Photo: Matej Kastelic.

ECPS Academy Summer School — Populism and Foreign Policy: How Does Populist Politics Influence Foreign Affairs? (July 1-5, 2024) 

Are you passionate about global politics and understanding the dynamics that shape it? Are you looking for a way to expand your knowledge under the supervision of leading experts, seeking an opportunity to exchange views in a multicultural, multi-disciplinary environment, or simply in need of a few extra ECTS credits for your studies? Then, consider applying to ECPS Summer School. The European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) is looking for young people for a unique opportunity to assess the relationship between populism and foreign policy in a five-day Summer School led by global experts from a variety of backgrounds. The Summer School will be interactive, allowing participants to hold discussions in a friendly environment among themselves in small groups and exchange views with the lecturers. You will also participate in a Case Competition on the same topic, a unique experience to develop problem-solving skills in cooperation with others and under tight schedules. 

Overview 

Populism has often been studied as a subject of political science and investigated as a topic of domestic affairs, namely party politics and elections. Nevertheless, a growing body of literature suggests that this phenomenon is not confined to the borders of nation-states; it interferes with international relations thanks to populist leaders’ desire to shape foreign affairs with a populist and mostly revisionist view. Trump’s threats to withdraw the US from NATO, Modi’s handling of India’s relations with Pakistan, Erdogan’s diaspora politics towards European countries, Orban’s instrumentalization of migration in the EU, Netanyahu’s approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Johnson’s management of the Brexit process and numerous attempts by populist leaders to undermine or subvert international or supranational organizations, such as the UN, WTO, and EU, are among many examples that showcase how external relations can be blended with populism. 

Considering the current political landscape in which the number of populist figures is on the rise, we may witness more similar instances in the international political arena in the period to come. Populism in international relations has the potential to complicate existing problems, create new ones and bring about repercussions for the multilateral liberal global system. This outlook urges scholars and policy-makers to understand the interwoven relationship between populism and external relations more deeply and take into account the populist dimension of problems while crafting solutions to interstate issues. 

Against the background explained above, at the ECPS Summer School this year, we would like to look at populism from an international relations perspective. To this end, we will discuss the theoretical background of the interplay between populism and foreign affairs and examine a number of case studies from different parts of the world with a view to see similarities as well as differences between the ways populist leaders craft external politics. 

The lecturers for this year’s Summer School are:

  • Professor Sandra Destradi
  • Associate Professor Angelos Cryssogelos
  • Associate Professor Jessica Greenberg
  • Dr. Thorsten Wojczewski
  • Assistant Professor Georg Loefflman
  • Professor Cengiz Aktar
  • Professor Emeritus Louis Kreisberg
  • Professor Bertjan Verbeek
  • Irina Von Wiese
  • Professor Craig Calhoun
  • Professor Joanna Dyduch

Sessions will be moderated by:

  • Dr. Rubrick Biegon
  • Assistant Professor Gustav Meibauer
  • Associate Professor Jessica Greenberg
  • Dr. Jonny Hall
  • Professor Ana E. Juncos Garcia
  • Professor Franco Zappettini

The program will take place on Zoom, consisting of two sessions each day. Over the course of five days, interactive lectures by world-leading practitioners and experts will discuss the nexus between populism and foreign policy. The lectures are complemented by small group discussions and Q&A sessions moderated by experts in the field. The final program with the list of speakers will be announced soon. 

Moreover, as last year, the Summer School will comprise a Case Competition on a real-life problem within the broad topic of populism and foreign policy. Participants will be divided into teams to work together on solving the case and are expected to prepare policy suggestions. The proposals of the participants will be evaluated by a panel of scholars and experts based on criteria such as creativity, feasibility, and presentation skills. 

Our five-day schedule offers young people a dynamic, engaging, and interdisciplinary learning environment with an intellectually challenging program presented by world-class scholars of populism, allowing them to grow as future academics, intellectuals, activists and public leaders. Participants have the opportunity to develop invaluable cross-cultural perspectives and facilitate a knowledge exchange that goes beyond European borders. 

Schedule 

Monday, 1 July 2024 

Populism and International Relations: A Theoretical Overview

Lecture One: (15:00–16:30) – Populism and International Relations: Introducing a Dynamic Research Field

Lecturer: Dr. Sandra Destradi (Professor at the University of Freiburg).

Moderator: Dr. Rubrick Biegon (Lecturer at the University of Kent).

 

Lecture Two: (17:30–19:00) – Populism and the Challenge to the International Order

Lecturer: Dr. Angelos Cryssogelos (Associate Professor at London Metropolitan University).

Moderator: Dr. Gustav Meibauer (Assistant Professor, Radboud University).

Tuesday, 2 July 2024

Lecture Three: (15:00–16:30) – Populism, Conflicts and International Courts

Lecturer: Dr. Jessica Greenberg (Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).

Moderator: Dr. Allison Jean Carnegie (Professor of Political Science at Columbia University). 

Lecture Four: (17:30–19:00) – Populism, Hindu Nationalism and Foreign Policy in India

Lecturer: Dr. Thorsten Wojczewski (Lecturer at Coventry University).

Moderator: Dr Ajay Gudavarthy (Associate Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University).

 

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Populism, Peace and Security

Lecture Five: (14:00–15:30) – America First and the Populist Impact on US Foreign Policy

Lecturer: Dr. Georg Loefflman (Assistant Professor at Queen Mary University of London).

Moderator: Dr. Jonny Hall (Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science).

 

Lecture Six: (16:00–17:30) – Showcase: Turkey

Lecturer: Dr. Cengiz Aktar (Professor at the University of Athens).

Moderator: Dr. Aleksandra Spancerska (Research Fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs).

 

Lecture Seven: (18:00–19:30) – Populism, Constructive and Destructive

Lecturer: Dr. Louis Kreisberg (Professor Emeritus at Syracuse University).

Moderator: Dr. Alexandra Homolar (Professor at the University of Warwick).

 

Thursday, 4 July 2024

Populism and the EU Foreign Policy

Lecture Eight: (15:00–16:30) –EU’s External Relations: Do Populists Propel It, Or Does It Propel Populists?

Lecturer: Dr. Bertjan Verbeek (Professor at Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands).

Moderator: Dr. Ana E. Juncos Garcia (Professor at the University of Bristol).

 

Lecture Nine: (17:30–19:00) –Populism and the EU Foreign Policy

Lecturer: Irina Von Wiese (President of ECPS, a former member of the European Parliament).

Moderator: Dr. Andrei Zaslove (Associate Professor at Radboud University).

 

Friday, 5 July 2024

Lecture Ten: (15:00–16:30) – Brexit and “National Conservatism”

Lecturer: Dr. Craig Calhoun (Professor at Arizona State University).

Moderator: Dr. Franco Zappettini (Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool).

Lecture Eleven: (17:30–19:00) –Populist Foreign Policy: The Israeli Case Study of Hawkish- Historicist Foreign Policy

Lecturer: Dr. Joanna Dyduch (Professor at the Israel Institute, Jagiellonian University-Institute of Middle East and Far East).

 

Who should apply? 

This unique course is open to master’s and PhD level students and graduates, early career researchers and post-docs from any discipline. The deadline for submitting applications is June 21, 2024. The applicants should send their CVs to the email address ecps@populismstudies.org with the subject line: ECPS Summer School Application. 

We value the high level of diversity in our courses, welcoming applications from people of all backgrounds. Since we have a limited quota, we suggest you apply soon to not miss this great opportunity. 

Evaluation Criteria and Certificate of Attendance 

Meeting the assessment criteria is required from all participants aiming to complete the program and receive a certificate of attendance. The evaluation criteria include full attendance and active participation in lectures. 

Certificates of attendance will be awarded to participants who attend at least 80% of the sessions. Certificates are sent to students only by email. 

Credit 

This course is worth 5 ECTS in the European system. If you intend to transfer credit to your home institution, please check the requirements with them before you apply. We will be happy to assist you; however, please be aware that the decision to transfer credit rests with your home institution.

 


 

Brief Biographies and Abstracts

 

Day One: Monday, July 1, 2023

Populism and International Relations: Introducing a Dynamic Research Field

Dr. Sandra Destradi is a Professor of International Relations at the University of Freiburg, Germany. She currently serves as a DAAD long-term guest professor at Reichman University, Israel. Together with Johannes Plagemann, she leads the project “Populism and Foreign Policy”, funded by the German Research Foundation.

Abstract: The lecture will introduce into the research field that studies the international implications and effects of populism. It will start by outlining how populism has been variously conceptualized in comparative politics and political theory. Second, it will introduce into the state of the art on the international effects of populism, a dynamic research field that has developed tremendously over the past few years. The third part of the lecture will outline some hypotheses on how populism might impact foreign policy, focusing on the escalation of international disputes, contributions to global public goods provision, participation in multilateral institutions, and the formation of alternative partnerships with authoritarian and other populist governments. The presentation will build on insights from a project funded by the German Research Foundation.

Reading List

Destradi S and Plagemann J (2019). Populism and International Relations: (Un)predictability, personalisation, and the reinforcement of existing trends in world politics. Review of International Studies 45 (5), 711–730.

Lacatus C, Meibauer G and Löfflmann G (eds) (2023), Political Communication and Performative Leadership: Populism in International Politics (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan).

Plagemann J and Destradi S (2019). Populism and Foreign Policy: The Case of India. Foreign Policy Analysis 15 (2), 283–301.

Spandler K and Söderbaum F (2023). Populist (De)legitimation of International Organizations. International Affairs 99 (3), 1023-1041.

Moderator Dr. Rubrick Biegon was appointed Lecturer in International Relations in 2018. He has convened modules on US foreign policy, international political economy, international security, terrorism and political violence, and foreign policy analysis, among other subjects.

Prior to coming to Kent to complete his PhD, Biegon worked as an analyst and consultant with several organisations in Washington, DC. He holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and an MA in International Politics from the American University’s School of International Service. He currently serves as the lead editor of Global Society, an interdisciplinary journal of international studies published by Taylor & Francis.

Biegon’s main areas of research explore the political violence and political economy of US power in international relations. He is the author of US Power in Latin America: Renewing Hegemony (2017). He is currently working on two book projects: a co-authored history of the US War on Terror (with Agenda publishing); and a research monograph on remote warfare and American hegemony (with McGill-Queen’s University Press).  

 

Populism and the Challenge to the International Order

Dr. Angelos Chryssogelos is Reader in Politics and International Relations in the School of Social Sciences of London Metropolitan University. He has worked in the past at LSE, King’s College London, Weatherhead Center of Harvard and SAIS Johns Hopkins. In 2020-21 he was Jean Monnet fellow at the Schuman Centre of the EUI in Florence.

Abstract: The global rise of populism as a major political force has given rise to the debate about its international repercussions and whether it constitutes a threat to the ‘liberal international order’. While this assessment is not wrong as such, it underappreciates the variety of populist phenomena around the world and the ability of populists to engage and even usurp elements of the LIO. This talk will argue that only a thorough conceptual understanding of populism can allow us to appreciate consistently its effects on the international order; and that the international impact of populism is less uniform and linear than often assumed, but no less important.

Reading List

Chryssogelos, A (2021) Is there a Populist Foreign Policy? London: Chatham House

Chryssogelos, A (2020) State transformation and populism: From the internationalized to the neo-sovereign state? Politics, 40(1), 22-37.

Chryssogelos, A et al (2023) New Directions in the Study of Populism in International Relations, International Studies Review, Volume 25, Issue 4, viad035, https://doi.org/10.1093/isr/viad035

Moderator Dr. Gustav Meibauer is an Assistant Professor, Radboud University. Meibauer has research interests in foreign policy analysis, security studies and international relations theory. His research focuses on muddled state behavior, decision-making and the political dynamics of foreign policy choice, especially with regards to tools such as no-fly zones and buffer zones. Meibauer has published on the theoretical contributions of neoclassical realism to foreign policy analysis and international relations theory, as well as on the role of political ideas, rhetoric and communication in decision-making processes. He contributes to on-going projects on gender & diversity representation in academia as well as on novel approaches to experiential and active learning. Meibauer holds degrees from the London School of Economics, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and the University of St Gallen.

 

Day Two: Tuesday, 2 July 2024

Populism, Conflicts and International Courts

Dr. Jessica Greenberg is An Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Prior to coming toUIUC, Greenberg was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and an assistant professor in Communication Studies at Northwestern University. She recently earned a Master of Studies in Law at the College of Law, University of Illinois. She is also currently the Co-Editor of the Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR). Her research interests include anthropology of democracy, legal studies, youth, social movements, revolution, Serbia/Balkans, Europe, Human Rights.

 

Populist Foreign Policy: The Israeli Case Study of Hawkish- Historicist Foreign Policy

Dr. Joanna Dyduch is a Professor at the Institute of the Middle and Far East of the Jagiellonian University, and head of the Department of Israel. Visiting scholar at the: University of Oxford (2023-2024), University of Potsdam (2022), Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica (2019),  University of Vienna (2017). In 2018 she was a research fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Prof. Dyduch is an author of several scientific articles and books on foreign policy and other public policies (e.g. energy policy), recently her research interest has focused on European-Israeli relations, as well as Israel’s foreign policy. She has been also engaged in several research projects, among the most recent ones, there are: OPUS project funded by Poland’s National Science Center (NCN) entitled: “Energy security and the growing international interdependence. Israeli energy policy in the process of transition” (2022-2025). HORIZON-CL2-2021-DEMOCRACY – project entitled: “Rethinking and Reshaping the EU’s Democracy support in its Eastern and Southern Neighbour”, (contractor in the project. Project implemented in 2022-2025.COOPERATION financed by the European Commission; PARTNERSHIPS IN HIGHER EDUCATION (KA220-HED) titled: “Jews, Muslims and Roma in the 21st Century Metropolises: Reflecting on Polyphonic Ideal and Social Exclusion as Challenges for European Cohesion carried out in cooperation with the Charles University in Prague (project leader) and the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies (University of Potsdam).

Abstract: Building on existing literature, the paper tries to bridge and integrate scholarly insights on the causalities between populism and foreign policy. Against this backdrop, the paper suggests distinguishing between the two types of foreign policy ideological orientations: 1. ‘liberalist’ and 2. ‘historicist’ (Bjereld and Demker 2000), where the differentiating variable is the engagement of historical memory in the process of national identity construction and policy strategies conceptualisation and operationalisation. Consequently, the historical memory becomes a specific framework and driver of state international activity. In light of the above consideration, the paper introduces and utilises the concept of ‘Foreign Policy Historicism’ (FPH), (Reynolds 1999). FPH, contrary to the liberalist variant is identified with a hawkish approach, emphasising national values and interests – very often fuelled and empowered by emotions (national pride, fear, victimhood, etc.). This specific approach is strongly tied to the process of ‘othering’ as a key element of national identity formation, and therefore very much influences foreign bilateral and multilateral relations. 

Reading List

Wajner, Daniel F., and Philip Giurlando. (2024) Populist Foreign Policy: Mapping the Developing Research Program on Populism in International Relations. International Studies Review, https://doi.org/10.1093/isr/viae012

Sharon Pardo, Dani Filc (2012). EU–Israeli relations. Geopolitical perspectives in the wake of nationalist populism. In: Routledge Handbook of EU–Middle East Relations, Routledge.

Dani Filc & Sharon Pardo (2021) Israel’s Right-wing Populists: The European. Connection, Survival, 63:3, 99-122, DOI: 10.1080/00396338.2021.1930409.

 Joanna Dyduch (2021) “Israel and East-Central Europe: Case Studies of Israel’s Relations with Poland and Hungary.” Israel Studies Review, vol. 36, no. 1, spring 2021.

 Joanna Dyduch (2024) Israel and Poland. [in]: Routledge Handbook on Israel’s Foreign Relations, Routledge.

 

Day Three: Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Populism, Peace and Security

Showcase: United States 

Dr. Georg Loefflman is Assistant Professor at Queen Mary University of London. Previously, he was Assistant Professor in War Studies and US Foreign Policy at the Department of Politics and International Studies (PAIS) at the University of Warwick (until March 2023). Before that, he undertook a three-year Early Career Fellowship (2018-2021) funded by the Leverhulme Trust with a research project on the interlinkage of security discourses and populist rhetoric in the United States under the Trump presidency.

His other academic appointments include his role as research fellow working with Nick Vaughan-Williams on his project ‘Everyday Narratives of European Border Security and Insecurity’ (2016-2018) and a one-year PAIS teaching fellowship in American politics and US foreign policy (2015-2016). Between 2011 and 2014, He undertook his PhD studies the University of Warwick. His PhD thesis is titled: ‘The Fractured Consensus – How competing visions of grand strategy challenge the geopolitical identity of American leadership under the Obama presidency,’ and was supervised by Prof. Stuart Croft and Prof. Nick Vaughan-Williams. The thesis was nominated for the 2016 Michael Nicholson Prize for best doctoral thesis in International Studies. Before his PhD, he studied International Relations in Germany at the FU Berlin, the HU Berlin, and the University of Potsdam, and Social Sciences and History at the University of Erfurt in Germany.

Moderator Dr. Jonny Hall is a Lecturer at Department of International Relations at London School of Economics.  Prior to being an LSE Fellow, he was a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Surrey. He previously completed his PhD in the International Relations department at LSE before spending a year as an IRD Fellow. 

 

Showcase: Turkey 

Dr. Cengiz Aktar is an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Athens. He is a former director at the United Nations specializing in asylum policies. He is known to be one of the leading advocates of Turkey’s integration into the EU. He was the Chair of European Studies at Bahçeşehir University-Istanbul.

In 1999, he initiated a civil initiative for Istanbul’s candidacy for the title of European Capital of Culture. Istanbul successfully held the title in 2010. He also headed the initiative called “European Movement 2002” which pressured lawmakers to speed up political reforms necessary to begin the negotiation phase with the EU. In December 2008, he developed the idea of an online apology campaign addressed to Armenians and supported by a number of Turkish intellectuals as well as over 32,000 Turkish citizens.

In addition to EU integration policies, Dr. Aktar’s research focuses on the politics of memory regarding ethnic and religious minorities, the history of political centralism, and international refugee law.

 

Populism, Constructive and Destructive

Dr. Louis Kriesberg is the Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Syracuse University. He has published widely on diverse areas of sociology and social conflicts, including the US-Soviet Cold War, Israeli-Palestinian-Arab relations, non- governmental organizations, and social movements. His recent work focuses on constructive ways of fighting, conflict transformation, and conflict resolution methods. Kriesberg has been highly active in regional, national, and international associations of sociology, conflict resolution, and international peace, for which he has received numerous awards. He was also the founding director of the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts (PARC) at Syracuse University. He received his PhD in Sociology at the University of Chicago in 1953.

Abstract: Populism is variously defined. For the purposes of this analysis, it refers to non-governmental people taking direct actions trying to change the conduct of some other resistant group. They are in conflict. In all human societies there are procedures to pursue and settle many such conflicts – the procedures are embodied in legal and political institutions. However, members of one or more contending parties often choose to take actions which are deemed populist. Often, the actions are intended to influence the conduct of members of established institutions. In this presentation, I will examine the actions of people engaged in conflicts resorting to populist conduct. I will discuss cases in the United States, in European states, and in other countries. In accord with work in the field of conflict resolution, I will assess their degree of being constructive or destructive. This is based on my many years of research and publications on this matter. Constructiveness varies in the nature of the inducements employed in a conflict, persuasion, promised benefit, and coercion. Usually all are employed in varying degree over time. Persuasion varies in different degrees of presumed effectiveness. Promised benefits relate to the terms of settlement being sought. Coercion varies in severity and therefore destructiveness, in varying degrees of violence and denial of benefits. Constructiveness also varies by the conception of each side has of itself and of its antagonists. Finally, constructiveness varies with the degree of differences each side has about the terms of a conflict settlement. In addition to assessing varying degrees of constructiveness, I will discuss how conflict destructivity can be reduced.

Reading List

Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Populism: A Very Short Introduction, New York, Oxford University Press, 2017 Louis Kriesberg, Realizing Peace: A Constructive Conflict Approach, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Louis Kriesberg, “Interactions among Populism, Peace, and Security in contemporary America,” S&F Sicherheit und Frieden; Security and Peace, 37 (1) pp. 1-7, 2019.

Louis Kriesberg, Fighting Better: Constructive Conflicts in America, New York: Oxford University Press, 2023.

Moderator Dr. Alexandra Homolar is Professor of International Security at the University of Warwick. Homolar has taught and researched at universities in Germany, the US, and the UK. She currently holds a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for her project ‘Populist FantasylandLink opens in a new window‘ (RF-2021-527/7), and from 2013-2017 she was the Principal Investigator of the ESRC Future Research Leaders project ‘Enemy Addiction‘ (ES/K008684/1). At Warwick, Homolar is the academic lead of Speaking International Security at Warwick (SISAW) and the co-lead of the interdisciplinary Research in Global Governance Network (RiGG NetLink opens in a new window) as well as the organizer of the Annual Masterclass in CSS/IR. She served as Director of Research Degrees and on the PAIS Senior Management Team in 2018-2020. Homolar received her Diplom [BA Hons., MA] in Political Science, Law, History, and Empirical Research Methods as well her Dr. phil [PhD] from J.W. Goethe University Frankfurt.

 

Day Four: Thursday, 4 July 2024

Populism and the EU Foreign Policy 

EU’s External Relations: Do Populists Propel It, Or Does It Propel Populists?

Dr. Bertjan Verbeek is a Professor of International Relations at the Department of Political Science at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He publishes on the impact of populism on foreign policy; on crisis decision making; and on the role of intergovernmental organizations in contemporary world politics.

Abstract: In this seminar we will discuss the interrelationship between populism and the external relations of the EU. On the one hand, the stronger the presence of populists in EU member states governments and the EU’s institutions, the more likely it is that the EU’s external relations are reflecting populists’ foreign policy preferences.  However, this requires us to first discuss whether such a thing as a populist foreign policy preference exists in the first place. On the other hand, the EU’s external relations may have an impact on the position of populist parties within its member states. We will address these topics by focusing on the EU’s worldwide promotion of democracy as well as on the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on populism’s strength within the EU.

Reading List

Bertjan Verbeek & Andrej Zaslove, “Populism and Foreign Policy” in Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul A. Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, and Pierre Ostiguy (eds) Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 384-405.

Cadier, David, and Christian Lequesne. How Populism Impacts EU Foreign Policy. SciencesPo Working Paper, (2020). downloadable at https://sciencespo.hal.science/hal-03592985/

Buzogány, Aron, Oriol Costa, and Magdalena Góra. “Contesting the EU’s external democratization agenda: an analytical framework with an application to populist parties.” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 35.4 (2022): 500-522.

Ivaldi, Giles & Zankina, Emilia. (2023). “Conclusion for the report on the impact of the Russia–Ukraine War on right-wing populism in Europe.” In: The Impacts of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Right-wing Populism in Europe. (eds). Gilles Ivaldi and Emilia Zankina. European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). March 8, 2023. Brussels.  https://doi.org/10.55271/rp0035

Moderator Dr. Ana E Juncos Garcia is Professor at the University of Bristol. Her primary research interest lies in European foreign and security policy, with a particular focus on the development on the EU’s conflict prevention and crisis management capabilities and its role in conflict resolution. Her previous research project examined the EU’s intervention in the Western Balkans since the dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation in 1991. This study looked into the coherence and effectiveness of EU foreign policy over time and assessed the EU’s contribution to post-conflict stabilisation and peacebuilding in Bosnia. In other work, she has examined EU security sector reform and the institutionalisation of EU foreign policy, in particular, in relation to the newly created European External Action Service. Her current research examines EU peacebuilding in the neighbourhood, including the shift towards resilience approaches at the EU level.

 

Populism and the EU Foreign Policy

Irina von Wiese, who is Honorary President of ECPS, was born in Germany, the daughter and granddaughter of Polish and Russian refugees. After completing her law studies in Cologne, Geneva and Munich, she obtained a scholarship to study at the Harvard Kennedy School where she gained a master’s in public administration. Her subsequent legal training took her to Berlin, Brussels and Bangkok, and gave her a first insight into the plight of refugees and civil rights defenders across the globe.

From 1997 to 2019, Irina lived and worked as a lawyer in private and public sector positions in London. During this time, she volunteered for human rights organisations, advising on migration policy and hosting refugees in her home for many years.

In 2019, Irina was elected to represent UK Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament. She served as Vice Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee and as a member of the cross-party Working Group on Responsible Business Conduct. The Group’s main achievement was the introduction of EU legislation to make human rights due diligence mandatory in global supply chains. During her term, she was also elected to the Executive Committee of the European Endowment for Democracy, whose task is to support grassroots civil society initiatives in fragile democracies.

Having lost her seat in the European Parliament after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, Irina returned to the UK, where she was elected to the Council of Southwark, one of London’s most diverse boroughs. Her links to Brussels are maintained through an advisory role at FGS Global, where she works on EU law and ESG issues. In addition, Irina is an Affiliate Professor at European business school, the ESCP, teaching international law and politics (including a course entitled ‘Liberalism and Populism’).

Abstract: In an increasingly bipolar world, marred by two wars on Europe’s doorstep, the geopolitical influence of the EU is at risk. Accused of double standards in its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine compared to other conflicts, under pressure from populists in virtually all member states and unable to rid itself of an autocracy within its own borders, does the EU still have moral and political capital to spend? The lecture will explore this question and investigate, in particular, the EU’s powers in the areas of foreign policy and security and defence, and its record in conflict intervention. It will also discuss the ‘soft’ power of the EU as the world’s biggest single market. Economic tools include direct mechanisms such as sanctions, tariffs and industrial policies such as ‘friend-shoring’, but also more subtle tools like free trade negotiations, supply chain monitoring and the involvement of private actors (e.g. large companies) exerting political pressure. I will draw on my experience as vice-chair of the European Parliament’s human rights subcommittee and my work at Liberal International.

Reading List

Timothy Garton Ash, Homelands https://youtu.be/Y4_O7HIjkdA?si=veruZJjY7YqqSwCQ

 

Day Five: Friday, 5 July 2024

Showcase: Brexit 

Dr. Craig Calhoun is a Professor at Arizona State University. Craig Calhoun is a comparative and historical sociologist, social theorist, and scholar, known for his interdisciplinary work in anthropology, communications, economics, history, international studies, political science, philosophy, and science and technology studies. His latest book, “Degenerations of Democracy,” co-authored with Charles Taylor and Dilip Gaonkar, was published by Harvard University Press in 2022. He edited “The Green New Deal and the Future of Work” with Benjamin Fong (Columbia University Press, 2022) and has collaborated with former students to create widely used anthologies covering classical and contemporary sociological theory. Calhoun has authored nine books and published over 150 peer-reviewed papers, articles, and chapters.

Calhoun currently serves as the University Professor of Social Sciences at Arizona State University. Prior to joining ASU, he served as president and director of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), president of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), and president of the Berggruen Institute. Calhoun has taught at Columbia University, NYU, where he founded the Institute for Public Knowledge, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also served as dean of the graduate school and directed the University Center for International Studies. In addition, he has been a visiting professor at universities and institutes in the U.S. and abroad, including in Asmara, Beijing, Bristol, Khartoum, Oslo, and Paris, and as an Einstein Fellow in Berlin.

Calhoun’s research focuses on contemporary transformations, possible futures, and the political economy of the modern world-system. He is also committed to studying universities and knowledge institutions, democracy, and shifting structures of social solidarity. In his philosophical pursuits, Calhoun explores the relationship between transformation and transcendence in understanding human existence.

Calhoun is actively engaged in advancing political, economic, and social democracy locally, nationally, and internationally. Calhoun serves on the board of the MasterCard Foundation, the American Assembly, the Center for Transcultural Studies, the Pulaski Institution, and Reset Dialogues. Calhoun is also active in speaking and supporting programs for a range of organizations and communities in Arizona, elsewhere in the US, and internationally.

Moderator Dr. Franco Zappettini is a Lecturer in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Liverpool (where he is also the current Director of the PhD Programme). He previously held the post of Adjunct Professor of English at the Faculty of Education, University of Genoa, Italy and was Honorary Researcher Associate at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the Book Review Editor at the Journal of Language and Politics edited by John Benjamins Publishing.

 

Showcase: India / Populism, Hindu Nationalism and Foreign Policy in India

Dr. Thorsten Wojczewski is a Lecturer in International Relations at Coventry University. Previously, he was a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Global Affairs, King’s College London. His research interests are foreign policy analysis, populism and the far right, world order, poststructuralist IR and critical security studies. His research has been published or is forthcoming in International Affairs, International Relations, International Studies Review, Foreign Policy Analysis, and Journal of International Relations & Development, among others. He is the author of the books ‘The Inter- and Transnational Politics of Populism: Foreign Policy, Identity and Popular Sovereignty’ (Cham: Palgrave, 2023) and ‘India’s Foreign Policy Discourse and its Conceptions of World Order: The Quest for Power and Identity’ (London: Routledge, 2018).

Abstract: This lecture discusses the relationship between Populism, Hindu Nationalism and Foreign Policy in India. It unpacks the major ideological themes and issues of Hindu nationalism and outlines the Hindu Nationalist foreign policy outlook. Drawing on discourse-theorical approaches to populism and nationalism, it then shows how populism and nationalism are related and can be used to construct and mobilize collective political identities such as ‘the people’ in the realm of foreign policy. It discusses how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi used foreign policy issues for the purpose of political mobilization and rallying ‘the people’ behind their political project. At the same time, it discusses the impact of Hindu Nationalism and populism on India foreign policy. Finally, the lecture looks at Modi’s outreach to fellow populist radical right politicians in the United States and Europe and sheds light on the rationale and effects of this international collaboration.

Reading List

Shani, Giorgio. 2021. Towards a Hindu Rashtra: Hindutva, religion, and nationalism in India. Religion, State and Society 49(3), 264–280. https://doi.org/10.1080/09637494.2021.1947731

Kinnvall, Catarina. 2019. Populism, ontological insecurity and Hindutva: Modi and the masculinization of Indian politics. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 32(3), 283–302. https://doi.org/10.1080/09557571.2019.1588851

Wojczewski, Thorsten. 2020. Populism, Hindu Nationalism, and Foreign Policy in India: The Politics of Representing “the People”. International Studies Review 22(3): 396–422. https://doi.org/10.1093/isr/viz007 

Photo: Shutterstock.

Chega Emerges as the Elephant in the Room: What’s Next?

Chega, a populist radical right-wing party known for its anti-systemic, morally conservative, and securitarian rhetoric, secured 48 MPs, solidifying its position as the most influential third force ever in the Parliament. This marks a substantial transformation in Portuguese politics. Despite warnings from the Left about the imminent threat of fascism, voters persist in seeking straightforward solutions and placing blame on elites and immigrants. Now, the pivotal question arises: “Will the Democratic Alliance break its cordon sanitaire with Chega?”

By João Ferreira Dias

Portuguese legislative elections have ushered in a new era in parliament, potentially marking the end of the historical bipartisanship between the Socialist Party (PS) and the Social-Democratic (PSD) side. While failing to secure a majority, the Democratic Alliance (AD) emerged as the electoral victor on March 10. Led by the PSD with the participation of CDS (the democratic-Christians) and PPM (the monarchic party), the AD capitalized on widespread dissatisfaction stemming from the Socialist Party’s eight-year tenure marred by numerous scandals and political turmoil.

Initially positioned advantageously, the AD sought to harness widespread dissatisfaction for electoral success. However, as we know, championing dissatisfaction is often the terrain of radical right-wing populist parties (as summarized by Kaltwasser et al., 2017). Despite this, the AD encountered significant hurdles: lingering memories of austerity measures imposed by the troika, which had become internalized as ideology, were deeply felt by pensioners and public sector workers—key segments of Portugal’s electorate. Additionally, the leader faced challenges in rallying public support. Despite vulnerabilities within the Socialist Party, exacerbated by a leadership change following murky allegations of corruption involving Prime Minister António Costa, the AD’s victory remained tenuous, narrowly avoiding a stalemate.

The Portuguese parliament consists of 230 members, requiring 116 MPs for a majority. With 99 percent of the votes counted (pending results from 31 consulates), the AD secured 79 MPs, while the Socialists claimed 76. Meanwhile, Chega, a populist radical right-wing party, obtained 48 MPs, establishing itself as the most formidable third force ever in the Parliament. This signals a significant shift in Portuguese politics.

Chega is a quintessential populist radical right party known for its anti-systemic, morally conservative, and securitarian rhetoric (see Marchi 2020, 2022), coupled with fluid economic ideas, as suggested by feedback from its potential electors. However, its illiberal positions and involvement in culture wars, such as its opposition to the so-called “gender ideology” and stance on immigration control, have led to substantial public disapproval of the Chega party.

In the 2022 elections, the Socialist Party (PS) secured an absolute majority, partly because the then-leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) was ambiguous about potential collaborations with Chega. Consequently, the current PSD leader, Luís Montenegro, felt compelled to state unequivocally that he would never form alliances with Chega. This clear stance was crucial to reassure the moderate electorate and ensure their confidence in voting for the Democratic Alliance (AD). At this juncture, any negotiation with Chega would be perceived as a betrayal to the center and center-right voters who supported the AD based on a firm “no means no” commitment. Nevertheless, Chega’s leader, André Ventura, has advocated for an outright majority of the right altogether, applying pressure on AD to negotiate and, ultimately, gain a position in a future government, which is his fundamental ambition.

Chega’s success can be attributed to multiple factors, including a culture that craves a messianic leader, as outlined by Ferreira Dias (2022). Additionally, widespread political disengagement among the population, coupled with significant political illiteracy, has played a role. Moreover, feelings of neglect among rural communities, demographic shifts marked by a rapid increase in immigrants in previously unaffected areas, and a perception of corruption among political elites have contributed to Chega’s rise. These phenomena are not unique to Portugal but are common hallmarks of populist movements worldwide.

The 22-catch question is: Will the Democratic Alliance abandon its cordon sanitaire of Chega? Despite Chega’s populist aspirations, its leader, André Ventura, has expressed readiness to form a government with the DA. This lends credence to the view, shared by many including myself, that Chega was primarily a vehicle for gaining swift access to power. As mentioned, Luís Montenegro, leader of the DA, has firmly rejected any alliances with Chega. However, the practicalities of governance could potentially challenge this principled stance. If such negotiations become necessary, we might witness Luís Montenegro being replaced by a new leader willing to engage in discussions with Chega.

Just as André Ventura intended, Chega (or rather, he himself) has become a crucial player in the national political landscape and has the potential to disrupt the entire system. The ability of the Portuguese Right to function cohesively without Chega is dwindling, as it now primarily relies on the Democratic Alliance (DA), with the Liberal Initiative as the only other significant force, commanding just eight seats in parliament. Despite Montenegro’s best efforts, breaking free from Chega’s influence appears increasingly challenging. It’s likely that André Ventura’s party will allow government programs to pass, preferring to evade responsibility for any national political deadlock in order to gain political leverage in future elections, potentially bolstering its parliamentary presence to around 70/80 MPs and positioning itself for a shot at forming a government.

It appears evident that the Left’s narrative of “fascism is coming” has failed to resonate. Instead, people continue to gravitate toward simplistic solutions and identifiable scapegoats, such as elites and immigrants. This trend is not confined to Portugal but reflects a global phenomenon, highlighting a troubling divergence between democracy and liberalism, which resonates particularly with the younger generation. The strain on the system is further exacerbated by excessive bureaucracy, a sense of detachment from decision-making processes, a perception that legislators do not adequately represent the people’s interests, widespread distrust due to corruption, and a fading collective memory of the authoritarian regimes of the 20th century (Mounk, 2018).


References

Ferreira Dias, J. (2022). “Political Messianism in Portugal, the Case of André Ventura.” Slovenská politologická revue, 22(1), 79-107. 

Kaltwasser, C. R.; Taggart, P.; Espejo, P. O. & Ostiguy, P. (2017). “Populism: An Overview of the Concept and the State of the Art.” In: Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P. A., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Populism. pp. 1-24. Marchi, R. (2020). A nova direita anti-sistema-O caso do Chega. Leya. Marchi, R. (2022). Portugal y la derecha radical: otra «excepción» que cae. Nueva Sociedad, (300), 14-24.

Mounk, Y. (2018). “The people vs. democracy: Why our freedom is in danger and how to save it.” In: The People vs. Democracy. Harvard University Press.

Motorcyclist passes the banner of Presidential Candidate Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka in Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia on January 18, 2024. Photo: Angga Budhiyanto.

The Changing Populist Performances of Prabowo Subianto: Indonesia’s Incoming President

Prabowo Subianto Joyohadikusumo is the anticipated victor of the 2024 Indonesian presidential election, boasting a political career spanning more than three decades in the country. Over the course of the past decade alone, Prabowo has undergone significant shifts in ideological stances, rhetorical appeals, and electoral strategies. He has transformed from an ultra-nationalist, chauvinist, and Islamist populist into a technocratic figure with a more approachable demeanor, strategically forming and changing alliances in his efforts to secure electoral success.

By Ihsan Yilmaz, Hasnan Bachtiar, Chloe Smith & Kainat Shakil

Following Indonesia’s tumultuous transition to independence, the early period of the country’s history, which has been called the years of “Guided Democracy,” was led by two successive authoritarian regimes (Barton et al, 2021a; 2021b). It was during this period that Indonesia’s new leader cut his teeth in his former role as a general of the special forces (Kopassus). Prabowo Subianto Joyohadikusumo has emerged as a pivotal figure in contemporary Indonesian electoral politics. Simply known as Prabowo, he is a highly controversial former military officer with a past tarnished by a legacy of human rights abuses, the son-in-law of former dictator Suharto, and a prominent political actor and Presidential candidate over the past decade. 

Since 2009, Prabowo has consistently participated in general elections, engaging in consecutive races during each electoral cycle (2009, 2014, 2019 and 2024) and ultimately achieving victory in the most recent elections. Throughout the years, his image, stances, and narratives have undergone notable transformations, showcasing a fascinating political fluidity and adaptivity.

Prabowo’s journey includes experiencing defeat as a vice presidential candidate alongside Megawati and against retired four-star general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009. Their ticket received only 26.79% of the total votes, while other candidates received 12.41% and 60.08% respectively (Komisi Pemilihan Umum, 2009). 

Subsequently, he faced defeat twice in presidential elections against the popular technocrat Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in 2014 and 2019. In 2014, Prabowo-Hatta Rajasa received 46.85% of the total votes, while Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla garnered 53.15% (Komisi Pemilihan Umum, 2014). Similarly, in 2019, Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin secured 55.32% of the votes compared to Prabowo-Sandiaga Uno’s 44.68% (Komisi Pemilihan Umum, 2019).

However, in the latest demonstration of realpolitik, Prabowo has refined and redefined his political messaging, ultimately claiming victory. He formed an alliance with his former opposition in the 2024 elections by choosing Jokowi’s son as his running mate, a strategic move that secured his electoral triumph.

In past election campaigns, Prabowo was noted for exhibiting ultra-nationalist, strongly chauvinist, and Islamist populist characteristics, as observed by Yilmaz et al. (2024). However, in the recent election, Prabowo has transformed, re-emerging as a distinctly technocratic figure while still retaining some classic populist tendencies. This shift in his political persona reflects significant strategic considerations, intending to further his quest for power.

Specifically, Prabowo now presents himself as the guardian of the people’s volonté générale (general will) and employs popular communication strategies that effectively engage Indonesia’s youth. It has also been noted that his campaigning involved simplifying complex political problems and their solutions – such as his focus on a program for free lunches and milk to tackle malnutrition and food scarcity – a program that has been criticized for being unrealistic (Susilo & Prana, 2024).

Prabowo’s campaigning in 2024 also marked a notable departure from the more antagonistic aspects of populism. Particularly significant was his abandonment of chauvinistic messaging, which had previously fueled religious-based hostilities, incited outrage against minorities, directed blame against foreign powers, and scapegoated oligarchic elites to appeal to voters (Mietzner, 2020; Yilmaz & Barton, 2021).

In this campaign, Prabowo refrained from emphasizing ideological issues that deepen social polarization (Yilmaz, 2023) and steered clear of his past narratives and rhetoric against Western neo-liberalism and the perceived greed of Chinese corporations (Hadiz, 2017; Mietzner, 2020; Yilmaz & Barton, 2021). Additionally, he distanced himself from religious right-wing groups, notably the civilizational populist Defenders Front of Islam (FPI), with whom he had previously aligned himself in varying capacities during the 2019 election (Yilmaz et al., 2022).

Prabowo and his political campaign team also used digital culture and technologies to both appeal to Indonesia’s youth and shake off his formerly aggressive and militant reputation. This involved various strategies including rebranding to reflect a more modern and approachable vibe, engagement through social media, utilizing platforms popular among youth, and creating appealing content.

Prabowo has been newly portrayed as an adorable, friendly grandpa (gemoy). This rebranding exercise has been particularly effective among online and youth communities – Prabowo is represented in digital spaces with a cartoon photo generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) (Citizen Digital, 2024), and has become known for dancing the Korean Oppa style to disco music and the super hit song “Oke Gas” by the famous rapper, Richard Jersey (Jersey, 2024)

“More than half of Indonesia’s 204 million voters are millennials or younger” and Prabowo’s use of social media has proved immensely popular amongst these voters (Economist, 2024). This is a strong strategic move and reflects an understanding of the type of leader Indonesian youth are looking for. While various definitions contest what is the ‘ideal’ or ‘the hegemon’ masculinity, there is a clear indication that amongst Indonesian millennials and Gen-Zs, the traditional ideal of a ‘strongman,’ as Prabowo was formerly and widely known as being, does not attract their support. Prabowo’s sensitivity to this change led him to modify his masculinity to become more acceptable in society. Being a dancing, friendly older man has gained him the acceptance of youth – unlike the highly composed military man or conservative religious figure he has occupied in past election campaigns.  

There are several other explanations which can account for his change of tactics. First, he learned from his defeats in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections. In both political battles, he operationalized a populist performance, presenting himself as a charismatic leader who was pro-indigenous, defending Islam in Indonesia, and standing up against a) the corrupt and Westernized elite, and b) foreign powers and influence (Mietzner, 2020). Furthermore, in both unsuccessful campaigns, Prabowo proved eager to win the support of various nativist, racist, and hardline groups. For instance, in 2017, hoping to gain Islamist support in the elections two years later, he eagerly supported Anies Baswedan in the quest to defeat Ahok (Basuki Tjahaya Purnama), the incumbent Chinese and Christian governor of Jakarta, in the lead-up to the gubernatorial election. In the process, he went as far as encouraging a severe and dramatic process of minority criminalization and discrimination (Bachtiar, 2023). However, despite receiving the support of civilizational populist leader Rizieq Shihab, the FPI, and other Islamist groups, it did not win the votes he needed, and Prabowo likely realized he needed a new political strategy to win the 2024 election.  

While he did not otherize minority groups or form an alliance with hardline Islamists in the current elections, Prabowo continued to cast ‘Europe’ as an enemy. For instance, late last year while election campaigning, he accused Europe of treating Indonesia ‘unfairly’ when discussing exports of goods such as palm oil to the EU market (Yuniar, 2023). Narratives vilifying Europe have been a regular fixture in Prabowo’s political discourse, particularly in discussions surrounding national sovereignty and international relations. This reflects Indonesia’s troubled history with colonial powers from Europe, particularly the Dutch colonizers. Although Europe has been consistently positioned as an enemy elite, Prabowo’s messaging about China and the United States has shifted according to different political tides (Reuters, 2023). 

Second, while the amplification of Islamist identity politics and civilizational populism significantly intensified the people’s emotions and populist demands (Yilmaz & Morieson, 2023), it also inspired a wave of resistance from the silent majority: pluralist Muslims. Identity politics succeeded in forming cross-class alliances – evident in the mass rallies against Ahok – but they also provoked resentment, including from leaders of the consequential mainstream Islamic organizations Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. Both organizations maintain a sharp focus on diversity and national integration (Burhani, 2018; Bruinessen, 2021). By not appealing to – and actively repelling – the pluralist and mainstream Muslims, Prabowo learnt in hindsight that his chances of success had been considerably hindered. 

Third, Prabowo went through the important process of becoming a technocrat when he agreed to join the Jokowi cabinet and accepted the role of Indonesia’s Defense Minister. In this context, he built his image as a big-hearted knight with a more inclusive outlook. In taking this role, and in refashioning his political branding, he betrayed his coalition with the civilizational populist group, the FPI, who were consequently banned by Jokowi, leading to their dissolution (Power, 2018). 

Prabowo’s closer affinity with Jokowi also allowed him to enact another key strategy in his 2024 campaign: Winning Jokowi’s support and endorsement. This was partly achieved by his decision to make Jokowi’s son, Gibran Rakabuming, the vice-presidential candidate – a decision which required manipulation of the law and the Constitutional Court (Wilson, 2024). In favorable circumstances for Probowo, Jokowi had come to a head with Megawati, Soekarno’s daughter, in the camp of his party in power (the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle – PDIP). Megawati had insulted Jokowi when she suggested he should submit to party leadership (as a worker/petugas partai), despite his status as President of Indonesia. As a result, Jokowi withdrew his support for Ganjar Pranowo, the governor of Central Java, who had been endorsed by the PDIP as its presidential candidate (Bachtiar, 2023). Aware of Jokowi’s popularity, particularly because of his strong economic performance, Prabowo keenly promoted himself as the candidate who would carry on this legacy (Strangio, 2024).

In conclusion, Prabowo’s transformations throughout various presidential elections have been remarkable. From 2014 to 2024, he has undergone a significant evolution in his public image, shifting from a classical populist ‘strongman’ with authoritarian tendencies and polarizing rhetoric to adopting an ultra-conservative and pious Islamist persona, and most recently, presenting himself as a soft, affable grandpa who engages with youth through TikTok dances and photos with his cats.

Even though he has outwardly shed the more hardened and aggressive parts of his persona, Prabowo’s experience in military leadership will have still played a central role; some voters are still likely drawn to an assertive style of leadership and see him as a proficient leader who can effectively attend to the welfare of everyday Indonesians (Gilang & Almubaroq, 2022), while younger voters might have felt a connection with the softer and approachable ‘grandpa’ figure they saw on the internet (The Economist, 2024). 

Throughout this journey, Prabowo has continually renewed and adjusted his policy promises, political allegiances, public image, and the support bases he appeals to. Concerns remain about the authenticity of Prabowo’s shift in rhetorical and ideological messaging, and what lies underneath Prabowo’s successful attempt at gaining power and control in Indonesia. How far removed is this softer and more inclusive gemoy character from the strong and masculine, ultra-nationalist and chauvinist described by scholars previously (Hadiz, 2017; Mietzner, 2020; Yilmaz & Barton, 2021)? After all, it was only recently that American Indonesianist, Slater argued Prabowo is “the sort of ethnonationalist, polarizing, strongman who would scapegoat minorities and ride roughshod to power, as other world leaders recently had” (Slater, 2023: 103-104). These concerns were also highlighted by The Guardian writers, who claimed that Prabowo’s victory in 2024 was a sign that “winter is coming” for Indonesian democracy (Ratcliffe & Richaldo, 2024). Similarly, Kurlantzick (2024) argues that democracy is truly lost with Prabowo’s victory.

The question also arises whether the current ‘happy grandpa’ persona will eventually revert to the iron-fisted strongman? While his pattern of changing ideologies and political messaging may suggest such a possibility, Prabowo has demonstrated patience and tactical acumen as a populist leader. He adapts to the expectations of voters, which are shaped by constantly changing socio-political trends. Therefore, while a metamorphosis back to his former persona cannot be ruled out, Prabowo’s ability to navigate shifting political landscapes makes his future trajectory uncertain yet intriguing.


 

Funding: This work was supported by the Australian Research Council [ARC] under Discovery Grant [DP220100829], Religious Populism, Emotions and Political Mobilisation.


References

Bachtiar, Hasnan. (2023). “Ganjar Pranowo’s Quest: Resisting Islamist Civilizational Populism in Indonesia.” Populism & Politics (P&P). European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). December 19, 2023. https://doi.org/10.55271/pp0028

Bachtiar, Hasnan. (2023). “Indonesian Islamist populism and Anies Baswedan.” Populism& Politics (P&P). European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). October 9, 2023. https://doi.org/10.55271/pp0025

Barton, G.; I. Yilmaz and N. Morieson. (2021a). “Authoritarianism, Democracy, Islamic Movements and Contestations of Islamic Religious Ideas in Indonesia.” Religions. 2021, 12, 641. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080641

Barton, G.; I. Yilmaz and N. Morieson. (2021b). “Religious and Pro-Violence Populism in Indonesia: The Rise and Fall of a Far-Right Islamist Civilisationist Movement.” Religions12(6), 397. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060397

Bruinessen, M. V. (2021). “Traditionalist Muslims and Populism in Indonesia and Turkey.” Tashwirul Afkar, 40(2), pp. 1-27.

Burhani, A. N. (2018). “Plural Islam and Contestation of Religious Authority in Indonesia.” In: N. Saat, ed. Islam in Southeast Asia Negotiating Modernity. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, pp. 140-163.

Citizen Digital. (2024). “How Generative AI Is Transforming Indonesia’s Election.” Citizen Digital, 8 February 2024, https://www.citizen.digital/tech/how-generative-ai-is-transforming-indonesias-election-n336320 (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Gilang, P. L. & Almubaroq, Z. H. (2022). “Leadership Style of the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia Prabowo Subianto.” International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science, 6(3), pp. 617-621. 

Hadiz, V. R. (2017). “Indonesia’s year of democratic setbacks: Towards a new phase of deepening illiberalism?” Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 53(3), pp. 261-278.

Jersey, R. (2024). Oke Gas Prabowo Gibran Paling Pas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwYRwOj9RdA (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Komisi Pemilihan Umum (2014). Keputusan Komisi Pemilihan Umum No. 535/Kpts/KPU/Tahun 2014 tentang Penetapan Rekapitulasi Hasil Penghitungan Perolehan Suara dan Hasil Pemilihan Umum Presiden dan Wakil Presiden tahun 2014. https://jdih.kpu.go.id/data/data_kepkpu/535_PENETAPAN_REKAP_PILPRES.pdf

Komisi Pemilihan Umum (2019). Hasil Hitung Suara Pemilu Presiden & Wakil Presiden RI 2019. https://pemilu2019.kpu.go.id/#/ppwp/hitung-suara/ (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Komisi Pemilihan Umum (2024). Hasil Hitung Suara Pemilu Presiden & Wakil Presiden RI 2024. https://pemilu2024.kpu.go.id/ (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Kurlantzick, J. (2024). “Prabowo Wins. Does Indonesian Democracy Lose?” CFR. https://www.cfr.org/blog/prabowo-wins-does-indonesian-democracy-lose (accessed on March 5, 2024).

Mietzner, M. (2020). “Rival populisms and the democratic crisis in Indonesia: Chauvinists, Islamists and technocrat.” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 74(4), pp. 420-438.

Power, T. P. (2018). “Jokowi’s authoritarian turn and Indonesia’s democratic decline.” Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 54(3), pp. 307-338.

Ratcliffe, R. & Richaldo, H. (2024). “‘Winter is coming’: Activists’ fears as Prabowo Subianto likely wins Indonesia election.” The Guardian. February 15, 2024. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/15/indonesia-presidential-election-results-prabowo-subianto-likely-victory (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Slater, D. (2023). “What Indonesian Democracy Can Teach the World.” Journal of Democracy, pp. 95-109.

Strangio, S. (2024). “Prabowo Subianto claims victory in Indonesian Presidential Election.” The Diplomat, February 15, 2024https://thediplomat.com/2024/02/prabowo-subianto-claims-victory-in-indonesian-presidential-election/ (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Susilo, F. & Prana, J. R. (2024). “No such thing as a free lunch: Counting the cost of Prabowo’s ‘free food’ program.” Indonesia at Melbourne. February 27, 2024. https://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch-counting-the-cost-of-prabowos-free-food-program/ (accessed on March 4, 2024).

The Economist. (2024, February 1). “TikTok is a key battleground in Indonesia’s election.”https://www.economist.com/asia/2024/02/01/tiktok-is-a-key-battleground-in-indonesias-election (accessed on March 4, 2024).

The Jakarta Post. (2023.) “Prabowo criticises EU on deforestation, palm oil ban.” The Jakarta Post. 14 November 2023, https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2023/11/14/prabowo-criticises-eu-on-deforestation-palm-oil-ban.html (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Wilson, I. (2024). An Election to End All Elections? https://fulcrum.sg/an-election-to-end-all-elections/ (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Yilmaz, I. (2023). Civilizational Populism in Democratic Nation-States. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Yilmaz, I. & Barton, G. (2021). “Political Mobilisation of Religious, Chauvinist, and Technocratic Populists in Indonesia and Their Activities in Cyberspace.” Religions, 12(10), p. 822.

Yilmaz, I. & Morieson, N. (2023). Religions and the Global Rise of Civilizational Populism. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.

Yilmaz, I.; Morieson, N. & Bachtiar, H. (2022). “Civilizational Populism in Indonesia: The Case of Front Pembela Islam (FPI).” Religions, 13(12), p. 1208.

Yilmaz, Ihsan; Triwibowo, Whisnu; Bachtiar, Hasnan & Barton, Greg. (2024). “Competing Populisms, Digital Technologies and the 2024 Elections in Indonesia.” Populism & Politics (P&P). European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). January 2, 2024. https://doi.org/10.55271/pp0029

Yuniar, W. R. (2023, November 14). “Indone sia’s Prabowo slams West for double standards, lack of moral leadership: ‘we don’t really need Europe’.” SCMP. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3241398/indonesias-prabowo-slams-west-double-standards-lack-moral-leadership-we-dont-really-need-europe (accessed on March 4, 2024).

Photo: Matej Kastelic.

ECPS Academy Summer School 2023 — Populism, war and crises: How populism interacts with crises during wartime?

ECPS organized its third virtual Summer School on July 3-7, 2023, focusing on the interaction between populism and crises which were categorized into five groups: political crisis, economic crisis, cultural crisis, environmental crisis, and health crisis. Keeping in mind that crises vary in nature, and each has different consequences depending on the conjuncture in which they emerge, Summer School examined these five groups by taking into account the repercussions of the current international political context, particularly the war in Ukraine.

ECPS organized its third virtual Summer School on July 3-7, 2023, focusing on the interaction between populism and crises. Our world is going through turbulent times on many fronts struggling with complex challenges emanating from various crises in different spheres of life, and these crises create convenient environments for populist politics. In line with this, in recent years, we have observed the emergence and success of populist parties in a number of countries, and this number is on the rise, including in Europe. These developments align with the conclusion that populism usually occurs within a crisis scenario (Laclau, 1977: 175). Thus, we decided to discuss the relationship between crises and populism at this year’s Summer School. To this end, for practicality, we categorized contemporary crises into five groups and analyzed them accordingly: political crisis and populism, economic crisis and populism, cultural crisis and populism, environmental crisis and populism, and health crisis and populism. Keeping in mind that crises vary in nature, and each has different consequences depending on the conjuncture in which they emerge, we examined these five groups by taking into account the repercussions of the current international political context, particularly the war in Ukraine.

The lecturers for this year’s Summer School were Professor Kai Arzheimer, Professor Jocelyne Cesari, Professor Sergei Guriev, Dr Heidi Hart, Dr Gideon Lasco, Professor Nonna Mayer, Professor John Meyer, Professor Ibrahim Ozturk, Professor Neil Robinson, and Professor Ewen Speed. The program took place on Zoom, consisting of two sessions each day. Over the course of five days, interactive lectures by these world-leading experts discussed from various angles the nexus between populism and the crises we face today.

The opening lecture of Prof Kai Arzheimer explained how populists often benefit from events that are not crises in a strict sense but are framed as such. In turn, populist policies may lead to genuine political crises. The following lecture, carried out by Prof Neil Robinson, addressed contemporary ‘official populism’ developed in Russia in the 2010s and how certain elements of this ‘official populism’ is being contested by new actors following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Political Crisis and Populism

By Dr Kai Arzheimer

 

The Russian-Ukrainian War and the Changing Forms of Russian Populism

By Dr Neil Robinson

 

The third and fourth lectures, presented by Prof Ewen Speed and Dr Gideon Lasco, focused on the complex and contradictory topic of medical populism. Drawing on the work of Laclau, Prof Speed’s session considered how medical populism (particularly from the right) has been developed and used in the context of broader political struggles (e.g., around vaccination or abortion); while Dr Lasco’s presentation reviewed and critically engaged with the concept of medical populism, its elements of spectacularization, simplification, and forging of divisions, as well as the literature on its figurations during the pandemic in different countries.

Health Crisis and Populism

By Dr Ewen Speed

 

COVID-19 and the Evolving Nature of Medical Populism

By Dr Gideon Lasco

 

Moving onto the issue of economic crisis and populism, on the third day, Prof Ibrahim Ozturk talked about the abuse of the negative repercussions of an unmanaged globalization in economics by the populists. His engaging lecture was followed by an 8-part presentation by Dr Sergei Guriev on populism, its evolution, the role of secular economic factors related to cross-border trade and automation, the 2008–09 global financial crisis and subsequent austerity, a discussion on studies on identity politics, trust, and cultural backlash, the gap between perceptions and reality regarding immigration, and the impact of the internet and social media. 

The Abuse of the Negative Repercussions of An Unmanaged Globalisation in Economics by the Populists

By Dr Ibrahim Ozturk

 

The Political Economy of Populism

By Dr Sergei Guriev

 

Tackling the relationship between environmental crisis and populism, Dr Heidi Hart’s speech noted pro-business climate denialism and the surprising overlap between left and far-right ecological activism in Europe and also traced the history of illiberal environmentalism through the Nazi period in Germany to contemporary appropriations of “deep ecology,” with several examples from popular culture that make this ideology more appealing than it might at first appear. Following, Prof Jocelyne Cesari addressed the difference between religious nationalism and populism, highlighted the importance of political history and secular cultures on the political role of religion in any given country, and talked about the international and transnational religious forms of populism.

Populism and Environmental Crisis – From Denial to the New Deep Ecology

By Dr Heidi Hart

 

Why Religious Nationalism Is Not Populism

By Dr Jocelyn Cesari

 

On the final day of the Summer School, Prof Nonna Mayer revisited and nuanced the explanations of right-wing populism in terms of cultural backlash and cultural insecurity, taking the French case as an example. The closing lecture of Prof John M. Meyer discussed the entanglements of climate change politics with populism and argued that opportunities for effective climate change action could be found in a more encompassing conception of populism, one rooted in an inclusive conception of “the people,” and an embrace of counter-expertise grounded in local knowledge of climate vulnerability and injustice.

Cultural Explanations of Right-wing Populism… and Beyond

By Dr Nonna Mayer

 

The Ambiguous Promise of Climate Populism

By Dr John M. Meyer

 

This year’s program was participated by around 50 attendees from all over the world with various backgrounds. They found the opportunity to engage in discussions with the lecturers on the topics mentioned, and they networked with each other in small groups and practiced peer-to-peer learning in a diverse international environment. At the end of the program, participants were offered the possibility of becoming part of a lasting academic and professional network through ECRN (Early Career Researchers’ Network) and the ECPS Youth. 

Case Competition on Populism and Cultural Crisis in Ukraine

The Summer School also included a case competition scheduled as a five-day program between 3-7 July. The aim was to provide a unique learning environment to the participants in which they would learn how to transform their academic knowledge into feasible policy suggestions. 

The Competition tackled a real-life problem within the broad topic of populism, crises, and war, more specifically on Populism and Cultural Crisis in Ukraine. One of the most burning contemporary issues of populism, crises and war is connected to war-torn Ukraine at the moment; therefore, the focus of the case was Ukraine. The groups were expected to draw a broad picture of the current cultural policy of Ukraine by considering the historical and political background and then to choose a specific issue such as the politics of identity, language, cultural symbols, locations where culture constitutes a delicate/problematic matter, Russia’s cultural influence, Ukraine’s pro-western politics and more. 

Participants were divided into teams to work together on solving the case and were expected to prepare policy suggestions. The proposals of the participants were then evaluated by an assessment committee composed of scholars and experts based on criteria such as creativity, feasibility, and presentation skills. On the first day of Summer School, ECPS provided the groups with an information pack that included documents and sources that outlined the case and its context. (Please consult this document for detailed information.) Moreover, each day, a one-hour-long consultation session was arranged for the competitors when the teams could discuss their progress and partake in the case-solving activity together. On the final day of the competition, short presentations were carried out and thoroughly evaluated by the assessing committee, which gave valuable feedback to the attendees.

The Scenario

Participants had to position themselves as a member of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy advisory board, responsible for advising on the country’s cultural policy. According to the scenario, the board comprised academics, experts, opinion leaders, journalists, writers, artists, civil society members, high-level bureaucrats, lobbyists, and policymakers, and each group should determine its role on the board, which in this situation, had its upcoming annual meeting. During this meeting, members evaluate and critique the previous years’ policies and suggest amendments or new policies. 

As a group, case competition teams chose a specific policy of the current government in a particular location; they tried to figure out how politics interacts with culture and how it influences Ukrainian relations with the EU and Russia, as well as discussed the shortcomings of Ukraine’s cultural policy and elaborated on what kind of policy would be in the country’s best interest. While crafting their suggestions, groups had to remember that the country is at war with Russia and enjoys Western support, particularly from the EU. Therefore, understanding the EU’s current approach to the cultural issues in Ukraine and if the approach needs to be revised were also among the main considerations of the participants.

The Groups and the Winning Project

The participants were divided into seven competing groups, each named after a symbolic Ukrainian city (Kherson, Lviv, Kharkiv, Poltava, Lugansk, Odesa, Mariupol). The teams tackled a wide range of cultural policy issues in Ukraine, such as the protection of minority rights, the conservation of collective memory of war through the creation of commemorative sites, the proposal of a cultural awareness campaign, the protection of Ukrainian cultural heritage through artistic freedom of expression against the war, the preservation of cultural sites of Odesa and active involvement of citizens in the conservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ukraine, and the introduction of a post-war Legislative Framework for Minority Language Protection. The winning Lviv team presented a case on Decommunization in Ukraine: Policy Recommendation for a Balanced Approach and was awarded a special recognition document for their outstanding performance. 

All in all, our five-day schedule provided young people with a dynamic, engaging, and interdisciplinary learning environment with an intellectually challenging program presented by world-class scholars of populism, allowing them to grow as future academics, intellectuals, activists and public leaders. Participants had the opportunity to develop invaluable cross-cultural perspectives and facilitate a knowledge exchange beyond European borders.

 

DOWNLOAD CASE COMPETITION INFORMATION PACK

 


 

Feedbacks From Participants

“The Summer School was a great opportunity to learn a lot. I became acquainted with so many scholars and researchers and make connections during Q&A sessions as well as during the case competition. It was an amazingly fruitful week in all senses.” 

Olena Siden, PhD Student in Philology, at Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University Mykolaiv, Ukraine.

 

“This program is greatly insightful, inspirational and challenging in terms of how to deal with the highly complex phenomena of populism. It helps a lot for me to make intellectual reflection and recalibrate the specification of my research on populism.”

Hasnan Bachtiar, LLB. PhD student at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI), Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia and Director of Research at Rumah Baca Cerdas (RBC) Institute Abdul Malik Fadjar, Indonesia.

 

“The summer school on populism studies was very comprehensive, and all the sessions were filled with fascinating insights and perspectives. It helped me to explore every aspect of populism studies in detail and foster a deeper understanding of its complexities and implications. The interactive nature of the summer school was particularly commendable. The group discussion and case competition session allowed for engaging and stimulating conversations among participants. It has truly been an inspiring and transformative journey, and I am confident that the knowledge and insight gained will have a great impact on my academic and professional life.” 

Shyam Kumar, Research Scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India 

 

“The lecturers who spoke on populism were remarkable, providing me with invaluable insights and perspectives. Additionally, the inclusion of a discussion room following the lectures was an excellent idea. It provided an opportunity for me to engage in fruitful discussions, seek clarification on any confusing aspects, and raise pertinent questions.”

Hilal Cibik, PhD Researcher in Legal Populism, Exeter University

 

“The sessions covered various aspects of populism, like, socio-political implications and its impact on contemporary democracies. The inclusion of multidisciplinary perspectives helped me gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. I particularly appreciated the quality of the instructors and their expertise in their respective fields. Their ability to present complex concepts in a clear and accessible manner greatly enhanced the learning experience. The interactive nature of the sessions, with opportunities for questions and discussions, fostered an engaging and collaborative environment that encouraged active participation. The selection of the case study provided us with valuable insight into the different manifestations of populism. One aspect that I found especially beneficial was the emphasis on critical thinking and analysis. The program challenged participants to examine populism from various angles, considering its advantages and drawbacks. This approach allowed for nuanced discussions and encouraged us to question our assumptions and biases.”

Junaid Amjad, PhD Scholar, Western Sydney University.

Photo: Matej Kastelic.

ECPS Academy Summer School — Populism, War and Crises: How populism interacts with crises during wartime? (July 3-7, 2023)

Are you passionate about global politics and understanding the dynamics that shape it? Are you looking for a way to expand your knowledge under the supervision of leading experts, seeking an opportunity to exchange views in a multicultural, multi-disciplinary environment, or simply in need of a few extra ECTS credits for your studies? Then consider applying to ECPS Summer School. The European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) is looking for young people for a unique opportunity to assess the relationship between populism, war and crises in a five-day Summer School led by global experts from a variety of backgrounds. The Summer School will be interactive, allowing participants to hold discussions in a friendly environment among themselves in small groups and exchange views with the lecturers. You will also participate in a Case Competition on the same topic, a unique experience to develop problem-solving skills in cooperation with others and under tight schedules. 

Overview 

Our world is going through turbulent times on many fronts struggling with complex challenges emanating from various crises in different spheres of life. In parallel to this, we observe that these crises create convenient environments for populist politics and, in some cases, contribute to the emergence and success of populist parties. These developments align with the conclusion that populism usually occurs within a crisis scenario. Thus, we have decided to discuss the relationship between crises and populism at this year’s ECPS Summer School. To this end, for practicality, we categorise contemporary crises into five groups and will analyse them accordingly: political crisis and populism, economic crisis and populism, cultural crisis and populism, environmental crisis and populism, and health crisis and populism. Keeping in mind that crises vary in nature, and each has different consequences depending on the conjuncture in which they emerge; we will examine these five groups by taking into account the repercussions of the current international political context, particularly the war in Ukraine. 

The lecturers for this year’s Summer School are Professor Kai Arzheimer, Professor Jocelyne Cesari, Professor Sergei Guriev, Dr Heidi Hart, Dr Gideon Lasco, Professor Nonna Mayer, Professor John Meyer, Professor Ibrahim Ozturk, Professor Neil Robinson, and Professor Ewen Speed.  

The program will take place on Zoom, consisting of two sessions each day. Over the course of five days, interactive lectures by these world-leading experts will discuss the nexus between populism and the crises we are facing today from a variety of angles. The lectures are complemented by small group discussions and Q&A sessions moderated by experts in the field. The final program with the list of speakers will be announced soon. 

Moreover, this year, the Summer School will comprise a Case Competition on a real-life problem within the broad topic of populism, crises and war.  Participants will be divided into teams to work together on solving the case and are expected to prepare policy suggestions. The proposals of the participants will be evaluated by a panel of scholars and experts based on criteria such as creativity, feasibility, and presentation skills. 

Our five-day schedule offers young people a dynamic, engaging and interdisciplinary learning environment with an intellectually challenging program presented by world-class scholars of populism, allowing them to grow as future academics, intellectuals, activists and public leaders. Participants have the opportunity to develop invaluable cross-cultural perspectives and facilitate a knowledge exchange that goes beyond European borders.

Who should apply?

This unique course is open to master’s and PhD level students and graduates, early career researchers and post-docs from any discipline.  The deadline for submitting applications is June 23, 2023. The applicants should send their CVs to the email address ecps@populismstudies.org with the subject line: ECPS Summer School Application.

We value the high level of diversity in our courses, welcoming applications from people of all backgrounds. 

Evaluation Criteria and Certificate of Attendance

Meeting the assessment criteria is required from all participants aiming to complete the program and receive a certificate of attendance. The evaluation criteria include full attendance and active participation in lectures.

Certificate of Attendance will be awarded to the participants who attend at least 80% of the sessions. Certificates are sent to students only by email.

Credit

This course is worth 5 ECTS in the European system. If you intend to transfer credit to your home institution, please check the requirements with them before you apply. We will be happy to assist you; however, please be aware that the decision to transfer credit rests with your home institution.

 


 

Topics and Lecturers

 

Day 1: July 3, 2023

Political Crisis and Populism

 

Lecture 1

Dr Kai Arzheimer: Political crisis and populism

Bio: Kai Arzheimer is Professor of German Politics and Political Sociology at the University of Mainz, Germany. He has published widely on voting behaviour, particularly on voting for the radical right in Europe.  

Abstract: In this short lecture, I will try to disentangle the relationship between populist actors and crises. I will start with an attempt to clarify both concepts. Following that, I will show that populists often benefit from events that are not crises in a strict sense but are framed as such. In turn, populist policies may lead to genuine political crises.  

Moderator: Dr Vasiliki Tsagkroni

Bio: Dr Vasiliki (Billy) Tsagkroni is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics at the Institute of Political Science, Leiden University. His research interests include far-right parties, populism and radicalisation, political discourse, narratives in times of crisis, political marketing and branding and policy making. 

 

Lecture 2

Dr Neil Robinson: The Russian-Ukrainian war and the changing forms of Russian populism

Bio: Neil Robinson is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Limerick. His research focusses on Russian and post-communist politics, particularly the political economy of post-communism and post-communist state building. He is the author and editor of books on Russia and comparative politics, including most recently Contemporary Russian Politics (Polity, 2018) and (with Rory Costello, editors) Comparative European politics. Distinctive democracies, common challenges (Oxford University Press, 2020), and has published articles on Russian politics in many journals including Europe-Asia Studies, Review of International Political Economy, International Political Science Review, Russian Politics.

Abstract: ‘Official populism’ developed in Russia in the 2010s to provide a project from Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012. This project centred on a particular relationship that Putin claimed existed between state and people in Russia. It was developed to counter other possible populist projects based on nationalism and/or anti-corruption campaigning. The ‘official populist’ project helped to close the political space in Russia after 2012 but was at risk of failing because it proposed a way of being ‘Russian’ that was dependent on the behaviour of forces and states not under Russian control, namely the former Soviet states, and particularly Ukraine, that Russia wanted to dominate through institutions such as the Eurasian Union. The risk of failure was one factor that helped push Russia to invade Ukraine in 2022. This invasion has opened up space to contest elements of the ‘official populism’ by new actors. The talk will examine some of these and what they might mean for Russia’s political development.

Reading List

Fish, M. Steven (2018) ‘What Has Russia Become?’, Comparative Politics, 50 (3): 327-46

Morris, J. (2022) ‘Russians in Wartime and Defensive Consolidation’, Contemporary History,  121 (837): 258–263.

Putin, V.V. (2021) ‘On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians’, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66181

Putin, V.V. (2022) ‘Address by the President of the Russian Federation’ http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67843(text and video version)

Reid, A. (2022) ‘Putin’s war on history. The thousand year struggle over Ukraine’, Foreign Affairs (101): 54-63.

Robinson, N. and S. Milne (2017) ‘Populism and political development in hybrid regimes: Russia and the development of official populism’, International Political Science Review, 38 (4), 412-25.

Tipaldou, S., and P. Casula (2019) ‘Russian nationalism shifting: The role of populism since the annexation of Crimea’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, 27 (3): 349-70.

Treisman, D. (2022). ‘Putin unbound. How repression at home presaged belligerence abroad’, Foreign Affairs (101): 40-53.

 

Moderator: Marina Zoe Saoulidou

Bio: Marina Zoe Saoulidou is a PhD candidate in Political Science and Public Administration at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). Her thesis focuses on the dynamics of both left- and right-wing populist parties in Europe in the context of economic crises. Marina Zoe is an IKY Scholar (State Scholarships Foundation) and was awarded an NKUA Compensatory Fellowship (teaching assistantship). She is a Junior Research Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), and a member of the Hellenic Society of International Law and International Relations.

 

Day 2: July 4, 2023

Health Crisis and Populism 

 

Lecture 1

Dr Ewen Speed: Health crisis and populism

Bio: Dr Ewen Speed is a Professor of Medical Sociology in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Essex. He has research interests in health policy, particularly in the context of the NHS. He is also interested in critical approaches to understanding engagement and involvement in healthcare, and in critical approaches to psychology and psychiatry. He is currently an Associate Editor for the journal Critical Public Health. He is also a member of the National Institute of Health Research East of England Applied Research Collaboration, contributing directly to the Inclusive Involvement in Research for Practice Led Health and Social Care theme and is Implementation Lead for this theme.

 

Moderator: Caitlin R. Williams

Bio: Caitlin R. Williams is a PhD candidate and Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is also a researcher and advocate whose work centers on scaling and sustaining policies, programs, and practices that advance health, rights, and justice. Meanwhile, she serves as a Research Consultant with the Instituto de Efectividad Clínica y Sanitaria in Buenos Aires, Argentina and a Research Collaborator with the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (Atlanta, GA, USA). Some of her recent projects include validating measures of global policy indicators for maternal health (including abortion access), assessing the threat posed by populist nationalism to human rights-based approaches to health, and analyzing national policies on obstetric violence and respectful maternity care. Caitlin has contributed her expertise to amicus briefs for cases in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, a memo to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, and a statement to the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

Lecture 2

Dr Gideon Lasco: COVID-19 and the evolving nature of medical populism

Bio: Gideon Lasco, MD, PhD is a physician and medical anthropologist. He is senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Department of Anthropology, affiliate faculty at the UP College of Medicine’s Social Medicine Unit, research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Development Studies Program, and honorary fellow at Hong Kong University’s Centre for Criminology. Dr. Lasco’s research projects have focused on contemporary health issues, including drug issues, COVID-19, health systems, and politics of health, and yielded over 50 journal articles and book chapters in the past five years. They have also led to two academic books: Drugs and Philippines Society (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2021), an edited volume which features critical perspectives on drug use and drug policy in the country, as well as Height Matters, forthcoming monograph on human stature with the University of the Philippines Press. He also maintains a weekly column on health, culture, and national affairs in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, as well as acolumn in SAPIENS, the online anthropology magazine, that focuses on the relationships of humans with other species. 

Abstract: Over 3 years since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous political analyses have extensively documented the ways in which political actors have responded to the health crisis, including the resort of many of them to populist performances. Less established, however, are the ways in which these actors evolve their political styles as the pandemic also evolves politically, socially, and epidemiologically. This presentation reviews and critically engages with the concept of medical populism, its elements of spectacularization, simplification, forging of divisions, as well as the literature on its figurations during the pandemic in different countries. It then (re)applies this concept to major events in the pandemic after the initial responses – e.g. the development of vaccines, the emergence of variants, the debates over whether the pandemic is over. Overall, this longer-term analysis shows that while politicians continue to dramatize their responses, offer simplistic solutions, and divide their publics, these characteristics do not necessarily coexist at a given political moment. Medical populism, then, viewed as a repertoire of styles rather than a fixed set of characteristics.  

Reading List

Lasco, G. (2020). Medical populism and the COVID-19 pandemic. Global public health, 15(10), 1417-1429. 

Moderator: Dr Vassilis Petsinis

Dr Vassilis Petsinis is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary (Institute of Global Studies). He is a political scientist with expertise in European Politics and Ethnopolitics. Dr Petsinis has conducted research and taught at universities and research institutes in Estonia (Tartu University), Germany (Herder Institut in Marburg), Denmark (Copenhagen University), Sweden (Lund University, Malmö University, Södertörns University, and Uppsala University), Hungary (Collegium Budapest/Centre for Advanced Study), Slovakia (Comenius University in Bratislava), Romania (New Europe College), and Serbia (University of Novi Sad). He holds a PhD in Russian & East European Studies from the University of Birmingham (UK).

Respondent: Dr Maria Paula Prates

Dr Maria Paula Prates is a medical anthropologist at the Department of Anthropology at UCL. She is interested in the embodied inequalities of the Anthropocene, specially that concerning Indigenous Women in lowland South America. She has worked with and among the Guaran-Mbyá in the last 20 years. She has ongoing research projects in reproductive justice, encompassing birthing, unconsented episiotomies, sterilization and c-section, and on the imbricated relation between Tuberculosis and environmental degradation. She worked as an Adjunct Professor in Anthropology of Health at UFCSPA, Brazil and moved to the UK in 2018 as a Newton International Fellowship holder awarded by the British Academy and Newton Fund.

 

Day 3: July 5, 2023

Economic Crisis and Populism 

 

Lecture 1

Dr Ibrahim Ozturk: The abuse of the negative repercussions of an unmanaged globalisation in economics by the populists

Bio: Professor Ibrahim Ozturk is a visiting fellow at the University of Duisburg-Essen since 2017. He is studying developmental, institutional, and international economics. His research focuses on the Japanese, Turkish, and Chinese economies. Currently, he is working on emerging hybrid governance models and the rise of populism in the Emerging Market Economies. As a part of that interest, he studies the institutional quality of China’s Modern Silk Road Project /The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its governance model, and implications for the global system. He also teaches courses on business and entrepreneurship in the Emerging Market Economies, such as BRICS/MINT countries. Ozturk’s Ph.D. thesis is on the rise and decline of Japan’s developmental institutions in the post-Second WWII era.

Dr. Ozturk has worked at different public and private universities as both a part-time and full-time lecturer/researcher between 1992-2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. In 1998, he worked as a visiting fellow at Keio University, in Tokyo, and again in 2003 at Tokyo University. He’s also been a visiting fellow at JETRO/AJIKEN (2004); at North American University, in Houston, Texas (2014-2015); and in Duisburg/Germany at the University of Duisburg-Essen (2017-2020).

Dr. Ozturk is one of the founders of the Istanbul Japan Research Association (2003-2013) and the Asian Studies Center of Bosporus University (2010-2013). He has served as a consultant to business associations and companies for many years. He has also been a columnist and TV-commentator. Dr. Ozturk’s native language is Turkish; he is fluent in English, intermediate in German, and lower-intermediate in Japanese. 

Abstract: This seminar aims to introduce the concept of populism in economics in terms of its causes (i.e., globalization, income inequality, financial crisis), its mechanism of execution in economics by the populists (i.e., macroeconomics and institutions of populism), and its consequences. The economic argument for populism is straightforward: poor economic performance feeds dissatisfaction with the status quo. It fosters support for populist alternatives when that poor performance occurs on the watch of mainstream parties. Rising inequality augments the ranks of the left behind, fanning dissatisfaction with economic management. Declining social mobility and a dearth of alternatives reinforce the sense of hopelessness and exclusion. However, unlike the argument they use when they are in opposition, in power, by denying and undermining professional and autonomous institutions, discrediting science and scientific knowledge, and rejecting resource constraints in economics, populists would give even more harm to the people they promised to help.

 

Moderator: Dr Dusan Spasojevic

Bio: Dušan Spasojević is an associate professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade. His main fields of interest are political parties, civil society, populism and the post-communist democratization process. Spasojević is a member of the steering board of the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA) and the editor of Political Perspectives, scientific journal published by FPS Belgrade and Zagreb.

 

Lecture 2

Dr Sergei Guriev: The political economy of populism

Bio: Sergei Guriev, Provost, Sciences Po, Paris, joined Sciences Po as a tenured professor of economics in 2013 after serving as the Rector of the New Economic School in Moscow in 2004-13. In 2016-19, he was on leave from Sciences Po serving as the Chief Economist and the Member of the Executive Committee of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). In 2022, Sergei Guriev was appointed Sciences Po’s Provost. Professor Guriev’s research interests include political economics, development economics, labor mobility, and contract theory. Professor Guriev is also a member of the Executive Committee of the International Economic Association and a Global Member of the Trilateral Commission. He is also a Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London. He is a Senior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France, an Ordinary Member of Academia Europeae, and an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Economic Association. 

Abstract: We synthesize the literature on the recent rise of populism. First, we discuss definitions and present descriptive evidence on the recent increase in support for populists. Second, we cover the historical evolution of populist regimes since the late nineteenth century. Third, we discuss the role of secular economic factors related to cross-border trade andautomation. Fourth, we review studies on the role of the 2008–09 global financial crisis and subsequent austerity, connect them to historical work covering the Great Depression, and discuss likely mechanisms. Fifth, we discuss studies onidentity politics, trust, and cultural backlash. Sixth, we discuss economic and cultural consequences of growth in immigration and the recent refugee crisis. We also discuss the gap between perceptions and reality regarding immigration. Seventh, we review studies on the impact of the internet and social media. Eighth, we discuss the literatureon the implications of populism’s recent rise.

Reading List

Guriev, S., Melnikov, N., & Zhuravskaya, E. (2021). 3g internet and confidence in government. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 136(4), 2533-2613.  

Guriev, S., & Papaioannou, E. (2022). The political economy of populism. Journal of Economic Literature, 60(3), 753-832. 

Henry, E., Zhuravskaya, E., & Guriev, S. (2022). Checking and sharing alt-facts. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 14(3), 55-86. 

 

Moderator: Afonso Biscaia

Bio: Afonso Biscaia is a PhD student in Comparative Politics at the Instituto de Ciencias Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa. Afonso’s research focuses on digital political communication and right wing populism. His published work includes “Placing the Portuguese Radical Right-Wing Populist Chega Into Context: Political Communication and Links to French, Italian, and Spanish Right-Wing Populist Actors” (2022), and The Russia-Ukraine War and the Far Right in Portugal: Minimal Impacts on the Rising Populist Chega Party”, both in co-authorship with Susana Salgado. 

 

Day 4: July 6, 2023

Environment, Religion and Populism

 

Lecture 1

Dr Heidi Hart: Populism and environmental crisis – From denial to the new deep ecology

Bio: Heidi Hart, a senior researcher at the ECPS and Linnaeus University (Sweden), is a researcher and educator based in the US and Scandinavia. She holds a Ph.D. in German Studies from Duke University and focuses on intersections of the arts and politics, including environmental crisis. She is currently a guest researcher at SixtyEight Art Institute in Copenhagen, where she has contributed curatorial work on climate art, and at the Linnaeus University Center for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, where she is completing the research project “Instruments of Repair.” 

Abstract: This talk provides an overview of the various populist strains of engagement with environmental crises. Beginning with pro-business climate denialism and moving to the surprising overlap between left and far-right ecological activism in Europe, I will show how these strains are not limited to one ideological viewpoint. Examples of nationalist, agrarian, nativist, traditionalist, and protectionist viewpoints will fill this discussion with a common thread of fear-based thinking. Examples of left-wing environmental populism further complicate the picture but arise from a more critical position. I will then trace the history of illiberal environmentalism through the Nazi period in Germany to contemporary appropriations of “deep ecology,” with several examples from popular culture that make this ideology more appealing than it might at first appear. Finally, I will invite all to discuss the Malthusian temptations implicit in wishing for a cleaner, less crowded, more protected planet.  

Reading List

Buzogány, A., Mohamad-Klotzbach, C. (2022). Environmental Populism. In Oswald, M. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Populism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-80803-7_19 

François, S., Nonjon, A. (2021). “Identitarian Ecology”: The Far Right’s Reinterpretation of Environmental Concerns. Illiberal Studies Program, 1 February 2021, https://www.illiberalism.org/identitarian-ecology-rights-reinterpretation-environmental-concerns/ 

Leigh, A. (2021). How Populism Imperils the Planet. The MIT Press Reader, 5 November 2021,https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/how-populism-imperils-the-planet/ 

Marquardt, J., Lederer, M. (2022) Politicizing climate change in times of populism: an introduction. Environmental Politics, 31:5, 735-754, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2022.2083478 

Ofstehage, A. et al. (2022). Contemporary Populism and the Environment. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 47, 671-696, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-012220-124635 

Serhan, Y. (2021). The Far-Right View on Climate Politics. The Atlantic, 10 August 2021,https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/08/far-right-view-climate-ipcc/619709/ 

 

Moderator: Dr João Ferreira Dias

Bio: João Ferreira Dias holds a Ph.D. in African Studies from ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (2016). He is a researcher at the International Studies Centre of ISCTE (CEI-ISCTE) in the research group Democracy, Activism, and Citizenship. He is also an associate researcher at the History Centre of the University of Lisbon and a member of the research network of the European Center for Populism Studies. He is a regular columnist in leading newspapers of the Portuguese press. His areas of research and interest are: Religious Anthropology (Yorùbá, Candomblé, Umbanda, rituals, thought patterns, politics of memory and authenticity), Political Science (culture wars, identity politics, nostalgia and politics of memory and nationalism, populism) and Constitutional Law (Constitutional Principles, Fundamental Rights, Religious Freedom). 

 

Lecture 2

Dr Jocelyn Cesari: Why religious nationalism is not populism 

Bio: Dr Jocelyn Cesari holds the Chair of Religion and Politics at the University of Birmingham (UK) and is Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Since 2018, she is the T. J. Dermot Dunphy Visiting Professor of Religion, Violence, and Peacebuilding at Harvard Divinity School. President-elect of the European Academy of Religion (2018-19), her work on religion and politics has garnered recognition and awards: 2020 Distinguished Scholar of the religion section of the International Studies Association, Distinguished Fellow of the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs and the Royal Society for Arts in the United Kingdom. Her new book: We God’s Nations: Political Christianity, Islam and Hinduism in the World of Nations, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2022 (https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/we-gods-people/314FFEF57671C91BBA7E169D2A7DA223). Other publications: What is Political Islam? (Rienner, 2018, Book Award 2019 of the religion section of the ISA); Islam, Gender and Democracy in a Comparative Perspective (OUP, 2017), The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity and the State (CUP, 2014). She is the academic advisor of www.euro-islam.info

Abstract: The lecture will offer an ideal type of the relations between religion and populism to show the difference between religious nationalism and populism; highlight the importance political history and secular cultures on the political role of religion in any given country; and include the international and transnational religious forms of populism.

Reading List

“Populism and religion: an intricate and varying relationship” by Christopher Beuter, Matthias Kortmann, Laura Karoline Nette and Kathrin Rucktäschel (pdf attached) https://forum.newsweek.com/profile/Jocelyne-Cesari-Professor-Religion-Politics-Georgetown-University-and-Harvard-University/37c1d797-c04c-4b41-9aef-8bdd4479d0de

 

Moderator: Dr Jogile Ulinskaite

Bio: Jogilė Ulinskaitė is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University. She defended her PhD thesis on the populist conception of political representation in Lithuania. Since then, she has been part of a research team that studies the collective memory of the communist and post-communist past in Lithuania. As a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University in 2022, she focused on the reconstruction of emotional narratives of post-communist transformation from oral history interviews. Her current research integrates memory studies, narrative analysis, and the sociology of emotions to analyse the discourse of populist politicians.

 

Day 5: July 7, 2023

Culture, Crisis and Populism 

 

Lecture 1

Dr Nonna Mayer: Cultural explanations of right- wing populism… and beyond

Bio: Dr Nonna Mayer is CNRS Research Director Emerita at the Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics of Sciences Po, former chair of the French Political Science Association 2005-2016), member of the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights (since 2016), co-PI of its annual Racism Barometer. Her current fields of expertise are electoral sociology, radical right populism, racism and anti-Semitism, intercultural relations.  

Abstract: Taking the French case as an example,  this presentation revisits and nuances the explanations of right wing populism in terms of “cultural backlash” and “cultural insecurity.” Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour both frame immigration as a deadly threat to French identity and values, nativist attitudes are the main driver of their voters. While anti feminism and sexism drive male votes for Zemmour, but not for Le Pen. However cultural  factors are tightly  mixed with social and economic factors.  

 

Moderator: Dr Sorina Soare

Bio: Dr Sorina Soare is a lecturer of Comparative Politics at the University of Florence. She holds a PhD in political science from the Université libre de Bruxelles and has previously studied political science at the University of Bucharest. Before coming to Florence, S. Soare obtained funding from the Wiener Anspach foundation for 1 year Post-Ph Programme in St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. Her work has been published in Democratization, East European Politics, etc. She taught at the Central University of Budapest, Université libre de Bruxelles, University of Palermo and University of Bucharest. She works in the area of comparative politics. Her research interests lie primarily in the field of post-communist political parties and party systems, democratisation and institutional development.

 

Lecture 2

Dr John M. Meyer: The ambiguous promise of climate populism

Bio: Dr John M. Meyer is Professor in the Department of Politics at Cal Poly Humboldt, on California’s North Coast. He also serves in interdisciplinary programs on Environmental Studies and Environment & Community. As a political theorist, his work aims to help us understand how our social and political values and institutions shape our relationship with “the environment,” how these values and institutions are shaped by this relationship, and how we might use an understanding of both to pursue a more socially just and sustainable society. His current project explores the intersection between climate politics and the political potentials and dangers of populism. Meyer is the author or editor of seven books. These include the award-winning Engaging the Everyday: Environmental Social Criticism and the Resonance Dilemma (MIT, 2015) and The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory (Oxford, 2016). He is editor-in-chief of the international journal, Environmental Politics

Abstract: The entanglements of climate change politics with populism are beginning to receive the attention they deserve. Many have argued that an exclusionary conception of “the people” and a critical account of scientific expertise make populism a fundamental threat to effective action to address climate change. While this threat can be real, I argue that it can also mislead us into reaffirming trust in mainstream political actors as a viable alternative. Instead, I explore opportunities for effective climate change action to be found in a more encompassing conception of populism, one rooted in an inclusive conception of “the people,” and an embrace of counter-expertise grounded in local knowledge of climate vulnerability and injustice.

Reading List 

John M. Meyer, Power and Truth in Science-Related Populism: Rethinking the Role of Knowledge and Expertise in Climate Politics, Political Studies, 2023.

John M. Meyer, ‘The People’ and Climate Justice: Rethinking Populism and Pluralism within Climate Politics, DRAFT.  

Kai Bosworth, Pipeline Populism: Grassroots Environmentalism in the Twenty-First Century, University of Minnesota Press, 2022. 

Aron Buzogány and Christoph Mohamad-Klotzbach, Environmental Populism, The Palgrave Handbook of Populism, 2022. 

Will Davies, Green Populism?—Action and mortality in the Anthropocene, Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, 2019. 

Shane Gunster, Darren Fleet, Robert Neubauer, Challenging Petro-Nationalism: Another Canada Is Possible? Journal of Canadian Studies, Winter 2021. 

Amanda Machin and Oliver Wagener, The Nature of Green Populism?, European Green Journal, 2019. 

Jane Mansbridge and Stephen Macedo, Populism and Democratic Theory, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 2019. 

Jens Marquardt and Markus Lederer, eds., Operating at the Frontiers of Democracy? Mitigating climate change in times of populism, special issue, Environmental Politics, 2022.  

Chantal Mouffe, Toward a Green Democratic Revolution, Verso, 2022. (excerpt here

 

Moderator: Dr Tsveta Petrova

Bio: Dr Tsveta Petrova is a Lecturer in the Discipline of Political Science at Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Cornell University in 2011 and then held post-doctoral positions at Harvard University and Columbia University. Her research focuses on democracy, democratization, and democracy promotion. Dr. Petrova’s book on democracy export by new democracies, From Solidarity to Geopolitics, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014 and her articles have appeared in Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Democracy, Government and Opposition, Europe-Asia Studies, East European Politics & Societies, Review of International Affairs, and Foreign Policy among others. Her research has been supported by the European Commission, the US Social Science Research Council, American Council of Learned Societies, National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, Council for European Studies, Smith Richardson Foundation, and IREX. She further serves a Series Editor for the Memory Politics and Transitional Justice collection at Palgrave-Mcmillan as well as a Scholar with the Rising Democracies Network at the Carnegie Endowment and an Advisor to the Nations in Transit Program at the Freedom House.




Literature Review on Populism and Crises

 By Anita Tusor

Populism usually occurs within a crisis scenario (Laclau, 1977: 175); however, crises vary in their nature and thus have several consequences and effects, affecting populist parties differently. This literature review aims to briefly showcase how different crises have affected populist parties. We have decided to merge UNDP’s Human Security Framework (1994) and combine its seven interdependent pillars into five fields to obtain a comprehensive selection on the different possible crises. The resulting fields have been populism and political crises, populism and health crises, populism and environmental crises, populism and economic crises, and populism and cultural crises.

Political Crisis and War 

One of the main causes behind the recent rise of populism across the world has to do with the shortcomings of democracy, as can be observed in a constant weakening of traditional party identities and changing party functions (Kriesi & Pappas, 2015; Mair, 2002). This political crisis, according to Caiani and Graziano (2019) and Kriesi (2018), has reinvigorated populist actors all across the world, who have used it as an opportunity to channel popular discontent and turn it into electoral success. Furthermore, some authors have argued that rather than just triggering populist actors, populism frequently aims to act as a trigger for crisis and actively participate in the “spectacularization of failure” that underlies such crises, allowing them to pit the people against a dangerous other (Stavrakakis et al., 2017; Moffitt, 2015). So, to act as a trigger for a crisis, populist parties usually follow six major steps that are aimed at elevating a simple failure to the level of crisis and through which they also seek to divide the people from those who are responsible (Moffitt, 2015). According to Moffitt, these six major steps are (1) identity failure, which consists of choosing a particular failure and bring attention to it as a matter of urgency; (2) elevate to the level of crisis by linking into a wider framework and adding a temporal dimension, which is the act of linking the already chosen failure with other failures, locating it within a wider structural or moral framework in an attempt to make such failure to seem symptomatic of a wider problem; (3) frame the people against those responsible for the crisis, which consists of identifying those who are responsible for the crisis, and setting them against the so-called “people,” demonizing them and providing populist parties with an enemy to overcome and allowing them, first, to portray the so-alleged responsible for the crisis as a chronic problem and cause of every crisis, and, second, to offer populist parties a seemingly objective rationale for targeting their enemies, beyond outright discrimination; (4) use media to propagate performance, which is used by populist actors to disseminate and perpetuate a continuing sense of crisis; (5) present simple solutions and strong leadership, which refers to the presentation of themselves, through performative methods -such as portraying other political actors as incompetent and weak, offering simple answers for the crisis, and advocating the simplification of political institutions and processes-, as the only plausible alternative to solve the crisis; and (6) continue to propagate the crisis, which consists of the populist constant switch of the notion of crisis in order to overcome the unavoidable loss of interest by the population.

Lastly, the war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on Kremlin-backed populist parties, which have been forced to shift their positions from expressing support for Putin’s Russia to showing strong support for Ukraine to maintain their legitimacy in their respective countries (Albertazzi et al., 2022; Leonard, 2022). Notable among these Kremlin-supported populist parties are Lega, VOX, FN, and FPÖ, among others, as highlighted by Weiss (2020). The war has also led to the strengthening of mainstream pro-democratic parties, which have seen electoral successes as a result (Leonard, 2022; Pearce, 2022); however, the war has also had negative impacts on European economies and societies, which is expected to lead to dissatisfaction and distrust in democratic institutions, leading to a context that has already been beneficial for populist parties in the past, as they have been able to use sources of frustration to gain popular support (Docquier et al., 2022). Therefore, it can be assumed that European populist parties may adapt to this new context and use these sources again to gain popular support (Legrain, 2022). However, the literature on this topic is still limited. Furthermore, Farrell (2022) argues that the War in Ukraine may be actually benefiting populist radical right parties across European countries since it has put the raison d’être of such parties -the defense of the nation-state and national sovereignty- back at the top of the political agenda. This claim is supported by recent events, such as the victories of Hungary’s, Serbia’s, Sweden’s, and Italy’s radical right populist leaders, as well as in the increasing support for populist radical right leaders such as Marine Le Pen (Lika, 2022).

Health Crisis 

Health crisis refers to a situation that poses a significant threat to public health, either in a specific location or globally. It can arise from a variety of causes, including disease outbreaks, natural disasters, environmental disasters, or other public health emergencies. Most recent examples of health crises challenging governments include the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the Zika virus epidemic. These crises had a profound impact on individuals, communities, and entire populations, and required a coordinated response from governments, public health organizations, and other stakeholders to address the immediate and long-term effects.

As with other crises, populist may look at a health crisis as a “window of opportunity” and utilize it as a way to rally public support by presenting themselves as champions of the people and promoting policies that they claim will protect citizens from the perceived threat (Caiani & Graziano, 2019). However, although populist politicians are excellent at identifying problems and thematizing public discourse at times of crisis, they may be less successful at addressing them.

Populism can sometimes itself contribute to health crises by promoting distrust of scientific and medical experts, as well as government institutions responsible for public health; and by polarizing the political discussion about public health policies, along with underrating and undervaluing public service work. Moreover, populist leaders may downplay the severity of a medical crisis or spread misinformation, leading people to ignore public health guidelines or refuse to follow vaccination programs, which then exacerbate the spread of a disease and prolong the duration of a crisis. Moffit (2015: 195) reminds us that “populist actors actively perform and perpetuate a sense of crisis, rather than simply reacting to external crisis.” They pit the ordinary/true people against the elites, who in this case can be doctors and scientists as well, not exclusively the political establishment (Schwörer & Fernández-García 2022). In the case of Mexican populism, measures taken by “the Mexican populist government were based on negative beliefs towards expert scientific knowledge from outside the government; a disinterest in searching for more information from distant or unfamiliar sources” (Renteria & Arellano-Gault, 2021: 180), and to tackle the upcoming economic crisis, the primary approach would involve bolstering the core programs. 

Summarizing the administrative steps and policies of populists during a health crisis, Lasco (2020) coined the term ‘medical populism’ which can be defined as a political style that centers on public health crises and creates a division between “the people” and “the establishment.” Medical populism has 4 main features: (1) downplaying of the pandemic, (2) dramatization or spectacularization of the crisis, (3) polarization of society where the ‘others’ include pharmaceutical companies, supranational bodies (WHO), the ‘medical establishment’ (i.e. ‘vertical divisions’) or ‘dangerous others’ like migrants that can be blamed for the crisis and cast as sources of contagion (i.e. ‘horizontal divisions’) and (4) making knowledge claims which included the spread of disinformation (Ibid.: 1418-1419). In most countries, “populist leaders have monopolized on discontent with COVID-19 policies and related conspiracy beliefs” (Eberl et al., 2021: 284) as well as created ‘populist tropes’ of testing and “shaped knowledge of the epidemic” to garner support (Hedges & Lasco, 2021: 83).

In some cases, populist could also block the coordination of a global response as they oftentimes prioritize national interests over global ones (Spilimbergo, 2021), leading to delays in sharing information and resources that are necessary to combat the crisis effectively. Cepaluni and colleagues (2021: 1) found that – although earlier research demonstrated that “more democratic countries suffered greater COVID-19 deaths per capita and implemented policy measures that were less effective at reducing deaths than less democratic countries in the early stages of the pandemic” –  at the end, populism were associated “with a greater COVID-19 death toll per capita, although the deleterious effect of populism is weaker in relatively more democratic states.” Fernandes and de Almeida Lopes Fernandes (2022) identified strong evidence of link between poor response to the pandemic and right-wing populism in Brazil, where Jair Bolsonaro was one of the most prominent denialists of the effects of the global health crisis. Furthermore, there is also a correlation between relying on social media as the primary means of obtaining information, voting for populists and being more receptive to misinformation, including conspiracy theories (Ferreira, 2021). 

Times of crisis exacerbate some of the above-mentioned effects. In addition, asking the questions, why some citizens ignore common logic, scientific results and medical advice, Eberl et al. (2021: 272) demonstrated a “positive relationship of populist attitudes and conspiracy beliefs, above and beyond political ideology.” Despite this, some state that there is no clear evidence that populists systematically mismanaged the pandemic (Spilimbergo, 2021), although the pandemic is still ongoing as of March 2023 according to the WHO. Further evaluation of the management of the Covid-19 health crisis by populist forces therefore must wait.

Focusing on the first years of the pandemic, Kavakli (2020) observed slower reaction to the pandemic by populist and economically right-wing governments. These administrations were also more likely implementing fewer health measures and required no or limited social isolation compliance due to the lack of trust in health care professionals and scientists. The uncertainties communicated in expert messaging at the wake of the pandemic has reflected the realities of the learning process among medical professionals, nonetheless the lack of clarity deepened public anxiety and distrust in the competence of officials and redoubled feelings of being left behind and alone among voters at a time when people’s need for competent elites were heightened (Csergő, 2021). This then has been exploited by populists who challenged what counts as credible knowledge. Right-wing populists have attracted the most skeptical segment of the general public and mobilized masses against ‘science-driven’ measures. Former U.S. President Donald Trump has even decided to withdraw from the WHO questioning the credibility of the organization. This disengagement from WHO was a divisive decision: According to Panizza (2005), if populism serves as a reflection of democratic institutions, then it is also true for global governance organizations such as the WHO, as argued by Reddy et al. (2018). However, Mazzeloni and Ivaldi found that “right-wing populist voters were more likely to prioritize health over the economy, and that this was very significant among those voting for Trump in the US, Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, Lega and Fratelli d’Italia in Italy, and the SVP in Switzerland.” Therefore, withdrawal from the WHO amid the pandemic seems like a surprising choice.

One of the central questions of the literature is investigating the question of whether the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened or weakened the discursive opportunities of populist political parties. Schwörer and Fernández-García (2022) argue the latter but indicate that populist radical right parties (PRRP) “are able to electorally survive a pandemic that does not deliver favorable nativist discourses opportunities by emphasizing their populist profile and blaming elites without references to immigration” (no pagination). Their manual content analysis of Twitter discourses of populist radical right parties (PRRP) from 6 West European country found that as nativist messages become restricted with PRRP’s growing support against restrictions (post first wave); they started “using anti-elitist demonizing discourses against the national government accusing it of abolishing democracy and undermining freedom” (no pagination). By this reframing, PRRPs positioned the health crisis as a domestic political crisis instead of an international one. Some presidents and prime ministers went as far as using war metaphors such as ‘fighting the virus’, ‘defeating the virus’ or ‘the war against the virus’ (Ajzenman et al., 2020; Wodak, 2022). This discourse strategy was adopted by French president Emmanuel Macron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán among others, although the former tried to justify strict measures by this rhetoric, while the latter aimed to fight panic and instrumentalize the crisis to further undermine Hungarian democracy.

Amid the health crisis, authoritarian orientation of populist parties in place has become evident. In line with the theory, in-group threat is central to an authoritarian attitude (Feldmann & Stenner, 1997; Adorno et al. 2019), research conducted during the pandemic has found that voters associated with right-wing authoritarian views and ethnocentric, prejudicial attitudes become more nationalistic and anti-immigrant as levels of anxiety grow generated by the perceived threat of a virus (Hartman et al., 2021: 1282).

As Spilimbergo (2021) and Eberl et al. (2021) states, the pandemic did not kill populism, it might have weakened support for it, but post-pandemic issues – fueled by economic insecurity – may lead to yet another surge of populist support among voters. Biancalana and colleagues (2021) had come to a similar conclusion after examining the emerging literature on the relationship between populism and health crisis. On the contrary, Guliano and Hubé (2021) analyzed 8 European countries in the context of the pandemic and found that the health crisis has only benefited populist parties in office (who sustained or significantly improved their primacy, while hindered their prospects in opposition. Either way, populism will stay with us.

Environmental Crisis 

The escalating environmental crisis has prompted a wide range of groups, organizations, and political parties to devise innovative strategies to address this global predicament. Eco-populist actors, organizations, and parties are playing a crucial role in demanding systemic change and attempting to overhaul the exploitative capitalist system, identified as a primary cause of the climate crisis due to its constant Greenhouse Gas emissions and exploitation of natural resources (IPCC, 2022; Torres-Wong, 2019). Such actors range from left-wing organizations, associations, indigenous groups, and NGOs to far-right political parties and right-wing extremist armed militias (see Middeldorp & Le Billon, 2019; Haggerty, 2007; Wittmer & Birner, 2005), which have seen the current climate crisis as an opportunity to gain broader support and impose their nativist ideas. In fact, there are several far-right and Populist Radical Right Parties that have renewed their interest in environmental issues, thus integrating ecological stances in their agendas ultimately aimed at promoting their nationalist views (Lubarda, 2022; Forchtner & Kølvraa, 2015).

Hence, populist parties approach the ongoing climate crisis in different ways, depending on their ideology and political agenda. Right-wing populists around the world have seriously challenged the narrative of climate change as a global challenge that rests on complex interdependencies, accumulated greenhouse gas emissions, and a threat to the world population as a whole, as could have been observed in national leaders like Donald Trump, Rodrigo Duterte, and Jair Bolsonaro, who led mobilizations against climate change mitigation efforts (Marquardt & Lederer, 2022). Nonetheless, as above-mentioned, other far-right and Populist Radical Right Parties have adopted different approaches to the ongoing climate crisis, such as the Front National’s approach of “patriotic ecology,” which aims to protect the French people, culture, and environment from climate change, pollution, and resource depletion by emphasizing French natural resources and national identity, but ultimately masks nativist and Eurosceptic policies; the United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) approach to the British countryside by politicizing the environmental debate and blaming the European Union, overpopulation, and immigration for its deterioration; or the Czech far-right’s discourse on the environment, which criticizes eco-terrorism and evokes a spiritual and nativist Czech environment (Boukala & Tountasaki, 2020; Tarant, 2020; Turner-Graham, 2020; Forchtner & Kølvraa, 2015).

On the other hand, populist parties on the left may adopt a progressive stance, and argue that the crisis is caused by the capitalist system and the exploitation of workers and natural resources by the rich and powerful elites, claiming that the climate crisis disproportionately affects marginalized communities and advocating for more redistributive and egalitarian policies to address it, as can be observed in Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa but also civil society groups like the climate justice movement, Fridays for Future or Extinction Rebellion, that have popularized progressive action on climate change through unconventional modes of protest, disruptive arguments, and demands for systemic change (Scherhaufer et al., 2021; Brünker et al., 2019; Kingsbury et al. 2019, Figueres et al., 2017). 

In sum, how populist actors tackle the ongoing environmental crisis vary in relation to their agenda and their ideological interests; while right-wing populist actors may either embrace skepticism and denial or address the issue through the implementation of nativist and protectionist policies, left-wing populist actors and parties usually opt for the design and execution of more redistributive policies that approach the problem from a more systemic perspective. 

Economic Crisis 

The vast majority of the current literature focuses on the whys and wherefores rather than the effects and impacts of populism, seeking to assess whether the rise of populism is best seen as driven by economic or cultural factors, perhaps both (Iversen & Soskice, 2019; Rooduijn & Burgoon, 2018). In the next section, cultural backlash theory (Inglehart & Norris, 2016: 30) is discussed in detail, therefore, here we focus more on the explanation of economic materialists who identify economic insecurities as the cause of populism such as financial crises, austerity and harsh economic measures, a pushback against neoliberalism and globalization (Rodrik 2018, Snegovaya 2018). 

Economic insecurity as a driver of populism has been investigated extensively following the 2008-euro crisis (Margalit, 2019). Research investigated the developments which eroded voters’ trust in the political system and led those on the losing side to opt for populist parties, to have a break from the status quo and offer seemingly appealing solutions to voters’ economic malaise – be it trade protectionism, building a border wall, or exiting the EU. Sonno et al. (2022) examined the impact of the financial crisis on the middle class suggesting that “financial crisis broadened the pool of disappointed voters, prompting, on the supply side, political parties to enter the political arena with platforms giving the disillusioned voters a new hope for simple and monitorable protection.” 

Guiso and others (2017) studied the demand for and supply of populism, both empirically and theoretically. They document a link between individual-level economic insecurity and distrust toward political parties, voting for populist parties, and low electoral participation. Economic crises are generally known to create a sense of dissatisfaction and disillusionment among citizens. In some cases, it can also create a power vacuum or a sense of uncertainty that allows populist politicians to gain more influence or even come to power. This can be seen in some recent examples of populism, such as the rise of far-right parties in Europe in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008 or the 2015 immigration crisis in Europe. As we could see, populist politicians were able to take advantage of voters’ dissatisfaction by tapping into people’s fears and offering simple nationalist solutions to complex socio-economic problems. Some specifically investigated (Beck, Saka & Volpin, 2020) why the right-wing populist parties were the ones that disproportionately benefit from crises. Populists often blamed specific groups, such as immigrants or wealthy elites, for the economic woes, or/and promised to restore jobs and prosperity through policies that may not be feasible or sustainable (Moffit, 2015).

While populist movements can offer temporary relief for those affected by economic crises, there are concerns about the long-term consequences of populism since the economic policies of right-wing populists can be controversial and have been subject to criticism from economists and other commentators. Populist leaders often promote protectionist economic policies that can harm international trade and cooperation, leading to further economic uncertainty, while their proposed tax cuts may disproportionately benefit the wealthy. Additionally, some argue that anti-immigration policies can harm the economy by reducing the size of the labour force and limiting opportunities for growth. Classical macroeconomic populism – for instance – has typically been crisis-prone and ultimately unsustainable (Kaufman & Stallings, 1991). Furthermore, populist movements often promote simplistic solutions to complex problems, leading to policy decisions that may exacerbate economic crises rather than resolve them.

According to ‘relative deprivation’ theories, economic hardships are the main causes of populist attitudes (Guiso et al., 2017: 4). Poverty – exacerbated by a crisis – is often linked with support for authoritarianism. Neerdaels and his colleagues (2022) found that “shame and exclusion from society lead to increased support for authoritarianism […] because authoritarian leaders and regimes promise a sense of social re-inclusion through their emphasis on strong social cohesion and conformity” (Hedrih 2023). Consequently, alleviating economic hardships above a certain level is not always beneficial for populist political parties. In addition, authoritarian populist policies and capturing the media might have a higher explanatory power in how populist came in power during or after a crisis. Salgado et al. (2021) investigated the junction between populism and economic crisis (Euro Crisis) and hypothesized that media coverage and the communicative and rhetorical aspects of populism are the key reasons for its allure, not the level of how the economic crisis did impact national politics (Ibid: 574).

Economic crisis facilitates populism and reinforces the division between the winners and the losers of globalization (Kriesi & Pappas, 2015), however there are findings countering these statements (Lisi et al., 2019). Examination of populist rhetoric amid economic downturn (Ibid.) in the new democracies of Southern Europe (Greece, Portugal, Spain) has proved that the economic crisis has impacted the party system on all levels, but Lisi et al. (2019: 1288) also argues that “The key factors that are likely to favor the emergence or predominance of inclusionary rather than exclusionary populism in the aftermath of an economic crisis can be argued to lie in high levels of crisis intensity, in the retrenchment of welfare states in the face of economic crisis, and in the lack of partisan programmatic responsiveness. On the other hand, exclusionary populism, which is mostly associated with transformations taking place in the cultural and symbolic dimensions, is more likely to emerge when the salience of immigration increases, and mainstream right-wing parties do not politicize or give priority to xenophobic public preferences.”

Consequently, economic, and cultural crises “have a differential impact on the emergence and consolidation of populist parties – the former are more relevant for inclusionary populist parties, the latter are more conducive to the success of exclusionary populist parties” (Caiani & Graziano, 2019: 1153). 

In conclusion, as Margalit (2019) contended, the economic-centric accounts are likely to overstate the role of economic insecurity as an explanation of the rise of populism. The author argues that the financial crisis contributed to the populist wave but views the crisis as more of a trigger than a root cause of widespread populist support. Similarly, while immigration is often a major concern of populist voters, treating it as an economic driver of populism is misguided (Hainmueller et al., 2015; Bansak et al., 2017; Hainmueller & Hopkins, 2014).

The rise of populism cannot be explained alone with the impact of the economic crisis. Other crises, namely political and cultural/moral, play a crucial role in the populist upswing as well. These crises reinforce and may interact with each other (Kriesi, 2018: 16). Caiani & Graziano (2019: 1141) found that “although the economic crisis has without any doubt provided a specific ‘window of opportunity’ for the emergence of new political actors, which have capitalized on citizens’ discontent, long-lasting political factors – such as the increasing distrust toward political institutions and parties – and the more recent cultural crisis connected with migration issues have offered further fertile ground for the consolidation of populist parties in several European countries.” The authors also posit that “the success of populist parties depend on the capacity to ‘politicize’ crises in terms of a need to rescue the ‘pure’ people from a greedy and corrupt elite” (Ibid., 2019: 1144).

In Greece, subsequent to the eruption of the economic crisis, both left-wing and right-wing populist parties could capitalize on the moment and increase their electoral support. Response to the economic crisis was expressed through the narratives of all political actors and observed across the party system. However, what happened in Athens in 2009, it was not only a crisis of economy, but overall, a crisis of democracy and political representation as well (Halikiopoulou, 2020). “This suggests that the rise of the Golden Dawn is closely related to the breakdown of political trust, good governance and the perceived efficacy of the state” (Ibid.).

As we can see, in identification of the relation between populism and economic crisis, one section of the literature aims to define populism and identify its causes, as well as models that explain how economic crises can fuel the rise of populist movements. Some of the most influential theories in this area include the concept of “populist mobilization” and the idea that economic crises create a “window of opportunity” for populist politicians to exploit. In contrast, others may examine the policy responses to economic crises and their impact on the development of populist movements by assessing the effectiveness of policy measures, such as austerity measures or stimulus programs, in addressing the root causes of the crisis and mitigating the rise of populism. Populist parties jumped to the front of the line to reject or shape the economic policies of neoliberalism. Ivaldi and Mazzeloni (2019: 202) noted that “the economic supply of radical right populist parties is best characterized by a mix of economic populism and sovereigntism.” This is exemplified by the unique political economic model of populists in power (See Poland, Hungary and Serbia).

Although the literature on the economic policies associated with contemporary populism (See Bartha et al., 2020; Markowski, 2019; Orenstein & Bugarič, 2020; Toplišek, 2020) is slowly growing; it is often discussed in the frame of causes of populist surge and does not dive deep into the new, viable illiberal economic policy model of populism, which may prove to be resilient in face of harsh economic environment (Feldmann & Popa, 2022: 236). The political economy of populism is described as the following by Orenstein and Bugaric who believe that populism arose due to both cultural and economic reasons, especially in Central- and Eastern European context: “After the global financial crisis, populist parties began to break from the (neo)liberal consensus, ‘thickening’ their populist agenda to include an economic program based on a conservative developmental statism” (Orenstein and Bugaric, 2020: 176). Feldmann and Popa’s research (2022) builds on the findings of this paper and calls for more research of the unorthodox economic model of populists.

Cultural Crisis

Cultural studies have been heavily influenced by the latest wave of populism (Moran & Littler, 2020). One major change in how we think about the intersection of culture, politics and economics occurred in 1992 when the publication of Jim McGuigan’s titled Cultural Populism came out. His book critically analyzed the ways in which popular culture functions as a source of resistance and as a means of ideological control, while he focused on (popular) culture (sport, television, film, pop music) outside of high culture (classical arts) – a popular instrument for authoritarian populism. He argued that cultural populism is a response to the growing sense of disaffection and frustration among people with the traditional political establishment, and that cultural populism offers a way for people to reclaim power and agency through cultural means. Valdivia (2020: 105) – in questioning of Mudde’s notion of populism – even states that “populism is a cultural narrative more than a thin-centered ideology.” In sum, cultural populism marks the emergence of a political frontier around cultural issues and crises.

The latter refers to a situation in which the values, norms, and beliefs of a society are being called into question. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as rapid social or economic changes, the impact of globalization and technological advancement, immigration (the mixing of different cultures), or political upheaval, which can challenge established norms and ways of life or can lead to a sense of cultural displacement and loss of identity among certain groups of people. During a cultural crisis, the basic assumptions and shared understandings that hold a society together are called into question, leading to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety among members of the society. It can manifest in different ways, such as a loss of trust in institutions, a decline in traditional values, a rise in extremism, or a fragmentation of society, which can then lead to the rise of populism and new-old cultural values, which are “usually combining anti-elite and anti-immigrant nationalism with nationally and locally bounded demands for social justice” (Palonen et al., 2018: 12), as people may turn to leaders who promise to restore traditional values and return society to a perceived past golden era.

This idea is repeated in Inglehart and Norris’ (2016, 30) concept of ‘cultural backlash’ which argues that “the rise of populist political parties reflects, above all, a reaction against a wide range of rapid cultural changes that seem to be eroding the basic values and customs of Western societies.” In this idea, traditional cultural values and attitudes are making a comeback in response to the increasing secularization and liberalization of societies as people, who perceive their social status as declining, are pushing back against the changes and express support for more traditional, conservative cultural norms and values (Bornschier & Kriesi, 2013).

In the 21st century, one of the first elected political leaders who breached modern liberal democracy and created an authoritarian regime that enjoys popular support by making empty populist promises and exploiting the political short-sightedness of ordinary people was Vladimir Putin. Natalia Mamonova (2019: 591) argues that in rural Russia, the supporters of authoritarian populism, often referred to as ‘the silent majority’, does approve of the president and Putin’s traditionalist authoritarian leadership style appeals to this archetypal base of the rural society who creates the base of populist movement. The same has been observed in Hungary and Poland, although Tushnet and Bugaric (2022: 81) warns that in the case of Orbán and Kaczyński, their authoritarianism is more important than their populism. 

Nonetheless, the social status of voters for candidates and causes of the populist right and left is under researched, although their motivations have similar cultural and economic roots (often a cultural or economic crisis). Some scholars and political analysts have argued that a cultural crisis, marked by the erosion of traditional values and a perceived loss of national identity, is one of the main drivers of populist movements in recent years, especially in Central- and Eastern-Europe (Orenstein & Bugaric, 2020; Krastev, 2017; Verovšek, 2020; Vachudova, 2020). Populist leaders often appeal to people’s sense of cultural nostalgia and offer a vision of a return to a simpler, more traditional way of life in these countries, but this rhetoric has been evident in Donald Trump speeches as well (whose populism is rather cultural than political) (Bonikowski & Stuhler, 2022; Brownstein, 2016; Elgenius & Rydgren, 2022; Goodheart, 2018).

According to Gidron and Hall (2017: 58), electoral support of populism has a common feature as a transnational phenomenon; “at its core lie key segments of the white male working class.” Support for populism is also stronger among the older generation, the less well-off, and women: essentially among citizens whose social status has been depressed by the economic and cultural developments following the fall of the Soviet Union. These changes are intertwined: people who see themselves as economically underprivileged, see their social status declining also tend to feel culturally-distant from the dominant groups in society (Ibid: 59-60). They likewise lean “to envision that distance in oppositional terms, which lend themselves to quintessential populist appeals to a relatively ‘pure’ people pitted against a corrupt or incompetent political elite.” Threats to a person’s social status evoke feelings of hostility to outgroups, especially if the latter can be associated with the threat of status. Populism grabs the essence of this threat and politicizes social status.

Social status was identified by German sociologist Max Weber (1968) as a distinctive feature of stratification in all societies, which is not synonymous with occupation or social class. It can be rather understood as a person’s position within a hierarchy of social prestige. A person’s objective social status depends on “widely shared beliefs about the social categories or “types” of people that are ranked by society as more esteemed and respected compared to others” (Ridgeway, 2014: 3). Concerns about subjective social status condition political preferences and play a role in political dynamics. Gideon and Hall’s (2017: 63) research proves how status concerns impinge on the decision to support one candidate or cause: “Just as citizens may vote for a party because they believe it will improve their material conditions, so they might support one because they believe it will improve their social status, either by altering socioeconomic conditions in ways that augur well for their social status or by promoting symbolic representations that enhance the status of the groups to which they belong.”

Even more, in many cases, populists do not need to substantially improve the material conditions or the social status of their electorate, it is sufficient to pit against and sustain hostility to outgroups and associate them with the threat of social status decline. The outgroups are clearly identified both by the European far right and cultural populists: the liberal world order, the “loose consensus” of parliamentary democracy, the supranational construction of EU, and “what they call cultural Marxism, that is individualism and the promotion of feminism and minority rights” (Laruelle, 2020). Furthermore, most scholar agrees on that cultural populism has more in common than just these well-identified enemies: “a coercive, disciplinary state, a rhetoric of national interests, populist unity between ‘the people’ and an authoritarian leader, nostalgia for ‘past glories’ and confrontations with ‘Others’ at home and/or abroad” (Mamonova, 2019: 562) In the case of cultural populism, the ‘Others’ include immigrants, criminals, ethnic and religious minorities, LQBTQ communities, feminists and cosmopolitan elites, whose subjective social status has increased in the last twenty years. This does not need to contribute to a decline in the subjective social status of the native members of the nation-state who are claimed to be the ‘true people’. However, because social status is based on a rank ordering, “it is somewhat like a positional good, in the sense that, when many others acquire more status, the value of one’s own status may decline” (Gidron & Hall, 2017: 68). The subjective social status of many men and women (without tertiary education, living outside big cities), rural dwellers and older generations is dependent on the belief that they are socially superior to the ‘Others’. 

Regional decline seems closely coupled to cultural resentment. “The cultural trends that have raised the social prestige associated with urban life and working women have drawn firms offering good jobs and social care packages while seeking away employees from smaller cities and the countryside, intensifying the regional economic disparities that may feed cultural resentment and support for right populism” (Ibid: 78; Pfau-Effinger, 2004). The weakness of support for right populism in large metropolitan centers may reflect, not only relative prosperity, but the extent to which the experience of life within big cities promotes distinctive cultural outlooks” as the electoral results of the 2018 Polish local, the 2019 Hungarian local, the 2019 Turkish local, or the 2020 Russian regional elections shows (Ibid: 60). 

All in all, socio-economic power structure in the countryside and the perceived social status of rural men and women largely defines the political posture of different rural groups. “Less secure socio-economic strata respond more strongly to material incentives, while better-off villagers tend to support the regime’s ideological appeals – often out of fear for their social status” (Mamonova, 2019: 579).

Populism and cultural crises are closely related and can be interdependent (Aslanidis, 2021). In some cases, they are mutually reinforcing and can exacerbate each other, creating a cycle of cultural and political upheaval or even culture wars (see the Brazilian case by Dias, 2022). On the one hand, Brubaker (2017: 373) stresses that “crisis is not prior to and independent of populist politics; it is a central part of populist politics.” Populism as a strong social force can contribute to a cultural crisis by challenging and undermining established values, norms, and institutions (Maher et al., 2022). Populist leaders and movements may use their power to reshape the cultural and political landscape, often in a way that promotes their agenda and ideology, which can contribute to a cultural crisis (Stavrakakis et al., 2018). This might be done by changing laws, policies, and institutions, and by promoting certain ideologies and narratives. On the other hand, some believe populism is a response to multiple major forms of crisis (see the division of present paper); as reported by Inglehart and Norris (2016), institutional distrust stemming from the economic crisis (Algan et al., 2017: 316) gives rise to populism. 

Populist leaders and movements often present themselves as outsiders and can be critical of the status quo (anti-elitism), which can lead to a sense of uncertainty and disorientation among members of society. Additionally, populist movements can also polarize societies, by promoting nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment, which can lead to a fragmentation of society and a rise of nativism (Brubaker, 2017). Right-wing populism is more likely to divide insiders-outsiders based on cultural differences by emphasizing the outsiderhood of cultural elites (Ibid, 364). According to Kyle and Gultchin (2018: 12-13), this polarization is the 3rd strategy of populists to stoke insider-outsider division. Sharp division is exacerbated, dramatized and exaggerated by “a rhetoric of crisis that elevates the conflict between insiders and outsiders to a matter of national urgency.” Rhetoric of crisis (Moffitt, 2016) spans from populist protectionism – one of the five elements of populist repertoire – which includes cultural protectionism where populists highlight “threats to the familiar life world from outsiders who differ in religion, language, food, dress, bodily behavior, and modes of using public space” (Brubaker, 2017: 364).

Populists do love a ‘good crisis’: One of the most effective strategies of cultural populism is to perform a pervasive crisis dramatizing social division. “Populists are adept at linking failures in one policy area to failures in another, making them appear part of a broad and systematic chain of unfulfilled demands” (Kyle and Gultchin, 2018: 15). Immigrants, sexual minorities, women, religious and ethnic minorities all fall victim of this rhetoric. The changing theme of populist rhetoric is a common feature among long reigning populists in power. If they perform the same crisis, wage war against the same enemy for too long, they lose support, therefore, to maintain the fundamental crisis, they look for new ‘Others’. This however leads to deep social division as the circle of pure people is narrowing.


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Orenstein, M. A. and Bugarič, B. (2022). “Work, family, Fatherland: the political economy of populism in central and Eastern Europe.” Journal of European Public Policy 29(2): 176-195. DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2020.1832557

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Feedbacks From Former Participants

Chloe Smith: ECPS Summer School was an outstanding program. Over the course of a week, participants were fortunate to not only listen to – but engage with – a range of academics and experts working in the field of populism studies. The order of speakers/topics worked well, with initial discussions exploring what populism is, and later discussions centered on more specific manifestations of populism.

Maya Sopory: I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed it! I really appreciated the clear communication and structure, the inclusive culture, and the learning opportunity. I would recommend this program to others and would happily participate in any of their programs again!

Daniel Gamez: The ECPS course was an interesting and forming experience. From time to time, I still make use of the literature that we have been given. Thank you for the opportunity.

Saurabh Raj: I am thrilled to be a part of this excellent initiative. This was a great exposure for me. For the very first time I was a part of a community of some brilliant international minds. All lectures were quite moving, informative, engaging, and insightful as well. This program helped me to understand populism as a subject, and developed my basic understanding about populism, its varieties, impact, and relevance in the current time. This gave me a critical lens to analyze populism of different countries. Now I am able to identify populist traits and rhetoric and the most significant outcome for me is that I can articulate my area of interest within the subject. I think this is a great beginning for me and I am hopeful that I will keep getting support from the ECPS community in my evolution as an expert of this field.

ECPS has inaugurated a Case Competition Series in Populism Studies and held its first competition on March 7, 2023, in Brussels with the participation of ECPS Early Career Researchers Network and ECPS Youth Group members. Photo: Umit Vurel.

ECPS launches a ‘Case Competition Series’ for early career researchers

ECPS has inaugurated a Case Competition Series in Populism Studies and held its first competition on March 7, 2023, in Brussels with the participation of ECPS Early Career Researchers Network (ECRN) and ECPS Youth Group members to provide a unique learning experience for students and young professionals and support them in learning how to transform their academic knowledge into feasible policy suggestions.

ECPS has inaugurated a Case Competition Series in Populism Studies and held its first competition on March 7, 2023, in Brussels with the participation of ECRN (ECPS Early Career Researchers Network) and ECPS Youth members. The competition focused on a pressing issue in contemporary democracies: The rise of far-right movements in Europe, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. In order to narrow our focus, we chose to situate our case in Germany, a key player in Europe’s political and economic landscape, and we expected participants to pay special attention to Russia’s role in this context. Please consult this document for detailed information. 

Photos: Umit Vural.

While case competitions are widely used and popular in consulting, finance, and risk management, we firmly believe they can also be effective tools for putting theory into practice in the fields of political science and international relations. Thus, ECPS has decided to launch the ECPS Case Competition Series, which focuses on different topics in the framework of Populism Studies. Our research has highlighted the numerous potential benefits of designing and hosting a case competition in this field, and we are confident that this series will be a valuable experience for all involved, which has been the case for the event on the 7th of March. 

Case competitions are a type of event in which teams of students or professionals compete against each other to develop and pitch solutions to a business, public administration or a political and/or international relations problem. Teams are given a limited amount of time to research, analyze, develop, and pitch their solutions.

Case competitions are based on contemporary and relevant real-world problems that challenge participants to analyze complex issues and craft innovative solutions. Participants are divided into teams to work together on solving the case, allowing them to enhance their teamwork skills. The proposals of the participants are evaluated based on criteria such as creativity, feasibility, and presentation by a panel of scholars and experts in the field.

Our main goal in carrying out a case competition in the field of political science/populism studies and international relations is to provide a platform for students and professionals to showcase their analytical and problem-solving skills while addressing real-world issues that are relevant to the field. The competition forces participants to think critically and creatively as they research and develop solutions to a complex political or international relations problem. It serves as a valuable learning experience for participants, helping them develop critical skills in high demand in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing political and international landscape. 

By contributing to the competition, participants gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of global and European politics and international relations. They will be better prepared for their future careers. Participants are able to apply their knowledge and skills in a competitive setting and are evaluated by a panel of experts in the field. The panel of experts that assessed the case presentation on March 7, 2023, was formed by the scholars who contributed to the ECPS report on “The Impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Right-wing Populism in Europe.”

Overall, our goal in launching this case competition series is to provide a unique and valuable learning experience for students and young professionals and support them in learning how to transform their academic knowledge into feasible policy suggestions.

 

 

 

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they attended a ceremony celebrating the 1025 anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus in Kiev, Ukraine on July, 27, 2013. Photo: Shutterstock.

Culture War in the War in Ukraine

Putin’s narrative of the Ukrainian government as Nazis and “junkies” is a rhetoric of legitimation of invasion and a performance of culture war. By invading Ukraine, Putin is not only taking back the land he believed to be part of Russia but also rescuing it from being the ‘puppet of the [morally corrupt] West.’ He is defending Russia’s state-civilization against globalism and liberal democracy based on plurality, human rights, and multiculturalism.

By João Ferrerira Dias 

The post-Berlin wall world was lived in the belief of the victory of liberal democracy and thus the “end of history” (Fukuyama, 1992), a promise never fulfilled. The deindustrialization of Europe, alongside the emergence of multipolar economic globalism with the reallocation of production in Asia, gave room for a growing skepticism in different European countries (v.g., Taggart & Szczerbiak, 2002) during the 90s and further resentment with the emergence of populist parties (v.g. Mudde & Kaltwasser, 2016), returning to the nativist ideology, with the defense of native identities vis-à-vis capitalist globalization (v.g. Lindholm & Zúquete, 2010). The increased migratory waves of Muslims from the north of Africa and the Middle East and a welfare crisis that came after the 2008 global economic and financial crisis empathize the appeal of anti-globalist and identitarians movements (Zúquete, 2018), which pièce de resistance is the great replacement theory. However, a significant part of the identitarians does not use the “ethnic, biological and racist discourse of white supremacists, but that of the defense of European culture against Islam pointed out as a vehicle of values irreconcilable with those of modern Western civilization, civic, secular and liberal” (Marchi & Bruno, 2016: 42).

The moral panic of an unconcealable Europe and Islam was, for instance, well explored by the German party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) during the 2017 election after the 2015 refugee crisis. It is now widely admitted that misinformation and fake news played an important role in spreading moral panic and the appeal for nationalism. The anti-immigration propaganda was elaborated within fake news on refugees’ wave of sexual crimes in countries like Germany and Sweden. This helped people turn themselves to the parties who claimed that would stop the open-borders policies that gave free passage to “rapists.”

Russian Propaganda and Culture War

It is very liable and spotted that the growth of radical right movements in Europe is linked to Russia’s strategy of supposedly financial support and pro-Russian media propaganda (Juhász & Szicherle, 2017). The strategy is clear and effective: i) promoting moral panic; ii) driving the people to perceive right-wing radical parties as the solution against globalism and open borders; iii) weakening the European Union by growing nationalist parties; iv) strengthening the influence of Russia in Europe by presenting it as the example of moral strength and unity around the idea of ‘one nation.’ Thus, Russian civilization’s strength lies in its Christian moral and cultural unity and uniqueness.

Russian propaganda on the strength of its moral unity is related to the context of culture wars. The concept refers to a conflict about nonnegotiable conceptions embodied in cultural and moral spheres (Hunter, 1991, 1996; Wuthnow, 1996), such as moral sexuality, gay rights, gender parity, and abortion. Although literature emphasizes culture wars in the United States (US), it happens in different places around the globe, including Russia. According to Robinson (2014), Putin’s third presidential election in 2012 was marked by culture wars in the country. In that year, the members of Pussy Riot were arrested and sentenced for protesting against Putin. One year later, Putin promulgated a law forbidding gay ‘propaganda’ to minors, considering it an unacceptable moral disruption imported from Europe.

Putin’s rhetoric on Russian civilization’s uniqueness is presented in the idea that Russia is a ‘state-civilization’ carried by the Russian Christian orthodoxy and the joint of other religions in Russian territory around a common concern for preserving traditional moral values. For the Russian leader, globalization brought a different kind of international tension:“Many nations are revising their moral values and ethical norms, eroding ethnic traditions and differences between people and cultures. Society is now required not only to recognize everyone’s right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil (…)” (Robinson, 2014: 28-29).

For Putin, the erosion of traditional values – which started with the collapse of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union – is particularly evident in today’s Europe, and Pussy Riots protest sounded the alarm for him. It helps explain the urgency of invading Ukrainian territory and the long-term support of the far-right in Europe (Polyakova, 2014, 2016; Shekhovtsov, 2017). Then, Putin took new programs on the culture wars, such as the reform of school manuals, the establishment of a Military-Historical Society with the involvement of the Minister for Culture, the cultural celebration of Russian feats of arms, including new war memorials, and more prominence given to Russia’s part in World War I. Moreover, he recovered Stalin’s physical and ideological fitness program (Gotov k trudy i oborone) in 2014. He started an intense persecution of the “traitors” of the “fifth column” – the liberal intelligentsia committed to Western ideas, ethno-nationalists, and Russia’s LGBT community. 

Thereby, Putin’s narrative of the Ukrainian government as Nazis and “junkies” is a rhetoric of legitimation of invasion and a performance of culture war. By invading Ukraine, Putin is not only taking back the land he believed to be part of Russia but also rescuing it from being the ‘puppet of the [morally corrupt] West.’

Not surprisingly, Putin forced the comparison of Russia’s international isolation to ‘cancel culture,’ giving J. K. Rowling – author of Harry Potter – denunciations for her views on gender as an example. By taking ‘cancel culture’ to international relations, Putin signals the cultural dimension of the war in Ukraine. He is defending Russia’s state-civilization against globalism and liberal democracy based on plurality, human rights, and multiculturalism.


References

Fukuyama, F. (1992). The end of history and the last man. Free Press.

Hunter, J. D. (1992). Culture wars: The struggle to control the family, art, education, law, and politics in America. Avalon Publishing.

Hunter, J. D. (1996). Reflections on the culture wars hypothesis. The American culture wars: Current contests and future prospects. University Press of Virginia, 243-56.

Juhász, A. & Szicherle, P. (2017). The political effects of migration-related fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories in Europe. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Political Capital, Budapest.

Lindholm, C. & Zúquete, J. P. (2010). The struggle for the world: Liberation movements for the 21st century. Stanford University Press.

Marchi, R. & Bruno, G. (2016). A extrema-direita europeia perante a crise dos refugiados. Relações Internacionais (50), 39-56.

Mudde, C. & Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2016). Populism: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

Polyakova, A. (2016). “Putinism and the European far right.” Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. November 19, 2015. https://imrussia.org/images/stories/Russia_and_the_World/Putin-Far-Right/alina-polyakova_putinism-european-far-right.pdf (accessed on March 14, 2023).

Polyakova, A. (2014). “Strange bedfellows: Putin and Europe’s far right.” World Affairs. (177, 3): 36-40.

Taggart, P. & Szczerbiak, A. (2002). The party politics of Euroscepticism in EU member and candidate states. Brighton: Sussex European Institute.

Robinson, N. (2014). The political origins of Russia’s culture wars. University of Limerick.

Shekhovtsov, A. (2017). Russia and the Western far right: Tango Noir. Routledge. 

Wuthnow, R. (1996). Christianity and civil society: The contemporary debate (Vol. 1996). A&C Black.

Zúquete, J. P. (2018). The identitarians: The movement against globalism and Islam in Europe. University of Notre Dame Press.

Member of the EU Parliament in the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists Eva Kaili gives a keynote speech during an event about Financial regulation in EU in Brussels, Belgium on June 25, 2018. Photo: Alexandros Michailidis.

Corruption scandals: A rather narrow window of opportunity for populists? 

In populist rhetoric, corruption is an obvious indication of institutional decay generated by the ‘corrupt elites’ and affecting the interests of the pure people.’ More specifically, the causal path could be described as follows: Corruption exacerbates political polarization by promoting the idea that the economic elites control the agenda-setting process and shape government politics in favor of their own interests, leading to representational inequality. Yet, is always an anti-corruption crusade the shortest way for populists to come to power?

By Marina Zoe Saoulidou*

The ‘war against corruption’ has, diachronically, been the flagship of populist parties and an inherent part of both their rhetoric and election promises. The examples of politicians who instrumentalized the high perceived levels of corruption in their electoral campaign in order to rally support for their political agendas are abundant; Donald Trump in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and Victor Orbán in Hungary, to name but a few (Porcile & Eisen, 2020; Haughton et al., 2020). The same goes for Greece, where the left-wing SYRIZA, both in 2012 and in 2015, fiercely denounced ‘the corrupt political elites and crooked bankers’ (Smith, 2012) and pledged to fight against “a political system that supports corruption and collusion” (Tsipras, 2015).

In populist rhetoric, corruption is an obvious indication of institutional decay generated by the ‘corrupt elites’ and affecting the interests of the pure people.’ More specifically, the causal path could be described as follows: Corruption exacerbates political polarization by promoting the idea that the economic elites control the agenda-setting process and shape government politics in favor of their own interests, leading to representational inequality (Gilens, 2012; Elkjær & Baggesen Klitgaard, 2021; Bartels, 2017; Drutman, 2015). This, in turn, opens a window of opportunity for populists, which present themselves as the only defenders of people’s interests and promise to restore good governance and the ties of trust with the political institutions. Additionally, the fight against corruption serves as a means for populists to be differentiated as newcomers from the established parties and to stylize themselves as outsiders that fight for voters’ interests (Kossow, 2019; Engler, 2020). In any case, the strength of their anti-corrupt message is positively affected by the levels of corruption in the country (Hawkins et al., 2018) and the levels of social inequality (Uslaner, 2008; Loveless and Whitefield, 2011), as their combination bridges institutional and economic grievances. 

Yet, is always an anti-corruption crusade the shortest way for populists to come to power? The answer is not so clear-cut, even in countries that traditionally score highly on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), such as Greece. The country consistently lags behind as far as transparency in the public sector is concerned (Figure 1). It is telling that in 2012 Greece’s score was 36/100; in 2013 was 40/100, while in 2016 —and under the government of SYRIZA— the score remained low (44/100). The data for 2021 is quite similar, as the country’s score is 49/100. Nevertheless, at the moment, neither a populist party that has declared war on corruption rules the country nor this specific issue seems to be more salient than the economy, even since the outbreak of the Qatar corruption scandal, in which the name of Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP, is involved, as well as the ‘Patsis case’, which is related to the expulsion of a New Democracy MP, Andreas Patsis, as a result of having professional activities that were not consistent with the status of the MP.

Figure 1: Corruption in Greece (2012-2021)

Source: Transparency International. Note: 0=highly corrupt; 100=very clean

The Salience of Corruption in Greece

In particular, though the public debate in Greece over the last weeks is monopolized by the recently disclosed ‘Qatargate’ scandal —as it is widely referred to in the media— and the ‘Patsis case’, none of them figures at the top of citizens’ list of concerns. Put differently, at a time when the political confrontation is mainly based on which party can more efficiently combat corruption; this issue does not seem to be of great concern to the voters. 

This is evidenced by the data of a newly published report compiled by the public opinion research company Marc(fieldwork: 16-21 December 2022) which, among other things, showed that the three biggest concerns of the respondents are the “high prices/ price increases” (81.3 percent), the “national issues/Greek-Turkish relations” (41 percent) and the “criminality/violence” (37.2 percent). Contrarily, the ‘Kaili case’ and the ‘Patsis case’ are of high concern for only 9.5 percent and 5 percent of the interviewees, respectively.

It is also interesting the fact that the most popular answer among the voters of all political parties (voting intention) to the question: “Who do you think is most affected by Eva Kaili’s case?” was Greece (35.2 percent) and not the political system in general or even Kaili’s party of origin, namely the PASOK (19.2 percent). Furthermore, in the midst of political confrontation centered on corruption, 38.2 percent of the survey participants believe that it is the Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (leader of the center-right party ‘New Democracy’) who can better handle issues of corruption and transparency and not Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing populist SYRIZA (36 percent).

The findings in a series of Eurobarometers are also similar. In the Standard Eurobarometer 77, for instance, which was carried out while the so-called ‘Lagarde List’ scandal was in the headlines, 66 percent of the respondents answered that the most important issue that Greece was then facing was its economic situation, 57 percent of them responded that the major problem of the country was the unemployment and 20 percent believed that Greece’s biggest problem was the government debt. 

Similarly, 40 percent of the respondents indicated as their main concern —on a personal level— during that period the economic situation in Greece, 30 percent indicated the levels of unemployment, 29 percent the financial situation in their household and 26 percent indicated the rising prices/inflation in the country. 

Figure 2: Greek voters’ concerns during the Lagarde List scandal (July 2012)

Source: Standard Eurobarometer 77 (Spring 2012).

These observations, of course, do not imply that corruption is an irrelevant factor regarding the increase of demand side of populism. Rather, they indicate that we should be very cautious when we —arbitrarily— hypothesize that the politicization of corruption is both a necessary and sufficient condition for affecting the electoral fortunes of populist parties. If voters do not list corruption in their high concerns, to what extent is its political exploitation by populist parties possible? 

On the other hand, if they indeed recognize corruption as a threat to their interests but lay the blame on both mainstream and challenger parties or even reject as a whole the party system, to what extent could the anti-corruption and anti-elite rhetoric of populist parties be translated into electoral gains? The outright rejection of the party system normally translates into ‘exit’ and not electoral dealignment. Therefore, a more refined approach of the theory, which would take under consideration other parameters, such as the institutional system, the levels of clientelism or even the freedom and the independence of the Press, is needed.


(*) Marina Zoe Saoulidou is a PhD candidate in Political Science and Public Administration at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). Her thesis focuses on the dynamics of both left- and right-wing populist parties in Europe in the context of economic crises.


References

— (2022). Marc public opinion research company. Athens, https://www.protothema.gr/files/2022-12-25/ΠΡΩΤΟ_ΘΕΜΑ_ΔΕΚΕΜΒΡΙΟΣ_2022.pdf (accessed on December 31, 2022).

Tsipras, A. (2015). Alexis Tsipras’ speech at the nationwide Syriza Conference. ΣΥΡΙΖΑ_ Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς. https://www.syriza.gr/article/id/62211/Alexis-Tsipras-speech-at-the-nationwide-SYRIZA-conference-.html (accessed on December 31, 2022).

Bartels, L. (2017). “Economic Inequality and Political Representation.” In: Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age (pp. 233-268). Princeton: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400883363-010

Drutman, Lee. (2015). “The Business of America is Lobbying: How Corporations Became Politicized and Politics Became More Corporate.” Studies in Postwar American Political Development (New York; online edn, Oxford Academic, 23 Apr. 2015), https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190215514.001.0001

Elkjær, M. A., & Klitgaard, M. B. (2021). “Economic inequality and political responsiveness: A systematic review.” Perspectives on Politics. 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1537592721002188

Engler, S. (2020). “’Fighting corruption’ or ‘fighting the corrupt elite’? politicizing corruption within and beyond the populist divide.” Democratization27(4), 643–661. https://doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2020.1713106  

Eurobarometer (2012). European Commission: Standard Eurobarometer 77. Public Opinion in the European Union. Survey requested by the European Commission, requested and co-ordinated by Directorate-General for Communication (DG COMM Unit ´Strategic Communication´).  https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/1063 (accessed on December 31, 2022).

Gilens, M. (2012). Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt7s1jn

Smith, Helena. (2012). “Greek elections: Alexis Tsipras – Kingmaker or deal breaker?” The Guardian. June 11, 2012. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/11/greek-elections-alexis-tsipras-syriza (accessed on December 31, 2022).

Haughton, T.; Rybář, M. & Deegan-Krause, K. (2021). “Corruption, campaigning, and novelty: The 2020 parliamentary elections and the evolving patterns of party politics in Slovakia.” East European Politics and Societies: and Cultures36(3), 728–752. https://doi.org/10.1177/08883254211012765

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Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro poses with anti-riot police agents after cast their ballot in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil on November 29, 2020. Photo: Antonio Scorza.

A hot January in Brasilia

The “two Brazil” theory is now stressed, as never before. From now on, culture wars will have a civil confrontation dimension. It remains to be seen in what terms and on what scale. From the divided families to the broken country, the march goes on. The thesis of an actual split of the country, a break-up of the Federal Union, is on the table. In a more mitigated scenario, the security forces can prevent the escalation and leave democracy safe, but in a state of permanent alert whose political effects in the Senate are still challenging to predict. 

By João Ferreira Dias*

From the very beginning of Bolsonaro’s presidential path, still in the campaign that led him to the presidency of Brazil in 2018, the former Brazilian president sought to copy Trump’s strategy (Baptista, Hauber & Orlandini, 2022), taking prejudice to the center of the campaign (Martins, 2002). The so-called culture wars (Hunter, 1992) have definitively entered the political arena, perfectly demarcated between (a) the regions that are majority white and expressing animosity toward the North-East, the evangelical sector of society which is transversal in terms of class but dominated by the elites, advocating a conservative turn in terms of customs for the country and the confluence between state and church, and (b) the non-evangelical lower social classes, the progressive left, and the LGBTQ+ and anti-racist militant and activist sectors. In Brazil, it includes the sense of loss of the historical privileges of the Brazilian upper and middle classes, who inherited a form of the social organization of colonial matrix –which Quijano (1997) named coloniality – and did everything to preserve it through the ideology of the state.

The battle for the heart of Brazil took place. The Right radicalized and regimented itself around Bolsonaro, which made use of the corruption that surrounded the PT (Lula’s party) governments to implement the so-called agenda of customs (conservative moral values) and the neoliberal agenda in the economy, with an inclination for privatization and exploitation of natural resources, such as the deforestation of the Amazon. The Ox-Bull-Bible axis (Stefanoni, 2018) created the conditions for Bolsonarism to become vigorous. 

The basis of this strength lies in the middle class, which has always attended the best universities (and which, in some cases, has been overtaken by more able young people from the lower classes due to the social policies of the PT governments), which works in the leading newspapers of the big cities like São Paulo, which saw its capacity to exploit poor labor diminished by the PT’s labor legislation that imposed guarantees on workers. Jessé Souza asks categorically, in The Elite of Backwardness (2017), “how someone who exploits the other classes below her in the form of a vile wage to save time on domestic chores, and supports the indiscriminate killing of poor people by the police, or even the slaughter of defenseless prisoners, can have the nerve to believe oneself morally elevated?”

Now, the intersection between a sense of injustice in the face of the loss of class privilege, the natural displeasure with structural corruption (truly structural, insofar as it is found in the very formation of Brazil as a state), the importation of the most alienated Trumpist conspiracy and populist theories, and the deep messianic belief in a providential leader and an elected people (themselves; Ferreira Dias, 2020), produces a mass of voters with a mission, which because they consider providential owes no respect to the Constitution and democratic rules.

Having rehearsed an ambiguous Trumpist posture of defeat without defeat, Bolsonaro has fed the hosts, letting marinate the belief of electoral fraud, which his party has continued and amplified. 

We can affirm that we are facing a movement of a fascist nature (following the plastic definition of Stanley (2020)) of the caudillo type, which refuses electoral results, does not accept democracy, and wants a single identity for the country (ideology of the nation), centralized in a vital state apparatus, of “law and order,” strongly classist and racial, and deeply conservative-religious (evangelical).

The probable military repression to restore the normal functioning of institutions is no guarantee of the regime’s survival. Lula is seen as an anti-Christ that needs to be defeated, no matter what. The advance of the police could be interpreted as the advance of the Romans on the Christians, and the Bolsonarists could take themselves on as martyrs to their patriotic cause. 

Lula’s speech of reaction to the invasion of Congress, the Planalto and the Supreme Court will do little to heal the situation by reinforcing the fight between Left and Right, by accusing Bolsonaro of being “genocidal,” by forcing social division, and by placing a negative weight on Bolsonarist supporters by calling them “fanatical fascists.” The coolness of state that one might demand has given way to continued social rupture and ideological struggle.  

The “two Brazil” theory is now stressed, as never before. From now on, culture wars will have a civil confrontation dimension. It remains to be seen in what terms and on what scale. From the divided families to the broken country, the march goes on. The thesis of an actual split of the country, a break-up of the Federal Union, is on the table. In a more mitigated scenario, the security forces can prevent the escalation and leave democracy safe, but in a state of permanent alert whose political effects in the Senate are still challenging to predict. 

The precedent of The United States Capitol opened the space for these tumults. What can and should be feared is replication in the West, in the forthcoming elections in several European countries, where populism, many of authoritarian inspiration, claims to be the voice of the people. We must remember the words of Georges Duhamel: “The greatest tyrants of the people have almost all emerged from the people.” For now, Brazil is the ticking time bomb, the most apparent laboratory of the culture wars and ideological alienation. This time it will be the Trumpist sector of the United States that will look to Brazil as a laboratory of potentialities. How the situation unfolds in Brazil will affect the future paths of the more polarized Western democracies.


(*) João Ferreira Dias is a researcher at the Centre for International Studies – ISCTE, Lisbon, in the Research Group Institutions, Governance, and International Relations. He is researching culture wars, politics of identity, and fundamental rights. PhD in African Studies (2016). PhD candidate in International Studies (2021- …). Columnist. http://joaoferreiradias.net


References

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Ferreira Dias, João. (2020). “O Messias já chegou e livrará ‘as pessoas de bem’ dos corruptos: messianismo político e legitimação popular, os casos Bolsonaro e André Ventura.” Polis. 2.2: 49-60.

Hunter, James Davison. (1992). Culture wars: The struggle to control the family, art, education, law, and politics in America. Avalon Publishing.

Martins, Erikssonara Thalessa da Câmara. (2022). O avanço do neoconservadorismo e a extrema-direita no Brasil: uma análise a partir da Campanha Eleitoral de 2018 ao Governo Bolsonaro. Bachelor’s Thesis. Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte.

Quijano, Aníbal. (1997). “Coloniality of power in Latin America.” Anuario Mariateguiano. 9.9: 113-121. 

Stefanoni, Pablo. (2018). “Biblia, buey y bala… recargados: Jair Bolsonaro, la ola conservadora en Brasil y América Latina.” Nueva Sociedad. 278: 4-11.

Souza, Jessé. (2017). A elite do atraso: da escravidão à Lava Jato. Leya.

Stanley, Jason. (2020). How fascism works: The politics of us and them. Random House Trade Paperbacks.