambitious democratic discussion is needed

One of the most obvious and potentially serious political shifts in the past twenty years in Europe has been the surge in right-wing populism, and yet, as this piece argues, this phenomenon is widely misunderstood and misinterpreted with potentially dramatic consequences. Year on year, the media warns of new waves of (right-wing) populism crashing against the defences of the liberal democratic status quo. The most recent example was the 2014 European elections which, according to much of the media, witnessed an ‘irresistible’ rise of populist parties from the right side of politics. From UKIP, French Front National and Danish People’s Party victories, to the shocking results of the more extreme Jobbik and Golden Dawn in Hungary and Greece, it would seem that right-wing populism has become inescapable.

Early on, Hans-Georg Betz in his formative work on radical right-wing populism argued that this surge was part of the corrective function of democracy (what Margaret Canovan called its ‘redemptive function’). In this understanding (simplified for this short piece), right-wing populism acts as a counterpoint to the pragmatic side of democracy, that is the technocratic forms of government which have become increasingly central to what Colin Crouch has called ‘post-democracy.’ By voting for these parties, the ‘people’ (be they workers, the losers of globalisation etc.) can express their discontent and frustration towards policies and politics from which they feel alienated. This vote acts as a reminder to politicians that the mob may not want the advance of (neo)liberalism and that a step back or a reframing is at times necessary. Continue reading Nuancing the right-wing populist hype

Repenser la démocratie pour contrer le FN

Pour Marine Le Pen, “le peuple a parlé”. La chef de file du Front national, forte de ses 25% aux élections Européennes, clame dans tous les médias que son parti est le premier parti de France : “les Français ne veulent plus être dirigés du dehors. Ils n’ont pas seulement lourdement sanctionnés les partis du renoncement. Ils ont aussi conféré au FN la responsabilité d’appliquer ses idées”. Pour Le Pen, ce weekend est un tournant dans la vie politique puisqu’il représente, d’après elle, le moment où le peuple français se tourne vers les idées nationalistes en masse et exprime par là son désir démocratique d’un virage vers la droite dure. Le quart des suffrages exprimés en faveur de son parti semblent suffisant pour justifier un changement de cap drastique : “Le président de la République doit maintenant prendre les dispositions qui s’imposent pour que l’Assemblée devienne nationale, représentative du peuple et à même de mener la politique d’indépendance que le peuple a choisie ce soir.” Il n’en faut pas plus pour Jean-Marie Le Pen pour demander la démission du François Hollande. Continue reading Repenser la démocratie pour contrer le FN

Front National’s victory will have a serious impact on both France and the future of Europe

As far as Marine Le Pen is concerned: “The people have spoken.” The leader of the Front National, which has taken 25% of the French vote in the European Parliamentary elections claims her party is now “number one” in France.

“Our people demand one type of politics,” she told jubilant supporters. “They want French politics by the French, for the French, with the French. They don’t want to be led any more from outside, to submit to laws … Tonight is a massive rejection of the European Union.”

And a ripple effect appears to have already reached the Elysée Palace. Embattled French president, Francois Hollande, called a crisis meeting of his cabinet after which he gave a televised statement in which he outlined what appears to be a major shift in attitude, saying that the EU had become “remote and incomprehensible” to many people.

Continue reading Front National’s victory will have a serious impact on both France and the future of Europe

La crise de la démocratie n’est pas celle que l’on croit

Traduction de l’anglais : Amélie Marriq (université de Bath)

Nombreux sont ceux qui estiment que les partis d’extrême-droite seront les grands gagnants des prochaines élections européennes. Certains sondages suggèrent même que le Front National en France, le Parti pour la liberté aux Pays-Bas, le Parti de la liberté d’Autriche, le Parti populaire danois ainsi que le Parti pour l’indépendance du Royaume-Uni (UKIP) pourraient remporter les élections dans leur pays respectif.Ce n’est pas vraiment une surprise, étant donné les circonstances extrêmement favorables dans lesquelles s’est déroulée la montée de ces mouvements populistes et nativistes. Les élections de second ordre comme les Européennes se sont toujours avérées bénéfiques aux partis minoritaires : elles fournissent l’occasion aux eurosceptiques et nationalistes de mener une campagne négative “facile”, qui s’en prend à des institutions que l’électorat ne saisit pas vraiment et auxquelles il ne s’intéresse pas tellement.

La situation économique favorise elle aussi la montée des partis d’extrême-droite, étant donné que les partis au pouvoir, qu’ils soient de gauche ou de droite, ont été obligés d’adopter des mesures d’austérité douloureuses. Malgré des signes de reprise économique, de nombreux pays souffrent encore des conséquences de la crise, et les prévisions à court et à long terme ne laissent rien présager de bon. Fin 2013, contrairement aux signes précoces de reprise économique vantés par les gouvernements, 68 % des personnes ayant répondu au sondage Eurobaromètre ont déclaré que la situation actuelle de leur pays n’était pas bonne, et 50 % des sondés estiment que le pire est à venir. Dans un tel contexte, il n’est pas étonnant de voir une partie de la population inquiète de la situation actuelle avoir tendance à se tourner vers une politique d’exclusion nationaliste alternative. Continue reading La crise de la démocratie n’est pas celle que l’on croit

Distrust of EU institutions, not far right, is real threat to our European future

Distrust of EU institutions, not far right, is real threat to our European future

By Aurelien Mondon, University of Bath

It is widely predicted that far-right parties will be the big winners of the 2014 European elections. Some polls have even suggested that the French Front National, the Dutch Party for Freedom, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Danish People’s Party and the UK Independence Party could be the winning parties in their respective countries.

This is hardly surprising as the rise of these populist, nativist movements has taken place in extremely favourable circumstances. Secondary elections have always proven beneficial for parties beyond the mainstream. The Eurosceptic side, whether opportunistic or ideological, is able to run an “easy” negative campaign, attacking institutions which the public doesn’t properly understand and in which it is not very interested.

Continue reading Distrust of EU institutions, not far right, is real threat to our European future

Le Pen and FN won only 7% of votes – this is not an earthquake

Marine Le Pen called the results of last weekend’s French local elections an “earthquake” – co-opting a phrase used about her father’s accession to the second round of the presidential elections in 2002. There is no doubt that the Front National did well in the first round on Sunday, winning in one town in the north and sending up to 229 candidates to the second round next weekend, almost doubling its 1995 record. For Le Pen, Sunday confirmed “the end of the bipolarisation” of French politics: “the French had freed themselves from the obsolete Left/Right choice”.

The reporting of these elections had the FN all over it. For centre-left Libération “the Front National is at the centre of the game”. Right-wing Le Figaro stressed the FN’s breakthrough – Steeve Briois, winner in formerly left-wing Hénin-Beaumont, was a symbol of this “blue Marine” wave. Le Monde ran countless articles analysing this potential “earthquake” while Le Parisien featured a prominent picture of Le Pen’s advisor Florian Philippot. The FN even made the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and many other newspapers across the globe.

Continue reading Le Pen and FN won only 7% of votes – this is not an earthquake