Interview #27 – Populism and Liberal Democracy with Takis Pappas

The promise is that in a democracy we will be able to have some significant degree of control over important issues that affect us. But even supposing that ‘we, the people’ can combine our diverse interests and opinions into a coherent collective will, the hard facts of political and economic interdependence often make that an empty promise. This ambiguity affects democracies regardless of their scale, and cannot be avoided either by participatory democracy in face-to-face communities or by the global democracy now projected in some quarters.

Margaret Canovan, Trust the People! (1999)

In this interview Takis S. Pappas presents his forthcoming book comparing populism across countries and over time, in order to address two crucial points: what causes populism’s rise to power and what happens under and during populist rule. He shows that populism is the outcome of extraordinary leadership acting within conditions of democratic representation crisis and able to set into motion a chain of specific micro-mechanisms until populism emerges as a significant political force. Moreover, engaging in a great populist travel from Fujimori to Papandreou through Cristina Fernández Kirchner, we discuss the peculiar traits of Donald Trump’s populism.

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Interview # 26 – Populism and the future of democracy

A new interview addressing many thorny issues of contemporary democracy. Left-wing populist movements across the globe, malfunctions of representative democracy, the dialectic between people and politicians, horizontal and vertical dimensions of populist mobilisation, the potential democratic renewal inherent in forms of direct democracy, the future of social democracy. This, and much more, in a fluvial chat with Giorgos Katsambekis. 

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Interview #25 – Hungary & Poland: Post-Communist Autocracies and Illiberal Democracy

What is going on in Poland and Hungary? A deliberate attempt to break with liberal democracy, Ben Stanley argues. In this interview we analyze the legacy of World War II and Communism and the role of Viktor Orban and Jarosław Kaczyński in the transformation of the two countries. Governmental control over the media, attempts to bring the judiciary under political control, and breaches of the constitution: What are the causes beyond these transformtions, and which will be the consequences for the future of the European Union?

Ben Stanley is Assistant Professor in the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Warsaw). His primary area of research interest is the politics of populism in Central and Eastern Europe, incorporating analysis of party ideological appeals and voter behaviour. His current research activities include an experimental analysis of the links between conspiracy theory mentality and populism in Poland, measurement of populist attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe, and a monograph on Polish populism.

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Populism or neo-nationalism?

In this thought-provoking article, Alexander Svitych* argues that nationalism constitutes the ideological core of modern radical right and radical left parties. Hence, he proposes to use the term neo-nationalism (or populist nationalism) to describe the ideology articulated by political parties often described as radical, populist, or nativist. He argues that neo-nationalism is a broader ideology than populism, and that it can be found both in right-wing and left-wing populist parties. He claims that neo-nationalism emerges at the intersectionality of three dimensions: nationalism, populism and radicalism. The ideology articulated by contemporary radical left and radical firght parties shows both populist and nationalist traits, and therefore it should be labelled as neo or populist nationalism.


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Interview #24 Italy: a populist paradise

albertazzi-daniele-squareIn this interview, professor Daniele Albertazzi explains the success of populist parties in Italy. The 4th of March, two populist parties – Five Star Movement and Lega – obtained their best results ever, and they are likely to form the next government. What is going to happen next? How is it possible that two populist parties collect almost half of the vote share? What can Europe learn from the Italian elections?

Daniele Albertazzi is Senior Lecturer in European Politics and Postgraduate Research Director at the Department of Politics and International Studies of the University of Birmingham (POLSIS). He has published widely on European politics in international journals such as West European Politics, Party Politics and Government & Opposition. Daniele is the co-editor (with Duncan McDonnell) of Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy (Palgrave, 2007) and the co-author (with Duncan McDonnell) of Populists in Power (Routledge, 2015). He co-convenes the Italian Politics Specialist group of the Political Studies Association with Arianna Giovannini.

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Interview #23: Populism and emotions

Populist actors use an emotional, dramatized and colloquial language, and for this reason their messages are more convincing. Or, at least, that is what many commentators have been arguing for quite some time. In her research, Dominique Wirz* found out that this is actually the case. In this interview she explains that populist messages are very likely to trigger emotions – negative emotions towards the bad people and positive emotions towards the good people. Moreover, since negative emotions are unpleasant, people feel a strong need for immediate solutions and this seems to makes populist appeals especially persuasive.

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Still alive and Kicking

Populism was the Cambridge Dictionary word of 2017 (although some argue that nativism should have been the real word of the year). The attention of public opinion about populism keeps rising, and many articles are published every day (this article appeared on Jacobin Magazine and has originated a lively debate on Twitter). The last months have been full of topics to discuss, interviews, and articles from all over the world, while in parallel this small blog experienced its peak in terms of traffic. It has  been a deeply challenging and rewarding experience.

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Populism in Power: Law & Justice vs liberal democracy

What happens to a country when a populist party rules? What happens to liberal democracy when the populist idea of power is implemented? Bartek Pytlas illustrates the case of Poland to answer these questions, and examines the rhetoric toolbox used by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) in order to control the state media, the Constitutional Court, and to fight against the European institutions.

As well as Orbán in Hungary, the PiS government is undermining checks and balances, minority protections, and in general all the mechanisms that make liberal democracy *liberal*. All of this, while being part of the European Union (the same that five years ago won the Nobel prize for peace) and going against all its most important principles.

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Anti-Populist Protests in Serbia: Why Some Social Movements Fail

The day Ratko Mladic was convicted of war crimes and genocide in The Hague, Byeongsun Ahn sent me this piece on the protest movements against the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Vučić, among other things, has been for a long time a big fan of Ratko Mladic (before allegedly changing his mind, as you will see). Byeongsun Ahn presents the development of the protest movements that for a couple of weeks last spring seemed to be successful, and explains why they eventually imploded. From the same author you can also enjoy an article in two parts (here and here) on the links between the Austrian populist FPÖ and its serbian migrant supporters.  Continue reading

Interview #22: Populism in Western Europe ain’t no domino effect

In this long and insightful interview Léonie de Jonge explains why populism is so successful and widespread in certain countries or regions while it is stigmatized or unsuccessful in others; the (few) similarities and (many) differences between the radical right-wing populist parties in Europe; details about cases such as France, Germany, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, or Portugal;  last but not least she warns against the dangers of #schmopulism.

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