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Race, class, and strategy in UK left's Brexit debates -AND- Examining the rise and fall of Jeremy Corbyn's labour through the lens of populism

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Thesis type
(Extended Essays) M.A.
Date created
Author: Sagaii, Sara
Essay 1: During the 2010s, insurgent movements emerged on both ends of the political spectrum challenging political establishments across Europe. In the UK, UKIP's populist nationalism encouraged xenophobia and anti-EU sentiments, while a reinvigorated left under Corbyn's Labour attempted to challenge the neoliberal hegemony. The Brexit referendum was a victory for UKIP but had a bifurcating effect on the fledgling left movement under Corbyn, dividing his coalition into Remainers, who deemed the nationalism and xenophobia of Brexit antithetical to left-wing agenda, and 'Lexiters', who saw Brexit as a working-class revolt against austerity and opted for a sympathetic stance. Engaging key empirical studies and a range of left-wing analyses, I argue in this essay that both class- and race-based interpretations of the Brexit vote are reductive. Operationalizing Nancy Fraser's lens of "redistribution without recognition", which intertwines socioeconomic and identity-based factors, I demonstrate that sector- and community-specific analyses of Brexit offer a more effective basis for anti-neoliberal political strategies. Essay 2: Corbyn's ascent to the leadership of the Labour party has been regarded in popular and academic discourses and by advocates and critics alike as part of the populist wave that engulfed Europe during the 2010s. Corbyn's 2017 surge was heralded as a victory for left populism and his 2019 defeat discussed as part of the demise of left populism and often engaged with, on the left, through the shortcomings of the populist strategy or the shortcomings of the movement in implementing the strategy. Examining the conditions surrounding Corbynism's rise and fall 2017-2019 and a range of prominent left-wing commentaries, I demonstrate in this essay the inadequacy of 'thin' conceptions of populism - defined through the abstraction of 'the people' vs 'the elite' - in guiding left strategy and argue in favour of a distinction between such a rendition of populism and a broadly majoritarian left strategy grounded in community organizing and coalition building.
93 pages.
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Thesis advisor: Toscano, Alberto
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