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Word of the Year 2016: a ‘post-truth’, ‘alt-right’, ‘Brexiteer’ing’ explanation of political chaos

The lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries have been at it again with their choice of Word of the Year 2016 – ‘post-truth’. Now call me a pedant but I’d have thought ‘post-truth’ is two words, or at the very least a phrase, (‘Pedant!’ I hear you all shout) but I’m assured that the insertion of a hyphen creates a compound word that is not to be sniffed at. How then do words such as ‘post-truth’, ‘alt-right’, and ‘Brexiteer’ combine to explain the current situation of global political chaos?

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The nothingness of hyper-normalisation

In recent years my academic work has revolved around the analysis of two main concepts: ‘hyper-democracy’ and ‘normality.’ The former in relation to the outburst of forms and tools of democratic engagement in a historical period defined by anti-political sentiment; the latter relating to the common cry of those disaffected democrats – ‘why can’t politicians just be normal?

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Tightrope walking: The future of political science

Imagine standing at the edge of a precipice. A combination of forces are pushing at your back, biting at your heels and generally forcing you to step into an unknown space. A long thin tightrope without any apparent ending stretches out in front of you and appears to offer your only lifeline. Doing nothing and standing still is not an option. You lift up your left foot and gingerly step out….

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The body politic: art, pain, and Putin

The phrase ‘scrotum artist’ was never going to be easy to ignore when it appeared in a newspaper headline. It is also a phrase that has made me reflect upon the nature of politics, the issue of public expectations, and even the role of a university professor of politics. In a previous blog I reflected on the experience of running a citizens’ assembly and how the emotional demands and rewards of the experience had been quite unexpected.

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A talent for politics? Academics, failure, and emotion

Sometimes a fragment of a book manages to lodge itself in the back of your mind. An idea, a description, a phrase…just something, and often completely unrelated to the core story, attaches itself to your mind like an intellectual itch you can’t quite scratch.

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Left behind? The future of progressive politics

Centre-left social democratic parties appear to have been left behind in the last decade. ‘‘Early in this century you could drive from Inverness in Scotland to Vilnius in Lithuania without crossing a country governed by the right’’ The Economist highlighted just weeks ago.

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The Dismal Debate: would a “Brexit” mean more power for the UK?

“Money, money money. Must be funny. In a rich man’s world.” As an academic I’m highly unlikely to ever have either “money, money, money” or live in a “rich man’s world.” But as a long-time student of politics I’ve been struck by how the debate in the UK about the forthcoming referendum on membership of the European Union has been framed around just two issues – money and power.

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Trump that: the failure and farce of American politics

There is something very odd and bizarrely impressive about Donald Trump’s approach to democratic politics: it is quite obviously undemocratic. Indeed, if anything, his campaign is fuelled by anti-political sentiment and populist slogans. It’s strong stuff. So strong that it deserves to be recognized in the form of a new political ideology: ‘Trump-ism’. Eponymous…and yet also synonymous with the failure and farce of American politics.

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Shake your chains: politics, poetry, and protest

This year, 21 March marks not just the beginning of the Political Studies Association’s 2016 Annual Conference in Brighton but also World Poetry Day. Formally ratified by UNESCO in 1999 but with antecedents that date back to the middle of the twentieth century, World Poetry Day’s aim is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to ‘give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.

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The problems with democracy – continuing the conversation into a new year

An invitation from the British Library to give the first in a new public lecture series called ‘Enduring Ideas’ was never a request I was going to decline. But what ‘enduring idea’ might I focus on and what exactly would I want to say that had not already been said about an important idea that warranted such reflection? The selected concept was ‘democracy’ and the argument sought to set out and unravel a set of problems that could – either collectively or individually – be taken to explain the apparent rise in democratic disaffection.

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Fire and ashes: success and failure in politics

Politics is a worldly art. It is a profession that is founded on the ability to instil hope, convince doubters and unite the disunited – to find simple and pain free solutions to what are in fact complex and painful social challenges.

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Raw politics: devolution, democracy and deliberation

As a long-time student of politics I have often found myself assessing various kinds of attempts to create new democratic processes or arenas. From citizens’ juries through to mini-publics and from area panels to lottery-based procedures the scope of these experiments with ‘new’ ways of doing politics has taken me from the local ward level right up to the international level.

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Dangerous minds: ‘Public’ political science or ‘punk’ political science?

The end of another academic year and my mind is tired. But tired minds are often dangerous minds. Just as alcohol can loosen the tongue (in vino veritas) for the non-drinkers of this world fatigue can have a similar effect (lassitudine veritas liberabit). Professional pretensions are far harder to sustain when one is work weary but I can’t help wondering if the study of politics has lost its way.

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