How do political leaders use populist rhetoric to legitimate war ? (article)

« War is not, after all, a malign act of fate – an unexpected volcano eruption or a tornado that spirals up from nowhere » (Carruthers, 2000:16). Indeed the conduct of violence today in a modern society ruled by law relies heavily on psychological mobilisation for its success. Thus, in order to produce clear approval of one’s military ambitions, one can no longer take a unilateral decision without popular support. As the charter of the United Nations reminds: war begins in the minds of men, thus great process must be used in order to collectively accept and legitimate the waging of warfare in modern societies. It is interesting to see how this legitimacy is established because of a smart use of populist rhetoric. A modern definition of populism is an ideology that “pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice” (Albertazzi & McDonnell, 2008:3). The link between populist rethoric and war is studied in this article through the method of speech analysis. 

Le Président Turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan s’exprime devant son peuple (© AFP 2018 ADEM ALTAN)

Sources :

  • Carruthers, Susan. L., (2011). The Media at War, 2nd edition, New York: Palgrave
  • Fierke, K. (2007), Critical Approaches to International Security, Cambridge: Polity.
  • Keen, S. (200). Faces of the Enemy. Reflections of the Hostile Imagination, 3rd edition, San Francisco: Harper.
  • Williams, P. (2013), Security Studies: An Introduction, Routledge.
  • Albertazzi, D. & McDonnell, D. (2008), Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillian.
  • Blanton, Lindsey, 1996. “Images in Conflict, The Case of Ronald Reagan and El Salvador”,International Studies Quaterly, vol.40, no.1, pp.23-44.
  • Macmillan. Doty, R. (1993),”Foreign Policy as Social Construction: A Post-Positivist Analysis of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines”, International Studies Quarterly, Vol 37, No3, pp 297-320.
  • Finnemore M. (1996), The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 153-185 URL: < Finnemore.pdf>
  • Fox, J. & Sandal, N. (2013), Religion in International Relations Theory: Interactions and possibilities, Routledge: London Metropolitan University.
  • Harle, Vilho, (2000), The Enemy with a Thousand Faces, Westport: Praeger, pp.9- 23.
  • Hopf, T. (1998), “The Promise of Constructivism in International Relations”, pp171-200 Katzenstein, P. (1996), The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, Colombia University Press, Columbia.
  • Lasswell, H. (1927). Propaganda Technique in World War I, Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.Neubert S. & Reich, K. (2002), “Toward a Constructivist Theory of Discourse: Rethinking the Boundaries of Discourse Philosophy”, University of Cologne Stable URL:<;
  • Oppenheimer, Louis, (2006), ”The Development of Enemy Images: A Theoretical Contribution”,Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, vol.12, no.3, pp.269-292.
  • Snyder, Mark; Tanke, Elizabeth Decker; Berscheid, Ellen (1977) “Social Perception and Interpersonal Behavior: On the Self-Fulfilling Nature of Social Stereotypes” in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 35, No. 9, 656-666
  • Wendt A. (1992), Anarchy is what States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics, The MIT Press, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 391-425 < seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents>
  • Widmaier, W. (2010), “Emotions Before Paradigms: Elite Anxiety and Populist Resentment from the Asian to Subprime Crises” in Journal of International Studies, Vol. 39, No. 1, 127-144 Stable URL: <;


Alexia Carratala

Laisser un commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:


Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Google+

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Google+. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s