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Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA) Conference

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5-7 July 2017

Department of Politics and Public Policy, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Sponsored by the Ideology and Discourse Analysis Programme, Department of Government, University of Essex, UK


Activism, Populism, and the Future of the Democratic State

There is little doubt that the contemporary condition is marked by a major challenge to accepted values, institutions, styles of policymaking, forms of governance and modes of political engagement. The rise of new political forces and movements has undermined apparently fixed political arrangements (such as the European Union or mainstream political parties), as well as sedimented ideologies and mentalities, such as liberal democracy, globalization or neoliberalism. The global problems of climate change, immigration, wars and uneven economic development have provoked radical movements and activism from the Left and the Right of the spectrum across the globe. They have also bequeathed a series of wicked policy problems of great complexity.

‘Activism’ and ‘populism’, ‘the activist’ and ‘the people’, campaigning and protest, often stand in opposition to the ethos, practices and processes of policy-making and governance. Technocratic appeals to expertise, the hierarchical design of participatory forums, and the coercive dynamics of collaborative spaces have all encouraged the drawing of sharp boundaries between policy, the state and activism. For many observers, these boundaries appear to have hardened, leading to new forms of campaigning and popular protest. Yet, at the same time, the ‘accepted realities’ of activism are also called into question. Different types of activism are increasingly recognised within the state apparatus, which are driven in part by individuals working at the borders of the state and civil society. Equally, innovative forms of co-production are arguably forging new alliances between state institutions and lay experts as shifting coalitions come together to address societal challenges such as climate change, mobility or social cohesion. Indeed, such reflections are challenging traditional models of the academic, calling for new ways of engaging with communities under the banner of the academic-activist.

With these debates in mind, IPA 2017 aims to trigger a dialogue to critically evaluate existing conceptions of activism and populism within the policy process. It seeks to question what we mean by ‘activism’ and  ‘activists’, ‘populism’ and ‘the people’, and their impact on governance, policymaking and capitalist democracies in different contexts. It also aims to grapple with the array of public controversies that have recently surfaced in contemporary politics and society, while inquiring into the emergence of alternative visions, imaginaries and policy styles. Here the conference plans to assess the potentialities of innovative forms of democratic policymaking and political engagement inharnessing and channelling the new forces at play.

Call for Panels - now closed

Call for Papers - now closed

Registration - now open

Keynote Speakers

Conference Programme


Local and Venue information



For the latest news and updates on the IPA Conference 2017, please keep up to date with #DMUIPA17 on Twitter and follow us @DMUBAL 

For all other general enquiries concerning the conference, please use the conference email:

IPA 2017 Conference Organisers

De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.  



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