“Opulism” describes the explosion within popular politics set off by the sensationalism of Barack Obama's ascent to election. Working from Ernesto Laclau's and Slavoj Žižek's antithetical readings of the meaning and value of populism, and working with the legacy of Stuart Hall's construction of the popular, the essay argues that Obama's orchestration of optimism was affective, about setting a tone, and sought to revitalize a general desire for the political by attaching it both to grassroots and to mainstream politics, and that, as it did that, it also ignited a cluster of incommensurate populist styles, all appealing to different versions of what civil society should feel like and how it should sound.

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