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‘Enemies of the people’: Populism and the politics of (in)security

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of International Security
Issue number1
Early online date29 Oct 2019
Accepted/In press15 Sep 2019
E-pub ahead of print29 Oct 2019
PublishedFeb 2020


King's Authors


Populists are on the rise across the globe and claim to speak on behalf of ‘the people’ that are set against the establishment in the name of popular sovereignty. This article examines how populist discourses represent ‘the people’ as a referent object that is threatened and the form and implications of this populist securitisation process. Drawing on securitisation theory and poststructuralism, the article understands populist securitisation as a discursive practice that propagates a politics of fear, urgency, and exceptionality in order to mobilise ‘the people’ against a ‘dangerous’ elite and normalise this antagonistic divide of the social space. While the proposed theoretical framework aims to clarify the relationship between poststructuralist and securitisation theory and capture the nexus between populism and security, the case of populism broadens the scope of potential subjects of security and poses important challenges to existing theoretical assumptions about security as something designated by states’ representatives and ‘security experts’. The article develops and illustrates its arguments with a case study on the (de)securitisation moves in the populist discourse of Donald Trump.

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