Chapter 14 Discipling Populism: A Theopolitical Alternative to Denial or Demonizing

In: The Spirit of Populism
Author: Doug Gay

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Abstract

Populism and nationalism are often seen as inextricably linked and, singularly or jointly, as toxic phenomena which are intrinsically unethical. A consequence is that working definitions of both often have an ethical deficit pre-loaded. In this chapter, Doug Gay develops the argument first advanced in his Honey From The Lion – Christianity and the Ethics of Nationalism that it is possible to conceive of an ethical nationalism and to posit what the theological conditions might be for such a position. He argues for a resetting of definitions of nationalism and populism towards more neutral formulations. He draws on the language of ‘discipleship’ to argue that, from the perspective of theological ethics, we learn how to be Scottish, Danish or Ghanaian and that such identities need to be ‘discipled’ (as opposed to simply ‘demonized’) so that they can be inhabited and performed ethically. This approach to the ethics of nationalism can be extended to growing debates around populism. The experience of active involvement with campaigns for Scottish independence is brought into dialogue with post-colonial perspectives to argue a distinctive case for a critical and nuanced ethics of nationalism and populism.

The Spirit of Populism

Political Theologies in Polarized Times

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