Public discourse. Strategies of persuasion and interpretation

Imagining the people in the new politics: debates on the will of the people in public discourse across Europe


The main aim of this project is to identify the different ways of understanding and (re)articulating the people (“demos”) in the discourses of the new political parties and movements in Europe from 2008 onwards, and to map these concepts and their respective articulations in a set of representative countries.

In today’s world, shaken by the effects of globalization, the aftermath of the financial crisis and the collapse of confidence in holders of public office, experts in many European countries have perceived a growing mistrust of conventional politics. As the gap between citizens and their representatives has apparently widened, the doors have been opened to new political formations of a radical nature. Such groups vary according to region, taking on many different forms. While some have features that allow us to associate them with traditional left-wing, right-wing or nationalist parties, others offer new proposals and discourses which are hard to classify in terms of traditional politics. In fact, it has been suggested that the claims made by these political actors, which supposedly embody “the will of the people”, constitute a reaction to some key aspects of neoliberal government in areas such as the economy, EU integration, migration or social security.

Despite their variations, such “populist” discourses generally appear to be founded on a series of tropes which legitimize the claims of the right and/or left by appealing to the will of the people. They give great importance to aspects of identity which position them as diametrically opposed to supposedly hegemonic groups, and this contrast is often intensified by heightened degrees of affect. These groups’ messages provide a broad field for research, not only in the area of discourse analysis, but also in collaboration with multimodal analysis and media studies.

However, perhaps because the emergence of the new politics is a recent phenomenon, and because a swift, flexible approach is needed to tackle the rapidly changing political scenario, these discourses have so far received little critical attention from linguists. It is particularly striking that the existing bibliography focuses mainly on far-right groups in northern and central Europe, ignoring the populist parties/movements that do not fit into this pattern, despite their obvious importance.

In the present project, we shall build corpora of material related to these parties/movements in several countries/languages, and analyse them in terms not only of discourse as such, but also of multimodal semiotics and strategic uses of new media. Qualitative analysis will be complemented by the use of conventional and multimodal corpus tools, to obtain a balanced picture of the way these parties imagine “the people”, and to facilitate comparative studies.

This project will provide a deeper understanding of the new political discourses that are arising on the European scene on a trans-national level, and could influence the design of future social integration policies. The project workshops and seminars will enable us to strengthen our network of contacts with researchers in different European countries for the analysis of emergent political discourses. The results of the studies conducted for the project will be published in high-impact journals and series. We envisage that the project will have high visibility, not only in Spain, but also in other European countries.

This research received funding from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity (Ref. FFI2015-65252-R). 


Main Researcher

Ruth BreezeRuth Breeze
Extension: 805631
Office 1110 (1st floor, ICS)



Carmen LlamasCarmen Llamas
Extension: 802037
Office 1240 (1st floor, Main Library)

Research team

Manuel Casado Velarde (ICS)
Miguel Ayerbe (Universidad del País Vasco)
Ana María Fernández Vallejo (University of Navarra)
Dámaso Izquierdo Alegría
Ana Jimeno Zuazu (University of Navarra)
Ricardo Jiménez Yáñez (Universitat Internacional de Catalunya)


Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad

FFI2015-70876-P (MINECO/FEDER, UE)


International conference