In today’s world, characterised by the ongoing effects of globalisation, the aftermath of the financial crisis, and considerable undermining of trust in the public sphere, it has become increasingly obvious that ordinary people are losing their confidence in conventional politics. It seems that the gap between citizens and their elected representatives is widening. In Europe, this has led to the emergence of new political groups of a more or less radical nature. These movements are very varied: although some have features that allow us to associate them with classical left-wing or nationalist ideologies, others define themselves using new discourses and proposals that are hard to classify using traditional frameworks.
The ideas put forward by these new political actors claiming to embody the will of the people appear to reflect a reaction against some key aspects of current policies in areas such as the economy, European integration, migration or social security. Their discourses seek to legitimize the claims of the right and/or left by appealing to the will of the citizens, often placing them in opposition to the “political classes” that currently hold power. These new parties or actors diverge from mainstream political groups in the importance they give to aspects of identity, which are imbued with a high degree of emotional intensity, and in their communication styles, which are often extremely provocative. Nonetheless, perhaps because this is a very recent phenomenon and the changing political scenario requires swift and flexible responses, the discourses of these groups have so far received little critical attention from linguists.
Importantly, in each country or region, the key concept of “the people” (demos) is articulated in a specific way, giving rise to a “map” of terms whose meaning conditions the interpretation of these emergent political discourses. Starting from various corpora of material related to these new political groups in different countries, we aim to pursue two main research objectives:
to identify the different ways in which the concept of “the people” (demos) is understood and (re)articulated in different contexts
to build a map of the terms related to this concept and their respective articulations with other concepts in a set of European countries.