CFA: Partisanship and Compassion in a Time of Populism

Partisanship and Compassion in a Time of Populism


Workshop organised in collaboration by

Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London


Centre for Ethics as Study in Human Value, University of Pardubice


Organisers: Ondřej Beran (Centre for Ethics), Tony Milligan (King’s College)


Date: 27-28 August, 2019
Venue: King's College London


There have been many attempts to define populism, a phenomenon of unmistakeable importance these days. These analyses often point towards an intriguing tension. Populism seem to require a unitary notion of a (political) community on behalf of which the charismatic leader speaks. But it also tends to unify through a – moralistically phrased – opposition to an enemy or a threat to the “people”, be it the “corrupt elites from Wall Street”, or immigrants of a different ethnicity. Unity is secured through othering and exclusion. While combative practices and hostile sentiments are not alien to the spirit of politics altogether, the recent surge of populist movements seems to have exacerbated these tendencies, driving oppositional rhetoric and eroding familiar norms of civility. There is also the worrying synergy between populism’s rapid progress and a lack of care in handling evidence and truth. At times, partisanship seems to eclipse a commitment to truthfulness. The workshop will be concerned with the limits and prospects of a reasonable political pluralism, one which draws upon notions of compassion and civility and constraints upon the role of politicized emotion without denying its legitimacy or the positive roles of partisanship.

Suitable topics for abstracts include the following:

  • What is the nature of political partiality? Has not the very taking sides with a political party or entity – taking a political stance – become something inherently degraded and sinister?
  • To what extent and in what form can there be an open-minded sympathy for political opponents? Can one (still) have genuine compassion for another’s needs, worries and predicaments, informed by the background of a different class, or culture, and so forth?
  • What is the role of emotions in both the unifying and divisive moments of political practice? How can the demagoguery, sophistry, and “toxic” forms of the relationship towards one’s own as well as the others’ political standpoints be avoided while retaining a commitment to the inclusion of emotion within the bounds of the rational or of pluralistic political engagement?

Please send your abstracts of max. 300 words to, by 31 May. You will be notified of acceptance by 30 June.

When accepted, please prepare your papers to be delivered within 30 minutes. There will be 45min slots for the individual talks, which includes at least 15 minutes for discussion.