Insights from transatlantic academic

Berggruen Institute President Craig Calhoun will discuss populism, polarisation, democracy and the future of nations at two public lectures next week at La Trobe University.

The former London School of Economics Director’s talk on populism from 5pm on Tuesday 16 May will be held in East Lecture Theatre 2 on La Trobe’s Melbourne campus in Bundoora.

“Populist politics has shaped elections, social movements, and appeals for political legitimacy around the world. It is often combined with nationalism and discussed in each case as though special to that country. But the fact that they are so widespread reveals that each is not entirely idiosyncratic,” says Professor Calhoun, who heads one of the world’s foremost independent non-partisan think tanks at Berggruen in Los Angeles.

“Populism can threaten democracy by giving power to illiberal demagogues. But populism can also express demands for wider sharing of the benefits of economic growth and encourage democratic renewal through better recognition of the importance of all citizens and not only elites.”

Reservations for this lecture can be made via

Professor Calhoun will turn his attention to the future of nations the following evening at La Trobe University’s City campus at 360 Collins Street from 6pm. “It has been common to assert that nations and nation-states will lose significance and perhaps even fade away,” he says. “But in fact, nation-states are still of enormous practical influence.

“Nationalism need not always be belligerent or oppressive but for the foreseeable future it will remain important, influencing both domestic politics and international relations. The key question is not whether nations have a future, but whether in the future nations and national politics can be organised for greater global cooperation, and better domestic integration.”

Reservations for Professor Calhoun’s city lecture on Wednesday 18 May should be made via