The Voice and Message of Hugo Chávez: A Rhetorical Analysis

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2022

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Springer

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Hugo Chávez is one of the most emblematic populist leaders of the 21st century, particularly in left-wing populism. Oddly, there has been little academic analysis of his populist rhetoric and remarkable political performative style, so effective with his public. This chapter conducts an inductive, evidence-based discursive (and ideational) analysis, identifying and illustrating in four sections the characteristic hallmarks of Chavez’ populist rhetoric. First, Hugo Chávez was a master of “the low”: uninhibited, coarse, sophisticatedly vulgar, with a skill for incisive ad hominem insults, together with a discursive emphases on the “from here” and persona-based political leadership. The chapter then delves into his trademark performative mode, with its epic register, purposeful graphic exaggerations, folk poetry, and singing to relate to his public, highlighting his actio. Third, the chapter brings forth the peculiar logic of Chávez’ rhetoric, on purpose equating rather different political terms, the widespread political use of metonymy, and a “re-arranged” narrative of Venezuelan history bridging Bolívar’s time (and project) with his. Finally, the chapter draws attention to the—surprisingly unnoticed—deeply religious rhetoric of Chávez. In the process, the chapter critically revisits Anderson’s notion of prophetic time, returning to Benjamin’s notion of Messianic time for Chávez’ redemptive politics and to Auerbach’ Christian “figural interpretation” for Chávez’ announced revolution. Rather than proceeding in a conceptually top-down manner as many “ideational” scholars of populism have done, the chapter attends closely to what über populist Hugo Chávez was actually saying, and how.

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POPULISM, HUGO CHÁVEZ, LEFT POPULISM, DISCOURSE, PERFORMATIVE, BOLIVARIAN, POLITICAL COMMUNICATION

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The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022

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