The KMT’s presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu, held a momentum party about 350,000 people in the Triple Happiness Water Park in New Taipei City, Taiwan on September 8, 2019. Photo: Ricky Kuo.

Mapping Global Populism — Panel #10: Various Facets of Populist, Authoritarian and Nationalist Trends in Japan and Taiwan 

Date/Time: Thursday, February 29, 2024 — 10:00-12:00 (CET)

 

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Moderator

(Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Political Science at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan).

Speakers

“The State of Populism in Japan: A Comparative Perspective,” by Dr. Toru Yoshida (Full Professor of Comparative Politics at Doshisha University in Japan).

“The Nature of Populism in Japan: Japan As an Uncharted Territory of Global Populism?” by Dr. Airo Hino (Professor, School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University)

“Populism in Taiwan: Rethinking the Neo-liberalism–Populism Nexus,” by Dr. Szu-Yun Hsu (Assistant Professor, Political Science, McMaster University).

How Professionalized Are Parties’ Populist Communication Strategies on Facebook? A Case Study of 2024 Taiwan National Election,” by Dr. Jiun-Chi Lin (Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Marketing Communication, National Sun Yat-sen University).

 

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Brief Biographies and Abstracts

Dr. Dachi Liao is a Distinguished Professor and leading authority in the field of Comparative Politics, specializing in Comparative Legislatures, Politics, and Information at National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan. With an illustrious career, she has served as the Director of the Department of Political Science at Sun Yat-sen University for multiple terms. Her global academic influence extends to prestigious institutions such as the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, US, where she has held positions as a Visiting Professor.

In addition to her academic leadership, Professor Liao has played a significant role in shaping Taiwan’s political science landscape. She served as the President of Taiwan Political Science Association and contributed to the development of political education as the Director of the Continuing Education Center at Sun Yat-sen University.

Professor Liao’s comprehensive expertise, spanning research, education, and evaluation, reflects her commitment to advancing political science and shaping the next generation of scholars.

The State of Populism in Japan: A Comparative Perspective

 Dr. Toru Yoshida is full professor of comparative politics at Doshisha University in Japan. Specialist on political science, French politics and comparative politics. After served at The Japan External Trade Organization, he owned his master and Ph.D degree at the Tokyo University (social science). He was Visiting Professor at Sciences Po Paris and now associate researcher at Fondation France-Japon (FFJ) EHESS in France. His English publication includes “Populism in Japan: actors or institutions?” in D. B. Subedi et al.(eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Populism in the Asia Pacific, Routledge, 2023; “Parliaments in an age of populism” in C. Benoit & O. Rozenberg, Handbook of Parliamentary Studies, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020; “Populism Made in Japan: A new species?” in Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, 4(3),2019.

Abstract: While the research on contemporary populism has advanced our understanding for its definition and commonalities, its diversity across countries, regions, and time appears to be insufficiently understood. This may be due in part that Western-centred understandings of populism were on the centre. In this contribution, we take the contemporary Japanese populism as a case study and argue that it arises not only from cultural but also from institutional factors. It concludes that the type of populism can be change through various reasons. We believe that the case study will contribute to research on “the varieties of populism.”

 

The Nature of Populism in Japan: Japan As an Uncharted Territory of Global Populism?

 Dr. Airo Hino is Professor of Political Science at School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. He received his Ph.D from the University of Essex in 2006. After having been a recipient of the Flemish Government Scholarship and worked at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and having worked as a FRS postdoc fellow at Université catholique de Louvain, he worked for Tokyo Metropolitan University as Associate Professor and joined Waseda University in 2010. His research on party systems, electoral systems, and voting behaviour has been published in journals such as the Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, and Government and Opposition. He is the author of New Challenger Parties in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis(Routledge, 2012), and a co-author of “How populist attitudes scales fail to capture support for populists in power” (published in Plos One in 2021). He is currently running two JSPS-funded projects on populist attitudinal scales and the database of populist discourse in Japan.

Abstract: The extent to which the phenomenon of populism is found in Japan’s politics is a contested topic on which scholars have asserted positions ranging from claims that it simply does not exist in Japan, to opposing claims that Japan’s most powerful and influential recent prime ministers have been populists. Some of this contestation arises from different definitions of “populism” that were developed in parallel in Japanese and Western literature, both of which also further differ from the vernacular usage of the term in Japanese political and media discourses. With this observation in mind, this talk aims to give a reflection on the notion that “Japan is immune to populism” and to show that Japan has experienced its own populism much earlier than the global trend. The implications that one can draw is that such experiences have prevented the surge of full-fledged populism as seen elsewhere in the world and have made the phenomena subtle.

 

Populism in Taiwan: Rethinking the Neo-liberalism–Populism Nexus

Dr. Szu-Yun Hsu is Assistant Professor of Political Science at McMaster University, Canada. Her scholarly interests include neoliberalism, international political economy, geopolitics and geoeconomics, with a regional focus on East Asia. Her research tackles issues from trade politics, populism, nationalism, democratization, to developmental state transformation. Dr. Hsu’s latest publication with the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Populism in Taiwan: Rethinking the Populism–neo-liberalism Nexus, employs Gramscian hegemony theory in analyzing the intrinsic dynamics between neoliberalization, social class relations, and populist politics in post-democratization Taiwan.

 

How Professionalized Are Parties’ Populist Communication Strategies on Facebook? A Case Study of 2024 Taiwan National Election

Dr. Jiun-Chi Lin is postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Marketing Communication, National Sun Yat-sen University. He received his doctoral double-degree diplomas at the National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU, Taiwan) and the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in 2022. His research mainly touches upon political communication, internet politics, populism, comparative politics, European politics, and digital methods. Comparing similar and discrepant populist communication patterns in various social contexts, his PhD dissertation examines how political actors in Taiwan and Germany employ populist frameworks on Facebook over campaign periods. His PhD thesis has led to several awards, including the 2022 Best Doctoral Dissertation (Taiwan Political Science Association, TPSA) and the Prize for Excellent Doctoral Dissertation (NSYSU). Dr. Jiun-Chi Lin is also a member of Early Career Researchers Network (ECRN) of the ECPS.

Abstract: On January 13, 2024, Taiwan voters selected their new government in the latest national election (Presidential and Legislative elections). According to the results, William Lai (DPP) wins the majority of votes (5.58 million votes). DPP successfully retains the presidency after President Ing-wen Tsai’s two terms between 2016 and 2024. However, none of the major parties (DPP & KMT) obtain over half of the ballots in the national parliament. TPP (Taiwan People’s Party) is the only small party that maintains its parliamentary seats with eight legislators recommended by the party. It is expected that TPP will exert more political leverage in the future. In contrast, their counterpart NPP (New Power Party), another small party in the current parliament, fails to maintain its political influences in the national parliament. This election gained high international attraction because it is seen as a leading signal that influences the direction of Cross-strait relations. Nevertheless, manipulating China’s threats did not overwhelmingly dominate political debates over the campaign. Instead, political parties had more room to manipulate domestic issues (e.g., housing, corruption). In particular, opposition parties have mainly appealed to anti-elite resentment and voters’ feelings of relative deprivation. It, hence, gives us a chance to scrutinize relationships between party campaign strategies and populist communication. While scholars are concerned about the future of democracy under the grip of authoritarian populism, the recent development of Taiwan’s populism has nothing to do with authoritarianism, rather democratic competition. This presentation aims to guide the audience to understand current Taiwan’s populism from a communication perspective. Following the notion of professionalization of populist communication (Lin, d’Haenens & Liao, 2022), I attempt to outline the populist features of parties’ campaign narratives on Facebook.

Activists of Bangladesh Nationalist Party form a human chain to mark International Human Rights Day as they protested human rights violations against leaders and activist in Dhaka, December 10, 2023. Photo: Mamunur Rashid.

Mapping Global Populism – Panel #9: Civilizational Populism and Religious Authoritarianism in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Date/Time: Thursday, January 25, 2024 — 10:00-12:00 (CET)

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Moderator

(Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia).

Speakers

“Islamic Extremism, Populism and Formation of National Identity in Bangladesh,” by Mr. Bobby Hajjaj (Department of Management, North South University, Bangladesh).

“Masks of Authoritarianism: Hegemony, Power and People in Bangladesh,” by Dr. Mubashar Hasan (Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo, Norway). 

“Religious Extremism and Islamist Populism in Contemporary Bangladesh,” by Dr. Maidul Islam (Assistant Professor of Political Science, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta).

“Civilisational Populism and Buddhist Nationalisms in Sri Lanka,” by Dr. Rajni Gamage (Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore). 

“Will Rise of Religious Nationalism and Populism in the Maldives Lead to Another Authoritarian Reversal?” by Dr. Mosmi Bhim (Assistant Professor, Fiji National University).

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Brief Biographies and Abstracts

Dr. Syaza Shukri is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. Her area of specialization is in comparative politics, specifically in democratization and politics in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Her current research interests include populism, identity politics, inter-ethnic relations, political Islam, geopolitics, and gender studies, specifically in Muslim-majority contexts. Among Dr. Shukri’s recent works is “Populism and Muslim Democracies,” published in Asian Politics & Policy. She is also currently working on a book chapter on Islamist populism in Malaysia since 2018. Dr. Shukri has degrees from the University of Pittsburgh (where she graduated summa cum laude), the London School of Economics and Political Science, and International Islamic University Malaysia. She can be reached at syazashukri@iium.edu.my.

 

Islamic Extremism, Populism and Formation of National Identity in Bangladesh

Mr. Bobby Hajjaj is an academic and a noted political activist in Bangladesh. He teaches at the North South University and his research focuses on nationalism, political leadership, and political parties. He has always been a loud and vocal advocate for democracy through free and fair elections.
 
Abstract: The foundations of any nationalism are based on a set of core myths and traditions, which are malleable over time. Bangladesh’s history provides a rich tapestry of identity markers that have contributed to two diverging sets of nationalist identities that divide large parts of its polity today. One of these, the language-based identity called ‘Bengali nationalism’, was born through populist politics, while the other, based on an Islamic religion-based identity called ‘Bangladeshi nationalism’, was empowered through a geopolitical shift in Cold War politics towards the Middle East and beyond, especially stretching from Iraq to Pakistan, between the 1970s to the 1990s. Since the end of the Cold War, however, these also gave rise to high tides of what has been called Islamist extremism. This talk will shed light on the more significant ways populism and Islamic extremism has affected nationalism in Bangladesh the first two decades of the twenty-first century, and what can be expected in the near future.

 

Religious Extremism and Islamist Populism in Contemporary Bangladesh

Dr. Maidul Islam is a Political Scientist at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. Previously, he has taught Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata and at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. He was also a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. As a Clarendon-Hector Pilling-Senior Hulme scholar at Brasenose College, he studied political theory for his doctoral studies in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. His doctoral thesis at Oxford University was published as Limits of Islamism: Jamaat-e-Islami in Contemporary India and Bangladesh (Cambridge University Press, 2015). His second book, Indian Muslim(s) after Liberalization (Oxford University Press, 2019; Ebook, 2018), is a companion volume to Limits of Islamism by looking at the socioeconomic conditions and political expressions of the largest religious minorities in the world’s largest electoral democracy. His third book, Political Theory and South Asian Counter-Narratives (Routledge, 2022; Ebook, 2021), evaluates the promise of human progress and secularism in grand political narratives of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, comparing counter-narratives of South Asia within the context of a fast-changing twenty-first century. Besides being an accomplished scholar in the discipline of Political Science with contributions in the field of political theory and South Asian politics, he has also written on the overlap between socio-political issues and popular cinema. As a public intellectual, he occasionally writes for newspapers and digital platforms in both English and Bengali. As a political analyst, he occasionally appears for Bengali news channels and gives expert opinions on Indian and West Bengal politics to various national and international media houses.

Abstract: Religious extremism and Islamist populism are two different conceptual categories used in this presentation. Religious extremism is some form of violent act that uses religious sentiments in mobilising those who perform such violent activities. Religious extremists could be found among some sections of believers in most organised religions and range from violent attacks on free speech, religious minorities, atheists, and sexual minorities to full-fledged terrorist activities. In contrast, Islamist populism is a peaceful strategy of political mobilisation across various sectors of the Muslim population by using the symbolic language of Islamic religion against secular nationalist governments in the Muslim world. Islamist populists often take part in democratic elections, unlike the former set of religious extremists in the Muslim world. In the case of contemporary Bangladesh, while Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HUJI-B) and Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) are examples of religious extremist organisations, the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh is a moderate Islamist populist party. However, a clear assessment of the strength of the religious extremists and Islamist populists needs to be made instead of a panic-ridden section of experts who cried the clarion call of Bangladesh becoming the next Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the context of several terror activities in Bangladesh in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, a detailed analysis of terror activities done by both quantitative and qualitative approaches shows us that the peak period of terrorism in Bangladesh was in the 1990s. Moreover, the dominance of the secular policies of the national populism of the Awami League has hindered the political growth of Islamist populist parties like the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. Although, a few years back, there were some incidents of violent attacks on atheist bloggers in Bangladesh by Islamist fanatics, particularly between 2013 and 2016 and a massive terror attack in Holey Artisan Bakery on 1st July 2016, the number of violent attacks by religious extremism have steadily gone down when compared to the 1990s. By all counts, both religious extremism and Islamist populism face a crisis at multiple levels: leadership, financial and political.

 

Civilizational populisms and Buddhist nationalisms in Sri Lanka

Dr. Rajni Gamage is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore (NUS). She holds a PhD in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Queensland, Australia. Her PhD was titled ‘Nation as Village: Historicising the Authoritarian Populist Regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’ and is political economy analysis of the authoritarian populist Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka. Her current research focus is on the politics of state transformation, elite politics, and development and inequality in Sri Lanka, grounded against related developments in South Asia and globally.

Abstract: The rise of populism in Western ‘advanced democracies’ over the past 10-15 years is interpreted in different ways, one of which is that it is a popular backlash to the economic inequalities and decline in global status of these countries, which are at odds with the growing aspirations of their majority electorate. Civilizational populism as a concept gained usage in the context of social groups (mainly from a Judeo-Christian background) in these countries responding to the influx of Muslim (and ‘Other’) immigrants from the Global South. In the Global South, however, civilizational populism has other connotations – ground in historical experiences of colonialism and their material position in the global political economy.

In Sri Lanka, the dominant paradigm Sinhala Buddhist nationalism continues to borrow from the civilizational-centric discourse of a key Sinhala nationalist during anti-colonial movements in British Ceylon. The rise of Sinhala and Buddhist nationalist political parties and movements since the 2000s have shaped the political space significantly since. There are three key features to Buddhist nationalism and civilizational populism in the present context: First, the close link between the state and Buddhism has continued, despite the recent crises, and the institutional features of a civilizational state are seen in the Constitution and state institutions such as the Executive Presidency. Second, Political Buddhism has proved to be resilient, adapting itself to the times to remain socially and politically relevant. Third, more inclusive Buddhist nationalisms are unlikely to gain any real popular support and will remain at the fringes.

 

Will Rise of Religious Nationalism and Populism in the Maldives Lead to Another Authoritarian Reversal?

Dr. Mosmi Bhim is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Ethics & Governance, Fiji National University (FNU). Dr. Bhim teaches politics, ethics, values, and social sciences.”

Abstract: The Maldives embarked on a rocky path to democratisation with the atoll nation’s inaugural multi-party elections in 2008, and its fourth multiparty elections in 2023. The first democratic President Nasheed’s tenure in office was truncated in 2012 due to the legacy of authoritarianism, as well as the impacts of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism. The post-independence leaders and political parties in the Maldives have engaged in strategies of populism to harness support and justify their rule. This paper will discuss the different populist strategies of post-independence political leaders in the Maldives and its impact on the outcome of the 2023 Presidential elections. Strategies of populism utilised in the Maldives include nationalism, Islamic nationalism, religious populism and political Islam. The utilisation of religious populism and political Islam have had drastic impacts on religious freedom and civil liberties in the Maldives. The return to transition to democracy in 2018 was perilous as leaders towed the dangerous line of pandering to religious fundamentalism to retain political power. This meant that civil liberties continued to be under threat under the democratic government of President Solih. The current President Muizzu’s political party is aligned to religious fundamentalism. Muizzu’s populist style will be examined to deduce its impact on the party’s 2023 electoral victory and whether it creates greater prospects for democratisation or authoritarian reversal in the Maldives.     

Protesters attend a large red shirt rally on May 19, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. Red shirts gathered to mark the 3rd anniversary of a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests. Photo: Shutterstock / 1000 Words.

Mapping Global Populism — Panel #7: Democracy in Thailand: Navigating Populism and Authoritarianism

Date/Time: Thursday, November 30, 2023 — 10:00-12:20 (CET)

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Moderator

(Associate Senior Fellow, Thailand Studies Programme at Yusof Ishak Institute –
ISEAS).

Speakers

“Political Legitimation and Authoritarian Nation Branding in Thailand,” by Dr. Petra Alderman (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Leadership for Inclusive and Democratic Politics at the University of Birmingham, and a Research Fellow of CEDAR).

“The Role of Military in Thai Authoritarianism,” by Dr. Napisa Waitoolkiat (Ass. Professor, Director of the College of ASEAN Community Studies).

“Authoritarian Ministry of Truth: A Case of Thailand’s Anti-Fake News Center,” by Itsakul Unahakate (PhD candidate at the University of Sydney and Lecturer at Thammasat University).

“Youth Perspective: Is Populism for the People? An Ecofeminist Movement from Thailand,” by Pattanun Arunpreechawat (NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy). 

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Brief Biographies and Abstracts 

Dr. Michael J. Montesano is an Associate Senior Fellow at the Thailand Studies Programme, Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS). Previously, Dr. Montesano served as the Coordinator of the Thailand Studies Programme and Co-coordinator of the Myanmar Studies Programme at ISEAS, where he has been a dedicated member since 2008. With a background that includes six years as the managing editor of the ISEAS journal SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, Dr. Montesano’s extensive experience in the region began in the 1980s. During that time, he served as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in South Thailand and pursued studies in agriculture at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. Dr. Montesano’s research interests span the economic and social history of modern Southeast Asia and its legacies, with a focus on Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Provincial Southeast Asia.

The Legacy of Thaksin and the Role of Pheu Thai and Other Political Parties in Thai Populism

Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand is a distinguished Research Professor of Political Sciences at the Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. With a wealth of expertise, he has been serving in this capacity since 2008, specializing in various fields such as ASEAN Integration, Regionalization of Capital, Energy, and Military in Asia, Thai relations with other countries, and the political economy of Non-traditional Security (NTS).

In addition to his role as Research Professor, Dr. Pathmanand has held key leadership positions within the academic community. Since October 2010, he has been serving as the Director of the Mekong Studies Center of Excellence (MSC) at the Institute of Asian Studies (IAS), Chulalongkorn University. Moreover, he has been the Executive Director of the Institute of Asia Studies since 2007.

Dr. Pathmanand’s contributions extend beyond research and teaching. He has played a pivotal role as the Executive Director of the Publication Project at the Institute of Asia Studies since 1986, showcasing his enduring commitment to advancing knowledge in the academic realm. With a career marked by leadership, scholarship, and dedication, Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand continues to shape the landscape of political science in the Asian context.

Abstract: Since the 2006 military coup that ousted the Thaksin Shinawatra government in Thailand, Thaksin’s political ideology, characterized by populism, has continued to exert influence on the country’s political and economic landscape. Despite spending 17 years in self-imposed exile, Thaksin’s populist policies and political legacy persist. His return to Thailand in mid-August 2023 has sparked a political tsunami, reinvigorated his dynamic political influence and placed Thailand back under the umbrella of Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party, which has become a core part of the current Thai government. Thaksin’s legacy and his political resurgence are not merely academic exercises but reflect a tangible political reality in Southeast Asia. However, there is ongoing debate and curiosity about the nature of Thaksin’s populism. Some refer to it as “Thaksinomics” or the “Thaksinization” of Thailand, suggesting a trend toward authoritarianism. In reality, Thaksin is just a charismatic politician who introduced innovative political mechanisms to gain votes and popularity. This presentation aims to rethink and reinterpret what Thaksin’s populism truly entails.

Political Legitimation and Authoritarian Nation Branding in Thailand

Dr. Petra Alderman is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Leadership for Inclusive and Democratic Politics at the University of Birmingham, and a Research Fellow of the Birmingham’s Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability & Representation (CEDAR). Her main areas of research expertise are nation branding, authoritarian politics, elections and electoral management, and the politics of Thailand.

Abstract: Why do authoritarian nations brand themselves? And how do they understand and use this practice? In her new book, Dr Petra Alderman offers a novel approach to the study of nation branding as a strategy for political legitimation in authoritarian regimes using the example of military-ruled Thailand. This talk discusses how Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (2014-2019), sought to use nation branding to shape the social attitudes and behaviours of Thai citizens during the almost 5 years of direct military rule.

The Role of Military in Thai Authoritarianism

Dr. Napisa Waitoolkiat is Director of the College of ASEAN Community Studies. She completed both an MA and PhD at Northern Illinois University in Political Science, after finishing a BA (also in Political Science) from Thammasat University in Bangkok. Her research is focused heavily on democratization and the political process—electoral politics, political accountability, and civil-military relations—both in Thailand and throughout the states of ASEAN.

Abtsract: Thailand’s military is an institution autonomous from civilian control which has been dominant across Thailand’s political landscape for decades. It has staged 14 successful coups since 1932, legitimized its clout through security laws, and rationalized its existence and dominance by suppressing insurgents and protestors who might threaten the status quo.  However, the military has notably committed human rights violations, generally enjoying legal impunity for its acts.  Throughout Thai history, governments have either failed to rein in military adventurism or have been led by the military itself. The result has been a tendency toward denying civilian control while perpetrating authoritarianism. In the latest episode of military control, 2014 witnessed Thailand’s latest (14th) military coup. Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha institutionalized authoritarianism across Thailand, first through a series of decrees, then by a 2014 constitution which also amnestied the coup-makers.  The junta moreover imposed a 2017 constitution which restructured political institutions (e.g., making the Senate a junta-appointed body) and ensured the appointment of pro-junta judges and Election Commissioners. In the 2019 election, the junta-created Palang Pracharat party won a considerable number of votes/seats due to assistance from the Election Commission.  The Prayuth-led 2019-2023 elected government was a façade: despite appearing as civilian control, the military continued to control the levers of power.  In spite of the advent of the elected Pheu Thai government in 2023, the military retains independence from civilian oversight. The military currently remains capable of authoritarianism whenever and however it wants. With no chance of effective civilian control, Thai democratic development remains limited, and seems to be eroding.

Authoritarian Ministry of Truth: A Case of Thailand’s Anti-Fake News Center

Itsakul Unahakate is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Economy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the University of Sydney. His research interests include the political economy of social media, particularly misinformation and disinformation. His thesis focuses on the state’s responses to ‘fake news’ in Thailand. He is also a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University, Thailand, where he teaches political economy and institutional economics.

Abstract: This presentation is part of an ongoing study on the state’s response to the so-called ‘fake news’ in Thailand, focusing on fact-checking. In order to control fake news, many governments in authoritarian regimes aim to build their own ‘Ministry of Truth’ by establishing their own fact-checking bodies, which, unfortunately, cannot be guaranteed to be independent and non-partisan. Then, using content analysis, this part of the study compares the patterns of a state-controlled fact-checker’s reports (Thailand’s Anti-Fake News Centre: AFNC) during the COVID-19 pandemic with those of a third-party fact-checker (AFP Thailand). The results demonstrate significant differences between the reports of the two fact-checkers. These suggest that the AFNC is a shortcoming fact-checker, at least by the international standard, and it may have a hidden agenda in addition to its supposed fact-checking duties.

Youth Perspective: Is Populism for the People? An Ecofeminist Movement from Thailand

Pattanun Arunpreechawat is MPP Candidate at NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. 

Abstract: In Thailand, political leaders often implement populist policies, mostly framed toward enhancing economic development and income distribution, targeting the rural poor. This includes a wide range of macroeconomic policies, including bilateral trade agreements. While Free Trade Agreements (FTA) aim to promote national growth, create jobs, and increase the country’s GDP, such policies can bring about negative effects on local communities and the environment, especially marginalized groups, and women. Using the ecofeminism framework, I attempt to analyze the connection between the environmental issue and the plight of marginalized people, especially women and the poor, and how certain populist policies entirely disregard the exploitation and oppression of both. I further argue that many Thai “populist” policies are not inclusive. Rather, they only function to benefit a certain group of people in society. This presentation strives to shed light on how populist policies favor the relentless pursuit of economic growth while disregarding the potential adverse impacts on the marginalized and the environment. Ultimately, the ecofeminist framework aims to create more space for the marginalized in the policy-making process to ensure a more inclusive society.

Selective focus on traditional conical hat of person walking against traffic motorbikes on busy street in Old Quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Jaromir Chalabala.

Mapping Global Populism — Panel #8: The State of Populist Authoritarianism in Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar)

Date/Time: Thursday, December 14, 2023 — 10:00-12:00 (CET)

 

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Moderator

(Lecturer at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam).
 

Speakers

“Accountability in a High-Performing Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Vietnam,” by Dr. Nguyen Khac Giang  (Visiting Fellow at the Vietnam Studies Programme, Yusof Ishak Institute – ISEAS).

Political Culture, Social Media, and Authoritarian Populism in Cambodia,” by Dr. Sokphea Young (Visiting Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London).

“Reflecting on 48 Years of Socialism in the Lao PDR: What Does This Mean, and What Comes Next?” by Dr. Phill Wilcox (Research Associate at Bielefeld University). 

Is Myanmar a Totalitarian State?” by Dr. Mon Mon Myat (Instructor at the Peace Studies Department in Payap University, Thailand). 

 

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Brief Biographies and Abstracts

Dr. Nguyễn Yến-Khanh is currently a faculty member at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research interests encompass health communication, social media marketing and sustainable consumer behavior, with the ultimate goal to drive positive social change. Her research put an emphasis on public policy, corporate social responsibility, diversity/inclusivity issues as well as society and consumer well-being. With 13 years of experience as a journalist, public relations specialist, marketing manager and marketing director for local and global companies, and 10 years in the academia, Khanh focuses her teaching and research on their relevance and impact as agents of change in real life and real work. She aims to develop graduates who are ready and passionate to go out there and change the world, in small or big ways.

Accountability in a High-Performing Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Vietnam

Dr. Nguyen Khac Giang is a Visiting Fellow at the Vietnam Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He was formerly Head of the Political Research Unit of the Hanoi-based Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research (VEPR). His academic work appears in, among others, the Asian Journal of Political Science, Contemporary Southeast Asia, the Constitutional Political Economy, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies and the Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies. He holds a PhD in Political Science from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and is an oft-quoted expert on Vietnamese affairs, having written extensively for major Vietnamese and English news outlets.

Abstract: Vietnam has consistently been among the top-performing nations economically over the last four decades, evolving from a war-torn, centrally planned system into a vibrant society deeply integrated into international markets. Despite this economic metamorphosis, the political landscape remains unchanged, as Vietnam continues to be a one-party state under the exclusive control of the Communist Party of Vietnam. This situation poses a classic dilemma: how does an autocratic regime deal with a rising middle class increasingly less willing to compromise on civil liberties for material gains? At this juncture, I argue that autocrats have two paths. First, they can concentrate on building administrative strength and increasing control capacity, while avoiding pluralizing the political environment. Conversely, autocrats might choose to be responsive to popular demand, holding back control capacity, and allowing limited space for pluralization and thus maintaining a relatively high level of accountability. The latter’s arrangement, which I call a high-accountability equilibrium, is Vietnam’s resilience strategy. This presentation will describe this strategy, whether it is sustainable, and its implication for Vietnam’s prospect of democratization.  

Political Culture, Social Media, and Authoritarian Populism in Cambodia

Dr. Sokphea Young is a Visiting Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of “Strategies of authoritarian survival and dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men versus Strongmen” with Palgrave Macmillan (2021). He is working on his second book entitled “Visual Spectacle: Visual social media, citizenship, and political emancipation in Cambodia.”

Abstract: Media, social media, in particular, is perceived to have mediated the democratization process in authoritarian countries. Given its ability to spread news and image news faster than traditional media, social media played a vital role in regime change in the Middle East. Such a notion was also believed to be an exemplar of Cambodia in 2013 when the opposition party gained ever-anticipated electoral support from most youth who subscribed to social media. The ruling regime then, on the one hand, suppressed the use of social media and exploited the latter to stimulate its anti-pluralism ideology, adopting an authoritarian populist style of leadership on the other. The success of this populist approach is bestowed by the entrenched culture of believing in the ruler’s spiritual prowess to rule and lead the country. Social media’s availability as a modern communication tool has strengthened the ruler’s cultural and religious propaganda among the population and social media users. 

By examining social media as a platform of political participation, surveillance, and political culture, this paper illustrates how social media has transformed into a double-edged sword in the era of surveillance capitalism. While it remains a valuable tool to advocate against the authorities in the early period, it is a useful rhetorical weapon for the authorities to propagate their authoritarian populism. The paper argues that, although social media is the Western notion of democracy, given its ability to democratize information and news, it loses control to authoritarian populists in the age of surveillance capitalism. The authoritarian regime expropriates Western democracy devices to circumvent political pluralism and to fuel the culture of believing in strongmen.

Reflecting on 48 Years of Socialism in the Lao PDR: What Does This Mean, and What Comes Next?

Dr. Phill Wilcox is a Research Associate at Bielefeld University. She completed her Ph.D. in 2018 and has since published a monograph entitled “Heritage and the Making of Political Legitimacy: The Past and Present of the Lao Nation.” Dr. Wilcox is currently writing a second book about how rising levels of Chinese influence in Laos are perceived and negotiated by the Lao population.

Abstract: Laos has been a one-party socialist state since the deposition of its monarchy and the formal establishment of the country as a People’s Democratic Republic in 1975. In contrast to many other countries, one-party socialism did not fall around the time of the dissolution of the USSR and the contemporary state of Laos is soon to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. This does mean though that the system has not seen significant change throughout the last five decades, including a retrenchment of authoritarianism in recent years. This presentation gives an overview of where Laos is in place, what keeps the authoritarian system in place and how this connects with local notions of political legitimacy, as well as some insights as to the challenges Laos faces in the future.

Is Myanmar a Totalitarian State?

Dr. Mon Mon Myat works as a full-time instructor at the Peace Studies Department in Payap University, Thailand. She has published articles in academic journals and university websites various works arising from her Ph.D. research. And she has contributed book chapters in three books.

Abstract: In the eyes of the world, Myanmar is a nation where a perpetual internal conflict between pro-democracy and pro-military forces has existed for decades. The coup of February 2021 is merely the latest iteration of a generations-long conflict.  This is a tragically accurate impression. What is more difficult to grasp is the lack of condemnation and outrage from the international community at this enduring civil war. While the world focuses on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it turns a blind eye to the terror tactics of the powerful Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces.  Like the Russian Army, the Tatmadaw conducts air strikes against civilians, including school children and women.  It drives indigenous peoples from their villages.  Its tactics include massacres, murder, torture, and summary arrests, engaging in what holocaust survivor and political philosopher Hannah Arendt defined as the sine qua non of totalitarian states: “dominating and terrorizing human beings from within” (325).[1] This study set out to answer whether Myanmar under the current military regime meets Arendt’s definition of a totalitarian state from her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism.

[1] Arendt, Hannah.  The Origins of Totalitarianism: New Edition With Added Prefaces,  New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.  The Origins of Totalitarianism is widely considered Arendt’s magnum opus.  It was written in the immediate aftermath of the second world war, and was first published in 1951.   It has subsequently been re-issued in many editions with additional prefaces.  In this chapter, all page references are exclusively to this 1973 edition.

P&P

Workshop – The Interplay Between Migration and Populist Politics Across Europe Ahead of European Parliament Elections

Key Dates

Paper abstract submission: December 22, 2023. 

Decision about abstract acceptance: January 15, 2024.

Submission of draft papers due: April 19, 2024.

Workshop: First Day In Person: May 22, 2024 at Oxford University / Second Day Virtual: May 23, 2024.

Populism & Politics (P&P) is a digital journal dedicated to advancing the study and understanding of populism-related phenomena and populist challenges in historical and contemporary contexts. 

Migration, with its multifaceted socio-economic and political implications on voting behavior, stands at the nexus of the factors that have fueled the demand for populism in Europe and beyond. As the 2024 European Parliamentary elections approach, comprehending the trends in voting behavior and the role of immigration-related populism necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. To this end, P&P invites scholars, researchers, policymakers, and civil rights advocates to engage in a workshop looking into the interplay between populism and migration.

The central theme of the workshop revolves around elections and anti-immigration populism in the European context. Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

Impact of Migration on Voter Behavior: Examine the influence of refugee flows and migrant populations in the EU member countries on voting patterns, party preferences, and electoral results. Case studies from both individual EU countries and groups of countries are encouraged.

Integration Policies and Political Effects: Investigate the relationship between different approaches to immigrant integration (e.g., multiculturalism vs. assimilation) and their political consequences, including support for populist radical right (PRR) parties.

The Role of (Social) Media in Shaping Migration Politics: Examine how media coverage and political/populist discourse on migration issues influence public opinion and political decision-making, particularly in the context of populism.

Migrant Political Participation: Explore the political engagement and participation of migrants, including their involvement in local politics, voter turnout, and the emergence of migrant-led political movements, and investigate those movements’ stances vis-à-vis populist politics. 

Nationalism and Anti-Migrant Sentiment: Investigate the impact of nationalist ideologies and anti-migrant sentiment on electoral politics in different European countries and regions.

Immigrant Political Mobilization: Study the strategies and effectiveness of immigrant-led advocacy groups and political movements in counteracting anti-immigrant policies, both at national and EU levels.

Migration and Welfare State Politics: Analyze how immigration affects the design and sustainability of welfare state policies, including debates about social benefits, welfare chauvinism, and access to healthcare for migrants, and in this context, explore the impact of populist discourses on welfare state policies.

Asylum Policies and Populist Discourse: Examine the relationship between asylum policies, populist rhetoric, and public opinion, particularly regarding the acceptance or rejection of refugees.

Border Security and Political Agendas: Investigate how populist narratives and debates over border security, border controls, and border crises shape the political agendas of European governments and parties.

Election Campaign Strategies on Migration: Analyze how political parties use migration issues in their election campaigns, including framing policies and campaign rhetoric.

The European Union and Migration Governance: Examine the EU’s role in shaping migration policies across member states and the impact of EU decisions on national politics with regard to populist anti-migrant policies in member states. 

Local Politics and Migration: Investigate the role of local governments and municipal policies in addressing populist anti-immigrant discourse.

Populist Discourse and Gendered Othering: Analyze how populist discourse constructs and reinforces gendered “othering” of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and its implications for policy and public opinion.

Migrant Women’s Political Mobilization: Study the role of migrant women in political movements and advocacy efforts, addressing gender-specific issues and advocating for gender equality within migration policies in a populist era.

Gender and Populist Party Support: Examine what kind of role gender plays in support of anti-immigrant populist parties, including populist appeals to different gender groups.

Selected papers will undergo expert review and receive constructive feedback before and during the workshop. After the workshop, authors will be asked to revise their papers for publication in Populism and Politics (P&P).

The deadline for submitting the paper abstract (400-600 words) and a bio (max. 400 words) is Friday, December 22, 2023. Draft papers are expected to be submitted by Friday, April 19, 2024. The workshop will be a two-day event, taking place on May 22, 2024, in person at Oxford University, UK, and on May 23, 2024, virtually.

For submissions, please contact: ecps@populismstudies.org

For guidelines and additional information, please visit: https://www.populismstudies.org/journals/pp-periodicals/about/

Autonomous community of Madrid elections in Spain on May 05, 2021. Photo: Sangiao Photography.

Panel by ECPS & SZABIST University: Populism and Electoral Politics Around the World

Date/Time: Friday, November 17, 2023 – 10:00-12:20 (CET)

 

This panel is jointly organized by The European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) and SZABIST University.

 

Click here to register!

 

Moderator

Dr. Fizza Batool (Assistant Professor, SZABIST University, Karachi)

Speakers 

“The Radical Right and the Radical Left in Anno 2023: What Does Populism Got To Do With It?” by Dr. Andrej Zaslove  (Associate Professor – Empirical Political Science, Radboud University.) 

“Psychological Roots of Populist Voting,” by Dr. Bert N. Bakker (Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam). 

The Psychological Appeal of Populism,” by Dr. Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington (Associate Professor of Social Psychology, London School of Economics and Political Science)

“Electoral Populism in Pakistan and India,” by Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqui (Associate Professor, QAU).

“Populist Strategies of Erdogan in 2022 Elections,” by Dr. Salim Cevik (Associate at the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), SWP, Germany). 

 

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Abstract and Brief Biographies

Dr. Fizza Batool is an academic and policy researcher with a particular interest in Comparative Politics, Comparative Democratization, Peace Studies and Populism. She is currently an Assistant Professor (Social Sciences) at SZABIST University, Karachi. Previously, she worked for over a decade in the research and development sector where she served in important managerial positions. Her works have been published in some prestigious research journals like South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Pakistan Horizon etc. She is currently authoring a book on Populism in Pakistan, scheduled to be published in 2024 by Palgrave Macmillan. She also contributes to English dailies in Pakistan and international research magazines such as South Asian Voices. She was one of the 2020 SAV Visiting Fellows at Stimson Center, DC.

The Radical Right and the Radical Left in Anno 2023: What Does Populism Got to Do with It?

Abstract: Populist radical right and populist radical left parties are stable members of party systems in Western Europe. The rise of the populist radical right can be traced back to the 1990s, while the transformation of left-wing parties into populist radical left parties is more recent. This presentation will discuss the recent electoral success of left and right-wing populist parties. It will discuss some of the more recent changing features of these radical parties, discussing the extent to which, for example, the populist radical right has expanded it issue base. And it will assess the role of populism, for the parties and for their voters, discussing the manner in which populism remains important for the parties in question.

Dr. Andrej Zaslove is an Associate Professor of Empirical Political Science at Radboud University. He conducts research into populism and political parties. He measures populist attitudes among voters and political parties and examines the links between populism and democracy, foreign policy and gender. He also examines the impact of populism on party systems.  

Psychological Roots of Populist Voting

Dr. Bert N. Bakker is an Associate Professor at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (University of Amsterdam). His work focuses on contemporary issues social polarization and populism. In particular, he studies the psychological roots of citizens’ political beliefs with the most attention to the role of personality and emotions. His work has appeared in journals such as Nature Human BehaviourJournal of Communicationthe American Political Science Review and the Journal of Politics. He also serves as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Experimental Political Science. He is the co-founder of the Hot Politics Lab – a lab-group studying the role of emotions and personality in politics. He is also the founder and co-organizer of the Dutch Political Psychology Meetings which are held twice a year at the University of Amsterdam.

The Psychological Appeal of Populism

Dr. Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington is currently a Visiting Associate Professor in Psychology at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological & Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics, a Faculty Affiliate of the LSE International Inequalities Institute, and an Associate Editor at the European Journal of Social Psychology and the British Journal of Psychology. Jennifer’s research examines (1) the consequences of material and social adversity on cognitive performance, self-regulation, affect, and decision-making, and (2) the psychological underpinnings of political attitudes such as egalitarianism and support for populist platforms. In drawing out the social and policy implications of her research, Jennifer has worked with the British Psychological Society, the UNDP, the World Bank, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Indus Health Network, Pakistan.

Electoral Populism in India and Pakistan

Abstract: The electoral popularity and victory of populist parties in India and Pakistan is often explained in terms of their mobilization and electoral strategies which detail a mix of incentives including bringing the younger generation of non-voters into the voting matrix combined with reliance on existing patronage networks. Moving beyond such explanations, the argument broached here borders on the production of a neo-religious ethos in India and Pakistan that pervades the electoral space. In India’s case, religion was a protracted feature of local electoral politics in the post-colonial years which was entrenched and equally evident in the politics of the Congress party. Under the BJP, the neo-religious Hindutva electoral politics has only become more pronounced and pervasive, a proposition that allows for surveying shades of electoral populism under the Congress party and the BJP. In Pakistan, religion had a symbolic and ideological appeal, which captured the imagination of high politics under the Pakistan People’s Party government in the 1970s, with the result that it provided grounds for the weaponization of the blasphemy laws and discourse. This weaponization worryingly in present times sways the imagination of not only religious political actors but more controversially also mainstream political parties, as evident in their electoral politics. In this sense, both India and Pakistan represent case studies of a majoritarian and hegemonic neo-religious revivalism utilized for electoral gains with devastating consequences for social cohesion, diversity-acceptance and peaceful coexistence.

Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqi is an Associate Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His research interests border on ethnic politics, federalism, conflict analysis/resolution, societal security, and crisis management in Pakistan and South Asia. His new co-authored book, Introducing International Relations: Concepts, Theories, and Practices was published by the Oxford University Press in 2023. He is also the author of, The Politics of Ethnicity in Pakistan: The Baloch, Sindhi and Mohajir Ethnic Movements (Routledge, 2012). 

Populist Strategies of Erdogan in the 2022 Elections

Abstract: Ahead of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections in May 2023, many polls predicted that Erdogan would lose power after 20 years in power. But contrary to the expectations of many, Erdoğan has managed to cling to power through a series of populist and nationalist maneuvers. First, he accused the opposition of not being “national and authentic” and openly questioned their national loyalty. He also claimed that the opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was the favorite candidate of terrorist organizations. Thus, he attacked the legitimacy of opposition actors rather than their concrete policies. His tight control over the media enabled him to spread this line. 

Second and relatedly, he played on techno-nationalism. Ambitious projects such as the national automobile and the national fighter jet were used to garner support. Developments in Turkey’s defense industry, exemplified in particular by the global success of Turkish drones, were used to bolster Erdoğan’s image as a capable leader with a global reputation. Constant references to the defense industry and the militarization of Turkish foreign policy dominated the discourse to the extent that a parallel was drawn between Erdoğan’s fate and the fate of the nation. Thus, opposing Erdoğan was presented as opposing the nation’s security.

Finally, Erdoğan pursued populist economic policies and went on a spending spree in the year leading up to the election. He granted early retirement rates, large salary increases, debt write-offs. While such measures are likely to worsen the economy in the long run, in the short term they have been very useful in restoring his popularity.

In response to Erdoğan’s tactics, the opposition has tried to build the broadest possible alliance. However, this has weakened the opposition parties because they have had to make direct or indirect alliances with parties at the opposite end of the political spectrum. But more importantly, the opposition entered the election with a weak and uncharismatic leader who was unable to counter the government’s propaganda, demonstrating the importance of the right candidate to defeat populist authoritarian leaders.

Dr. Salim Çevik is a fellow at the Center for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS) established at the Berlin-based think tank German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Prior to joining SWP, he held researcher and/or teaching positions at Columbia University, Istanbul Bilgi University, Ipek University, Lund University, and the Free University of Berlin. He received his PhD from the Political Science Department of Bilkent University in 2015. His main areas of research are religion in politics, democratization, nationalism, and nation-building. His most recent publications are “A Comparative Approach to Understanding Regime Trajectories of Tunisia and Turkey” published by the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, (co-authored with Pelin Ayan Musil) and “New Turkey and Management of the Religious Realm: Continuities and Ruptures,” published by the European Journal of Turkish Studies.

A protester, with half his face covered, holds up a placard at the sit-in protest at Speaker's Corner, Hong Lim Park, Singapore on  September 16, 2017. Photo: Tan Zi Han.

Mapping Global Populism — Panel #6: Varieties of Populism and Authoritarianism in Malaysia & Singapore

Date/Time: Thursday, October 26, 2023 — 10:00-12:00 (CET)

Click here to register!

Moderator

Dr. Garry Rodan (Honorary Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland).

Speakers

“Political Islam and Islamist Populism in Malaysia: Implications for Nation-Building,” by Dr. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid (Professor of Political Science, University Sains Malaysia).

“Islamist Civilizationism in Malaysia,” by Dr. Syaza Farhana Mohamad Shukri (Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia).

“Authoritarian Populism in Singapore,” by Dr. Kenneth Paul Tan (Professor of Politics, Film, and Cultural Studies, School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University). 

“Populism, religion, and anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in Malaysia,” Dr. Shanon Shah (Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London).

Click here to register!

 

 

Brief Biographies and Abstracts

Dr. Garry Rodan is an Honorary Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. His thematic research interest is the relationship between capitalist development and political regime directions in Southeast Asia. Attempting to characterise and explain dynamic forms of authoritarianism has been a particular focus. His authored books include Participation without Democracy and The Politics of Accountability in Southeast Asia.

Political Islam and Islamist Populism in Malaysia: Implications for Nation-Building

Abstract: As an offshoot of the global Islamic resurgence that has swept the Muslim world since the 1980s, Islamist violence in Malaysia has been very much the exception rather than the rule. Without dismissing claims of the presence of various social, political and psychological factors that purportedly influence militants into intermittently translating their violent extremist dispositions into actual occurrences of terrorism, the speaker argues that the ideology of hatred of allegedly less than Islamic established authorities and of the ‘Other,’ of which include both non-Muslims and Muslims who do not practice their faith, goads its adherents into becoming politically aggressive in a mostly non-violently manner towards their perceived enemies. The line of reasoning they adopt is specifically ‘Islamist,’ referring to politically arbitrary interpretations of Islam, rather than ‘Islamic’ as per the Islamic faith as interrogated through its multi-faceted dimensions. It is also ‘populist’ in the sense of capitalizing on the popular sentiments of the indigenous Malay-Muslim populace. Dragged into ethno-religious political antics such as to portray their political adversaries as proxies of non-Malay interests intent on subverting a Malay-dominated ethnocratic state, the Malay-Muslims find an avenue for such racially-tinged discourse in social media, with deleterious consequences for nation-building. Since November 2022, such voices have found themselves to be uncharacteristically positioned on the opposition side within Malaysia’s broad democratic landscape, where competitive elections are regularly held, opposition is legalised and civil society given room to grow, amidst unfair advantages and lop-sided access to state machineries that accrue to the ruling government of the day.

Bio: Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid is Professor of Political Science, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, Malaysia, and an elected member of the USM Senate. He graduated from the universities of Oxford, Leeds and Newcastle, United Kingdom. He was a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) (February 2021-January 2022), and has held Visiting Fellowships with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore (2008-2009); the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore (2015-2016); the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kuala Lumpur (October-December 2020), and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, United Kingdom as Scholar-in-Residence (January-June 2021). A prolific author in the political Islam of Southeast Asia, Ahmad Fauzi has published over fifty scholarly articles in leading journals such as Indonesia and the Malay World, Islamic Studies, Asian Studies Review, Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Journal of Political Science, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Asian Survey, Pacific Affairs, Sojourn, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations,Contemporary Southeast Asia, The Round Table, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and Politics, Religion and Ideology. He has also contributed over forty book chapters to edited volumes produced by prestigious international publishers, the latest being ‘Different streams of Malay nationalism from the late colonial to contemporary eras’, in Lu Zhouxiang (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Nationalism in East and Southeast Asia (New York and London: Routledge, 2024) (with Azmi Arifin). Ahmad Fauzi presently serves as editor-in-chief of Kajian Malaysia: Journal of Malaysian Studies and an editorial board member of Kemanusiaan: The Asian Journal of Humanities, both published by USM Press. Since December 2018, he has been serving as consultant expert for Malaysia’s Home Ministry, on terrorism cases investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) 2012.Email: afauzi@usm.my

Islamist Civilizationism in Malaysia

Abstract: Malaysia is known for having a racially and religiously diverse population. Nonetheless, the majority of the population identifies as Malay and, therefore, legally as Muslim. Although the formation of the Malay identity began immediately after World War II, the severe divide between Muslims and non-Muslims resulted from the New Economic Policy of 1971, which prioritized the Malay-Muslim population in the name of reducing poverty and stabilizing the nation. With the Malay-nationalist party, UMNO, being in control for six decades, the position of the Malays became undisputed. However, international, and domestic developments such as the Islamic revival of the 1970s, the Global War on Terror, and the splintering of Malay votes in the 2000s moved UMNO to shift its narrative from Malay ethnonationalism to fighting the Muslim cause. By conflating ethnicity and religion, Malay political leaders employed Islamist civilizational populist discourses to ensure the continued support of the people, even at the expense of non-Muslim Malaysians. Islamist civilizational populism is an effective method to unite the majority Muslim population in a divided nation like Malaysia when existing policies have failed to foster unity. As a result, Malay-Muslims have carved a larger civilizational identity, and with the rise of Islamist politics around the world, it has become much easier for them to emphasize the plight of Muslims over that of their own co-nationalists.

Bio: Dr. Syaza Shukri is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. Her area of specialization is in comparative politics, specifically in democratization and politics in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Her current research interests include populism, identity politics, inter-ethnic relations, political Islam, geopolitics, and gender studies, specifically in Muslim-majority contexts.

Among Dr. Shukri’s recent works is “Populism and Muslim Democracies,” published in Asian Politics & Policy. She is also currently working on a book chapter on Islamist populism in Malaysia since 2018.

Dr. Shukri has degrees from the University of Pittsburgh (where she graduated summa cum laude), the London School of Economics and Political Science, and International Islamic University Malaysia. She can be reached at syazashukri@iium.edu.my.

Authoritarian Populism in Singapore

Abstract: With its reputation for political stability, social cohesion, and economic wealth, global-city Singapore is very rarely discussed as a case for thinking about populist politics. Kenneth Paul Tan will explore what lies behind this reputation and discuss how the Singapore system, led by a government celebrated as clean, meritocratic, and pragmatic, is now showing signs of change not necessarily in the direction of democratization, but towards authoritarian forms of populism, first of the right and then of the left.

Bio: Kenneth Paul TAN is a tenured Professor of Politics, Film, and Cultural Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. He teaches and conducts interdisciplinary research at the Academy of Film, the Department of Journalism, the Department of Government and International Studies, and the Smart Society Lab. His books include Asia in the Old and New Cold Wars: Ideologies, Narratives, and Lived Experiences (Palgrave MacMillan, 2023), Movies to Save Our World: Imagining Poverty, Inequality and Environmental Destruction in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2022), Singapore’s First Year of COVID-19: Public Health, Immigration, the Neoliberal State, and Authoritarian Populism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Singapore: Identity, Brand, Power (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Governing Global-City Singapore: Legacies and Futures After Lee Kuan Yew (Routledge, 2017), Cinema and Television in Singapore: Resistance in One Dimension (Brill, 2008), and Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture, and Politics (NUS Press, 2007). Previously, he was a tenured Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. He has held visiting fellowships, and honorary and adjunct professorships at the Australian National University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Georgetown University (on a Fulbright Fellowship), Harvard University, Sciences Po, the University of Duisburg-Essen, and the University of Hong Kong. His degrees are from the University of Cambridge (PhD, Social and Political Sciences) and the University of Bristol (BSc First Class Honours, Economics and Politics).

Populism, religion, and anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in Malaysia

Abstract: Ethno-religious politics in Malaysia continue to have a significant impact upon the country’s democratic transition, especially since the historic 2018 and 2022 general elections. Both elections involved moral and populist battles between political rivals, in which the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) people were – and continue to be – weaponized by ethno-religious nationalists as well as political leaders who have seemingly adopted more reformist rhetoric. But can anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in Malaysia be explained simply as a cause of religiously inspired populism? This presentation probes this question by discussing some longer-term trends in the so-called Islamisation process in Malaysia at the levels of political rhetoric, implementation, and new frontiers in online interactions.

Bio: Dr. Shanon Shah is Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London. In this capacity, he conducts research with the Information Network Focus on Religious Movements (Inform) and teaches at the University of London Worldwide’s Divinity programme. He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from King’s College London. Dr Shah’s research and teaching interests include the ethnographic study of religion, contemporary Islam and Christianity, gender and sexuality, minority religions and alternative spiritualities, and environmental and social justice movements. He is the author of the monograph The Making of a Gay Muslim: Religion, Sexuality and Identity in Malaysia and Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Dr Shah is also the director of Faith for the Climate, a British charity focusing on collaborative action by faith groups to address the climate crisis.

 

PTI supporter at Jinnah Cricket Stadium during a political rally of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan on March 23, 2012 in Sialkot, Pakistan. Photo: Jahanzaib Naiyyer.

Mapping Global Populism — Panel #5: Unveiling Many Faces of Populism in Pakistan 

Date/Time: Thursday, September 28, 2023 — 10:00-12:30 (CET)

 

This panel is jointly organised by The European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) and The Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) .

 

Click here to register!

 

Moderator

Dr Susan de Groot Heupner (Associate Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation in Melbourne, Australia).

Speakers 

“Imran Khan’s Populist Narratives: An Analysis,”  by Dr Samina Yasmeen (Professor, Head of Department of International Relations, Asian Studies and Politics in University of Western Australia’s School of Social Sciences).

“Media and Populism in Pakistan” by Ramsha Jahangir (A media professional and researcher).

“The Land of Pure: Islamic Populism in Pakistan’s Identity Project and the Rise of Radical Islam,” by Dr Fizza Batool(Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at SZABIST University, Karachi, Pakistan).

Military and Populism in Pakistan,” by Dr Raja M. Ali Saleem (Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Centre for Public Policy and Governance at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan).

“‘I Am Democracy’: The Appeal of Imran’s Khan’s Populism for Pakistani Women,” Dr Afiya Shehrbano Zia (Pakistani feminist researcher on gender and social development).

 

Click here to register!

 


 

Brief Biographies and Abstracts

Dr Susan de Groot Heupner is a political sociologist with a research focus on populist mobilisations and the formation of hegemonic ideological constructions. She is an Adjunct Fellow at the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research in Brisbane, Australia, where she works on civilisational fantasies and politics. In the position of Senior Researcher, she also coordinates a large survey on Indigenous media and broadcasting in Australia at Griffith University. In the position of Associate Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation in Melbourne, Australia, she works on two Australian Research Council projects examining religious populism, transnational polarisation, and emotive mobilisation. She is Managing Editor for the Journal of Alternative and Community Media, and Editorial Board member for the Political Sociology section at Sociology Compass. She has published in journals such as Politics and ReligionReligionsJournal of Intercultural Studies, and Journal of International Communication, and has a forthcoming monograph with Leiden University Press. She has also contributed to public media platforms like The Conversation and Enlighten.

Imran Khan’s Populist Narratives: An Analysis

Professor Samina Yasmeen heads the Department of International Relations, Asian Studies and Politics in University of Western Australia’s School of Social Sciences. She is a teacher and researcher, and director and founder of the university’s Centre for Muslim States and Societies. She focuses on understanding perceptions of and by Muslims and Islam around the world and seeks to make an impact on Australian and global politics.

AbstractThe presentation would focus on the use of narratives by populist leaders, and locate Imran khan’s narrative-building since April 2022. It would identify the ‘ideal state’ promoted as the aim of his rallies and online presentations, his analysis of the current state of Pakistan and the need for agentic activism on part of the youth. The presentation will assess the outcomes of his populist narratives and their implications for Pakistan’s political future.

Media and Populism in Pakistan

Ramsha Jahangir is a Pakistani journalist, researcher, and trainer, specializing in technology and human rights. Her work is focused on internet rights, mis/disinformation, online regulation & censorship, and digital society. Jahangir is a recipient of four national journalism awards for ‘in-depth and tenacious’ coverage of internet clampdown and disinformation in Pakistan.

The Land of Pure: Islamic Populism in Pakistan’s Identity Project and the Rise of Radical Islam

Dr Fizza Batool is an academic and policy researcher with a particular interest in Comparative Politics, Comparative Democratization, Peace Studies, and Populism. She is currently an Assistant Professor (Social Sciences) at SZABIST University, Karachi. Previously, she worked for over a decade in the research and development sector where she served in important managerial positions. Her works have been published in some prestigious research journals like South Asia: Journal of South Asian StudiesPakistan Horizon etc. She also contributes to English dailies in Pakistan and international research magazines such as South Asian Voices. She was one of the 2020 SAV Visiting Fellows at Stimson Center, DC.

Abstract: Pakistan literally means the land of pure. This focus on the purity of the people underlines that religious moralism has overshadowed the state identity since its inception. Pakistan was the first country founded on Islamic nationalism, and the main theme of the political discourse during the Pakistan Movement was the antagonistic relationship between Muslims and Hindus as two separate nations. After the creation of Pakistan, the state under dire pressure of giving one singular identity to its otherwise diverse population, opted to continue pitting the pure Pakistanis against the evil Indians. However, with no clarity on what form or level of religiosity is expected from its people to be declared a pure Muslim, different elected and non-elected governments as well as political parties and movements came up with their own political construct of Pakistani identity, creating an ontological insecurity in the country. In this presentation, I will highlight that this antagonistic and moralist construction of Pakistan’s identity, and the resulting ambiguity, has given space for radical Islamic populism to gain strength in the country. The country leadership critically needs to adopt pluralist discourse and socio-cultural identity construction to counter the wave of radical Islamic movements and parties.   

Military and Populism in Pakistan

Dr Raja M. Ali Saleem is an Associate Professor (Public Policy) at the Centre for Public Policy and Governance at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan. He is a former civil servant and has more than 20 years of diverse experience in government and academia. Dr. Saleem’s research focuses on religious nationalism, the relationship between church and state, the politics of Muslim-majority countries, especially Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, local governments, public financial management, the role of the military in politics, and democratic consolidation. In 2020, Dr. Saleem was a Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Oxford. His first book, State, Nationalism, and Islamization: Historical Analysis of Turkey and Pakistan, was published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2017.

‘I Am Democracy’: The Appeal of Imran’s Khan’s Populism for Pakistani Women

Dr Afiya Shehrbano Zia (Ph.D. Women and Gender Studies) has held the Frank B Weeks chair as Visiting Assistant Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexualities Studies at Wesleyan University (2021-2022). She has taught at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Habib University in Pakistan. Afiya is author of Faith and Feminism in Pakistan; Religious Agency or Secular Autonomy? (2018, SAP) and two dozen peer-reviewed essays for scholarly journals including, Pious populist political masculinities in Pakistan and India, SAP, 2022.

Abstract: Despite his political conservatism and underachievement, Pakistan’s former sportsman turned Prime Minister, Imran Khan (2018-2022), remains a populist leader. Sympathy and adulation for him has only escalated after his removal from office by a No-Confidence Vote. The military propped him as a paragon of incorruptible honesty but quickly became impatient with their prodigy’s empty rhetoric and defiance that unsettled military hegemony, especially from rank and file. 

Paradoxically, Khan denies being fostered by the Deep State but is personally aggrieved over abandonment by its shallow conceits. This moral injury has triggered reactionary and violent protest rallies by his party, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) comprising of young, mostly urban middle-class, outraged, weeping supporters.

The trope of victimhood is common to all deposed parties but the PTI supporters and trolls weaponise gender, nationalism, and piety with technical alacrity for emotive results. Khan holds blatant misogynist views yet commands a cult-like following of women followers on par with past and current demagogues.

The presentation will focus on images and competitive tropes of this populism which include performances of piety, grief, and forfeiture of feminine desires for the populist; the illusory hope of Pakistani diaspora and the power of the narrative of sovereignty of the Islamic Republic. The civil-military hybrid experiment has failed yet again, leaving in its wake a failing economy and long-term adverse effects on democracy, women, and human rights.

An army of Hindu Sanyasis is geared up for battle to protect their dharma at any cost. Illustration: Young Moves Media (Shutterstock).

Mapping Global Populism — Panel #4: The Role of Populism, Radicalization and Hindutva in India

Date/Time: Thursday, August 31, 2023 — 10:00-12:00 (CET)

 

This panel is jointly organised by The European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), The Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI)  and the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Adelaide.

 

Click here to register!

 

Moderator 

Dr Priya Chacko (Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide, Australia).

Speakers

“Politics, ethics, and emotions in ‘New India’,” by Dr Ajay Gudavarthy (Associate Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi).

“Ram Rajya 2.0: How nostalgia aids the populist politics of neo-colonial Hindutva futurism,” by Maggie Paul (PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide, Australia).

“Constitutional roots of judicial populism in India,” by Dr Anuj Bhuwania (Professor at the Jindal Global Law School in India & currently Senior Visiting Fellow at the SCRIPTS ‘Cluster of Excellence’ at Freie University Berlin).

“India’s refugee policy towards Rohingya refugees: An intersectional approach to populism,” by Dr Monika Barthwal-Datta (Senior Lecturer in International Security at the University of New South Wales, Sydney) and Dr Shweta Singh (Associate Professor of International Relations at the South Asian University, New Delhi, India).

 

Click here to register!

 

 

Brief Biographies and Abstracts

Dr Priya Chacko is Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide. Her current research includes authoritarian populism, economic nationalism, and foreign policy, with a focus on India and diaspora politics, racial capitalism and foreign policy, with a focus on Australia. 

Politics, ethics, and emotions in ‘New India

Bio: Dr Ajay Gudavarthy is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is a regular contributor to leading news dailies in India that include The Hindu, The Indian express, The Telegraph, The Wire, The Outlook and Newsclick. He has appeared on and shared his views with various international print media and news channels including Channel News Asia (Singapore), Al Jajeera, The Conversation, South China Morning Post, BBC, The Independent and The Time Magazine, Friday Times, Khaleej times, The Dawn, Arab News, The Diplomat, among others.

Ram Rajya 2.0: How nostalgia aids the populist politics of neo-colonial Hindutva futurism

Abstract: This presentation to argue that authoritarian populist politics in India utilizes populist discursive and mobilizing strategies to advance a ‘Hindutva futurism’ built on the neoliberal economics of market prosperity and a civilizationalist ideology which is preoccupied with internal disunity, external threats, and celebrating and recovering a lost civilizational glory. The symbolism of Hindutva futurism has been epitomized by an archetypal past-cum-future imaginary that has had many lives in India, Ram Rajya (Ram’s kingdom) – the utopian rule of an upper-caste Hindu God Ram in the epic Ramayana characterized by peace and prosperity. Through an exploration of the campaign to build a Ram temple on the site of a demolished mosque and Ram-themed films, the presentation will show that the invocation of Ram and Ram Rajya produces an affective economy of nostalgia. This utilizes the language of affective injury and restorative justice to invoke emotions related to resentment and aspiration to cultivate a populist cleavage between a persecuted Hindu people and privileged liberal-left ‘elites’ and religious minorities which justifies the neocolonial domination of the latter by the former.

Bios: Dr Priya Chackois Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide. Her current research includes authoritarian populism, economic nationalism, and foreign policy, with a focus on India and diaspora politics, racial capitalism and foreign policy, with a focus on Australia. 

Maggie Paul is a PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Her research interests include the contestations of citizenship in the South Asian context, politics at the urban margins as well as decolonial, post-development and pluriversal theory (and practice). Her current research focuses on how the colonial, and nationalist, construction of the “infiltrator” figure from Bangladesh affects contemporary citizenship in India, rendering it contingent

Constitutional roots of judicial populism in India

Bio: Anuj Bhuwania is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow at the SCRIPTS ‘Cluster of Excellence’ at Freie University Berlin. He is a Professor at the Jindal Global Law School in India. He has previously held visiting positions at the University of Cambridge, University of Göttingen, Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi. He is the author of ‘Courting the People: Public Interest Litigation in Post-Emergency India’ (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Email address: anujbhuwania@gmail.com

India’s refugee policy towards Rohingya refugees: An intersectional approach to populism

Abstract: Contemporary investigations into links between populism and foreign policy overwhelmingly favor an ideational approach to populism, are largely aimed at developing universally applicable insights or rules and treat foreign policy as a set of discrete domains for action. Such studies are constrained in their ability to generate complex, nuanced and empirically rich understandings of how domestic populist politics link to shifts in policy preferences and outcomes in the name of ‘foreign policy.’ In this study, we develop an intersectional analytical approach to investigating the links between populism and foreign policy, through a case study of India’s shifting refugee policy towards Rohingyas under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Modi government. We conceptualize refugee policy as foreign policy and interrogate the categories of ‘the people’ and ‘other’ not as monolithic, but as intersectionally constituted along varying discursive identity constellations, and investigate them in the context of regional political dynamics. In these ways, we expand the scope of populist foreign policy analysis, and highlight how foreign policies of populist governments cannot be understood without insights into the complex intersectional ways in which the ‘people’ and the ‘other’ are co-constituted and reinforced in and through ‘foreign policy.’

Bios: Dr Monika Barthwal-Datta is a Senior Lecturer in International Security at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney. Her research areas include critical security studies, decolonial feminist approaches, non-traditional security issues, strategic narratives, South Asian security, and Indian foreign policy. She is the author of Understanding Security Practices in South Asia: Securitization Theory and the role of non-state actors (Abingdon: Routledge 2012) and Food Security in Asia: Challenges, Policies and Implications

Dr Shweta Singh is Associate Professor of International Relations at the South Asian University (New Delhi, India). She is co-editor (with Tiina Vaittinen and Catia Confortini) of the Edinburgh University Press series titled Edinburg Feminist Studies on Peace, Justice and Violence. Her recent publications include the special issue (co-edited with Ingrid Nyoborg, and Gunhild Hoogensen Gjorv), ‘Re-thinking Violence, Everyday and (In) Security: Feminist/Intersectional Interventions,’ Journal of Human Security (2022) and ‘Towards an intersectional approach to populism: comparative perspectives from Finland and India’ (with Elise Feron), Contemporary Politics (2021). She has served as the UN Women International Expert on Populism, Nationalism, and Gender (Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific).

 

Click here to register!

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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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.