Dr. Jim A. Kuypers, Professor of Communication, Virginia Tech, United States

Welcome to the Special Issue Section of the World Complexity Science Academy Journal. Each issue will offer a collection of essays addressing an issue or theme of interest to both complexity scholars and others interested in the complex nature of our world. These essays stress both scholarship and informed opinion and will range widely in point of view. Complexity scholars, rhetoricians, journalists, political scientists, historians, economists, and many other disciplines will come together to address issues and themes of interest to the readers of the journal.

In this inaugural special section of the inaugural issue of the journal, we look at a growing, worldwide phenomenon necessitating deep attention to fully understand its intricacies, its pitfalls, and its potential—a phenomenon called both populism and nationalism interchangeably, even as they are different concepts. Movements across the globe have increasingly risen in the past decade, pitting grassroots, local democratic ideals against unchecked globalism. This clash was recently exemplified in Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s final speech to the European Parliament before Brexit:

In [the] UK and indeed in the Brexit party we love Europe; we just hate the European Union–it’s as simple as that. So I’m hoping, I’m hoping, this begins the end of this project. It’s a bad project. It isn’t just undemocratic, it’s anti-democratic, and it puts in that front row . . . it gives people power without accountability, people who cannot be held to account by the electorate, and that is an unacceptable structure. Indeed, there’s an historic battle going on now across the West in Europe America and elsewhere. It is globalism against populism and you may loathe populism but I tell you a funny thing, it’s becoming very popular. And it has great benefits: no more financial contributions, no more European Court of Justice, no more Common Fisheries Policy, no more being talked down to, no more being bullied, no more ghee for Hofstadt. I mean, I mean what’s [not to] like? I know you’re going to miss us. I know you want to ban our national flags but we’re going to wave you goodbye….

Our authors in this special section address some of the tensions suggested by Farage’s speech, looking at both nationalism and populism. Through their different approaches to the subject, they shed light on these timely and often misunderstood forces presently shaping our world. Complexity Science as conceived in this journal goes beyond the mere study of a system, although it is “concerned with complex systems and problems that are . . . dynamic, unpredictable and multi-dimensional, consisting of a collection of interconnected relationships and parts. Unlike traditional ‘cause and effect’ or linear thinking, complexity science is characterized by non-linearity.”

The authors in this special section, some Complexity Science specialists, others not, all approach the subject of nationalism/populism from the point of view that they are multi-dimensional phenomena requiring trans-disciplinary and even trans-national perspectives to appreciate fully their nuances. Although each essay privileges certain disciplinary understandings of populism/nationalism, taken together they present a complex but approachable picture of the phenomena sweeping the globe.

The essays take wide-ranging approaches. Donald T. Critchlow offers a 21st century historical view showing the role fear plays globally in nationalist/populist risings. Farooq A. Kperogi, writing from a mass communication/journalism perspective, drills deeply into a specific case study of populism, and in this instance, shows how theocratic concerns can intermingle with nationalist and populist impulses. Massimiliano Ruzzeddu and Marino d’Amore offer a more sociological approach that explores the rise of populism in Italy and its implications for a global understanding. Lisa S. Villadsen shares with us a refined rhetorical understanding, shedding light on populism’s “illiberal” use of emotional appeals with a case study emerging out of Denmark with implications for understanding populist appeals throughout Europe and beyond. And Ben Voth shares with us a study contrasting worldwide nationalism with populism bringing to bear elements of both argumentation and rhetorical theory to better understand the changing nature of the contrasting forces. Taken together, the essays offer a fuller understanding of nationalism and populism than that offered by simplistic news media reporting, and are an invaluable resource for those studying these movements locally and globally.

Notes:
Transcribed from, “Nigel Farage’s final speech to European Parliament cut short after he waves flag,” Youtube.com, January 29, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBMvZRf9Scs&feature=youtu.be

“Complexity Science in Brief,” University of Victoria, August, 2012, https://www.uvic.ca/research/groups/cphfri/assets/docs/Complexity_Science_in_Brief.pdf