Back to the Populist Future?: Nostalgia in Contemporary Ideological Discourse
Nostalgia is regularly depicted as an indication of a flawed political argument or allegiance, and framed as a virus more likely to take hold in places that are ‘left behind’. Its prevalence has been linked to the rise of populism in Western politics, the vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. This paper seeks to challenge the normative depiction of nostalgia as an alien presence within ‘normal’ political discourse, and critically evaluates theoretical attempts to distinguish between positive and negative forms of it. Instead, it sets out to explore some of the different affective, sentimental and ideational roles that various kinds of nostalgia practice perform, and highlights the particular importance of forms of political argument that accuse opponents of nostalgia while simultaneously employing some of its prevalent modalities and motifs. The paper finishes by exploring these themes in relation to the career and ideas of the iconoclastic and populist British politician, Enoch Powell.