1st Edition

Discursive Disruption, Populist Communication and Democracy The Cases of Hugo Chávez and Donald J. Trump

By Elena Block Copyright 2022
    148 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    148 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In Discursive Disruption, Populist Communication and Democracy, Elena Block explores the links between declining democratic discourses, populist communication, and reflects on the communicative and moral dimensions of populism.

    Block proposes the concept of discursive disruption to help to identify, analyze and understand the disruptive power of populist speech, turning to the communicative styles of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez and the US’s President Donald J. Trump to illustrate and support this new conceptual and analytical tool. While the mainstream political class and media traditionally sought to manage the processes of political communication, the book contends that they have now been displaced and their role has been undermined. Middle ground politics and journalism have been substituted by the adversarial rhetorical styles of populists, multiplied through multi-fragmented channels, texts and voices. With this book, Block continues her introspection in the conceptual, communicative and mediatic dimensions of populism by adding a perspective that draws on democratic and discursive theories.

    Discursive Disruption, Populist Communication and Democracy is ideally designed for scholars and professional communicators in political science and communication studies eager to understand the connection between weakening discourses of modern democracy and the pervasiness of confrontational styles of populist communication in contemporary political exchanges.

    1. The Disruption is Discursive

    2. Democracy, trust, truths, lies, and style

    3. Populist communication, discursive violence and disrupted democracy

    4. The discursive disruption framework

    5. Chávez and Trump as paradigms of discursive disruption

    6. The moral language of populist communication


    Elena Block is Lecturer in Strategic Communication at the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland. She holds a PhD in Political Communication from The University of Queensland and MSc in Political Sociology from the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE). Her main areas of interest: political communication; strategic communication; populist communication; the mediatisation of politics and society; virtual and teen influencers and their role and impact on strategic communication and advocacy.

    "The study of populism as a communicative phenomenon is vitally important in current times. Elena Block has made a highly valuable contribution to this field, identifying discursive commonalities in the otherwise very different political projects of Hugo Chavez and Donald Trump. This book will be keenly sought after by those studying populism as a media as well as a political phenomenon."

    Terry Flew, Professor of Digital Communications and Culture, The University of Sydney

    "Populism in its various shapes is undoubtedly a key feature of contemporary politics around the globe. When looking at the threats it poses to democracy, left-wing or right-wing authoritarian leaders show no difference: they share contempt for democratic institutions and use divisive language. This timely book provides insights on the callous communication strategies of such leaders as Trump and Chávez, reflecting on the ethical dimension of populist language and on what the author aptly terms "discursive disruption" of populism of the 21st century.

    Gianpietro Mazzoleni, The University of Milan

    "In Discursive Disruption, Populist Communication and Democracy: The Cases of Hugo Chávez and Donald J. Trump, Elena Block creates the concept of discursive disruption in order to explain how, from opposing ideologies, these leaders used their populist style to divide their audiences to the detriment of republican values. With incivility and intolerance, and this linguistic weapon, populists win the quasi-religious loyalty of their followers. Discursive disruption is a powerful framework for analysis. This  book is worth considering and using for future studies."

    Alexandra Alvarez, Universidad de Los Andes (ULA)

    "This study reveals the Panglossian character of the ‘deliberative turn’ in democratic theory by drawing attention to a pathology in democratic politics: discursive disruption. By detailing how both Chavez and Trump exploited the linguistic resources that they shared with their political opponents to reduce or destroy the spaces where pluralistic dialogue had existed, this book leaves the reader with an uncomfortable question: why wouldn’t we expect this to continue?"

    Ryan Walter, Associate Professor, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland

    "This book is a testament to the dissolving effects that populist and authoritarian political styles, notwithstanding its ideological origins, can have on democratic institutions and the public sphere. It presents a bold comparative exercise about the destruction of an emerging democracy and the troubles of a consolidated one. Elena Block's latest work will be a landmark critique on the political effects of our current media landscape, as well as on its abuses."

    Guillermo Tell Aveledo Coll, Dean of the Faculty of Legal and Political Studies of the Universidad Metropolitana, UNIMET

    "In this book, Elena Block makes an important contribution to the study of political communication, populism, democracy and discourse from a critical perspective. She proposes a conceptual and methodological framework for understanding the erosion of today´s democracies with particular reference to Hugo Chávez and Donald Trump. The concept of discursive disruption that she introduces as well as the approach that she applies to these two populist leaders serve as the starting point to analyse the style of other leaders who, although not sharing the same ideologies, are contributing to the erosion of democracies in the world and to the spread of a conflictive anti-dialogue style in political communication."

    Adriana Bolívar, Professor of Linguistics and Discourse Studies, Universidad Central de Venezuela

    “[This] text deserves circulation among political communication experts. It is an excellent account of how populism works to diminish the rights and freedom of the people, while at the same time glorifying the rhetor who seeks to profit (especially in terms of power) from its use.”

    Raymie E. McKerrow, International Journal of Communication