Populism as Interaction: How "the People" Happened in Serbia in 1988

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University of Wisconsin--Madison, 2015 - 273 страница
This dissertation develops a new theoretical approach to populism as fractal interaction. Both the aspect of populist mobilization and that of populist discourse are viewed through the lens of interactions between elite actors and popular forces. Fractal interaction refers to the fact that, no matter the scale at which one observes the phenomenon, elite-mass interactions continuously present themselves as the key mechanism propelling populism forward. In other words, as one zooms in and out, the same pattern of elite-mass linkage re-appears. This view of populism as fractal interaction can be considered as both a new definition of the phenomenon as well as a theory of the forces that give it momentum. Populism is defined by and driven by the reoccurring involvement of elites in the activities of popular actors and a corresponding lack of autonomy of mass actors, both in terms of their organizing as well as their ability to construct discourses and ideologies. The empirical case analyzed is Serbia in the late 1980s. In the summer and fall of 1988, Serbia witnessed a large protest wave in the streets and an explosion of populist discourse in the public sphere. This case has all the traits typically associated with populism, such as mass mobilization, celebration of "the people", vilification of the distant and corrupt elite, and the emergence of a charismatic leader in Slobodan Milosevic. The case is approached through a variety of data and multiple methods, both qualitative as well as statistical. The analysis includes an examination of events in general and the relationship between elite events and street protests in particular, the analysis of the citizens' letters to the press and the relationship of such media content to street protests, and the analysis of political cartoons that depicted the productive people in opposition to lazy bureaucratic elites

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