The new moving right show

Summer 2020
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.75.07.2020

The current political conjuncture in the UK invites a revisiting of Stuart Hall’s influential analysis of Thatcherism and, in particular, his characterisation of authoritarian populism. With the Conservatives’ recent and ongoing shift towards right-wing populism under Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, we have a useful comparator with the turn to Thatcherism; and this shift also provides the opportunity to engage in a longer-range analysis of the relationship between conservatism, authoritarian/right-wing populism and neoliberalism. Hall’s association of Thatcherism with authoritarian populism occurred during a fallow period in analyses of populism - in stark contrast to the contemporary populist ‘moment’, ‘eruption’ or ‘explosion’. Thatcher’s populist credentials are interrogated: some elements of current definitions of populism, including the people versus elite antagonism, were sidelined in her political language; and an emphasis on individualism infused her wider discourse. Nevertheless, the concept of an authoritarian populism, and Hall’s wider analysis, still offers an interesting perspective for a contemporary period of challenge to dominant discourse - even though the contestation is within the right. 

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Soundings 75: System change