The Sublime Authority of Ignorance, Neoliberal Nationalism and the Rise of the Demagogue

Nicola Clewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the relationship between ignorance, authority and nationalism in neoliberal thought and practice to argue that, far from signalling its end, the recent global rise of the right-wing demagogue is firmly rooted in neoliberalism. Part one mobilises the aesthetic concept of the sublime to explore the central place of, and relationship between, ignorance and authority. Part two
argues that neoliberalism has its own form of nationalism which is underpinned by a social Darwinist logic. It is here that we find the basis for the intersection between neoliberalism and the forms of vitriolic and xenophobic nationalism which have helped propel the global ascendency of the neoliberal demagogue. The concluding section argues that, in the context of growing inequality and
insecurity, the demagogue mystifies social relations, projecting blame for the failings of the system on those constructed as "enemies of the people" in the interests of maintaining the status quo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-503
Number of pages23
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2019


  • the sublime
  • neoliberalism
  • neoliberal nationalism
  • the neoliberal demagogue
  • the far-right
  • The neoliberal demagogue
  • Neoliberal nationalism
  • The far-right
  • Neoliberalism


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