News & events

Public Lecture: Prof Jan Jans (5 April 2017, 19h00)

“I am Your Leader – I am Following You”

On the ethics of political populism in 2017 Europe

**From the top left: Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Heinz-Christian Strache, Roberto Maroni, Nigel Farage (UKIP), Nikolaos Michaloliakos (Golden Dawn), Timo Soini (The True Finns), Jimmie Akesson (Swedish Democrats).**

In the ‘slipstream’ of Brexit (June 2016) and the presidential elections in the USA (November 2016), the major leaders of the right-wing political parties in Europe set up a meeting in Koblenz (Germany) in January 2017, to celebrate these events and to try to transfer the momentum of this ‘populism’ for their own project, labeled as ‘A Patriotic Spring for Europe’. Especially in the spotlights were Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch “Partij voor de Vrijheid” (PVV) – general elections on March 15; Marine Le Pen, the chair of the French “Front National” (FN) – elections for the President of France on May 23 and June 7; and Frauke Petry, the front person of the German “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD) – general elections on September 24.

The talk will have three parts. In the first part, a brief description will be offered of the main policy proposals of these parties with the aim of providing a factual basis for discussion and reflection. The second part starts with a working definition of political populism: “Populism can be defined as a style of politics in which the homogenous concept of ‘the people’ is central. Its interests then have to be defended against practices of the reigning political or economic elites, as well as external threats, like immigrants”. In unpacking this definition, the aim is to show for what reasons and in what ways populism is denying basic political rights as present in constitutional democracies and thereby undermining the institutions and the practices of the common good (cf. Pope Francis: “Building bridges instead of building walls”). The third part will deepen this by exploring how the sentiments of fear and anger are politically recuperated by the populists in their diatribe against political opponents, free media and all those labeled as ‘others’. As a result, it will both become clear where the dangers of political populism find their roots but also how a strategy of countering this could be constructed.


Event Details

Wednesday, 5 April 2017, 19:00 

St Augustine Auditorium
53 Ley Road, Victory Park, JHB

*** Free of charge, although a cash donation to St Augustine would be appreciated



Prof Jan JansAssociate Professor of Ethics at Tilburg University 

Prof Jan Jans is an old friend of St Augustine College and since 2002 a Visiting Professor at our university. Between 1985-1990 he worked as an Assistant in Medical Ethics at the faculties of Medicine and Theology, Catholic University of Leuven; then as an Assistant Professor for Moral Theology at Tilburg Faculty of Theology since 1991 and since 2006 at Tilburg University. He has been promoted to Associate Professor in 2009. Between 2006-2010 he was a Director of the Centre for Intercultural Ethics and a Director of Education at the Department of Religious Studies and Theology from 2007 until 2012. Currently he is the Secretary of the Research Ethics Committee while keeping the status of Associate Professor. 

Prof Jans is also an active member of the European Society for Catholic Theology, the Internationale Vereinigung für Moraltheologie und Sozialethik, the Societas Ethica, the Association of Teachers of Moral Theology [UK] and the Society of Christian Ethics [USA], and was vice-president of INSeCT (2008-2011).
Main areas of his research interest within fundamental moral theology are images of God, personalism and ethical methodology. Included in but also going beyond moral theology are the issues of gender justice and intercultural ethics. A focus of ongoing research aims at exploring the concept of ‘neighbour’ as a hermeneutical key with regard to a characteristic non-exclusive Christian moral identity.

You can read more about Prof Jans here:

Prof Jans' annual lectures in South Africa, combined with his teaching for the Master programmes at St Augustine, are always very well attended. We look forward to being, once again, challenged and inspired.