Legacy in Discourse: Schmidt’s Retirement Lecture

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On December 5, 2023, Pardee School Dean Scott Taylor warmly welcomed the audience, representing Pardee School, Boston University, and beyond, to Vivien Schmidt’s, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Professor of International Relations and Political Science, retirement lecture. He expressed gratitude for her remarkable contributions to the Pardee School.

Following the Dean’s introduction, Kaija Schilde, Jean Monnet Chair in European Security and Defense, Pardee School Associate Professor of International Relations, and CSE Director, introduced Schmidt ahead of her lecture, acknowledging her extensive publication record, including award-winning books. Notable achievements, such as the Best Book Award and a French Legion of Honor, were highlighted, along with Schmidt’s affiliations with prestigious universities worldwide and her accomplishments as a fine art photographer.

Schilde reflected on Schmidt’s role as a mentor and friend, emphasizing her profound impact on colleagues and the Center for the Study of Europe. She expressed gratitude for Schmidt’s mentorship and outlined aspirations to honor her legacy. Among these aspirations is the establishment of a Vivien Schmidt library, a fitting tribute to her prolific literary contributions, to be housed in the upcoming Pardee School building. Notably, Schilde remarked, “There are certainly enough books authored by her to grace its shelves.”

Schmidt took the stage, expressing gratitude for the wonderful remarks. She reflected on her fruitful relationship with departments and outlined her extensive scholarly journey, covering theories on democracy, states, market economy, and the Eurozone crisis.

Beginning her lecture, titled “The Rhetoric of Discontent: A Transatlantic Perspective on Populism,” she delved into methodological theories, introduced discursive institutionalism, and focused on populism, addressing its definitions, characteristics, and implications. Schmidt discussed the lens through which populism was analyzed, emphasizing the role of discursive power in shaping politics. She introduced the theory behind explaining populism, drawing from her paper on populist agendas, and explored key mechanisms in populist agendas.

The speech extensively explored populism, dissecting its dimensions, mechanisms, and influences. Vivien Schmidt addressed the sources of discontent fueling populism, emphasizing its grounding in national politics and dependence on context-specific concerns. The discussion then turned to the capture of populism, both externally and internally, with examples illustrating learning mechanisms.

In her final remarks, Schmidt advocated for the discursive construction of consensus, urging a shift towards compassion and truthfulness. She emphasized the need for leaders with charisma, authenticity, and a progressive vision, contrasting the decline of mainstream parties with the grassroots engagement in extreme parties.

The discussion ended with an invitation to rethink and rebuild, encouraging a shift towards discursive construction that fosters consensus and collaboration. A gala reception followed, filled with celebration, serving as an example of the profound impact of Vivien Schmidt’s time at Pardee.

Vivien Schmidt is a Professor of International Relations and Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies and was the first Director of BU’s Center for the Study of Europe, housed at the Pardee School. Schmidt’s research focuses on European political economy, institutions, democracy, and political theory—in particular on the importance of ideas and discourse in political analysis. Read more about Professor Schmidt on her faculty profile