The Populism Interviews: A Dialogue with Leading Experts 9781003250388

The Populism Interviews features interviews with many of the leading experts on this most controversial of issues. Popu

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The Populism Interviews: A Dialogue with Leading Experts

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Part I What Is Populism (And What Is It Not)?
1 Types of Populism
2 150 Years of Populism
3 Brief History of American Populism
4 The Fascist Roots of Populism
5 Far-Right Populist Discourses
6 The Integration of Populist Parties in Europe
7 Measuring Populism in Political Parties
8 Measuring Populist Attitudes
9 Populist Hype
10 Doing Research On Populism
Part II Causes and Consequences
11 Populist Success and Failure
12 Populism vs Politics
13 Populism and Social Status
14 Populism and Polarisation
15 Populism and Negative Identities
16 Emotions and Populist Communication
17 Populist Personality and Communication Style
18 Populist Citizens and News Media
19 Populism and Social Media
20 Populism in Power
Part III Issues and Topics
21 Populism and Nationalism
22 Populism and Conspiracy Theories
23 Populism and Climate Change
24 Populism and Foreign Policy
25 Populism and Gender
26 Populism and Religion
27 Populism and Time
28 Populism and Memory
29 Populism and Music
30 Populism and the Covid-19 Pandemic

Citation preview

‘The Populism Interviews hits the sweet spot of academic knowledge presented in an easily accessible non-​academic format. A highly original collection of interviews with a broad group of established and emerging populism scholars, which is both fun to read and highly informative. Enjoy!’ Cas Mudde, author of The Far Right Today ‘Research on Populism has rarely addressed populism from the scholars’ of the field perspective and, conversely, scholars on populism from different perspectives have rarely gathered to discuss the topic from different but interrelated angles. With its systematic cross-​country and cross-​disciplines interviewing, this volume constitutes a very valuable exception. Analytically innovative –​for its articulation into definitions, causes, consequences and critical junctures –​and empirically fascinating it suggests a future path for future research on populism.’ Emanuela Caiani, Associate Professor in Political Science at Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, Italy ‘Luca Manucci’s interviews provide something desperately needed in the conversation about populism: direct answers to clear questions.Whether you are approaching this topic for the first time or are part of the conversation yourself, this volume does a masterful job of introducing the major debates about populism from a cross national, generational, and disciplinary perspective. A great read and enormously informative.’ David Art, Professor of Political Science at Tufts University, USA


The Populism Interviews features interviews with many of the leading experts on this most controversial of issues. Populism is a widely debated topic, and it generates interest across the globe. As a result, a burgeoning literature deals with many aspects of populism and its links to pressing issues such as media freedom, minority rights and separation of powers. To make sense of such a complex subject, this book presents interviews with some of the leading experts on populism at the international level. Through a dialogue with important figures, this book offers the possibility to make sense of a global phenomenon in a complete and accessible way. The first part presents different theories on what populism is and is not, highlighting the differences but also the points of contact between different approaches. The second part offers an overview of the evolution of populism through history and across continents, detailing its causes and consequences. The third part deals with issues and topics connected to populism, such as environmentalism, welfare, religion, social movements and the media. Bridging theoretical approaches and empirical studies, while considering cases across space and over time, this book offers an insightful and accessible guide to the study of populism. This volume will be of interest to all scholars, students and researchers of populism. Luca Manucci is Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. His previous publications include Populism and Collective Memory: Comparing Fascist Legacies in Western Europe (Routledge, 2020).

THE POPULISM INTERVIEWS A Dialogue with Leading Experts

Edited by Luca Manucci

Cover image: © Getty Images First published 2023 by Routledge 4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2023 selection and editorial matter, Luca Manucci; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Luca Manucci to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-​in-​Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book ISBN: 978-​1-​032-​16810-​4 (hbk) ISBN: 978-​1-​032-​16266-​9 (pbk) ISBN: 978-​1-​003-​25038-​8 (ebk) DOI: 10.4324/​9781003250388 Typeset in Bembo by Newgen Publishing UK

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FIGURE 0.1  Source: Author


For more interviews on populism visit


Notes on Contributors  Preface: A Long and Winding Road 

xii xvi


What Is Populism (And What Is It Not)?  Luca Manucci


1 Types of Populism  Benjamin Moffitt


2 150 Years of Populism  Hans-​Georg Betz


3 Brief History of American Populism  Anton Jäger


4 The Fascist Roots of Populism  Federico Finchelstein


5 Far-​r ight Populist Discourses  Ruth Wodak


6 The Integration of Populist Parties in Europe  Mattia Zulianello


x Contents

7 Measuring Populism in Political Parties  Maurits Meijers


8 Measuring Populist Attitudes  Andrej Zaslove


9 Populist Hype  Aurelien Mondon


10 Doing Research on Populism  Matthijs Rooduijn



Causes and Consequences  Luca Manucci


11 Populist Success and Failure  Léonie de Jonge


12 Populism vs Politics  Paul Taggart


13 Populism and Social Status  Noam Gidron


14 Populism and Polarisation  Lisa Zanotti


15 Populism and Negative Identities  Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser


16 Emotions and Populist Communication  Dominique Wirz


17 Populist Personality and Communication Style  Alessandro Nai


18 Populist Citizens and News Media  Anne Schulz


19 Populism and Social Media  Sina Blassnig


Contents  xi

20 Populism in Power  Giorgos Venizelos



Issues and Topics  Luca Manucci


21 Populism and Nationalism  Daphne Halikiopoulou


22 Populism and Conspiracy Theories  Levente Littvay


23 Populism and Climate Change  Robert Huber


24 Populism and Foreign Policy  Ole Frahm and Dirk Lehmkuhl


25 Populism and Gender  Alessia Donà


26 Populism and Religion  Nadia Marzouki


27 Populism and Time  Nomi Claire Lazar


28 Populism and Memory  Meral Ugur-​Cinar


29 Populism and Music  Melanie Schiller


30 Populism and the Covid-​19 Pandemic  Nils Ringe and Lucio Rennó





Hans-​Georg Betz is Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of

Zurich, Switzerland. He is the author of several books and numerous articles and book chapters on radical-​right-​wing populism, nativism and West European politics in general. Sina Blassnig is Senior Research and Teaching Associate at the University of

Zurich, Switzerland. Her research focuses on political communication from a comparative perspective. Léonie de Jonge is Assistant Professor in European Politics and Society at the

University of Groningen, the Netherlands. She is interested in right-​wing populist parties in Western Europe, especially the Benelux countries. Alessia Donà is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Trento,

Italy. Her main research interests are in the fields of gender and politics, human rights and LGBT+​issues, and policy analysis. Federico Finchelstein is Professor of History at the New School for Social

Research and Eugene Lang College in New York City, USA. He is a world-​ renowned historian, political analyst, and frequent contributor to major national and international media. Ole Frahm is a lecturer at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland, and foreign

policy consultant to the German government. Noam Gidron is Senior Lecturer in the Political Science Department and the

joint programme in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the Hebrew University

Notes on Contributors  xiii

of Jerusalem, Israel. Located at the intersection of political behaviour and political economy, his research examines populism and polarisation in advanced democracies. Daphne Halikiopoulou is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of

Reading, UK. She is interested in party politics and voting behaviour with a focus on the far right, populism and nationalism in Europe. Robert Huber is Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Salzburg, Austria. His

research focuses on globalisation-​induced challenges to liberal democracy, such as populism, and climate and environmental politics. Anton Jäger is Postdoctoral Researcher at KU Leuven, Belgium. His academic

work has appeared in journals such as The Historical Journal, History of Political Thought, American Political Thought, nonsite, Constellations, The Journal of Political Ideologies, boundary2 and Political Inquiry. Nomi Claire Lazar is Full Professor in the Graduate School of Public and

International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada. She has written about politics in times of crises. Dirk Lehmkuhl is Chair of European Politics and the School of Economics and

Political Science at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Levente Littvay is Professor of Political Science and Research Affiliate at the

Democracy Institute of Central European University, Austria. He is Head of Team Survey at Team Populism, Academic Coordinator at and member of the European Social Survey Round 10 democracy and Covid-​19 module teams. Luca Manucci is Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.

His previous publications include Populism and Collective Memory: Comparing Fascist Legacies in Western Europe (Routledge, 2020). Nadia Marzouki is Research Fellow at the CNRS in Paris, France. Her work

examines public controversies about Islam and religious freedom in Europe and the United States. She is also interested in debates about religious freedom and democratisation in North Africa. Maurits Meijers is Assistant Professor of Political Science Politics at Radboud

University, the Netherlands. His research focuses broadly on political representation and the competition between political parties. He is the co-​initiator of the Populism and Political Parties Expert Survey (POPPA).

xiv  Notes on Contributors

Benjamin Moffitt is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Australian Research Council

DECRA Fellow at the National School of Arts at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. Aurelien Mondon is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Bath, UK. His

research focuses predominantly on the impact of racism and populism on liberal democracies and the mainstreaming of far-​r ight politics through elite discourse. Alessandro Nai is Assistant Professor of Political Communication in the Department

of Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Lucio Rennó is Associate Professor of Political Science and Dean of Graduate

Studies at the University of Brasilia, Brazil. Nils Ringe is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Jean Monnet

European Union Center of Excellence for Comparative Populism at the University of Wisconsin-​Madison, USA. Matthijs Rooduijn is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at

the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He studies the transformations of European politics and the role of us-​versus-​them thinking in this process. In particular, he focuses on topics such as populism, radicalism, and prejudice. Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser is Professor of Political Science at Universidad Diego

Portales (UDP) in Santiago, Chile, and Associate Researcher at the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES). Melanie Schiller is Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Popular Music in

the Department for Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. She is working on the international research project ‘Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe’. Anne Schulz is Senior Researcher in the Department of Communication and

Media Research at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, UK. Her work concerns political communication, media psychology, and journalism research. Paul Taggart is Professor of Politics at the University of Sussex, UK. Meral Ugur-​Cinar is Assistant Professor at Bilkent University, Turkey. Her research

interests include collective memory, political regimes, political institutions, political narratives, social movements and gender.

Notes on Contributors  xv

Giorgos Venizelos is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,

Greece. He researches left-​and right-​wing populism in power, collective identities, and anti-​populism. He co-​convenes the Populism Specialist Group (PSA). Dominique Wirz is Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Fribourg,

Switzerland. Her research interests are emotions and persuasion in political communication and entertainment research. Ruth Wodak is Emerita Distinguished Professor of Discourse Studies at Lancaster

University, UK, and affiliated to the University of Vienna, Austria. Her research interests focus on discourse studies, gender studies, identity politics and the politics of the past, political communication and populism, prejudice and discrimination, and on ethnographic methods of linguistic field work. Lisa Zanotti is Postdoctoral Researcher at the Diego Portales University, Chile,

and Adjunct Researcher at the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES). She works on issues related to party systems, populism, polarisation and democracy in Western Europe and Latin America. Andrej Zaslove is Associate Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of

Political Science at Radboud University, the Netherlands. His research focuses on populism, political parties and democracy. His publications appear in journals such as Comparative Political Studies, West European Politics and Political Studies. Mattia Zulianello is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Department of

Political and Social Sciences at the University of Trieste, Italy.

PREFACE A Long and Winding Road Luca Manucci

The literature on populism is like the universe: constantly expanding. This book is Ariadne’s thread to navigate the labyrinth of the Minotaur; 30 interviews with experts to address a contested, chameleonic, protean phenomenon such as populism. So much has been said about populism –​so many papers, chapters, books, special issues, handbooks, newspaper articles, have been published –​—​that you will certainly get lost if you do not have a compass. Not only for young scholars who are interested in the topic and would like to start researching it, but also for more experienced researchers who come from different fields and want to examine populism. Journalists who want to report about populism in a more informed manner are also particularly welcome, and anyone who wants to know more about populism will be sure to find something interesting in these pages.This book contains 30 stories that, like a prism, reflect the manifold aspects of populism, its characteristics, nuances, dimensions and paradoxes. The book is not a novel, and the chapters can be read in any order you like. However, you will also notice that there are invisible threads connecting the interviews: recurrent themes, concepts, characters. Though new, the origins of this book go way back. In fact, I have been interviewing experts on populism since 2015. Until now, I have been publishing them on my blog (, where you can find more than 50 interviews as well as over 50 short articles from experts presenting their work. I needed this online space to create a community of people interested in populism, to avoid working on my dissertation (which was published by Routledge in 2020 with the title ‘Populism and Collective Memory: Comparing Fascist Legacies in Western Europe’), and more generally to learn directly from the best and most interesting scholars that deal with populism in one form or another. So far, the blog has received more than 60,000 views and won two outreach awards from the Universities of Zurich and Lisbon. Now this work becomes a book, but it will continue to exist also online so get in touch if you are interested in doing an interview

Preface: A Long and Winding Road  xvii

or writing a short article for the blog.The book contains seven interviews that were originally made for the blog but that have been updated by the authors. It is not a paper version of the blog, but the materialisation of a multi-​year project that has its roots online and its branches on these pages, while the flowers and fruits will come in forms that I cannot foresee. The choice of experts to interview derives from several considerations about diversity, including but not limited to gender, age and geographical area of provenance, but they are ultimately scholars who –​in my personal opinion –​do interesting research on populism. Some of them are established professors with decades of experience in the field. Some are young scholars doing cutting-​edge research who have published studies that caught my attention. Others are scholars who come from different fields and met populism on their way, offering much-​needed contributions that bridge different approaches and disciplines. Although political science is at the core of this book, many other approaches are included, from history to media studies, sociology and political theory, looking both at the micro and the macro level, parties, citizens and institutions. Crucially, there are also interviews that might be considered ‘meta’, because they offer reflections on the work that has been done about populism, including problems and biases, as well as interesting venues for future research. Finally, I asked each author what sparked their interest in populism, and which work or scholar they would recommend. This book is not a textbook or a handbook, it is neither complete nor systematic; what matters here is the journey rather than the destination, and detours are sometimes part of the fun. At the same time, these 30 interviews cover a lot of ground. You will find a brief history of American populism from the Know Nothings to Donald Trump passing by Thomas E. Watson, and a discussion about the popularity of female leaders within populist radical-​r ight parties. The interviews look at how populists use emotions and conspiracy theories, how they position themselves when it comes to climate change, foreign policy and memory politics. I talk with the experts about the damage produced by the so-​called populist hype, discuss how the media portray populists and how populist citizens acquire their political information. We will see how to study populism, the best ways to measure the extent to which people as well as parties are populist and the role of social media in spreading populist messages. The book will cover populists in power and in opposition from the left and the right, discussing their rhetorical devices and discourses. It will present the style used by populist actors, the causes and consequences of populist success and the impact that the pandemic has had on the electoral fortunes of populist actors across the world. You will find interviews that tell of the links between populism and other concepts such as nationalism, authoritarianism and fascism, but also the connection between populism and music, time and religion. This book is not a map, but an inter-​dimensional portal to travel across time and space. This book would have never come about without the help of many people. First, I need to thank all the experts I interviewed for their time and cooperation, but also all those that are not in the book for lack of space. Some of them will be appearing in interviews for the blog in the next months, so stay tuned. Without Craig Fowlie,


xviii  Luca Manucci

the Editorial Director of Social Science Books for Routledge, who immediately liked the project and made this happen, this book would not be in your hands. I also want to thank Hannah Rich, Editorial Assistant, for her flawless help, and Rachel Evans, who did a terrific job in proofreading the whole book. I am grateful to the University of Zurich and the University of Lisbon for the outreach awards that made the blog possible over all these years and to finally become a book. This book is also the result of the following question: ‘What is your job exactly?’, which my parents, relatives and friends have been asking me for many years. The need to explain what a ‘researcher on populism’ actually does in a clear and accessible way made me realise how important it is to be able to communicate the results of our work to the muggles outside the ivory tower. Last but not least, if I did not give up it is only because of the encouragement, discussions and laughs I had with Michael A. Strebel, Alice el-​Wakil, Nino Abzianidze, Lea Heyne (or the alien who took her place), António Dias, Roberto Pannico, Pellegrino Cammino and Christian Rubba (who actually asked me ‘Why don’t you make a blog on populism?’ back in 2014). Special thanks go to my homies from Romagna. They taught me that you do what you can –​but sometimes you can what you do, and that life is too short to drink bad wine. The goal of this book is not to extinguish the thirst, but to keep the fire alive. It does not offer any magic formula to close every debate on the nature of populism once and for all, but rather it offers the tools to understand this debate. I do not wish to settle long-​lasting disputes, but to frame them in the correct perspectives. I do not wish to provide definitive answers, but to generate more doubts. If you think that you already have every answer you need when it comes to populism because you cannot possibly learn anything new, these pages might surprise you. If this book sparks the interest of just one student, it will have been worth it. If it makes just one journalist use the terms fascism, radical right, racism and demagogy in the appropriate way instead of using them as synonyms for populism, it will have been worth it. If it stops just one established scholar from reinventing the wheel every time instead of going to the back and reading the most important works produced on populism, it will have been worth it. This book is not a holy scripture, but a dialogue with brilliant minds to tell each other stories around the fire, to generate new questions in the hope of shedding some light on the darkness. And if you wish to know where my true loyalties lie, I will reply: ‘Not with any king or queen, but with the people. The people who suffer under the despots and prosper under the just rule.’


What Is Populism (And What Is It Not)? Luca Manucci

This first part introduces key aspects of populism and its historical roots, it provides the tools to measure populism in individuals as well as parties, and it presents reflections about the study of populism itself. If you know nothing about populism, or if you think you already know everything, this part is an excellent starting point because it offers interviews with some of the best scholars on the topic and takes stock of the study of populism in a clear and understandable way. The idea is that, once you have read this part, you will know how populist politicians, parties and citizens can be distinguished from non-​populist ones. Moreover, this part challenges the diffused notion that populism is impossible to define, showing that the different interpretations out there are not necessarily in competition or mutually exclusive. Another goal of this part is to make it clear that populism was not born yesterday, or the day before that, but has a long tradition going back to (at least) the 19th century. Following the historical evolution of populism, this part shows how it mutates after World War II, how it travels between the two sides of the Atlantic and eventually becomes what we know today. Finally, this part provides essential instructions for those interested in studying populism, offering invaluable tools to avoid classic misconceptions, myths and biases, while discussing the most interesting ways of advancing the study of populism in the future. First, we must bring some clarity to the concept we are talking about: how can we define populism? Benjamin Moffitt is not only one of the most exciting scholars on populism, but also one of the best at clearly presenting ideas and concepts. He introduces the concept, presents alternative interpretations and gives us basic instructions to navigate the ‘who is who’ in the study of populism. First, he sets out three main approaches to populism: the ideational approach, the strategic approach and the discursive-​performative approach. Then, Moffitt tells us in what way these

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-1

2  Luca Manucci

three approaches are similar and to what extent they differ, offering an invaluable map to start our exploration, jumping from right to left populism in Europe, Latin America and Australia. The following three interviews adopt an historic approach and provide many necessary tools to contextualise populism and understand its roots. Hans-​Georg Betz, whose work on populism since the 1990s is a must-​read, connects the dots that bring us from American nativism, the Know Nothings, and the People’s Party, to Donald Trump and Eric Zemmour passing by Georges Ernest Boulanger, Islamophobia and Marine Le Pen. We then restrict the focus to American populism, with Anton Jäger explaining how the 19th-​century populists in the US were able to channel and organise that discontent, with a focus on Thomas E. Watson, the leader of the Populist Party who started out as an advocate of Black voting rights and favourable to the role of women in politics, but later took a nativist turn and attacked Black and Jewish people. Then, looking at the lessons from Latin America, Argentinian historian Federico Finchelstein explains that populism and fascism have various similarities and differences, arguing that populism represents the continuation of fascism with democratic means. Before talking about fascist and populist lies, the topic of his new book, Finchlestein discusses a crucial paradox of populism: being both democratic and authoritarian at the same time. The fascist roots of populism are further explored in the next interview. If you have time for just one, you could certainly choose the interview with Ruth Wodak, a legendary academic whose work on populism has been ground-​breaking to say the least. Wodak brings us back to the 1990s, when the Austrian Academy of Science told her that she should not focus her research on populism because it was ‘not interesting’, a ‘marginal topic’. Then, she explains how politicians like Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi shifted the boundaries of what is ‘sayable’ in the public discourse, and the authoritarian turn that is characterising many democracies across the world. Moreover, she discusses the normalisation of far-​r ight discourses and the crucial role of new social movements. Speaking of normalisation, Mattia Zulianello illustrates how populist parties are already very well integrated in the party systems of most European countries, meaning that populist parties are key players in the coalition game and are also required to give life to governmental majorities. Then, bringing much-​needed conceptual clarity, Zulianello explains what differentiates populist parties from anti-​establishment, challenger and outsider parties. Crucially, going beyond left and right populism, he introduces the concept of valence populist parties: these are parties that focus mainly on non-​positional issues, such as competence, moral integrity, democratic reform and corruption. The need for coherent definitions that produce clear classifications of what is populist and what is not brings us to our next interview. Maurits Meijers presents the Populism and Political Parties Expert Survey, which measures the levels of populism in political parties, spanning 250 political parties in 28 European countries. The idea is that parties are not necessarily divided into two families, populist and non-​populist, but can show higher or lower degrees of populism. Combining the different approaches to populism described above, the survey allows us to

Part I: What Is Populism (And What Is It Not)?  3

understand whether populist parties have specific characteristics when it comes to political style, emotional appeals and party organisation. Then, moving from political parties to citizens, we come to the interview with Andrej Zaslove, one of the first scholars to measure populist attitudes. Interestingly, measuring populist attitudes at the micro level, or in other words measuring how populist people are, is a relatively recent development in the study of populism. However, in just a few years it has emerged as one of the most dynamic fields of research and new studies continuously advance our understanding of citizens’ populist attitudes. New scales proliferate and Zaslove guides us through the latest developments, describing the most promising and relevant venues for research related to populist attitudes. The last two interviews of this part are crucial and possibly the most ‘meta’ of the whole book, as they explicitly deal with the study of populism and the way the media talk about it. Anyone with a copy of this book should find a few minutes to read both. Aurelien Mondon discusses the notion of populist hype, arguing that the focus on populism diverts attention away from what is really at stake and facilitates the rise and mainstreaming of reactionary politics under the guise of potentially democratic principles, a topic that forms a fil rouge running through the entire part. Debunking the myth of the ‘white working-​class’ support for Trump or Brexit on his way, Mondon warns young researchers that perhaps what they really want to study is not populism. Speaking of the way in which the media misrepresent populism, the last interview is with Matthijs Rooduijn, who has collaborated with The Guardian to produce the investigative series of articles ‘The New Populism: An Investigation into the Rise of a Global Phenomenon’. This collaborative project aimed to help the public get a better understanding of populism; it also led to the creation of The PopuList, which, thanks to country experts, categorises European political parties as populist, far right, far left and/​or Eurosceptic –​yet another thread connecting the interviews in this first part. Rooduijn, one of the most brilliant and prolific minds when it comes to studying populism, describes the latest developments in the field, the current trends, the fruitful contaminations between populism research and other fields.

1 TYPES OF POPULISM Benjamin Moffitt

Let’s start with the reasons that brought you to study populism: why choose this among so many different topics? Moreover, is there a particular work that inspired you and contributed to your understanding of populism? My political ‘coming of age’ aligned with the rise of Pauline Hanson in Australia in the late 1990s, so I was fascinated and somewhat puzzled by the appeal of populism as a teenager. Then I did an undergraduate thesis on race riots in Sydney in the mid-​2000s, got very much into populist theory via the work of Ernesto Laclau, and never really looked back. The reason I still find populism so interesting is that it is exists on the borders of lots of categories we use in politics –​it’s not quite democratic, but it’s also not undemocratic; it’s incredibly emotional, but it isn’t irrational; it can be dangerous, but it can also be a much-​needed corrective to elite rule. It’s an unsettling and difficult phenomenon. Besides the highly influential work of Laclau and Mouffe, it is Benjamin Arditi’s Politics on the Edges of Liberalism. Difference, Populism, Revolution, Agitation (2007) that really inspired me to think carefully about the ‘grey zones’ of politics, rather than seeing political categories like populism in black and white. In your book Populism (Polity, 2020), you describe with great clarity three main approaches to the study of populism. Which are these three approaches, and to what extent do they overlap? The three broad approaches to populism that I talk about in the book are the ideational approach, the strategic approach and the discursive-​performative approach. The ideational approach sees populism as an ideology, a set of ideas or a worldview. This approach is typified by the work of Cas Mudde, Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Kirk Hawkins and Jan-​Werner Müller, and often revolves around the idea of populism being a ‘thin’ ideology that must always be attached to ‘thick’ DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-2

6  Benjamin Moffitt

ideologies. It is particularly influential in the comparative politics, party politics, and growing ‘populist attitudes’ literatures, and arguably is most often applied to European cases of the phenomenon. The strategic approach sees populism as a type of electoral strategy or mode of organisation.This approach is typified by the work of Kurt Weyland, Robert Jansen and Kenneth Roberts, and has almost exclusively been applied to cases in the global South (and particularly to Latin America). This approach grants particular importance to the role of personalist leadership in populism, along with the idea that populists rely on unmediated, quasi-​direct appeals to ‘the people’ as they seek to bypass ‘regular’ intermediaries such as parties or clientist networks when organising lowly institutionalised social sectors. This approach has been influential in the area studies literature. The discursive-​performative approach sees populism as a type of discourse or performance.This approach has its roots in the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, and is typified by the work of the ‘Essex School’ influenced scholars such as Yannis Stavrakakis and Francisco Panizza; Critical Discourse Analysis scholars such as Ruth Wodak; and those who focus on the sociocultural and performative dimensions of populism, such as Pierre Ostiguy and myself. This approach focuses on populism’s constitutive role in creating the political subject of ‘the people’ and has been applied to arguably the most regionally diverse set of cases of populism of the three approaches. This approach has had its greatest impact in the area of political theory and political philosophy. The significant overlap between all three lies in the fact that they all, to some extent, agree that populism revolves around a clear divide between ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’. They may add some additional criteria here or there, but this division remains core to all approaches, and I think it is fair to say that any scholar of populism would note that this divide is what makes populism different to just appealing to ‘the people’, which after all, pretty much every political representative does in democratic systems today. All approaches also, to some extent, acknowledge the important role of the populist leader (without necessarily seeing them as essential to a populist project). Where there are significant differences between the three comes down to the questions of whether populism is a binary or gradational concept; and whether it is an attribute of political actors, or a practice. On the former question, the ideational approach tends to adopt a binary, Sartorian view of populism: a political party, leader or movement ‘is’ either a populist or not. The strategic and discursive-​ performative approaches, meanwhile, see populism as a gradational concept –​they acknowledge that a political actor can be ‘more or less’ populist over time. On the latter question, the ideational approach sees populism as an attribute of political actors –​a worldview or ideology is something you ‘hold’ –​and is thus a feature or inherent trait of a political actor; whereas the strategic and discursive-​performative approaches see populism as something that is done by political actors –​it is a practice.

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Ernesto Laclau argued that ‘there is no socialism without populism, and the highest forms of populism can only be socialist’. However, Chantal Mouffe’s idea of a socialist project expressed through a populist appeal seems to be on the wane both in Latin America and Europe. Is it fair to say that left populism has not been as effective as it was assumed, and what are the main causes for its fluctuating performance compared to the success of right-​wing populism? Well, if you are tallying whether the populist right or the populist left has had more success over the past decade or so, it’s obviously clear the populist right has come out on top. And more so, the idea that populism on the left can beat populism on the right has not played out too well empirically. As a result, one cannot help but feel that Mouffe’s call for a left-​wing populist project was a few years too late. The European ‘left populist’ moment seems to be on the wane: Syriza abandoned many of its socialist goals, particularly after the capitulation to the troika in the aftermath of the 2015 Greek bailout referendum, and lost government to its right-​wing rival, New Democracy, in 2019; La France Insoumise remains somewhat marginal in France; and Podemos suffered a slide in several recent elections, but is obviously playing a major and important role in the era of Covid-​19 Spain given its coalition with the Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE). If one looks to Latin America, the picture is even worse. The populist version of 21st-​century socialism has completely curdled: Chávez’s populism has given way to Maduro’s outright authoritarianism, creating a humanitarian crisis that the UN Refugee and Migration Agencies has called ‘unparalleled in the modern history of the region’; Rafael Correa’s successor and former vice president, Lenin Moreno, actively sought to roll back Correa’s socialist agenda and moved in a far less populist direction, and Evo Morales, the last of the three central ‘pink tide’ populist leaders left standing, was overthrown in a right-​wing coup. All that remains, really, to hope for in terms of left populism in the region at present, is AMLO in Mexico, and his response to the pandemic was not encouraging, nor has his response to femicide in the country. The idea behind the push for left populism is that the language of class was too limiting and out-​of-​date for our current political moment. But even this seems to be in question. Class (rather than the language of ‘the people’) seems to be back on the table to some degree in several places. The setting where this is most obvious is the United States, where talk of ‘democratic socialism’, the Green New Deal popularised by Alexandria Ocasio-​Cortez, the rise of new periodicals such as Jacobin and Current Affairs, and the re-​emergence of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has seen socialism, not populism, become the catchword for progressive politics, particularly among young people. One can also see strands of this renaissance of class politics in the United Kingdom, where Momentum’s role in the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party, along with a perceived leftward shift in the party’s policies at the time, could be read through the lens of class, and hence socialism, rather than necessarily through the lens of populism.

8  Benjamin Moffitt

This all being said: I don’t think one can really extricate the fluctuating performance of the populist left compared to the populist right from the struggles of the left more broadly in the contemporary political landscape. It’s not necessarily that the populist left is flailing –​it’s that the broader (electoral) left is flailing. There are different forms of populism that avoid nationalism and vice versa, although the two concepts are often conflated because they happen to come together in ‘nationalist-​populist’ packages. In the context of the Covid-​19 pandemic, do you think that nationalism will become even more successful, or is this a chance for populism to become transnational and represent ‘the people’ beyond national borders? I think this has very clearly been a moment for nationalism –​borders were closed, we retreated into our nation-​states for some time, and freedom of movement still doesn’t look like it did pre-​Covid-​19 in many parts of the world. But I don’t think nationalism is a side effect of coronavirus –​I think nationalism (and particularly nativism) was doing pretty well before coronavirus, and that coronavirus has exacerbated the trends that already existed. In this context, I do not hold particularly high hopes for transnational populism for now –​the transnational populist experiment of DiEM25 has had very limited success, and the Progressive International that was launched by DiEM25 and the Sanders Institute hasn’t had much traction. And I think that is somewhat of a shame, given that there were some genuinely novel aspects in their electoral experiments in terms of trying to construct and represent a transnational ‘people’. What I think we can probably expect to see more of is a right-​wing variant of what Benjamin De Cleen and I have called ‘international populism’ –​something that has been empirically explored in depth by Duncan McDonnell and Annika Werner –​where right populists in different countries will continue to join together to fight against transnational organisations like the WHO and EU in the post-​pandemic era. This will not, like transnational populism, involve the explicit claim to represent a transnational ‘people’ in the singular, but the (temporary) joining together of ‘peoples’ of different nation-​states in order to take down ‘the elite’. Viktor Orbán has explicitly stated his desire to turn Hungary into an ‘illiberal democracy’. Is populism actually synonymous with ‘democratic illiberalism’, as Takis Pappas argues, or is it rather an ‘illiberal democratic response to undemocratic liberalism’, as argued by the likes of Mudde and Mounk? I don’t think it is either. While I admire Pappas’ work greatly, I don’t see populism as a regime type or system of governance, which is what I understand a concept like ‘democratic illiberalism’ designates. Nor do I completely agree with Mudde or Mounk, in their insistence that populism is always illiberal. I think the reality is much more complex. On the one hand, there are right-​wing populists increasingly

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reconfiguring liberal tropes for their own purposes, claiming to be brave defenders of free speech, justifying limiting immigration from certain countries in order to protect gender and sexual equality, or even clearly self-​identifying as liberals. On the other, there are left-​wing populists who often extend their conception of ‘the people’ to include various minority groups, which on the face of things seems to be in line with pluralism and liberalism. To add to this confusion, ostensibly liberal ‘mainstream’ politicians have become increasingly adept at adopting the policies, discourse and style of populists in recent years, particularly on the right, which means that there is an increasingly blurry line between what is illiberal and liberal and what is mainstream and populist at the moment. This is not to say that populists ‘are’ liberals. The populist radical right’s commitment to liberalism of course seems to operate merely at a discursive level: arguments about free speech, gender equality and the rights of sexual minorities are often put to use to articulate a ‘liberal illiberalism’ that ultimately seeks to exclude others –​this is clear in the recent work of Aurelien Mondon and Aaron Winter. The populist left’s engagement with liberal values also operates at a discursive level, with a more pluralistic and heterogenous conception of ‘the people’, but I think it can sometimes extend to a programmatic level, with some left-​wing populists defending the rights of persecuted minorities within their party platforms (although this does not always translate into concrete action).Where populists, of all ideological stripes, are clearly illiberal is when it comes to institutions. We all know the populist playbook in this regard –​attack the press, attack the judiciary, stack independent bodies with loyalists, all in the name of returning power to ‘the people’ against faceless unelected officials. Where one stands on this ‘is populism synonymous with illiberalism or not?’ all circles back to the question of whether one sees populism primarily as an ideology or as a discourse. If populism is a discourse, then there is little problem with seeing it as compatible with liberalism or pluralism: if populists can construct ‘the people’ as a diverse and heterogenous group (as many left populists do), then we can rightly say that they are pluralists, because the discourse –​what they say, how they speak, how they construct different identities within their systems of meaning –​is what matters. If we see populism as an ideology, however –​something that is more deep-​seated, existing either as a clearly articulated political programme or as a set of attitudes –​ we are on shakier ground for considering populism’s liberal credentials, given the way in which populists have clearly undercut basic liberal conditions of what is considered necessary for a liberal democracy to properly function. I think overall what is important to note is, as Michael Freeden has argued, ‘there can be substantial morphological overlap between the concepts and vocabulary of populism and liberalism’. Hence, we should be wary of seeing the line between liberalism and populism as too clearcut and instead take notice of how, why and when they intersect in the contemporary political landscape. Conceptual binaries are nice, but they often don’t account for the messiness of political reality.

10  Benjamin Moffitt

Bibliography Arditi, B. (2007). Politics on the Edges of Liberalism. Difference, Populism, Revolution, Agitation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Moffitt, B. (2020). Populism. Cambridge: Polity.

2 150 YEARS OF POPULISM Hans-​Georg Betz

You have been publishing very important work on populism since the 1990s: what are the main reasons that brought you to study this topic? And can you name a particular work or author that inspired you and contributed to your understanding of populism? I got interested in the topic during my dissertation research in the 1980s. At the time, parts of the German peace movement started to raise the question of German (re)unification as a means to overcome the confrontation between East and West. At the same time, on the right, there was the foundation of the Republikaner, a radical-​right-​wing populist party that originated in my home state, Bavaria. By sheer coincidence, a leading figure of the new party lived in my parents’ neighbourhood. I had the opportunity to talk to him and then interview the leader of the party in Munich. The sudden –​and rather short-​lived –​rise of the Republikaner was associated with a number of questions and issues that would inform much of my work in subsequent years: the political mobilisation of resentment (on the German right over the question of German guilt and the responsibility to confront the past), the support the party received from ‘ordinary people’ who had previously voted for the Social Democrats, and the question of Islam, which was already raised by the Republikaner way before it became a central trope on the radical populist right. The Republikaner had close ties with several similar parties in Western Europe, most notably the Front National and the Vlaams Blok. As a result, I started reading the early literature on these parties. Here, Cas Mudde’s study of the ideology of the extreme right from 2002 was absolutely essential. A second literature that had a major impact on my work were studies on 19th-​century American populism (Michael Kazin, Charles Postel) and nativism (John Higham, Tyler Anbinder, Dale Knobel).

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-3

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To understand contemporary phenomena like Donald Trump, we should go back in time: what are the historical roots of nativism in the United States? American nativism has its roots in Anglo-​Saxon Protestantism. Even before the American Revolution, there were strong strains of nativist sentiments, particularly against German settlers. In the mid-​1750s, German migrants in Philadelphia were accused of possessing ‘odorous clothing’ and ‘causing bad weather’. Reluctant to learn English, they were seen as ‘innately stupid’ and ‘ignorant people’. For Philadelphia’s upper bourgeoisie, including Benjamin Franklin, the Germans were clearly ‘racially’ inferior compared to their Anglo-​ Saxon neighbours. Nativist passions erupted with great intensity in response to the first wave of mass immigration in the 1830s and 1840s. Here the main targets were Irish Catholics. Antebellum nativism reflected traditional ethno-​ culturally inspired Anglo-​Saxon contempt for the Irish and a violent repugnance for the ‘tyrannical popish faith’ deemed to be fundamentally incompatible with American republican values. The nativists sought to defend and protect the country’s cherished Anglo-​ Saxon Protestant heritage and assure its continued supremacy. The nativists formed a number of secret associations, mainly in the north-​eastern states, among them the American Party (aka the ‘Know Nothings’) in the early 1850s. Ironically, Donald Trump, the descendant of a German immigrant, adopted the spirit and rhetoric of traditional Anglo-​Saxon nativism and made it central to his political strategy. Can we say that Trump’s victory, based among other things on the promise to build ‘the wall’ with Mexico to protect the border, marks the final triumph of the Know Nothings 150 later? No. The Know Nothings of the 1850s never sought to put a complete halt to immigration to the United States. Instead they sought to extend the period after which an immigrant could become an American citizen to 21 years –​equal to the time span it took a ‘native-​born American’ to attain full citizen rights. The Know Nothings were less concerned with immigration per se than with immigrants being allowed to vote before they were fully assimilated into American society. The antebellum nativists believed that immigrants could –​and should –​be acculturated; today’s nativists are convinced that immigrants –​particularly Hispanics –​are not interested in acculturation. This is what is behind contemporary ‘English-​only’ demands, but also various conspiracy theories claiming that immigration from Latin America, and particularly Mexico, is the first step in a strategy of Reconquista.

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A few decades after the Know Nothings, and a couple of hundred miles further West, populism resurfaced in the US in the discourses of the People’s Party: in this case, the target was mainly corporate capitalism and the collusion between Wall Street and the political establishment. Did the People’s Party manage to steer clear of nativist talk? The People’s Party was a progressive movement (at least for its time), which to a large extent eschewed nativist temptations. This was particularly the case with regard to anti-​Catholic sentiments, which, at the time, were again running rampant; in fact, a number of leading Populists, among them Mary Lease and Ignatius Donnelly, were Irish and Catholic. However, there were two exceptions. One was Anglophobia, largely directed against English absentee landowners and companies deemed harmful to the interests of farmers (in Colorado, for instance, companies that bought up water rights on which farmers depended for their survival) and particularly bankers, associated with the Gold Standard. The farmers held the Gold Standard responsible for falling commodity prices following the ‘demonetisation’ of silver. The other exception was anti-​Chinese sentiments, particularly in California and the north-​western territories. The hostility against Chinese ‘coolies’ was particularly strong among organised labour (the Knights of Labour), which was part of the larger populist coalition. Once the People’s Party disintegrated following the disastrous election of 1896, nativist animosities flared up among some former populists. This was the case with Tom Watson from Georgia –​vice presidential candidate for the Populists in 1896 and once a vocal advocate for a populist alliance with African American farmers –​ who turned into a vicious promoter of anti-​Catholicism and anti-​Semitism as well as a leading driving force behind the disenfranchisement of African American voters. Who was Georges Ernest Boulanger? And what kind of nativism was proposed by the members of the Boulangist movement? Boulangisme was a populist movement, which for a few years shook the fin-​de-​ siècle French political establishment. It is named after Georges Ernest Boulanger, a popular general whose impeccable republican credentials earned him the position of War Minister. His tenure proved short-​lived, however. Relieved both of his ministerial and military position, Boulanger entered politics. His electoral successes quickly alarmed the political establishment. Accusing him of plotting to overthrow the Third Republic, they forced him into exile. During his short political career, Boulanger gathered around him an ideologically heterogeneous movement ranging from Blanquists on the far left to royalist monarchists on the far right. Boulangisme was vehemently anti-​establishment (which they blamed for political immobilisme), anti-​German (not surprisingly given the humiliating outcome of the Franco-​ Prussian War) and, to a certain extent, anti-​Semitic.

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When did Muslims start being perceived as a ‘problem’ and to be exploited as scapegoats by populist and nativist movements? The first time radical-​right-​wing populist parties referred to Islam and Muslim was in the late 1980s/​early 1990s. A flyer of the German Republikaner, for instance, claimed that Islam was bent on establishing ‘religious world domination’. In the early 1990s, the Front National warned that Islam was ‘in full expansion’. History had shown that a ‘durable peaceful coexistence between the Christian nations of Europe and the Muslim oriental nations’ was impossible. A cartoon on the back of a Vlaams Blok (now Vlaams Belang) pamphlet from that period depicted a Muslim couple walking down the street. Noticing a Flemish couple behind a window, the Muslim migrant said ‘we should do something about these foreigners’. Here the Vlaams Blok anticipated Renaud Camus’ notion of the ‘great replacement’ nowadays promoted by Eric Zemmour. These references to Islam and Muslims were, however, only peripheral to these parties’ anti-​foreigner rhetoric. There was no mention of Islam representing an ‘ideology’. It was only with the war in ex-​ Yugoslavia and especially the Kosovo question that the discourse on Islam assumed a new intensity. A second factor was the growing public visibility of Islam and the growing demands on the part of Western Europe’s Muslim migrant communities, particularly with respect to building mosques and minarets. Compared to the US, the combination of nativism and populism is more consolidated in Europe. For decades, parties such as Lega Nord, Front National, and the Dansk Folkeparti have articulated populist and nativist discourses (with good electoral results). Why does Europe have such a strong tradition of nativism and populism combined? The United States has always considered itself as a country of immigrants. What kind of immigrants, however, was always highly contentious. Until recently, European countries have maintained not to be countries of immigration. Migrants were generally seen as temporary ‘guest workers’ who would eventually return to their country of origin. European societies considered themselves homogeneous communities, seen as indispensable for maintaining comprehensive welfare states. Europe’s radical populist right plays on these themes. A prominent example is the Front National’s promotion of preference/​priorité nationale, central to Marine Le Pen’s ‘social turn’. Maurice Barrès, who was elected in 1898 as a Boulangist at the Chamber of Deputies, proposed a populist project that was supposed to bring together nationalism and socialism. Should we list him as one of the intellectual ‘founding fathers’ of the (now dédiabolisé) Front National? Maurice Barrès is a controversial figure. He defended the heritage of the Revolution and promoted himself as a left-​wing socialist (in the French, not Marxist, tradition). Yet he was also a prominent voice of anti-​Semitism and the anti-​Dreyfus right. His

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‘national socialist’ project was meant to reconcile the French working class with the republic in order to regain national cohesion as a basis for the revival of the French nation.While a large part of the traditional (Vichyite, anti-​Semitic, or Catholic fundamentalist) extreme right (vehemently anti-​Revolution and anti-​de Gaulle) has been expelled from the FN by Marine Le Pen, Barrès’ organic nationalism based on ‘rootedness’ (enracinement) and identity (identité) continues to be a point of reference for the new FN. In Europe, right-​wing populism is perceived as a ‘dangerous pathology threatening to undermine liberal democracy’, due to its nativist component. However, it looks as if liberal democracy is also threatened in Latin America, where populism is normally more inclusive (the case of Venezuela being a textbook example). Isn’t it possible to conclude that populism, with or without nativist elements, is a threat to liberal democracy? Populism is a political doctrine that calls for a direct form of democracy reflecting the ‘genuine’ will of ‘the people’. This assumes that the people know exactly what they want, and that their will is unanimous. In its most extreme form, populism amounts to the tyranny of the majority, via a (often, but not necessarily) charismatic leader who promotes him/​herself as the reflection of the people.This is why populist regimes, such as Orbán’s in Hungary, tend to seek to undermine and ultimately paralyse the mechanisms of liberal democracy with its checks and balances. Relying on democratic institutional arrangements such as elections and popular referenda, they bring about a fundamental transformation of the institutional system via a process of ‘revolutionary constitutionalism’, which follows formally democratic procedures but is highly illiberal. Is there any example of right-​wing populist parties that are not nativist, and vice versa? And do you believe that contemporary right-​wing populist movements are successful because of their nativist elements or rather because of their populist discourses? Right-​wing populist parties are nativist parties, which vigorously reject the notion of equality. Otherwise, the notion of national preference makes no sense. Nativism, on the other hand, is not necessarily associated with populism. Populism is always anti-​elite. There is no good reason to suppose that an elite cannot harbour nativist sentiments. As far as contemporary radical-​right-​wing populist parties are concerned, we tend to underestimate their populist appeal. Some prominent scholars in recent years have even suggested that parties such as the Front National should be labelled as ‘anti-​immigrant parties’.This, however, ignores the extent to which they mobilise anti-​elite/​anti-​establishment ressentiments. In fact, a number of prominent contemporary radical-​r ight-​wing populist parties, such as the FPÖ and the Lega (Nord), only gradually adopted an anti-​foreigner discourse well after they had successfully mobilised widespread popular animosities against the ‘system’ and its representatives

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(Proporz in Austria, Roma Ladrona in northern Italy). It should also not be forgotten that populism cum nativism is not always successful. The German Republikaner, for instance, were relatively successful mobilising against the West German political establishment in the years prior to unification. Then they started to mobilise against various migrant groups, only to disappear from the political scene following unification. Moreover, I recently reread Howard Palmer’s book on nativism in Canada, primarily in Alberta. At one point, he discusses Social Credit, a populist movement that emerged in the 1930s when nativism in Canada reached new heights given the depression. Social Credit had rather authoritarian tendencies and appealed to some extent to anti-​Semitism.Yet Social Credit never mobilised against immigrants. On the contrary, it actually had some immigrants (including Catholics and Mormons) in leading positions and gradually attracted a majority of the immigrant vote. Ironically, decades later, Preston Manning’s Reform Party, which had its roots in Social Credit heritage, was nativist and anti-​immigrants. Let’s now go full circle. The 19th century saw industrialisation and mass immigration. At the origin of nativist resentment, there is mass immigration (again) and de-​industrialisation (the other side of the coin of the industrialisation process). Is it possible to conclude that socioeconomic turmoil is a powerful trigger for right-​wing populism? Socioeconomic turbulence and displacement are important factors. The two great 19th-​century populist mobilisations in the United States occurred at a time when the country faced profound economic depressions. These were, however, also periods of widespread political disaffection, profound disenchantment with the political class, which was largely seen as corrupt and in collusion with economic and financial interests. The same could be said about the more recent waves of populist mobilisation. It should not be forgotten that the first successful radical-​r ight-​wing populist mobilisations occurred in some of the most affluent countries and regions in Europe: the Scandinavian Progress parties, the Lega Nord, the FPÖ and the Vlaams Blok. It is also true, however, that over time most of these parties increasingly appealed to what the French call couches populaires, that is, blue-​collar manual workers, routine service sector workers, and so on. On the one hand, this reflects a response on their part to socioeconomic and socio-​political change, from growing job insecurity to growing pressures on the welfare state; on the other, it reflects a response to the fact that what used to be called ‘the left’ appeared to increasingly ‘give up’ on them, pursuing instead identity politics (take, for instance, Holland making marriage pour tous a top priority at the beginning of his tenure while the country suffered from mass unemployment) and/​or adopting the neoliberal creed (Gerhard Schröder was popularly known as Kanzler der Bosse). Worse, both the political and intellectual left have created the impression that they have nothing but contempt and disdain for ordinary people, seen as parochial and xenophobic if not racist and too

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narrow-​minded to understand the benefits of multiculturalism and globalisation. Here the question is not primarily socioeconomic –​even if it is tied in with it –​but sociocultural. It is a question of dignity and recognition, of social status and identity. Far-​reaching technological change engenders profound anxieties and anguish which, in turn, provoke substantial emotional responses, such as anger and resentment. This is increasingly recognised in the literature on the radical populist right as a prime motivation for voters to support these parties. From this perspective, support for these parties might be characterised as an expression of the notion that ‘we are not worthless’, ‘we still count’.

Bibliography Betz, H.-​ G. (2017). ‘Nativism across Time and Space’, Swiss Political Science Review, 23(4): 335–​353. Burns, M. (1984). Rural Society and French Politics: Boulangism and the Dreyfus Affair 1886–​ 1900. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Knobel, D. T. (1996). ‘America for the Americans’: The Nativist Movement in the United States. New York: Twayne. Postel, C. (2007). The Populist Vision. New York: Oxford University Press. Sternhell, Z. (1972). Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po.


As a historian, what brought you to study populism? Is there a study that particularly inspired you and shaped your understanding of populism? I did not set out to study populism as an historian in the strict sense. I came to the topic via a detour –​more specifically a detour in political philosophy where the populism debate had its own distinct prehistory and dynamics, and the general public debate around the ‘p-​word’. One anecdote in particular stuck in my mind: I heard a French radio commentator comparing newspaper reports about ‘populism’ in 1964 and 2004. He noted how the public perception of the term had completely shifted in the intermittent time, from mildly descriptive to deeply condemnatory. Something clicked: two snapshots in time, one pejorative, one neutral, even ‘majorative’, an entire history, both intellectual and political, buried in the intermission. It was only when my dissatisfaction with the contemporary populism literature travelled in this historical direction that my historical study of populism actually took off. Several writers were important for this shift. Above all, it was the work of Marco D’Eramo and Yannis Stavrakakis on the roots of the contemporary populism discussion that opened my eyes to these uncovered layers in the debate. Both traced this exclusively negative conception of populism back to a particular episode in post-​war American historiography: the 1950s revisionist debates, when scholars such as Richard Hofstadter, Seymour Martin Lipset and Daniel Bell began an ambitious and far-​reaching re-​reading of the original American Populist movement that gave us the term ‘populism’ in the late 19th century. I quickly saw one could build a fruitful research programme out of it. At the time, I did tend to see the entirety of the post-​war populism debate as somehow based on a primary mistake or a primal sin which could not be redeemed. This meant a clear hesitancy in applying the term ‘populism’ today. The attitude has cooled considerably since, and I think DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-4

Brief History of American Populism  19

a distinction between present and past populisms already gets us a long way. But if I wanted to understand the architecture of our current debate, I had to retrain as an archaeologist –​and that’s exactly what I did. Following an historic approach, you decided to read the official documents produced by the late nineteenth-​century American Populist movement, the first self-​declared ‘populist’ movement in modern history. What made the Populist Party so successful at the time, to the point that in the 1890s they had several seats in the US congress? The most boringly predictable, but unfortunately correct, answer is that they tapped into powerful currents of discontent in American society. Yet in and of itself this is not a sufficient explanation –​discontent is an almost perennial condition of modernity. As the historian of Populism, Lawrence Goodwyn, once put it, history hardly supports ‘the notion that mass protest movements develop because of hard times’. In his view, ‘depressed economies or exploitive arrangements of power and privilege may produce lean years or even lean lifetimes for millions of people, but the historical evidence is conclusive that they do not produce mass political insurgency … times have been “hard” for most humans throughout human history and for most of that period people have not been in rebellion’. It was because Populists were able to channel and organise that discontent in a particular direction and make it intellectually articulate that the movement was able to gain that measure of success. Precisely because they offered farmers a specific calculus of risk –​unite in cooperatives for lower prices, or continue to slide into debt and poverty –​that they won political success. Once they realised that these cooperatives could not force prices up when the overall supply of money was kept depressed, political action became the next logical step. And only the state could turn on the monetary tap. The success of this populism is thus best explained by two factors: the older democratic tradition which many (male) American citizens could draw on and which created a specific economy of expectations –​farmers did experience ‘status anxiety’ in that sense, as Hofstadter liked to say. Second, the organisational density of the Alliances and the party circles was of paramount importance to convincing farmers that they could defer income to win political power. Without these factors, it is unlikely that Populism would ever have ascended to such heights and left such a lasting legacy. In what ways do you think the Populist Party can help us understand contemporary populism? Is populism, after all, just an irrational response of backward farmers to the challenges of modernity? First, we must begin by admitting some obvious similarities between both populist episodes. In many ways, these farmers were hardly ‘backward’. By the start of the Civil War, most American farmers lived at least ten miles from railroad tracks. Yet their integration into this new capitalist order was also uneven. Finally, as writers such as Laclau have long noted, Populism can be understood as a form of political conflict which cannot be comprehended in classical Marxist categories: when

20  Anton Jäger

classes do not crystallise, the implicit subject of every modern capitalist democracy, ‘the people’, is inevitably reactivated. Two factors thus connect our populist present to this populist past: many farmers experienced their dependency on the market mainly through credit, and that their central subject was the ‘people’. Travelling back in time to the late 19th century is an extremely instructive experience in that regard.Yet we should also be aware just how quickly similarities end. Today’s populism is heavily leader-​centric, top-​down, and averse to organisation. It thrives on the decomposition of classical forms of mediation. Today’s populism is notoriously vague and indeterminate on questions of policy and programme; unsurprising given that parties and programmes often go hand in hand. American Populism was in fact one of the largest social movements in American history and left a concrete policy legacy. Today’s populism has certainly proved destabilising for many liberal democracies. Yet it is not clear its policy legacy is that memorable or distinct. As Christopher Bickerton has pointed out, in fact many populists seem to intuitively defer to technocrats when push comes to shove. In government, they prefer to delegate questions of administration to specialists. Partly out of necessity because they lack the right personnel, partly out of choice, given that their own ideology elevates the people as ‘expert’ above all other groups –​the ‘people-​ as-​expert’, as Bickerton calls it. These present stark differences from the type of realist reformism espoused by the first Populist movement in world history, which had clear policy plans and left organisational legacies from Progressivism to the New Deal. You looked at the use of the term ‘populism’ over time and across contexts. In particular, you observe how travelling from the Americas towards Europe during the 1960s the term took a mildly meliorative and neutral meaning. However, in the early 1980s a pejorative understanding of the term became customary. How do you explain this shift? The lexicographical career of ‘populism’ is complicated. We are in fact not dealing with an age-​old word which can be traced back to the age of the classics, even though the ‘populares’ faction and the notion of a ‘populus’ have their roots there. The word ‘populism’ was in fact coined in the 1890s by an opponent of Populism who wanted to help a colleague on a train journey. The Democratic organiser, William Rightmire, was bothered by the fact that there was no shorthand for an ‘affiliate of the People’s Party’ like there was for ‘Democrats’ or ‘Republicans.’ David Overmyer, a friend who was a trained lawyer and who knew his classics, suggested the term ‘populist’, which quickly caught on. For a long time, usage of the ‘p-​word’ was an exclusively American affair, and it must be emphasised just how slow the uptake of the word was outside of the States. In the 1930s, Vladimir Nabokov would write commentaries on a ‘populist’ manifesto and French writers would reclaim it, but these were limited examples. By the 1950s, translations began appearing in Spanish, English and Italian –​the historian Franco Venturi, for instance, accepted a translation of his book on Russian

Brief History of American Populism  21

‘Narodnichestvo’ as ‘populism’ in 1955, while modernisation theorists such as Edward Shils and David Apter began using it for anti-​colonial movements in the Third World and South America. For the most part, this was an exclusively academic affair. American journalists grew fonder of the appellation of ‘populism’ for all types of populism in the late 1960s. It is only by the late 1970s, however, that the word finds a secure place in European debates. One of the key agents here turned out to be the French political scientist, Pierre-​André Taguieff, who first typified the Front National as ‘national-​ populist’ in 1984. This was a symbolic date as well: one year after Mitterrand’s turn to austerity, and just after the Front first broke through its electoral ceiling. The term ‘national-​populist’ had both analytical and political inflection to it at the time. Analytically, it spoke to a world in which the fascist menace had been defeated and capitalist democracy was the only game in town. This ‘post-​historical’ mood obviously contributed to a sense of populist banality. At the same time, a new form of democracy was also arising in Europe: disconnected from older parties and mainly structured around leaders rather than bases. With the decomposition of these categories of mass politics across the 20th century, the implicit subject of every modern democracy –​‘the people’ –​became a much likelier subject for democratic representation.Thinkers such as Pierre Rosanvallon, Pierre Manent and Marcel Gauchet have in fact reached a similar conclusion: modern democracy is not declining or disappearing but has rather been sent back to its origins: the revolutionary big bang of 1789, when the bourgeois revolutions made their first claim in the name of the ‘people’. It is no surprise that the word ‘populism’, despite its many faults and inaccuracies, would prove to be an irresistible label for this curious compound of old and new. Thomas E. Watson championed poor farmers as a leader of the Populist Party and failed to become vice president of the US in 1896. In your work, you analyse his literary production and note that despite his anti-​monarchism he developed a predilection, almost an obsession, for leaders like Napoleon, shifting from republicanism to autocracy. Similarly, while in the 1890s Thomas E. Watson was an advocate of Black voting rights and was favourable to the role of women in politics, he later had a nativist turn, attacking Black and Jewish people.What lessons can we learn about populism in general from these paradoxes and tensions typical of Watson’s populism? Watson certainly is one of the most bewildering, not to say frightening, characters in the annals of populism –​even American history as such. In the early 1890s, he was a staunch proponent of bi-​racial action in the South and sought an alliance between the former Confederacy and the Midwest. By the middle of the 1890s, when Populism’s electoral fortunes were fading and Democratic pressure was mounting, he already watered down this commitment. By 1898, however, he had clearly switched tack and sought the full disenfranchisement of Southern Blacks. He of course retained a commitment to Populism’s original articles of faith –​anti-​ monopolism, the criticism of usury, critiques of land concentration. But he now saw

22  Anton Jäger

racism as a much better glue for his ideology. Industrialists and moneylenders needed Black labourers to break strikes or buy Democratic votes, while socialists halted their enlisting into a peasantry and gave them unfair market advantage. Watson’s planter ideology thus kicked both upward and downward: to the Jewish socialists and financiers and to the remaining Black tenants or sharecroppers. Together, these outsiders stopped the alliance between patricians and plebeians of the pre-​bellum South. Populism scholars have also gladly used him as prototypical, not to say foundational, for their theories of populism as an instance of illiberal reaction. Yet Watson was hardly representative of Populism as a whole. In fact, many former Populists came to inhabit the American Socialist Party together with many Jewish refugees in the 1900s and 1910s –​the party even ran its most impressive tallies in rural towns. In 1892, the Populists ran a Jewish businessman for mayor in San Francisco. Many ex-​Populists turned away from Watson’s later phase. The codification of the new Jim Crow was a response to cross-​racial class organising in the South which Populism symbolised. Watson’s life is a graphic and fascinating example of the contradictions at the heart of the Populist ideal, how the ‘people’ can both include and exclude at the same time, and how some Republicans could turn into Bonapartists –​and we should treat him as such. He shows that ideologies of the ‘people’ as republican rulers can always revert to exclusionary variants. It also shows that defenders of popular sovereignty can be tempted to look for scapegoats when their systemic solutions fall short. Yet these ‘ideologies of frustration’ are not unique to Populism, and there are enough cases of liberals or socialists who underwent similarly spectacular reconversions. Across the 20th century, racism and anti-​Semitism have cropped up across the spectrum. We should always be able to account for Watson as a possible option for populist currents. But generalising from Watson to the tradition as a whole is as untenable as its opposite –​Populists could either become Watson or they could become Eugene V. Debs, Socialist Party presidential candidate and committed anti-​racist.

Bibliography Bickerton, C. and Accetti, C. I. (2015). ‘Populism and Technocracy: Opposites or Complements?’ Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 14: 1–​21. D’Eramo, M. (2013). ‘Populism and the New Oligarchy’, New Left Review, 82: 5–​28. Gauchet, M. (2021). Macron: les leçons d’un échec. Paris: Stock. Goodwyn, L. (1978). The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America. New York: Oxford University Press. Manent, P. (2017). ‘Populist Demagogy and the Fanaticism of the Center’, American Affairs 1(2): 12–​13. Rosanvallon, P., Le siècle populiste: histoire et théorie. Paris: Seuil. Stavrakakis, Y. (2017). ‘How Did “Populism” Become a Pejorative Concept? And Why Is This Important Today? A Genealogy of Double Hermeneutics’, Populismus Working Papers, 6: 1–​28. Woodward, C.V. (1938). Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel. New York: Rinehart and Company.


As a historian, what sparked your interest in populism? Is there a specific author or work that was crucial in your decision to study populism? The lack of conversation between historians and populism scholars in other social sciences is very unfortunate. Whereas historians study processes that are part of the history of populism but often do not use the concept of populism, populism scholars tend to ignore the historical work that is done on this phenomenon. By failing to consider the historical context in which populists operated, some authors fail to understand that Getúlio Vargas in Brazil and Juan Perón in Argentina were outstanding examples of Latin American populism. For this reason, I value the work of two types of authors: those who embrace a more global view of populism, and those who consider the historical dimension of populism. For example, I value the work of Ernesto Laclau, who was trained as a historian but who strangely did not include much historical context in his work; but I also think it is essential to go back to the work of Gino Germani, who was not a historian but was interested in the historical developments of populism beyond Europe. The work of Argentine historian, Tulio Halperín Donghi, was of equal importance to me, and I think it is essential to read more recent studies from political thinkers, such as Nadia Urbinati and Andrew Arato, who are interested in the historical elements of populism. My motivation to study populism came about with the realisation that history, as a discipline, could learn from other disciplines while making its own contribution, and that our understanding of populism would be enriched by this connection. I noticed a common problem in the study of both populism and fascism: a Eurocentric view that hides and ignores the actual connections between Europe and the rest of the world. As a result, I felt compelled to observe what happened to fascism after 1945 because while fascism was no longer viable in Europe, it DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-5

24  Federico Finchelstein

transformed itself into populism in power first in Latin America and then elsewhere. When writing on the history of fascism, I stressed that fascism destroyed democracy from within, whereas post-​war populists like Perón destroyed dictatorship from within to create a new democracy, namely a populist version of democracy. Then I started looking for similar patterns across the globe and I realised that, indeed, post-​war populism from Brazil to Venezuela, Bolivia and beyond offered a third way between liberal democracy and communism, combining elements of the previous authoritarian regimes with democratic elements. Populism is not fascism, but at the same time it represents its continuation with democratic means. In your book (2017) you study the ideological affinities and substantial political differences between the two. What are the commonalities between fascism and populism, and what are the main differences? I observed what happened to fascism after 1945 from a historical perspective. In Latin America, once the geopolitical context changed, actors like Vargas and Perón who came from a fascist background had to engage in democracy to be successful. They kept some elements of the previous authoritarian experience while leaving other elements behind. Therefore, populism has several points of contact with fascism. For example, the nation is reduced to the persona of the leader who in turn embodies the popular will, as well as the religious elements that make both fascism and populism a sort of political cult or theology. Indeed, both populism and fascism rely on what Nadia Urbinati calls majoritarianism, which is based on a double reduction: the notion of ‘the people’ is reduced to the idea of followers, and the followers are reduced to the figure of the leader. Moreover, both are anti-​liberal because they reject constitutional and liberal democracy, a rejection rooted in their lack of respect for legal and institutional boundaries, checks and balances, the role of a free press and civil society. However, the way in which populism and fascism articulate these elements sets them apart. In particular, there are four pillars of fascism that distinguish populism from fascism. The first is violence, or the militarisation of the political sphere. Populism might resort to violence, but violence is not a structural element of populism. The second is the politics of xenophobia, or racism, which generates the extreme demonisation of the enemy. This kind of discourse, which the German socialists defined as the ‘socialism of the imbeciles’, was no longer viable after World War II and became a toxic element. While you cannot understand fascism without racism and xenophobia, racism is not the main driver of populist politics.The third element is a propaganda based on lies: populists lie like any other type of politician, but they do not aim to change the world in accordance with their lies, which is typical of fascism. In fascism, lies are not only central but become self-​fulfilling prophecies. Take for example a famous Nazi lie, that Jews are dirty and spread diseases: in the ghettos and concentration camps the Nazis artificially created the conditions to make this anti-​Semitic lie become ‘true’. The fourth element is dictatorship:Vargas and Perón are former dictators that, after 1945, engaged in the electoral process and

The Fascist Roots of Populism  25

their legitimacy was not based on permanent power but on electoral outcomes; this is not the case for fascism in power, which cannot exist without dictatorship. These differences between fascism and populism give us a better understanding of the most recent developments, where some of the authoritarian elements of fascism that populism discarded after 1945 have become part of populist movements across the globe. The success of Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Nerandra Modi, Viktor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte, among others, suggests that populism might be moving towards fascism: when populism adopts those four pillars of fascism that were left behind after World War II, it ceases to be populism and (re)becomes fascism. If you consider Bolsonaro,Trump and Modi, the militarisation of politics is central to their political action. Similarly, racism and the extreme demonisation of the opponents is now central in the rhetoric of new far-​r ight populist actors in Italy. To give another example, Trump launched his presidential campaign by engaging in racist accusations against Mexicans. Compared to ‘classic populists’ like Silvio Berlusconi, Perón or Hugo Chávez, these newer populists also resort to the way of fascist lies as a central element of their political action. As we have seen during the pandemic, Trump, Bolsonaro, and Salvini try to accommodate the world to their lies and not vice versa. Finally, we have to consider the fourth element, dictatorship, which is a deal breaker. If this element is also present, what we are witnessing is no longer populism but fascism. On 6 January 2021, Trump refused to participate in the movement he helped to generate and the attempted coup was not successful; if he had done otherwise, I would not hesitate to call him a fascist dictator. Similarly, Bolsonaro is destroying democracy from within by saying that he would not recognise the electoral results if they were negative for him but populism does not normally do that: the idea of the leader achieving permanent power is certainly fascist and not typical of post-​ World War II populism. What we are observing is still populism but it is also would-​ be-​fascism, because we are witnessing a process in which populism is unmaking itself. One of my seven books is titled From Fascism to Populism in History (2017), but if populism adopts the four pillars of fascism I described above, what we witness is the reversal of the phenomenon, namely from populism to fascism. Whether this will actually happen remains an open question. Why do you think that the process of populism becoming increasingly similar to fascism is taking place now? Is it because the atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust are now sufficiently distant, and the stigmatisation of that past is fading away? After World War II, fascism became a toxic ideology because the outcome of its policies had been catastrophic. Italy, for example, wrote an antifascist constitution, and both Germanies were rebuilt on some antifascist foundations. In Western Europe, the vivid memory of the fascist past led to an increased legitimacy for democracy and a decreased legitimacy for dictatorship. Not only was fascism often banned by law, but neofascism was not a successful option in elections for many years.

26  Federico Finchelstein

I think history is central for democracy, and probably the temporal distance from the fascist past combined with a failure to educate citizens and the new generations about how devastating that past was, have contributed to the recent authoritarian developments. We see an example of this in Chile, when failed candidate José Antonio Kast said that Pinochet eventually embraced democracy. This revisionist, nostalgic way of recuperating the past, which we can also see with VOX in Spain, transforms the authoritarian past into a myth exploited for present propaganda. You claim that populism is fascism adapted to democracy.While this can be intuitive for populist radical-​right actors, how can it be true for left-​wing populism? Wouldn’t it be more correct to say that left populism was born out of communism? Many studies on populism in Western Europe tend to see the glass half full because they only see populism in the opposition, but studying the history of populism in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina, where you can observe populism in power, offers a more complete picture. After 1945, Latin American populists both in power and in opposition were initially sympathetic to fascism or even collaborated with the previous dictatorships. As Antonio Costa Pinto observes, while interwar authoritarian regimes were anti-​liberal but not necessarily fascists, they can be described as fellow travellers of fascism. The populist actors that came to power after 1945 were previously either fascists or fellow travellers of fascism, and left populism in many Latin American countries later emerged from the same tradition. This is an empirical, historical point, not a theoretical one. It is not possible to say that every single populist movement after 1945 has fascist origins, but populism in power certainly had those origins. At the same time, conflating right and left populism would be a mistake. Ernesto Laclau argues that the creation of an internal barrier between the people and the enemy is crucial for populism but that it is a rhetorical barrier; in contrast, the demonisation of the enemy in fascism leads to its elimination through violent means. The destruction of the enemy is rooted in a notion of the people which is both religious and racial. Populism, in its post-​war reformulation of fascism in a democratic key, presents a notion of the people which is defined by the demos. At the same time, populism is intolerant and therefore authoritarian and non-​ pluralistic because the demos is composed of whoever follows the leader. Overall, after 1945, populism was initially generated as a democratic adaptation of fascism, keeping some elements but discarding others. Isn’t it paradoxical to claim that modern populism was born out of fascism, when populists usually argue that they are defending the people from tyranny and dictatorship? How can populism always be authoritarian but also democratic at the same time? After World War II, populism reformulated fascism in democratic terms, including both democratic and authoritarian elements. From a populist perspective, this is the

The Fascist Roots of Populism  27

best possible expression of the will of the people: following the fascist critique of representative democracy, populism offers a vertical solution in which the will of the people is expressed directly by the leader. However, fascism destroys civil society whereas populism tends to be intolerant of civil society and intermediary bodies if they do not confirm the will of the leader. Once again, the importance of the role of the leader emerges much more clearly when you study populism in power. The idea that a single person can bridge the gap between the people and the power by embodying the will of the people is essentially an authoritarian idea that goes back to absolute monarchy and later fascism. Once again, in recent times we have been witnessing a shift from populism towards fascism: while the notion of classic populists like Chávez or Berlusconi was rooted in the demos, for new populists that are unmaking the democratic component of populism like Bolsonaro,Trump, Modi and Salvini, the idea of the people is rooted in the demos but also in the ethnos, which is at the base of the fascist notion of the people. The distortion of fascist history in general, and Nazi history in particular, has been a fundamental feature of the new populist brand, as you claim in your book, A Brief History of Fascist Lies (2020). How did we arrive at the situation in which right-​ wing populist leaders accuse the Antifa movement of being fascist, in a complete reversal of historical reality? Debunking lies is not always effective because the word of the leader is often believed as an act of faith: what else can be done? Understanding how to defend ourselves against these lies is central for democracy, and I think we can learn from the history of antifascism and those successful cases where fascism did not succeed. It is important to create popular fronts where broad segments of society unite to defend the constitution from those who want to destroy it. In the election of Joe Biden in the United States we saw something similar, where the centre-​left and even a number of conservatives united against those who wished to destroy democracy. Importantly, these lies rely on the demonisation of independent media, so we need to continue supporting and choosing independent media as our source of political information. Of equal importance is the fact of participating in politics and defending key elements of civil society, such as voting and exercising our right to protest. At the same time, we have to avoid the kind of apathy that characterised Europe in the 1920s and 1930s or Argentina or Chile in the 1970s. Fascists, and fellow travellers of fascism, succeeded when those who should have defended democracy looked the other way, including state institutions such as the judiciary and the security forces. A clear example of this is Brazil where the judiciary is contesting Bolsonaro’s attempts to destroy Brazilian democracy while the role of the security forces is more ambiguous, and this is why the outcome of this process remains to be seen.

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Bibliography Finchelstein, F. (2017). From Fascism to Populism in History. Oakland: University of California Press. Finchelstein, F. (2020). A Brief History of Fascist Lies. Oakland: University of California Press.


As an expert on critical discourse analysis, what sparked your interest in populism? Can you recommend an author or work that you consider particularly relevant to approach the topic of populism? I started my research on Jörg Haider in the early 1990s; Haider became the leader of the populist far-​r ight Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) in 1986. His trajectory towards the top became obvious in 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell and many migrants travelled to Austria from the former Communist bloc. Haider was certainly a charismatic figure, very clever and entertaining. He created a lot of ironic neologisms, used punchy metaphors, and was well trained in what we then came to recognise as ‘neurolinguistic programming’. Thus, he launched a specific way of propaganda and debate by attempting to destroy the opponent instead of finding a consensus (‘eristic argumentation’). He opposed the elites and constructed his party as the representative of men and women in the street, while endorsing a nativist notion of the people –​the Volk –​which he identified as the ‘real’ and ‘pure’ Austrians. He also endorsed a revisionist narrative of the past, and never clearly distanced himself from statements in praise of Nazi policies or considered anti semitic. This initial phase of the populist far right, back in the 1980s, was closely connected to intertextual references to National Socialism in Austria, fascism in Italy, and Philippe Pétain and the Vichy regime in France. I concluded that it was salient to consider the context in which the far right thrived, and to understand the history of these different parties. Far-right populism triggered much interest because the post-​war consensus, based on the assumption that we have to collectively avoid the repetition of that horrible past, was intentionally and provocatively disrupted. Haider was successful in breaking the post-​war consensus to the point that, in 1999, he obtained 26.9 percent of the votes in the national election, which resulted in the first post-​war government in the EU to include a populist DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-6

30  Ruth Wodak

far-​r ight party. Austria was already a member of the EU at the time, and the other 14 member states sanctioned the Austrian government, leading predictably to a nationalist backlash. This was how Haider, but also Jean-​Marie Le Pen and Silvio Berlusconi, created a new post-​war consensus that was no longer based on a clear condemnation of the authoritarian and fascist past. To approach the topic of far-right populism, I recommend The Haider Phenomenon in Austria, a reader I co-​edited with Anton Pelinka (Wodak and Pelinka, 2002) in which we describe this particular phenomenon and the strategic breaking of taboos. I would then recommend Cas Mudde’s work, in particular his paper on the populist Zeitgeist (2004). After the 2000s, research on populism took off with the work of political scientists like Hanspeter Kriesi,Yannis Stavrakakis, Ernesto Laclau, Cas Mudde and so on, soon becoming a mainstream subject. This was not the case in the 1980s or the 1990s: in 1999; for example, when the so-​called black and blue government in Austria was formed, I was actually told by the Austrian Academy of Science that I should not focus my research on Haider and far-right populism because it was ‘not interesting’, a ‘marginal topic’. It was, in fact, an attempt to censor my work but I continued my research on this topic even though my research centre at the Academiy where I worked at the time was closed down. It might seem incredible, but –​at that time –​the research agenda of the Austrian Academy of Science did not include anti s​emitism and racism. Over time, the perception of the importance of populist radical-​r ight parties increased: first in the aftermath of the 9/​11 terrorist attacks, then with the effects of the 2008 economic crisis, until the so-​called ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015 constituted yet another trigger. You studied racist and misogynist insults on the part of Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump during press conferences, concluding that these violations of the traditional moral order are part of a far-​right populist agenda of shameless normalisation (Wodak, Culpeper and Semino, 2021). Are the boundaries of the ‘sayable’ being shifted by right-​wing populist actors like Trump and Berlusconi? Are ‘bad manners’ becoming increasingly normalised in the political debate? Yes, this is the case, although the breaking of taboos is not new because all populist far-​right leaders have done that. The real change occurred with Trump: after him, populist far-​right leaders no longer had to apologise. Even though Haider just offered formal and half-​hearted apologies, he still apologised. Even Berlusconi apologised, albeit with jokes and by staging spectacles. Trump did not care if he was lying or not, if he made terribly sexist remarks, or if he adopted any kind of immoral behaviour. Nowadays, to use the words of Paul Feyerabend, ‘anything goes’: with Trump, truth ceased to matter. Journalists of the Washington Post tracked all of Trump’s misleading claims and calculated that, by the end of his term, Trump had accumulated 30,573 lies, averaging about 21 erroneous claims a day. The New York Times collected all the insults and attacks that Trump posted on Twitter from the declaration of his candidacy in June 2015 to January 2021 when Twitter permanently barred him. We are talking about 6,000 to 10,000 insults, depending

Far-right Populist Discourses  31

on how you count them. These tweets, by the way, reveal two important things: the limitations of Trump’s lexicon, but also how much he relied on the rhetoric of repetition typical of the propagandist. Leo Löwenthal and Norbert Guterman (1949), both from the Frankfurt School and in exile in the United States, wrote a seminal book on propaganda which is still extremely relevant nowadays, and Trump fully corresponds to the description they provide of the agitators, or ‘prophets of deceit’. In recent years, many scholars have debated whether or not we are going towards a 2.0 version of fascism. Some argue that in many regards the situation is similar to the 1930s, while others claim that we are actually witnessing the growing success of far-​right politicians who compete in free and fair elections. From a discursive point of view, what is your take on this? It is a complicated issue, but I believe that we are shifting towards authoritarianism rather than traditional fascism. Building on violence and systematically relying on military groups is something that distinguishes fascism from today’s authoritarian leaders. Mussolini and his camicie nere (blackshirts) were a fascist movement, Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary are certainly neo-​fascists. In the case of Trump, the Proud Boys and other neo-​Nazi organisations might have supported him but they were not his troops. Trump used the ‘Grand Old Party’ to gain power, but was not an ideologue. He is rather an opportunist, a bit Machiavellian: first he was a democrat, then he became a republican, he was against forbidding abortion and then in favour: he simply utilised anything that helped keep him in power. Many radical-​r ight and neo-​Nazi groups helped him to remain in power, as did his racism and promises to build a wall, but none of this makes him a fascist in the sense of the 1930s. Rather than having a clear agenda and ideology,Trump took decisions that would ensure he remained in power. Similarly, the former Austrian Prime Minister, Sebastian Kurz, is not an ideologue: he just stratigically planned and did everything he had to do to come to power and remain there. He incorporated much of the agenda of the far right because this allowed him to capture part of the far right’s electorate, and he did not care about contradicting himself if it increased his electorate. However, contrary to Trump or Berlusconi, Kurz is not a demagogue, he does not own the media, he is not rich, and he cannot mobilise the crowds. He is also not an entertainer … He is a cynical and strategic persona. For these reasons, I do not see an immediate danger of fascism but rather of authoritarianism (Wodak, 2021b). Authoritarianism can be exemplified by the Hungarian case: Viktor Orbán is a Machiavellian leader who was first a liberal and then became far right, he changed the constitution, and he undermined the parliament, hollowing out the democratic system. Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom: they all try to strategically undermine the democratic system, the judiciary, press freedom, and the functions of the parliament. This is why the danger of authoritarianism is looming.

32  Ruth Wodak

During the pandemic, political leaders have used different strategies to mitigate the ‘dread of death’ (Wodak, 2021a), while some governments have used the pandemic for their authoritarian aims. How did populist politicians frame the situation compared to non-​populist ones? Do you think the pandemic will be a boost for nationalism and populism, or will mainstream, established actors gain from it? It depends on the context. There is no doubt that where far-​ r ight populists are in power, such as in Hungary, Poland, Brazil and so on, they were able to instrumentalise the pandemic to impose ever stricter ‘law and order’ measures, push securitisation even further, close the borders, and undermine the parliament. In this regard, Orbán is the prime example because he has deprived parliament of its power and in the spring of 2020 assumed total command during the pandemic while suppressing any form of opposition. The pandemic certainly made it easier for far-​ right populists in power to implement an authoritarian turn. However, consider someone like Trump: he managed the pandemic very badly and more Americans died than during the Vietnam War; thus, he was punished at the 2020 elections. Like many other experts, I believe that Biden won the elections also because of Trump’s Covid-​related policies, otherwise he would have probably lost. Therefore, we observe that populists in power obtained different results. The scenario changes again if we look at countries where far-​right populist actors are not in power. Those governments that responded by taking strict measures received huge support at first, generating a ‘rally round the flag’ effect. Angela Merkel, Giuseppe Conte and Sebastian Kurz, for example, received a lot of support and their popularity initially increased. In these countries, the far right returned to its old agenda and tools, protesting against the elites and the government. For example, in Austria and Germany you encounter segments of the population that consistently believe in conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, or George Soros, and who believe that by opposing the government they are fighting for democracy and freedom, against any kind of control. The far right found a new niche and received a fair amount of support among the people who protest against the government’s measures. At the 2021 elections in Upper Austria, a new far right, one-​issue party emerged that was created uniquely around the opposition to the measures introduced to tackle the pandemic. This party, called ‘Austria People –​ Freedom –​Fundamental Rights’, received 6.23 percent of the votes and three seats, mobilising the electorate especially in communities with many unvaccinated people. Different strategies were adopted according to the different contexts. The far right acted differently according to its role when in power or in the opposition, and in some countries the far right fell back into its traditional anti-​establishment habitus. But the developments are even more complex: though part of the government in Italy, Matteo Salvini’s Lega is also sending messages that appeal to those who are critical of the government. In other words, Lega is trying to retain its credibility as an opposition party by relying on the strategy of calculated ambivalence. In this sense, Lega is in a ‘difficult position’ because, as part of the government, they cannot

Far-right Populist Discourses  33

oppose these measures but at the same time they need to address some of the electorate that is critical of the government. Which are, in your opinion, the most interesting directions for future research concerning populism? Which are the best questions we can ask? I think it is important to look at the normalisation process of the far right, studying how the far right has succeeded in transforming the political culture. At the same time, we must analyse the counter discourses that are opposing the far right because they can teach us how to counter such shifts. Moreover, I think we should focus not only on the far right but also consider the bigger picture and investigate how the rest of the political system has reacted and adjusted to such discursive and material shifts. For example, we should ask whether the left has accommodated to the far right, like in Denmark, or whether it has returned to its traditional positions, like in Portugal. Similarly, we should study the conservative parties and how they adapted to the emergence of the far right. We know that, in many countries, the conservatives have adopted part of the far right’s agenda, contributing to its normalisation, which in turn has contributed to the conservative crisis as argued by Jan-​Werner Müller (2021). Conservative parties are in crisis because they lack their own agenda and copying the far right will not solve their problems but only make them worse. Moreover, it is essential to focus on new social movements like Fridays for Future, Black Lives Matter and Me Too, because they shed light on the rapid changes we are witnessing. Will they become parties, and if they do, will they manage to shift the agenda or will they disappear like the Occupy movement? In short, we have to focus on other pieces of the puzzle, and not only on the electoral performance of the populist far right.

Bibliography Löwenthal, L. and Guterman, N. (1949). Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator. New York: Harper and Brothers. Mudde, C. (2004). ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition, 39(4): 542–​563. Müller, J.W. (2021, 15 October). Konservatismus ohne Eigenschaften. Der Standard. Retrieved from www.ders​tand​​story/​200013​0433​218/​kon​serv​atis​mus-​ohne-​eigens​chaf​ten Wodak, R. (2021a). ‘Crisis Communication and Crisis Management During Covid-​19’, Global Discourse, 11(3): 329–​353. Wodak, R. (2021b). The Politics of Fear: The Shameless Normalization of Far-​right Populist Discourses (2nd edn). London: Sage. Wodak, R., Culpeper, J. and Semino, E. (2021). ‘Shameless Normalisation of Impoliteness: Berlusconi’s and Trump’s Press Conferences’, Discourse & Society, 32(3): 369–​393. Wodak, R. and Pelinka, A. (eds). (2002). The Haider Phenomenon in Austria. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.


Can you tell us what fascinates you about populism? What is your favourite piece of research on populism, and why? The thing I find most fascinating about populism is its ‘chameleonic’ nature, to echo Paul Taggart (2000), a feature that allows us to explore such a phenomenon using a variety of research perspectives and methods.Working on populism is never boring, and it was essential to develop my own research agenda because it stimulated me to critically revisit some of the key assumptions made by the ‘traditional’ literature on party competition and party systems. My favourite piece on populism is the book Radical Right-​Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe, edited by Tjitske Akkerman, Sarah L. de Lange and Matthijs Rooduijn. I liked this book because it does a great job of dealing with the complexity of the mainstreaming process rather than just adopting the outdated and oversimplistic challenger-​outsider paradigm, as often happens in the literature. Your study, ‘Varieties of Populist Parties and Party Systems in Europe’ (2020), constitutes an excellent overview of populist parties across Europe. Two-​thirds of contemporary populist parties are integrated in the political system, while only a third are relegated to the margins. Is it possible to claim that populist parties are the ‘new normal’? And how can you explain that populism relies on anti-​elitist concepts while being part of the political system? Yes. Better still, the integration of populist parties is the ‘new normal’ of European party systems. In many countries, populist parties are key players in the coalition game and are also required to give life to governmental majorities. Once favourable political conditions exist, a process of (re)legitimation between the populists and the major non-​populist actor(s) can replace years of reciprocal hostility, and this can

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-7

The Integration of Populist Parties in Europe  35

occur very rapidly. The increasing integration of populist parties into national political systems (i.e. coalition game and/​or government) is part of a broader process of the normalisation and legitimation by more ‘conventional’ mainstream actors, but also in the media and public debate. This is particularly evident in the case of populist radical-​right parties, given the unprecedented importance of nativism in the public debate as well as in the agendas of more traditional competitors. However, this does not mean that the normalisation and legitimation is limited to right-​wing populism; instead, albeit probably less evident in comparison with the latter, populist parties of other ideological varieties play an important role especially in Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. That said, on the question of ‘how populism relies on anti-​elitist concepts while being part of the political system’, it is important to recall that anti-​elitism is a key part of the self-​identity and ideational profile of a populist party, whatever its specific variety. If a populist party ceases to be ideationally anti-​elitist, it also ceases to be populist. In this respect, the key point is rather how the populists can be perceived as authentic in their anti-​elitism despite integration. Anti-​elitism needs to be credibly articulated; even though in many cases the actual policy achievements of populist parties in office are limited, they can remain credible in the eyes of the voters if they manage to deliver the image of being ‘proactive’ actors, irrespective of the actual outcomes. This can be achieved by adopting a narrative of the following type: we (really) tried to do y, but for x reasons (independent of our control) it was not possible … and this often takes the form of blame-​shifting directed against ‘the elites’, ‘the deep state’ or ‘strong powers’! Hence, anti-​elitism can be credibly articulated both in government and opposition. But it requires agency and skills. Agency is essential for the sustainability of populist parties following their integration into national political systems, and we can see that such actors are increasingly able to cope with the pressures of cooperation with non-​populist parties and government participation alike. A clear indication of this is provided by the fact that in many countries populist parties are ‘within the mainstream’, as indicated by a key role in the coalition game and, often, by a record of repeated participations in national governments. What is striking is that populist parties entering the mainstream usually do so ‘untamed’. Indeed, while the populists usually undertake a process of programmatic adaptation in view of their integration into electoral coalitions or government, they generally do not moderate their core ideology. The rise of such an untamed mainstream is one of the key developments of European party systems in recent decades, which challenges crucial assumptions of the traditional approaches to the study of party competition and party systems, most notably Sartori’s conceptualisation of anti-​system parties. This is why I developed a revisited conceptualisation (2018; 2019): I distinguished between ‘truly’ anti-​system parties, which are at the margins of the party system, and negatively integrated parties, which are within the mainstream.

36  Mattia Zulianello

Let’s have a closer look at the 66 parties you identify as populist. Where are they positioned on the left-​right political spectrum? And what are those parties that you call ‘valence populism’? Can you give us some examples? Among the 66 parties I analysed, the vast majority can be located on the right side of the political spectrum (68.2 percent); among this broad category, the most populated sub-​g roup is represented by populist radical-​r ight parties (31), followed by national-​conservative populists (ten) and a few neoliberal populists (four). Next, only 16.7 percent of contemporary populist parties are found on the left side of the political spectrum: a tiny majority of them (six) qualify as typical ‘social populists’, while the others (five) combine socialism with some form of nationalism. Finally, to refer to the remaining populist actors (15.1 percent), I introduced the term of ‘valence populist parties’. Such parties are commonly found in Central and Eastern Europe, with prominent examples including GERB in Bulgaria, ANO 2011 in Czechia and the List of Marjan Šarec in Slovenia, although a prominent example was also found in the West, the Five Star Movement in Italy. Valence populists are characterised by a high degree of the competitive flexibility, as they primarily focus on non-​positional issues, for instance competence, moral integrity, democratic reform, performance and anti-​ corruption appeals. These features are very similar to those evoked by the existing definition of ‘centrist populist party’, but I consider the latter label misleading, precisely because valence populists lack a clear ideological positioning: sure, they are neither left nor right, but they cannot be located in the ‘centre’ either. Of course, valence populists may adopt more or less clear stances on a limited range of positional issues, but even the latter are primarily informed by an unadulterated (or pure) version of populism. Indeed, the ideational core of valence populists is constituted by populism alone: the absence of ‘thick’ ideologies such as nativism or socialism make the positions adopted by valence populists flexible, free-​floating, often inconsistent and very much influenced by the structure of political opportunity. This degree of flexibility and inconsistency would be unlikely if a ‘thick’ ideology was present, as the latter profoundly shapes, and somehow ‘constrains’, the policy options available to a party. As usual, when speaking of populism, there is much confusion around terms and definitions. Can you tell us what features distinguish populist parties vis-​à-​vis anti-​ establishment, challenger, and outsider parties? Well, tons of ink could be spent replying to this question. I will try to focus on the most important differences. First, it is very important to underline that none of the three terms are synonyms, despite the fact that they are often treated as such. I realised the extreme degree of confusion characterising the conceptual debate on ‘anti’ during my PhD thesis, which was published by Routledge (2019). Although there are different conceptualisations of the terms ‘challenger’ and ‘outsider’ parties, the most common approaches refer to a specific location of a party in the party system: in the case of the former, the absence of governmental experience; in the

The Integration of Populist Parties in Europe  37

latter, the exclusion from the coalition game. As such, populist parties are not necessarily challengers nor outsiders. On the contrary, around 40% of contemporary populist parties have government experience (and this percentage is rising), while around two-​thirds are variously integrated in very visible cooperative interactions in the political system. This includes, but is not limited to, the ability and willingness to use coalition potential, participation in pre-​electoral coalitions or full participation in national office with the major parties in the system. Finally, in relation to the term ‘anti-​establishment’, it depends on how we define it: if we use it to indicate, inter alia, the unwillingness of a party to cooperate with the ‘mainstream’, then populist parties are not necessarily anti-​establishment; in fact, only a minority would qualify as such. However, if we avoid assuming specific behavioural tendencies and delimit the term to refer only to the ideology of a given party (which is more appropriate, in my view), then populist parties are always anti-​establishment in ideational terms, given their emphasis on anti-​elitism.The point is that this ideational orientation is increasingly disjointed from the role of a populist actor in the party system. In other words, for many populist parties, the anti-​establishment ideology is not accompanied by an anti-​establishment (or uncompromising) behaviour in the party system. In order to go beyond the existing problems with the anti-​establishment characteristics of populist parties, you propose a new classification. Non-​integrated, negatively integrated and positively integrated populist parties.Which kind of parties belong to the three groups? Why is this classification more precise than previous ones? My new classification was inspired precisely by the increasing integration of various types of political parties without the concomitant occurrence of substantial ideological moderation, something that was somehow overlooked in the classical works of Giovanni Sartori. This led me to the development of a revisited concept of anti-​system party (Zulianello, 2018), which later served as the foundation for the comprehensive empirical analyses of the challenges faced by such parties that I carried out in my book (Zulianello, 2019). Subsequently, I realised that a fruitful field of application was the comprehensive analysis of the different interaction streams characterising contemporary populist parties (Zulianello, 2020), especially in the light of the terminological and conceptual confusion in the academic debate. Following Sartori’s classical conception, populist parties, at least in fully liberal-​democratic contexts, would qualify by definition as anti-​system (given his focus on party propaganda). However, empirical reality suggests that there are huge differences among populist parties in terms of the actual role played in their own national contexts. Hence, following my conceptualisation, I consider anti-​system parties to be only the populist parties that, in addition to questioning crucial elements of the status quo, most notably the liberal-​representative elements of the political regime, are also at the margins of the party system. These are ‘non-​integrated’ populist parties, which do not simply challenge the system in ideational terms but also adopt an uncompromising, antagonistic posture vis-​à-​vis ‘the system parties’

38  Mattia Zulianello

and represent a systemic constraint especially in view of a possible extension of the area of government. Examples in this respect are constituted by the Alternative for Germany, Flemish Interest, the Sweden Democrats. However, as I mentioned above, only a minority of contemporary European populist parties are actually anti-​system following my conceptualisation. Instead, the vast majority of them are integrated into the national political systems, meaning that they are involved in important and very visible cooperative interactions at the systemic level, which indicates that they have crossed the threshold of legitimation. Most notably, the integration of populist parties can be either ‘negative’ or ‘positive’. In fully-​fledged liberal democracies, the integration of populist parties is invariably of the ‘negative’ type because, despite their involvement in cooperative interactions, they remain ideologically opposed to one or more key features of the status quo.Typically, the populists target the political regime; in some cases, however, they also challenge the configuration of the political community or the (capitalist) economic system. Noticeable examples of negatively integrated populist parties are represented by the Czech ANO 2011, the League in Italy, and Podemos in Spain. On the other hand, in flawed democracies or non-​democracies, the integration of populist parties may well be of the ‘positive’ type, meaning that, given the illiberal nature of such regimes, their ideational profile may be in a symbiotic relationship with the status quo, its values and practices, as shown in particular by the case of Fidesz in Hungary, but also by the Serbian Progressive Party. Hence, the utility of my classification is precisely the capacity to distinguish the very different roles played by populist parties in contemporary party systems, rather than forcing this heterogeneity into oversimplistic assumptions, which are in the end unrelated to the empirical reality. For instance, the League is a paradigmatic case of a negatively integrated populist party; however, even though it is the oldest parliamentary party in Italy and has a long record of participation in national governments, it is still considered by some scholars as a ‘challenger’ or ‘outsider’ party … Talking of positively integrated populist parties, you write that ‘in hybrid or fully authoritarian contexts, populist parties may well be “positively” integrated into the system, meaning that they share its underlying values, as shown by the cases of Hungary, Russia and Serbia.’What are the implications of this finding for the future of liberal democracy in Europe, in particular concerning popular sovereignty and pluralism? This finding is simultaneously intriguing and disheartening. Whereas the authoritarian nature of the Russian regime is not the consequence of the actions of populist parties, in the cases of Hungary and Serbia the process of de-​democratisation was actively pursued and achieved by the ruling right-​wing populist parties: Fidesz and the Serbian Progressive Party, respectively. Indeed, as I argue in the article, ‘precisely these parties changed the sources of legitimation upon which the political regime itself is built’. For instance, Fidesz transformed Hungary into a ‘(competitive)

The Integration of Populist Parties in Europe  39

authoritarian regime’: this means that ‘its illiberal values are now fully enshrined in the national political regime, despite EU membership’. This is what I find particularly disturbing: the ‘positive’ integration of Fidesz was not due to a process of ideological moderation of the party vis-​à-​vis the system; on the contrary, it occurred because Fidesz changed the system to make it symbiotic to its illiberal values.The fact that this occurred in the very heart of the European Union should remind us not to drop the guard against illiberalism.

Bibliography Akkerman, S. L. de Lange and M. Rooduijn (eds) (2016). Radical Right-​wing Populist Parties in Western Europe: Into the Mainstream? Abingdon: Routledge. Taggart, P. (2000). Populism. Buckingham: Open University Press. Zulianello, M. (2018). ‘Anti-​system Parties Revisited: Concept Formation and Guidelines for Empirical Research’, Government and Opposition, 53(4): 653–​681. Zulianello, M. (2019). Anti-​ System Parties from Parliamentary Breakthrough to Government. Abingdon: Routledge. Zulianello, M. (2020). ‘Varieties of Populist Parties and Party Systems in Europe: From State-​of-​the-​Art to the Application of a Novel Classification Scheme to 66 Parties in 33 Countries’, Government and Opposition, 55(2): 327–​347.


Before we talk about expert surveys and how to determine to what extent a party is populist, can you tell us how you came to studying populism? And can you recommend to our readers a piece of literature that particularly influenced you? I became particularly interested in populist politics during my Master’s degree in the European Studies programme of the KU Leuven, Belgium. In my (qualitative) Master’s thesis, I explored in-​and out-​g roup delineation in the discourse by far-​r ight politician Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid). My PhD dissertation at the Hertie School in Berlin focused on the question of whether anti-​EU parties have a ‘contagious’ effect on mainstream parties –​ pushing mainstream parties to be more Eurosceptic. Anti-​EU politics and populism are closely linked in European politics, both among citizens and in parties’ political ideologies. The book that most influenced my research on populism is perhaps the 2007 book by Cas Mudde, Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. The book’s unique quality was to distinguish the different concepts related to populist radical-​right ideology –​distinguishing between populism, nativism and authoritarianism. Also, I love the case-​level detail the book offered on virtually all of Europe’s populist radical-​right parties. This type of qualitative, descriptive work is essential for our understanding of politics. Unfortunately, we do not seem to value this enough as a discipline.While I have done largely quantitative political science research, my PhD dissertation also contained a number of chapters that descriptively traced Europe’s political parties’ positioning in the European Union. Doing this research, I became acquainted with Europe’s parties –​considerably expanding my horizons as a comparative politics scholar.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-8

Measuring Populism in Political Parties  41

Tell us about the Populism and Political Parties Expert Survey (POPPA). What kind of survey is it, which countries and which parties does it include? The Populism and Political Parties Expert Survey (POPPA) is an expert survey spanning 250 political parties in 28 European countries launched by Andrej Zaslove and me at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.The expert survey set out to measure populism in political parties as a latent construct with a continuous measure. The project started out in 2016 as I was working on a paper on the relationship between populism and political parties with Arndt Leininger. We were looking for an authoritative list of political parties. Now we have the great resource PopuList led by Matthijs Rooduijn, but that did not exist at the time. Therefore, Arndt and I came up with a list of populist parties based on extensive literature reviews, not unlike the PopuList.Yet in our literature review, it was sometimes extremely hard to adjudicate which parties were populist and which were not.This is because scholars have relied on different definitions of populism, and have applied these definitions in different ways. This made it hard to put together an authoritative list. To remedy this problem, Andrej Zaslove and I had the idea putting that question to the experts and developing an expert survey. Some argue that, following Sartori, a party can be classified as populist or non-​ populist.You, on the other hand, prefer a continuous approach, telling us ‘how populist’ a party is.Why do you think this approach is better? Andrej and I felt that the usual Sartorian dichotomous approach (i.e. which party is populist and which party is not) is not complete. Some parties are more populist than others. Also political commentators in the media often use phrases such as ‘a very populist party’, which suggests that populism is a matter of degree. This is especially clear when looking at ‘border-​line’ cases. Is the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) populist? What about the German Die Linke (Left Party)? Should we put it in the same category as the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) and the AfD? The same goes for nativist parties like the Italian Forza Italia (Go Italy) or the Flemish N-​VA. Our expert survey data shows that these parties are indeed border-​line cases of populism as they show moderate levels of populism. Why do you think that expert surveys are the best way to measure European parties’ populism? First of all, I think it is important to stress that all methods for measuring party positions and ideology have their strengths and weaknesses. Expert surveys are a reputational method. That is, they measure the reputation of a party among informed experts. As such, it is an indirect measure. But we believe this way of measuring populism is helpful for the concept of populism. First, the literature has long recognised that populism has multiple dimensions: people-​ centrism,

42  Maurits Meijers

anti-​elitism, Manichean worldview, and the belief that people are homogeneous and that their interests are unitary. Populism is thus multi-​dimensional. Our measurement of populism should reflect this multi-​ dimensionality. Moreover, this multi-​dimensionality means that populism is a latent construct. That is, populism is not something that is directly observable, but can only be measured if you measure the constitutive dimensions of the populism concept together. Therefore, we believed we should measure populism in a multi-​dimensional way that allows us to construct a latent variable of populism –​and that is what the expert survey allowed us to do. Another reason why we prefer to use an expert survey of populism over textual approaches is that populism can be very context dependent. The amazing research by Kirk Hawkins, Bruno Castanho Silva and Levente Littvay (and many others) shows that the level of populism differs across different types of speeches and texts. There is more populism to be found in speeches than in manifestos, for instance. Hawkins and Littvay show that Trump is much more populist when he uses a teleprompter (i.e. reads a speech written by speech writers) than when he speaks freely. If we want to test hypotheses about the context dependency of populism, these sources are extremely valuable. But if we want to get an overall picture of how populist a certain party is, the context dependency can be limiting, as we also argue in our Comparative Political Studies paper. Experts can take the entire information environment into account, which can boost its external validity –​but perhaps at the cost of precision. The survey also measures other aspects of the parties, such as their ideological positions and characteristics pertaining to their organisation and political style. So what type of party emerges as more populist? Is there a difference between left-​and right-​wing parties? The expert survey also included questions about political style, measured as parties’ propensity for emotional appeals and whether they portray politics as complex or not, and about party organisation, measured as personalised leadership and intra-​party democracy. We see a clear linear relationship between our latent populism variable and the items on political style.Yet some highly populist left-​wing parties are less likely to make emotional appeals and portray politics as common sense. Regarding the party organisation variables, we also see a linear relationship between populism and personalised leadership and the degree to which the party commits itself to intra-​party democracy, but this relationship is less strong. The German CDU and the Dutch GroenLinks (GreenLeft) are both marked by clear personalised leadership. This strongly echoes Cas Mudde’s arguments that these variables do not necessarily point to populism. At the same time, we also see that if people rely on stylistic or party organisation definitions of populism, they are likely to come up with a list of populist parties that is broadly similar –​despite important differences.

Measuring Populism in Political Parties  43

Unexpectedly, the survey seems to suggest that some centrist parties are very populist, such as M5S in Italy or the Cypriot Citizen’s Alliance (SYPOL). How would you explain this finding? Is it possible that these are populist parties that are very hard to place on a left-​right continuum? Mattia Zulianello would include them in the category of ‘valence populism’. Andrej and I both believe it is crucial to separate populism from its attaching ideologies. As our data shows, some populist parties are strongly nativist, others are not. Some populist parties are strongly left-​wing on redistribution issues, others are not.This is important as it allows us to explore and understand the variation among populist parties. For instance, some radical-​r ight populist parties support very conservative moral (family) values, while others do not at all. From that perspective, it is not very surprising that some populist parties can be found in the centre of a ‘general’ left-​r ight scale. The Five Star Movement in Italy has been ambiguous in its ideological profile –​especially its more nativist turn in the migration crisis. Mattia Zulianello’s concept of ‘valence populists’ (2020) is intriguing. Yet, in practice, I believe it is hard to distinguish valence populist from centrist populist as that would require an assessment of the credibility of a party’s policy position. In conclusion, I would like to connect what we have discussed so far with the study of populist attitudes at the individual level. In your opinion, what is the best way to connect the existing data about the supply-​side of things with the growing amount of information concerning the demand-​side? One interesting question regarding the relationship between populist attitudes on the individual level and populism among parties is whether populist attitudes always significantly affect voting for populist parties. On the one hand, this should be expected. After all, both the individual-​level measures of populist attitudes and the party-​level measures of populism speak to the same phenomenon. At the same time, we also know that populism is a thin-​centred ideology. This means that it is usually connected to a different host or attaching ideology, such as nativism among radical-​r ight parties. It is likely that nativist attitudes pertaining to immigration are more important in explaining the radical-​r ight vote choice than populist attitudes. Yet this does not mean that populist attitudes do not matter. Populist citizens have a unique perspective on representation and liberal democracy, as Andrej and I have also shown in a recent paper (Zaslove and Meijers, 2021). Moreover, citizens’ adherence to populist beliefs are in all likelihood not static. Instead, like other attitudes, individuals’ populist attitudes likely change in response to political developments, such as a populist party in office or a crisis like the Covid pandemic. In terms of connecting data on populist attitudes with data on parties’ populism, I think it is very important that we start measuring populist attitudes in a consistent way across countries. This would allow us to systematically map the effects of populist attitudes on populist vote choice across political contexts. To do so, we need to reach a consensus on which items to include to measure populist attitudes.

44  Maurits Meijers

Currently, I see that many bigger data collection initiatives spanning multiple countries devise their own measures of populist attitudes, which are not always in line with the literature. This is a missed opportunity as it inhibits the proper study of populism across political contexts and, eventually, across time. In addition, we need party-​level measures of populism like the one in POPPA, but perhaps also in Pippa Norris’ GPS and in the V-​Party project to measure populism over time. This would allow us to examine the relationship between populism among citizens and populism among parties in a longitudinal way. To do so, however, it is important that we conduct multiple iterations of these expert surveys in the future.

Bibliography Leininger, A. and Meijers, M. J. (2021). ‘Do Populist Parties Increase Voter Turnout? Evidence from Over 40 Years of Electoral History in 31 European Democracies’, Political Studies, 69(3): 665–​685. Meijers, M. J. and Zaslove, A. (2021). ‘Measuring Populism in Political Parties: Appraisal of a New Approach’, Comparative Political Studies, 54(2): 372–​407. Mudde, C. (2007). Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zaslove, A. and Meijers, M. (2021). ‘Populist Democrats? Unpacking the Relationship Between Populism and (Liberal) Democracy at the Citizen Level’. https://​​ 10.31235/​​4f6wh


You have been working on populism for quite some time: what fascinates you the most about this topic? Can you indicate an author or work that particularly influenced your approach to populism? Yes, I have been working on populism for a very long time now, for more than 20 years. My fascination with populism has changed over the years. However, one constant is that, for me, populism addresses important issues regarding the nature of our party systems, the changing nature of political representation and democracy. We know that support for mainstream parties is declining, new parties are appearing, and many individuals are frustrated with the way our democracies work. Populism is an important part of this puzzle. Initially (some 20 years ago), I was interested in populism as it was a relatively new phenomenon (or new to a new generation of scholars). I was interested in the conceptual debates and in the debates surrounding the what and the why questions. What was populism? Why was populism electorally successful? At the time, there were lively discussions about the degree to which populism was linked with more radical or even extreme parties. And about the implications of the rise of populism for the changing nature of party politics. In these early years, I was particularly influence by Hans-​Georg Betz and Paul Taggart. They were among the first to identify the rise of parties such as the Lega Nord, the French National Front, and the transformation of other parties such as the Austrian Freedom Party as populist. I was also very intrigued by the work of Herbert Kitschelt and Roger Eatwell. I liked Kitschelt’s more sociological and opportunity structure approach, which was also mirrored in Eatwell’s focus on different levels of analysis. Later, Cas Mudde’s very important work appeared, which I found so conceptually strong.The ideational turn was very important for defining populism but also later for the move towards measuring populism. DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-9

46  Andrej Zaslove

More recently, I have been intrigued by questions around measuring populism, among both voters and political parties. This avenue of research has allowed us to delve into a series of important questions. In particular, it has led to discussions on the relationship between populism and other attitudes such as trust and external efficacy and the relationship with democracy and political representation. In terms of defining populism, the most important work is still that of Mudde and his recent publications with Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. You have been among the first to measure people’s populist attitudes, which tell us the extent to which a person has a populist worldview. What can we explain by measuring populist attitudes in the population? Quite obviously, people with populist attitudes tend to vote for populist parties, but what other types of behaviour, beliefs or attitudes do they share? Yes, we were one of the first to measure populist attitudes (Akkerman, Mudde and Zaslove, 2014). There were others who were also busy with this endeavour. It was, of course, the Hawkins, Riding and Mudde article (2012) which most influenced this first work of ours. For me, measuring populist attitudes is important for several reasons. First, it shows that individuals can have stronger or weaker populist attitudes: populism is a matter of degree. An individual is not populist or not populist, but more or less populist. Measuring populism has had an important impact on how we look at populism, not only on the demand-​side but also on the supply-​side (Meijers and Zaslove, 2021). Second, measuring populism also demonstrates how populism can cut across party choice. Thus, we see that higher levels of populist attitudes are linked with support for populist left-​wing and populist right-​wing parties. However, interestingly other attitudes and dimensions of these voters often differ. In fact, stronger populist attitudes are often the only element that these individuals have in common. Discussions regarding populism are of course ubiquitous. It is my contention, however, that populism is important not because there is so much of it, but because it cuts across cleavages and ideological positions. Third, the use of populist attitudes has moved us away from proxy measures for populism (such as trust and external efficacy). This is very important for understanding the importance of populism. Measuring populist attitudes shows us that they are not the same as lower levels of trust or external efficacy (Geurkink et al., 2020). Of course, those with lower levels of trust and of external efficacy are, more often than not, more likely to vote for a populist party. But looking at populism through a specific measure shows us that populism is something more. In my opinion, populism is really an idea about political representation. For populists, political representation must be people-​centred. By using a direct measure of populism, rather than a proxy, we gain a better understanding of why individuals vote for populist parties. Here I particularly like the notion that populism is a ‘politics of hope’ for many individuals (Spruyt, Keppens and Van Droogenbroeck, 2016). It is a

Measuring Populist Attitudes  47

‘coping mechanism’ (Spruyt, Rooduijn and Zaslove, 2021). Those individuals who have lost hope in the mainstream actors often turn to populist actors to resolve their political wishes.Voting for a populist party is not only voting against something, but also voting for something, a specific idea about political representation. Fourth, by measuring populist attitudes separately from attaching attitudes, we can more readily see the link between degrees of populism among individuals vis-​ à-​vis (liberal) democracy and political representation. Several studies have shown that individuals with stronger populist attitudes may not be as opposed to liberal democracy as we often think. In a recent paper, Maurits Meijers and I show that individuals who are more populist are more sceptical of political pluralism, but they do not appear to oppose minority rights.We see that individuals with stronger populist attitudes are less likely to see political parties as essential for a democracy, and they are more supportive of majoritarian forms of political representation. Recent studies point to the fact that populist attitudes can be captured with different questions and operationalisations, therefore providing different findings. What are the main problems with the existing survey items and what are the main limitations today when approaching populism at the individual level? Several scales have emerged. A number of articles provide a very good discussion of the pros and the cons of these different scales (Castanho Silva et al., 2020; Van Hauwaert et al., 2018). Some of the most recently developed scales have demonstrated increasing methodological rigour. I particularly like the attempts to develop a sort of hierarchy (second-​order factor analysis), or a multiplicative unified scale to deal with each sub-​dimension of populism (Schulz et al., 2018; Castanho Silva et al., 2020). These are interesting attempts to deal with the latent nature of populism, while acknowledging its multiple dimensions. Another fruitful approach has been proposed by Wuttke et al. (2020). They propose taking the value with the lowest score from a populist sub-​dimension as the indicator of the level of populism. In other words, an individual is only as populist at their lowest score on a particular dimension of populism. Although an interesting approach, we have to be careful to remember that populism is a latent concept and as such we cannot use manifest variables as stand-​ins for the latent nature of populism. Having said this, I also think that there are some issues that need to be solved. I do not always agree with the question wording of these newer approaches. Items in some scales are closer to external efficacy than to populism, and other scales appear to have some endogeneity problems. Some of the items used in these scales are too close to concepts that we want to measure, such as support for direct democracy. As interesting as the focus on the multiple dimensions is, the very practical concern of getting items in a survey implies that I think we should be working towards fewer and not more items. I also wonder if our measures are overlooking some of the most important aspects of populism. Most of the populism measures are not that good at capturing, for example, the moral or the Manichean dimension

48  Andrej Zaslove

of populism. This could have important implications for our discussions regarding populism, pluralism, and democracy. In your opinion, which are the most promising and relevant venues for research related to populist attitudes? What aspects are still understudied, and which issues warrant greater attention? On the one hand, I feel that the theoretical and methodological discussions have given us insights into how we should measure populism. The creation of a more parsimonious scale could potentially be an interesting avenue of research (see Van Hauwaert, Schimpf and Azevedo, 2018). Having said this, it is important that the discussion about populist attitudes does not focus solely on methodological issues. Thus, I am particularly intrigued by new developments that attempt to measure adjacent concepts, such as technocracy (Bertsou and Caramani, 2022). But I also appreciate recent efforts to think of better scales to measure other concepts that are important to further our understanding of the implications of populism. There have been some interesting developments regarding measuring liberal democracy. I think that there is also room for improvement in our measures of other relevant concepts, for example, authoritarianism and perhaps nationalism, to name just two. I think these would be fruitful developments if we want to know more about the implications of populism for broader political changes. Do you think it is possible to study populist attitudes, and therefore the existing demand for populism, in conjunction with the supply-​side, namely the populist offer in the political arena? If so, what are the most fruitful ways to do so? This is a good question. On the one hand, I would say it is. Indeed, we have already seen this. There have been interesting developments in the measuring of populism on both the demand-​side and the supply-​side (Meijers and Zaslove, 2021), which are, of course, linked. It would be interesting to study the origins of populist attitudes. Not enough is known about where populist attitudes come from. For example, what is the role of the supply-​side in developing populist attitudes? One intriguing idea is that, for example, populists may fuel discontent (Rooduijn, Van Der Brug and De Lange, 2016). We might be seeing similar developments in populist attitudes. Supply-​side actors may be fuelling populist attitudes. However, we also know that some individuals are more susceptible than others to populist attitudes and, that this is not a simple supply-​side creation. More research should be conducted on this. Another fruitful avenue of research would be to examine the exact role played by populism in mobilising support for populist parties on the supply-​side and the demand-​side. A question I find intriguing is: what does populism contribute at all? Populism seems to act as a mobiliser. This raises the following questions: how does this work? And why is populism important? Why does a party like the Dutch Party for Freedom need populism to mobilise voters? Why, for example, is its stance on

Measuring Populist Attitudes  49

immigration and Islam not enough to mobilise voters? What does populism on the supply-​side, and what do populist attitudes on the demand-​side, contribute to this mobilisation process?

Bibliography Akkerman, A., Mudde, C. and Zaslove, A. (2014). ‘How Populist Are the People? Measuring Populist Attitudes in Voters’, Comparative Political Studies, 47(9): 1324–​1353. Bertsou, E. and Caramani, D. (2022). ‘People Haven’t Had Enough of Experts: Technocratic Attitudes Among Citizens in Nine European Democracies’, American Journal of Political Science, 66(1): 5–​23. Castanho Silva, B., Jungkunz, S., Helbling, M. and Littvay, L. (2020). ‘An Empirical Comparison of Seven Populist Attitudes Scales’, Political Research Quarterly, 73(2): 409–​424. Geurkink, B., Zaslove, A., Sluiter, R. and Jacobs, K. (2020). ‘Populist Attitudes, Political Trust, and External Political Efficacy: Old Wine in New Bottles?’ Political Studies, 68(1): 247–​267. Hawkins, K. A., Riding, S. and Mudde, C. (2012). ‘Measuring Populist Attitudes’, IPSA Committee on Concepts and Methods Working Paper Series. Meijers, M. J. and Zaslove, A. (2021). ‘Measuring Populism in Political Parties: Appraisal of a New Approach’, Comparative Political Studies, 54(2): 372–​407. Rooduijn, M., Van Der Brug, W. and De Lange, S. L. (2016). ‘Expressing or Fuelling Discontent? The Relationship Between Populist Voting and Political Discontent’, Electoral Studies, 43: 32–​40. Schulz, A., Müller, P., Schemer, C., Wirz, S., Wettstein, M. and Wirth, W. (2018). ‘Measuring Populist Attitudes on Three Dimensions’, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 30 (2): 316–​326. Spruyt, B., Keppens, G. and Van Droogenbroeck. F. (2016). ‘Who Supports Populism and What Attracts People to It?’, Political Research Quarterly, 69(2): 335–​346. Spruyt, B., Rooduijn, M. and Zaslove, A. (2021). ‘Ideologically Consistent, But for Whom? An Empirical Assessment of the Populism-​Elitism-​Pluralism Set of Attitudes and the Moderating Role of Political Sophistication’, Politics, 02633957211017763. Van Hauwaert, S. M., Schimpf, C. H. and Azevedo, F. (2018). ‘Public Opinion Surveys: Evaluating Existing Measures 1’. In The Ideational Approach to Populism. Routledge, 128–​149. Wuttke, A., Schimpf, C. and Schoen, H. (2020). ‘When the Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts: On the Conceptualization and Measurement of Populist Attitudes and Other Multidimensional Constructs’, American Political Science Review, 114(2): 356–​374. https://​​10.1017/​S00030​5541​9000​807.

9 POPULIST HYPE Aurelien Mondon

Let’s start from the reasons that brought you to study populism: what fascinates you about this topic? Is there an author or work that particularly inspired you and contributed to your understanding of populism? Populism is a term that has always both fascinated and frustrated me. When I came across it in the mid-​2000s when I started thinking about doing a PhD, I remember getting rather annoyed at a book describing Jean-​Marie Le Pen as a ‘right-​wing populist’ rather than an extreme right leader with ties to historic fascism. This is when I discovered the work of Annie Collovald (2004) which has been absolutely fundamental to my trajectory ever since. At the time, the early work of Chantal Mouffe on populism and Jacques Rancière on democracy also proved very important for me. I also spent much of the first year of my PhD reading about the history of populism and this confirmed to me that, in our current context, there is nothing that even comes close to a populist ideology. The term ‘populism’ has been misused and abused in the public debate. Populism certainly grew, but it became a ‘bubble’ also because those who set the agenda chose to put it at the centre of the public debate. What are the most negative consequences of what can be defined as ‘populist hype’? In public discourse, it is generally assumed that populism either originates from ‘the people’ and their ‘legitimate grievances’ (often a euphemism for racism) and/​or is harnessed by demagogues claiming to speak for them. This may be true in some cases, but it is only at best part of the picture, and generally a minor part. Often the focus on populism diverts attention away from what is really at stake, but also from uneven power relationships. This is not to say that ‘the people’ have no role to play in politics or cannot influence it, but it would be naïve to think that there are currently no power imbalances in our societies, or that our political arena is a free DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-10

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marketplace of ideas, where all politics can be debated equally. This is a myth that serves reactionaries who can usually rely on extensive access to public discourse and vast resources. In terms of the negative consequences of populist hype, they are wide-​ranging, but you could summarise them by what Aaron Winter and I called reactionary democracy: populist hype has not been solely responsible but has facilitated the rise and mainstreaming of reactionary politics under the guise of potentially democratic principles. The careless use of populism has created a semantic link between far-​ right politics and politicians and ‘the people’, something the far right had long been striving for as it sought to escape the margins of politics that it had been rightly relegated to. Instead of being linked to elitist and reactionary politics, the far right has been given the opportunity to become the alternative to the establishment at a time when distrust in the status quo is on the rise, and the left and right appear increasingly indistinct. Over the last years, many of the ideas of the populist radical right have become mainstream. Do you think this is the case because the populist radical right is a popular reaction to the limitations of liberal democracy and its failure to address them? Or is it possible that liberal institutions, including media, politicians and academics, helped to legitimise those ideas? These questions are absolutely key in my opinion and have not been considered seriously enough. In fact, this is very much the core of the argument Jason Glynos and I made when we discussed populist hype. We have been told at times that the concept of populist hype and our wider argument downplay the threat of the far right. Yet what we are trying to highlight is the exact opposite: populist hype has served to conceal the very real threat the far right poses, but also how this threat is not in opposition to liberal democracy, it can be accommodated and absorbed. This is something that is becoming increasingly clear, even to those who were most opposed to our argument. Aaron and I developed this further when we discussed liberal and illiberal articulations of racism and how these work as two sides of the same coin; and more recently in our work with Katy Brown, in which we attempt to conceptualise the process of mainstreaming in a more heuristic manner. From my point of view, it is absolutely essential to stress that even though some far-​r ight actors have proven particularly cunning strategically, our current reactionary context is not their doing, but predominantly the mainstream’s responsibility; it has used the far right as a decoy and a scarecrow to divert attention away from its own failure to address the many crises our democracies are facing. To highlight this, I always return to the 2002 French presidential election which was really the origin of my academic career. This was the first major election in which I was able to vote and Le Pen’s unexpected appearance in the runoff election attracted much attention. I took part in demonstrations and voted for Jacques Chirac in what I thought was an effort to stop the fascist threat, even though I was opposed to his politics. I was lucky then to not only have the time to reflect about

52  Aurelien Mondon

this, but also to meet people who opened up new ways of thinking to me, leading me eventually to doing a PhD and realising that my fear in 2002 and reaction to Le Pen’s ‘earthquake’ was entirely misplaced, and in fact counterproductive. Le Pen’s ‘breakthrough’ was a moral panic: defeating ‘the ugly beast’ (la bête immonde) required uncritical support of the status quo. As newspapers and politicians hyped the FN threat, we all missed the very simple fact that Le Pen had been stagnating in terms of votes, not just since the previous presidential election in 1995, but since 1988. What had changed was that the mainstream parties, left, right and centre, which had led France for decades, had totally collapsed and abstention was by far the largest ‘party’ then, and for good reasons. Yet the next few years were spent hyping the threat embodied by Le Pen, legitimising him and his politics in the process. Jean-​Marie Le Pen was ‘defeated’ in the polls in 2007, but as Marine Le Pen said on the night of the first round, it was a victory of his ideas and, considering what followed, she had a point. The electoral success of right-​wing populism is often attributed to a (white) working class. This is surprising because the right traditionally defended the interests of the wealthy. In reality, we know that the middle and upper classes vote for right-​wing populists more than the working class. How was this narrative generated, and why does it continue to grip the political imagination? This brings us back to the populist hype again and how it has served to emphasise and exaggerate certain political trends, while obscuring others or diverting attention. The ‘rise of populism’ has been taken at face value, even though it has been uneven and taken place in a context and landscape which have been incredibly favourable for this kind of politics: deepening disillusion with mainstream parties considered (often rightly) out of touch and increasingly indistinguishable; failure to address various crises and constructing moral panics to divert attention from said crises; and a media ecosystem privileging, consciously or not, conservative and far-​r ight talking points. There is no denying that there is real discontentment regarding the workings of democracies in many countries, and rightly so when you look at their increasingly oligarchic nature. Yet this discontentment has been mistakenly linked to the far right, despite much evidence to the contrary. Discussions of ‘white working-​class’ support for Trump or Brexit were very prominent in the campaigns and aftermath of both events. What is fascinating is that, as with populism as a defining term, this kind of analysis followed the lead of the leaders of these movements themselves. That they were taken at their word on both of these issues is a clear failure of democratic scrutiny. It was demonstrated early on in both cases that the support for both votes came predominantly from wealthier sections of society and this should not have surprised us. This is not to say that no working-​class people voted for Brexit or Trump, which is not surprising given there has always been (limited) working-​ class support for the far right. What we should interrogate is why those best able to shape public discourse spent so much time discussing the ‘white working class’ and

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so little discussing the better-​off who voted Trump or Brexit because they would profit economically at the expense of others, or because the racism core to these campaigns resonated with their worldview. Blaming ‘the working class’ for all evils or trying to claim it for political symbolism is nothing new, and it is particularly convenient considering that ‘the working class’ is currently easy to speak for as it is mostly kept out of public discourse itself. The fear of the ‘working class’, the mob or the masses, has also been a constant in the history of liberalism and we should therefore not be surprised to see the blame put on them again for the rise of the far right. This is ironic considering it is also the most diverse class in our society, that which is at the sharp end of such politics, but also that which has historically been at the forefront of resistance.This has huge implications as the logical conclusion is that maybe it is democracy that is to blame; maybe if ‘we’, the good liberals, could excise ‘the people’ and their irrational behaviour from sensible decision-​making processes, then all would be fine and liberalism could thrive. This is what Jason Glynos and I refer to when we discuss the psychoanalytic concept of the theft of enjoyment. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start studying populism? Which are the main misconceptions to be avoided, the most important distinctions to keep in mind, and the myths that need to be deconstructed? The main question any newcomer to the field should ask themselves is: is it really populism I am interested in? If so, there is plenty more to be done on the topic. However, populism’s popularity has meant that there has been a bandwagon-​effect which has attracted many academics who have slapped the term onto their research without doing due diligence to the literature in the field. This is not about policing the field, but about basic academic integrity. Nor is it just about newcomers, but also about gatekeepers and the need to remain open-​minded and continue reflecting and learning. We should not be afraid of changing our minds about our research if evidence shows that we may have got things wrong. I certainly have, and much of my academic work is in fact driven by reflecting on my own mistakes and misconceptions and the role they play in shaping ideas and discourse. As such, scholars should always engage with critical literature.You do not have to agree with it, but you should be aware of it –​and this should be a basic requirement in any literature review. I always find it fascinating to see how well-​versed critical scholars generally are with regard to the mainstream literature, while mainstream scholars can be dismissive of critical work without even having engaged with it. With regard to populism studies in particular, I will make two points which are absolutely essential in my opinion. The first is that we must take anti-​populist research stances more seriously, rather than accept them as a non-​ideological/​political norm (see Stavrakakis et al., 2018 but also Maiguashca, 2019). Anti-​populist norms have often served to strengthen the status quo by positing liberalism as an innate, unquestionable good, while any opposition to it would be deemed as populist and thus illiberal and anti-​pluralist.This is something Aaron and I have discussed

54  Aurelien Mondon

at length: positing liberalism as a bulwark against the far right is not only a mistake when we consider its history, but counterproductive if our aim is to fight the far right. Considering the political systems we live in are closer to oligarchies than democracies (see Rancière, 2005), we should be able to criticise the elite without being automatically discarded as populist qua anti-​pluralist.This does not mean that one should automatically take an anti-​liberal position, but we should acknowledge our positionality far more clearly and challenge our own normative assumptions. Following on, the most dangerous myth about populism is the impression it gives about politics in our societies still being predominantly driven in a bottom-​up manner rather than a top-​down one. An uncritical focus on ‘the people’ as voters or through public opinion driving politics is often at the expense of broader structures and power imbalances which we then fail to account for and therefore normalise. We must reengage with theories of power and think of our own positionality and privileged access to shaping public discourse. No one has innate knowledge of politics and the world around us beyond our most immediate surroundings, and we must all rely on mediated knowledge. Those with particular access to shaping such knowledge must not only take responsibility for it, but also be held accountable. As academics, we have a duty to do both.

Bibliography Brown, K. and Mondon, A. (2020). ‘Populism, the Media and the Mainstreaming of the Far Right: The Guardian’s Coverage of Populism as a Case Study’, Politics. 41(3) : 279–​295. Collovald, A. 2004. Le populisme du FN: un dangereux contresens. Bellecombe-​en-​Bauges: Ed. du Croquant. De Cleen, B., Glynos, J. and Mondon, A. (2018). ‘Critical Research on Populism: Nine Rules of Engagement’, Organization, 25(5): 649–​661. Glynos, J. and Mondon, A. (2016). ‘The Political Logic of Populist Hype: The Case of Right-​Wing Populism’s “Meteoric Rise” and Its Relation to the Status Quo’, Populismus, Working Paper Series. No. 4. Maiguashca, B. (2019). ‘Resisting the “Populist Hype”: A Feminist Critique of a Globalising Concept’, Review of International Studies, 45(5): 768–​785. Mondon, A. and Winter, A. (2020). Reactionary Democracy: How Racism and the Populist Far Right Became Mainstream. London:Verso. Rancière, J. (2005). La haine de la démocratie. Paris: La fabrique éditions. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Kioupkiolis, A., Nikisianis, N. and Siomos, T. (2018). ‘Populism, Anti-​Populism and Crisis’, Contemporary Political Theory, 17(1): 4–​27.


Can you tell us why you started studying populism? Is there any particular work or author that tickled your curiosity and left you with questions that you decided to try to answer yourself? To be honest, it was not an author but a politician who tickled my curiosity. About 20 years ago, in the summer of 2001, I said goodbye to my place of birth and moved to Amsterdam to study sociology.This move had a profound impact on me. Not just because it was the first time I was not living with my family anymore, or because I could now immerse myself in interesting and for me completely new sociological theories, but also because the 2001/​2002 academic year was an extremely turbulent one with regard to what happened in the wider political world. When I was still in high school I was not interested in politics at all. But that changed drastically with 9/​11 (a few days after I had moved to Amsterdam) and the rise of the populist politician Pim Fortuyn (a few months later). Fortuyn was a remarkable figure who challenged the mainstream political parties in the Netherlands. Although I did not agree with Fortuyn at all, I was fascinated by the way in which he attacked what he called ‘the established order’, and also by the treatment that he was given in return by the politicians ‘belonging’ to that order. Most of them had no idea how to deal with this unexpected and extremely non-​conformist political challenger. Fortuyn was murdered in May 2002, a few days before general elections were held, and his party won about 17 percent of the seats. It is not an exaggeration to state that Dutch politics would never be the same again. And importantly for my own personal development and career: this remarkable year had really triggered my interest in social science, politics and populism. I wrote my BA and MA theses about topics related to populism and started my PhD in 2008. By then I had read several articles and books about populism DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-11

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(Margaret Canovan’s and Paul Taggart’s books were my favourites). The point of departure for my dissertation was Cas Mudde’s 2004 Government and Opposition article about the populist Zeitgeist, claiming that populism had become mainstream in Europe. I liked that piece a lot because of its clear conceptualisation and convincing analysis. Yet at the same time I was not convinced by the main argument. Although Mudde provided some interesting anecdotal evidence, what was lacking in his essay was a systematic empirical analysis of populism among mainstream parties and media across countries and over time. So I had a clear goal for the next couple of years. Research on populism has ‘exploded’ in the last years: books, articles, special issues, workshops, journals, working groups researching populism are popping up everywhere. How do you explain this phenomenon? First of all, it is important to emphasise that although it has indeed ‘exploded’ in the last couple of years, the increasing attention for the topic goes further back. In Europe, for instance, the 1990s and early 2000s saw the rise of right-​wing populists like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Jean-​Marie Le Pen in France, Jörg Haider in Austria and Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands (and before that many Latin American countries had experienced the upsurge of successful left-​wing populists). This, of course, generated a lot of media attention. And slowly but steadily academia followed suit. The popularity of the topic never really faded away, simply because these populist parties and politicians kept on rising. More and more of them popped up across and beyond Europe, and many of them managed to become important players within (and sometimes beyond) their own countries. In other words, there was a clear upward trend. Then, on top of that, in 2016 the UK voted to get out of the European Union and Donald Trump got elected. This sent shockwaves throughout the world and the topic of populism became even more fashionable in both media and academia. Eager to understand why people voted for Brexit and Trump, everybody was now embracing the concept of populism. Now, about five years later, the focus on populism has become a self-​perpetuating process. Whole research groups, conferences and journals have been dedicated to the topic. They will not easily disappear or change focus completely. So many people have by now invested so much time in the topic that it is very likely that the academic populism industry will keep on going for a while. Can you list some of the main misconceptions, wrong assumptions, myths and biases that should be avoided when researching populism? One of the biggest challenges still is that populism is too easily confused with nativism –​although my impression is that scholars are increasingly aware of this issue.The reason for the populism-​nativism conflation is that many successful populist parties are also nativist parties.They combine the message that the ‘good people’ are neglected, exploited or betrayed by an ‘evil elite’ with the claim that non-​natives

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and their ideas threaten the pure nation-​state. These two claims strengthen each other as they have in common that they rely on a worldview of in-​g roup love and out-​group hate. But the differences are essential too. One can be strongly populist without being nativist and the other way around (although this is rather uncommon these days). This means that scholars should be very careful when they use the concept of populism. It is perfectly fine to use it when you discuss a party’s ideas about the people-​elite relationship.Yet when you tell a story about nationalistic exclusionism you should think twice. Terms like ‘far right’ or ‘radical right’ might be more appropriate. Another challenge for the populism literature that is less widely discussed is that when scholars study populism, they often only focus on political populism –​ that is, the relationship between the people and the political elite. Yet populism is broader than that. Populism also includes ideas about economic, cultural or media elites. This has often been neglected (also by myself, I have to admit). This is problematic because it could lead to an underestimation of how widespread populism is. If you measure populist attitudes among citizens just by means of items focusing on their relationship with politicians, you only cover one type of populism (see Jungkunz, Fahey and Hino, 2021). The same is true if you conduct a content analysis of election manifestos of political parties that only focuses on words that examine the realm of politics. In 2018, you collaborated with The Guardian to produce the investigative series of articles ‘The new populism: An investigation into the rise of a global phenomenon’. What are the positive effects generated by the attention that news media devote to populism? And, on the other hand, is it possible that they contribute to reinforcing several misconceptions about populism and to generating an excessive hype? I think this project was a great collaborative effort. The Guardian invested a lot of time and money in a project that aimed at helping the public get a better understanding of populism. This, I think, is very valuable at a time when many media outlets discourage nuance and substantive depth. It has also led to several very good pieces that presented original and systematic research in a very accessible way. One of my favourites is the teleprompter study (Smith et al., 2019), conducted by Kirk Hawkins, Levente Littvay and others, showing that Trump’s populism was mostly scripted by key advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. Without the teleprompter, Trump did not talk much about the ‘virtuous people’ –​a key ingredient of populism. Instead, he talked mainly about himself. The Guardian project has also led to an ongoing research collaboration, The PopuList, for which several colleagues and I, helped by an enormous group of (country) experts, have categorised European political parties as populist, far right, far left and/​or Eurosceptic. This has become a useful source for both scholars and journalists. In general, I think the project helped The Guardian get much more expertise and thereby depth in their coverage. At the same time, it helped political

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scientists like us communicate our knowledge to a wider audience. This, I think, is good news, as a lot of nuanced and accurate information about populism is now available for a wider audience. Having said that, I do realise that projects like these can also have negative side-​ effects. A strong focus on populism can and does lead to a trivialisation of nativism. As argued before, many populist parties are also nativist. In fact, their nativism is, almost without exception, their main feature. Consistently referring to these parties as populist, instead of nativist or far right, makes them look less radical and less dangerous for our systems of liberal democracy. This can have far-​reaching consequences. Critique on the way in which the term populism is used, expressed by scholars like Katy Brown and Aurelien Mondon (2020), should be taken very seriously. Fruitful contaminations between populism research and other fields are too rare, generating a myopic and often self-​referential gaze.Which traditions, research fields and ideas should we rely upon to produce a fruitful fertilisation and offer a more complete and useful understanding of populism? In a relatively recent state-​of-​the field article, I argued that fertilisation across different literatures is still rather uncommon (Rooduijn, 2019). I wrote this piece about three years ago, and although I believe this is still to some extent true, it is also important to emphasise that the field is changing rapidly. One of the disadvantages of the ‘explosion’ of populism research you mentioned earlier is that the term ‘populism’ has too often been used to describe phenomena that have nothing or only very little to do with the opposition between the people and the elite. Yet a positive side effect is that there are also researchers coming from other fields who introduce interesting new perspectives. Let me mention two scholars who study populist discourse in interesting new ways. In her dissertation, Carola Schoor (2020) has combined insights from various fields (philosophy, politics and linguistics) into a very informative, concise and innovative integration of the concepts of populism, pluralism and elitism, and has also translated this theoretical framework into a concrete empirical analysis instrument. Jessica Di Cocco (2021) has applied machine learning approaches to investigate how populist political texts are. Such studies help us better understand populist communication styles by introducing interesting new perspectives. In that same state-​of-​the field article, I argued that when it comes to populism research, quantitative studies have increasingly replaced more qualitative investigations. When I started my research on populism almost one and a half decade ago, a large majority of studies was of a qualitative nature. This has changed rapidly; now qualitative studies constitute a small minority. That is a pity. Although there are several fantastic recent qualitative studies of populism at the party level (McDonnell and Werner, 2020), the media level (De Jonge, 2021) and the citizen level (Kemmers, 2017), we need more such studies. Good qualitative studies of populism have become, unfortunately, relatively rare.

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Probably too much has been written on populism, but at the same time there are many aspects that require more research. In your opinion, which are the crucial questions we should ask to advance our understanding of populism? I have become increasingly interested in the political psychology of populism. Our knowledge about the psychological roots of populism is increasing rapidly, but my impression is that what we know now is still just the tip of the iceberg. So far, for instance, we know still very little about which personality traits underlie populist support. Although several studies have shown that there is a link between the Big Five trait of agreeableness and support for populists (see Bakker, Schumacher and Rooduijn, 2021), we do not know much about the mechanisms behind this connection. An interesting puzzle in this regard is that people’s personalities are rather stable, whereas the electoral performance of populists is highly volatile. How is that possible? How can something that does not change much (a personality trait like agreeableness), explain something that changes all the time (vote shares for populists)? According to interactionism, a central approach in the field of social psychology, what matters is not just someone’s personality, but the interaction between personal and environmental characteristics. The question then becomes what activates someone’s personality traits and makes them consequential for voting behaviour. This could be applied to agreeableness, for instance. An interesting question could be: which socio-​political circumstances trigger the agreeableness-​populism linkage? This interactionist approach could also be applied to other types of dispositions and other types of circumstances. For instance, does corruption activate populist attitudes (Hawkins, Kaltwasser and Andreadis, 2020)? Or: can someone’s economic circumstances trigger the link between how people-​centric they are and their propensity to support a populist? Of course, there are many other interesting and promising avenues for future research in the field of populism studies. Yet for me the extent to which voters’ personal traits interact with their environment is one of the most exciting.

Bibliography Bakker, B. N., Schumacher, G. and Rooduijn, M. (2021). ‘The Populist Appeal: Personality and Antiestablishment Communication’, The Journal of Politics, 83(2): 589–​601. Brown, K. and Mondon, A. (2020). ‘Populism, the Media, and the Mainstreaming of the Far Right:The Guardian’s Coverage of Populism as a Case Study’, Politics, 0263395720955036. Canovan, M. (1981). Populism. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. De Jonge, L. (2021). The Success and Failure of Right-​Wing Populist Parties in the Benelux Countries. London: Routledge. Di Cocco, J. (2021). Politics in Time of Populism (Dissertation). Sapienza University, Rome, Italy. Hawkins, K. A., Kaltwasser, C. R. and Andreadis, I. (2020). ‘The Activation of Populist Attitudes’, Government and Opposition, 55(2): 283–​307. Jungkunz, S., Fahey, R. and Hino, A. (2021). Populists Vote for Populists, Right? How Populist Attitude Scales Fail to Capture Support for Populists in Power. Preprint.

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Kemmers, R. (2017). ‘Channelling Discontent? Non-​ voters, Populist Party Voters, and Their Meaningful Political Agency’, European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 4(4): 381–​406. McDonnell, D. and Werner, A. (2020). International Populism:The Radical Right in the European Parliament. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mudde, C. (2004). ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition, 39(4): 541–​563. Rooduijn, M. (2019).‘State of the Field: How to Study Populism and Adjacent Topics? A Plea for Both More and Less Focus’, European Journal of Political Research, 58(1): 362–​372. Schoor, C. (2020). The Politics of Style: Political Performance Caught Between Populism, Elitism, and Pluralism (Dissertation). University of Maastricht, The Netherlands. Smith, D., Lewis, P., Holder, J. and Hulley-​Jones, F. (2019). ‘The Teleprompter Test: Why Trump’s Populism Is Not His Own’, The Guardian, 6 March. Available at: www.theg​uard​​world/​ng-​inte​ract​ive/​2019/​mar/​07/​the-​telep​romp​ter-​test-​why-​tru​mps-​popul​ ism-​is-​often-​scrip​ted Taggart, P. (2000). Populism. Buckingham: Open University Press.


Causes and Consequences Luca Manucci

One of the reasons why populism generates such a tremendous amount of attention, as we learned in Part I, is because it is increasingly successful in elections all over the world.Why is this the case? This part has two main goals. First, to show that populism is not equally successful everywhere, but that it is more successful in certain contexts than in others. Second, to find the reasons behind this heterogeneous performance. To do so, we look at the natural habitat of populism –​the terrain in which it proliferates with greater ease and grows luxuriantly –​and the context in which it suffers and does not achieve significant results. A common element present in most of these interviews is the role of emotions, such as anger, fear and resentment, and their connection to populism. Another recurrent element is the role of the media in spreading populist messages and providing political information. Other important themes include the relationship between populist and mainstream parties, political culture and institutions. We focus on the elements that fuel populism, discuss which grievances are at the base of its success and discuss the effects of socioeconomic and political turmoil in allowing populists to tap into popular resentment. Finally, we look at what happens when populism, an essentially anti-​establishment phenomenon, comes to power and therefore becomes part of the system. Léonie de Jonge, one of the most brilliant researchers on populism of the ‘new generation’, shows that, like in a marketplace, success and failure of populist parties are often considered to be the result of a balance between supply and demand. ‘Public demand’ includes the socioeconomic conditions that make voters choose populist options, while ‘party supply’ concerns the mechanisms that enable populist parties to translate the existing demand into actual votes. However, de Jonge argues that the behaviour of mainstream parties and the media are crucial for the electoral breakthrough, or failure, of right-​wing populist parties. Paul Taggart, whose

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-12

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research on populism has been central in the field for decades now, explains that populism thrives because of being ‘unpolitical’. In other words, Taggart identifies the primal appeal of populism in a sort of gut instinct that politics is not a good thing to be involved with. As a result, he claims that the quintessential populist constituency is formed by those that would not normally bother or even really think about what politics constitutes. Noam Gidron proposes an alternative –​but also complementary –​explanation, arguing that populism thrives when people perceive their social status to be diminished or threatened. Combining economic and cultural explanations for the success of right-​wing populism, Gidron suggests that the constituency of right-​wing populist parties is often composed of a core group of white working-​class men because this group’s social status has been relatively low at a time when the social status of other groups in society, for example women, has likely increased. In turn, this produced a sense of nostalgia for a time when their social status, recognitions and place within the social order, were more prominent. Looking at the success and failure of populism from a broader perspective, Lisa Zanotti explains that populism tends to flourish when traditional parties fail to represent voters. This situation makes the morally polarising discourse of populist actors particularly appealing, of those who present themselves as ‘pure’ in opposition to a ‘corrupt’ establishment that is blamed for having betrayed the people.With examples ranging from the American Tea Party, Fujimorism and Chávismo, Zanotti shows that while ideological polarisation can bring populists into power, once this happens populism will likely generate affective polarisation, or the demonisation of the opponents. Along similar lines, Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, one of the most outstanding and influential scholars in the field of populism, argues that populist actors and parties are prone to generating strong feelings of antipathy within large segments of the population because of their polarising language. He interprets the success of populist actors as something deriving from the distaste of the other political options, and argues that the very formation of populist parties is linked to the anger of certain sectors of the electorate with mainstream parties. He concludes by analysing the situation in Chile, a country that since 2019 has seen the rise of massive protests against the establishment and the claim the people should have the right to re-​found the social contract, explaining why actors who promote populist ideas –​including José Antonio Kast –​have not been particularly successful so far. The second half of this part focuses primarily on the role of emotions and the media. Dominique Wirz explores the relationship between populism and its stylistic dimension, looking at the populist use of emotional communication. Her research confirms that populist actors try to demonstrate that they are normal citizens and do not belong to the political establishment by using an emotional, dramatised and colloquial language. Wirz suggests that the populist ideology paints the world in black and white, restricting the possibility to express different opinions. By making such strong evaluations, populist messages are very likely to trigger emotions –​ negative emotions towards the bad people and positive emotions towards the good people.With Alessandro Nai, we go even deeper in our exploration of the emotions elicited by populism, and discuss the proverbial ‘bad manners’ employed by populist

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actors. Nai’s research confirms that the stereotypical populist style tends to encompass bombastic, provocative, and aggressive elements. Interestingly, compared to non-​populist actors, populists are more narcissist, psychopathic and Machiavellian. This confirms the idea of populist actors as the ‘drunken dinner guest’ with bad manners, ‘agent provocateur’ using exaggerated behaviour to destabilise the status quo, and ‘charismatic leaders’ who use their emotional style to mobilise the masses. The interview with Anne Schulz brings us back to one of the central elements of this part, namely the relationship between populism and the media. In particular, we look at citizens that show populist attitudes and what media they read and trust when it comes to obtaining political information. Schulz explains that populist citizens trust public service news on average less than non-​populist citizens. Moreover, contrary to commonly held beliefs, populist citizens express strong scepticism about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as sources for news and information. Finally, she discusses what the coronavirus pandemic has changed for populist parties and their followers. Sina Blassnig discusses further the links between populism and social media, and argues that the content and style of politicians’ populist communication resonates with audiences on social media. Blassnig presents the results of cutting-​edge research showing that Facebook posts receive more user reactions in the form of likes, shares or comments when they contain populist messages. Moreover, she finds that populist online communication resonates particularly well with citizens, who in turn recirculate these messages. As a result, populist communication by politicians or in the media multiplies and leads to more populist communication by citizens. Finally, Blassnig discusses the fact that news media directly embed politicians’ tweets or Facebook posts in online news articles, thus providing an unfiltered and uncritical platform for populist communication. In the last interview, Giorgos Venizelos goes full circle and examines the populist parable once it comes to power focusing on the affective relationships between leader and masses, addressing several issues touched on in the previous interviews such as emotions and styles, as well as the links between populism and democracy. Drawing on examples from left-​wing and right-​wing populism in Europe, Latin America and the United States, Venizelos observes that while populism may be normatively at odds with liberalism, it does not mean that it is not democratic. Crucially, he argues, populism is flexible and performative, and it adapts to the institutional settings and cultural particularities to construct collective identities. Finally, Venizelos reminds us that politics is not just about the best argument, data or facts and that emotions must not be neglected from any attempt to understand populism.


How did you get interested in populism? Is there any particular work or author that sparked your interest, and that you keep going back to? After graduating from high school, I moved to North Dakota on a basketball scholarship. I became fascinated by how the environment in which we grow up can influence our political preferences. This is how I became interested in studying politics. As an undergraduate, I first came across the work of Peter Mair, which got me thinking about broader, structural explanations for making sense of contemporary politics. My interest in populism was sparked by personal circumstances. I was born and raised in Luxembourg, but my parents are both originally Dutch. In the early 2000s, I witnessed the rise of right-​wing populist parties (RWPPs) in the Netherlands, with the List Pim Fortuyn, and later Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party. I wondered why RWPPs were succeeding in the Netherlands, a country that was widely known for its social tolerance and progressivism, while similar movements never managed to break through in Luxembourg. The puzzle gets more complicated when you look at what lies in-​between these two countries: the curious case of Belgium (de Jonge, 2021a). While Flanders (the northern, Dutch-​ speaking part of Belgium) was home to one of the strongest far-​r ight movements in Europe, Wallonia (the southern, francophone part) has remained ‘immune’ to such tendencies.This begs the question why RWPPs succeed in some countries and regions, but not in others. This research puzzle forms the backbone of my research interest in populism (see de Jonge, 2021b).

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-13

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The existence of a potential electorate, or demand, for right-​wing populists does not necessarily translate into electoral success. The demand, it is argued, must meet the supply. Is it possible to understand the success and failure of right-​wing populist parties as the interaction between demand and supply? What are the main limitations of this approach? The electoral performance of RWPPs is often conceptualised as a marketplace, where success and failure are contingent on ‘public demand’ and ‘party supply’. Demand-​ side explanations highlight factors that create a breeding ground for RWPPs, notably socioeconomic conditions that make voters more prone to support these parties. Supply-​side theories look at mechanisms that enable RWPPs to translate lingering demand into actual votes. These include party organisation and leadership, as well as institutional features such as the electoral system. Although demand-​and supply-​side explanations provide a useful starting point to understand different electoral trajectories of RWPPs, they do not offer a full explanation. Let’s look at the Benelux region (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) to illustrate this point. Demand for the populist radical right is relatively constant across the Benelux region. If anything, existing theories would lead us to expect popular appetite for RWPPs to be strongest in Wallonia, a region still recovering from industrial decline. However, it turns out that voters in this region hold similar views on socio-​political issues. Demand-​side explanations are therefore not particularly helpful in explaining the asymmetrical success of RWPPs in the region. Supply-​side explanations are more useful. Indeed, the supply of RWPPs has been stronger in the Netherlands and Flanders. Some institutional features (notably the proportionality of the electoral system in the Netherlands and the availability of an extensive support network in Flanders) have made it easier for RWPPs to enter the political arena. But still, supply-​side explanations provide little insight into how RWPPs succeeded in making their voices heard in the first place. In my book, I therefore argue that in order to fully understand the asymmetrical success of RWPPs in the Benelux region, we must examine the wider context in which party competition takes place. In particular, we need to take into account the role of mainstream parties and the media.Taken together, they act as ‘gatekeepers’ in the sense that they can facilitate or hinder access to the electoral market. As such, they determine the ‘openness’ of the electoral market. While certain conditions form a favourable ground for right-​wing populism, others shape a hostile environment for it. In particular, you claim that the context formed by the strategic choices of mainstream parties and the role of the media is crucial. How can the behaviour of mainstream parties and the media influence the electoral breakthrough of right-​wing populist parties? The main conclusion of my book is that the spread of right-​wing populism is not simply a matter of chance or accident, but ultimately a matter of choice. The choices that mainstream parties and the media make play a crucial role in the rise of RWPPs. The Benelux region is an interesting case to illustrate this point. First,

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the behaviour of centre-​r ight and centre-​left parties helped pave the way for the rise of the populist radical right in the Netherlands and Flanders, while such parties narrowed the opportunities for right-​wing populist challengers in Wallonia and Luxembourg. Indeed, in the Netherlands and Flanders, mainstream parties failed to keep traditional lines of conflict ‘frozen’. Instead, they contributed to the politicisation of new issues, notably immigration, which created favourable opportunity structures for RWPPs to thrive. By contrast, in Wallonia and Luxembourg, traditional cleavage structures (i.e. the main social or cultural dividing lines within a society that structure political conflict) have stayed comparatively intact. Support for mainstream parties has therefore remained relatively stable. As a result, demand for the populist radical right in Wallonia and Luxembourg is less pronounced than in Flanders and the Netherlands. Second, related structural changes in the media landscape have made the media more compatible with the ‘populist logic’. These changes include audience fragmentation, along with the twin processes of privatisation and commercialisation. The Dutch and Flemish media landscapes are more accessible to right-​wing populist challengers than those in Wallonia and Luxembourg. Media in Luxembourg and Wallonia categorically ostracise RWPPs. By contrast, Dutch and Flemish media have become more accommodating over time, frequently offering RWPPs a platform. The media can decide to reject, confront or accommodate the messages of populist radical-​right parties. Should the media be tolerant towards intolerant ideas because in a democratic debate every viewpoint is legitimate? Or should the media reject and ignore the message of populist radical-​right parties to avoid lending them visibility and legitimacy? This is, of course, a normative question. It ultimately depends on what societal role you ascribe to the media. Are journalists gatekeepers or ‘neutral’ transmitters of information? There is no blueprint on how the media should deal with the far right in general and right-​wing populist parties in particular. In theory, journalists can choose between three strategies (de Jonge, 2019). First, media practitioners can ‘isolate’ far-​r ight politicians by treating them as pariahs. The aim of this strategy is not to ignore them but to make clear their ideas and policies lie outside the bounds of democratic discourse. Second, journalists can assume a confrontational stance by delegitimising their policies through overtly critical news coverage. The third strategy is to accommodate the far right by offering a platform to politicians or incorporating some of their rhetoric in the news coverage.There are clear differences throughout Europe regarding how the media chooses to deal with the far right. My research shows that in the Netherlands and Flanders, members of the media have gradually become more accommodating toward the far right, whereas Walloon and Luxembourgish journalists generally adhere to strict demarcation. To be sure, the role of the media should not be overstated; media coverage does not automatically lead to electoral success, and as I have explained earlier, there are other factors at play that help explain the rise of the RWPPs. At the same time, there is ample

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evidence that media behaviour does not simply reflect but also shapes the electoral advances of RWPPs. The media can play an instrumental role in disseminating xenophobic, ethno-​nationalist and racist messages, and contribute to legitimising their cause by removing the ‘stigma of extremism’ (Ellinas, 2018). Particularly in the earlier phases of a party’s life cycle, media coverage can be an important asset to gain national visibility and legitimacy. The way in which the media deal with the far right is one of the thorniest debates in democratic politics; specifically, it raises questions about the degree of tolerance the media should display toward the often intolerant views proclaimed by populists, radicals and extremists. Politicising issues like immigration and national identity seems to be more difficult in certain countries than in others. Why do you think this is the case? Could it be that the specific political culture of each country shapes the public discourse in different ways? Or might short-​term, contingent factors be more important? Yes, culture certainly plays an important role in shaping the opportunity structures of right-​wing populist parties.Your own research, for instance, highlights the ways in which different collective memories of World War II can open up or close down space for RWPPs (Caramani and Manucci, 2019). But short-​term factors can also play a crucial role. Germany is a case in point. Given the country’s history with authoritarianism and National Socialism, the country’s public sphere was particularly averse to the emergence of a new far-​r ight party. Accordingly, David Art (2006) argued that the combined efforts of political elites, mainstream parties, the media and civil society to combat the far right made it extremely difficult for right-​ wing populist parties to recruit qualified personnel and break through electorally. The social stigma associated with the far right narrowed the opportunity structures of RWPPs.Yet the 2017 German federal elections saw the spectacular breakthrough of the ‘Alternative for Germany’ (Alternative für Deutschland or AfD). To understand the breakthrough of the AfD, we need to look at the changing political context, which affected the positioning of mainstream parties. At the height of what became known as ‘the migration crisis’, Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed tens of thousands of refugees to Germany. The shift of her ruling conservative Christian Democrats created political space on the right of Germany’s political spectrum, and the AfD eventually managed to occupy that space. Crucially, however, the AfD did not emerge as a right-​wing populist party. It was conceived as a moderate Eurosceptic party, which subsequently transformed into a RWPP over time, after entering the electoral arena. By doing so, the party circumvented the ‘gatekeeping’ of mainstream party and media control. In that sense, the party can be likened to a Trojan horse. The broader take-​away point here is that there are different routes by which right-​wing populist parties can enter into the political arena. Specifically, RWPPs do not just enter as newcomers, but they can also emerge also as ‘Trojan horses’ or as splinters or reincarnations of established parties.

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Bibliography Art, D. (2006). The Politics of the Nazi Past in Germany and Austria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Caramani, D. and Manucci. L. (2019). ‘National Past and Populism: The Re-​Elaboration of Fascism and its Impact on Right-​wing Populism in Western Europe’, West European Politics, 42(6): 1159–​1187. de Jonge, L. (2019). ‘The Populist Radical Right and the Media in the Benelux: Friend or Foe?’ The International Journal of Press/​Politics, 24(2): 189–​209. de Jonge, L. (2021a).‘The Curious Case of Belgium:Why Is There No Right-​Wing Populism in Wallonia?’ Government and Opposition, 56(4): 598–​614. de Jonge, L. (2021b). The Success and Failure of Right-​Wing Populist Parties in the Benelux Countries. London: Routledge. Ellinas, A. A. (2018).‘Media and the Radical Right’. In J. Rydgren (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Radical Right. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 269–​284.


You have been studying populism for decades: what sparked your interest in this topic? And what do you wish you had known when you started researching populism? My interest in populism came initially through being interested in green politics. I had always been interested in protest and the political movements on the ‘edges’ of politics. In the late early 1990s I started to notice that there were new political parties in Europe that seemed to share some of the same sorts of rhetorical position of being against the mainstream and arguing the post-​war settlement in Europe was something that needed to be challenged –​albeit in very different ways and with different solutions to green parties. I then started to compare what I saw as this new populism with what was called at the time the ‘new politics’ of green parties in Europe. I was in the US at this point and the emergence of both Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan’s political language seemed to resonate further with this sort of position and piqued my interest. I then did research on the Swedish Green Party and on a new party called New Democracy in Sweden and looked at them comparatively with other new parties across Europe. After I published a book on this called The New Populism and the New Politics, I gave it to my parents and my father asked what populism was. So I wrote a short book, called Populism, to explain what it was. This forced me to look much more broadly both in terms of the different parts of the world and going back in history. I find it hard to tell you what I wish I had known when I started as I always find that research is a more mundane cumulative rather than a process of dramatic revelation. But if pushed, I would like to have known that Trump would become US President so that I could have prepared myself emotionally for it and so that I could have placed a bet with long odds many years ago. DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-14

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You claim that populism is not apolitical because populism can lead to full engagement in politics, but that it is characterised by ‘unpolitics’, or the repudiation of politics as the process for resolving conflict. Does populism propose a different way to resolve conflicts, or does it instead deny the existence of conflicts? I do not think populism has found a way around politics. In a sense, I am always focused on the primal appeal of populism which I think is a sense of ‘unpolitics’, in other words, a gut instinct that it is not a good thing to be involved with. I always think the mythical populist constituency is made up of people that would not normally bother or even really think about politics. But, of course, we are all interested in what happens when the populist impulse to avoid politics is forced into the political sphere –​often by a sense of crisis. So, for me, populism is the confrontation between the political and unpolitical. I often use the metaphor of being unsporting, as in not interested in sport, not against sport but not completely outside of sport because it surrounds us and we have to deal with people for whom it is central to their lives. In the same way, populism has to deal with politics but is essentially uncomfortable with it. I do not mean that populism has a problem with government or the state but rather that it has a problem with the process of politics which involves trade-​offs, compromise, negotiation and building coalitions. In the 1990s, European populism used its anti-​elitist stance to gain consensus and stand in fierce opposition to the establishment. Over time, however, it became increasingly normal to see populists in power.What were the crucial steps that marked this progressive institutionalisation of populism? And what are the main consequences of this process? I think we need to be a little careful here to not be too Eurocentric. Populists have been in power before so it is nothing new. In other parts of the world, we can see populists like Juan Perón in power in Argentina and Huey Long as governor of Louisiana in the US in the 20th century. But populists have certainly become more ‘normal’ by coming into power in Europe recently. To state the obvious, this is as much about the failure of the more established parties as it is about the appeal of populists. The consequence of populists’ success is that they are hard to dismiss as marginal and we, as scholars, get to see how they deal with being in power, which is something they seem to find challenging. Populist actors across Europe now occupy positions in power or give their external support to regional and national governments. Does populism mutate when it becomes part of the elite? My sense is that populism has three basic options once it gets into power.The first is to moderate its populism so that it can reconcile its anti-​establishment stance with now being the establishment. But populists have two other options if they want to keep their populist identity. They can reshape the institutions of politics. This has

72  Paul Taggart

the double advantage of giving them the appearance of taking on the establishment and of allowing them to reshape institutions in ways that suit them and which undermine the effectiveness of any opposition they face. At the extreme, this can mean recasting the constitution. We have seen this in cases in Latin America (e.g. Chávez in Venezuela in 1999 or Correa in Ecuador in 2007) but we can also see it in Europe (e.g. Erdoğan in Turkey in 2017). But we can also see populists in government stopping short of wholesale constitutional change but still targeting particular institutions like the judiciary, civil society or the media.The other option they have, which is best exemplified by Trump, is to behave in government as if they are in opposition and to continue in government to attack the government itself. I would have thought that this strategy would have a limited effectiveness, but the Trump presidency shows that you can sustain your appeal in government by essentially ignoring policy and cultivating polarisation. Populists can be in government and continue to demonise their political opponents, launch attacks on their own government institutions and the media and foster a political context that undermines the beliefs in the functioning of government and even the electoral system. Although the existing research on populism is already gargantuan, much remains to be done. Which are the questions we should ask to advance our knowledge of populism? In a way I feel we need less research on populism. What we need is research on the related and overlapping concepts. Populism as a scholarly idea is like a vacuum cleaner –​it tends to suck in lots of related concepts and to suck in scholars who want to comment on something of interest which is often politically spectacular. This is great in one way as it means that there is a lot of work on populism but if you drill down, the focus is very often on some particular type of populism (e.g. populist right-​wing parties) or on some related aspect of populism (e.g. anti-​ establishment politics, nativism, nationalism). I think it would be much better if we were all clear about what we are interested in. If you are really interested in populism per se, then you need to be thinking about whether what you are doing applies to all forms of populism, be it left or right wing, and whether it is one of the historical cases or the more recent cases.

Bibliography Taggart, P. (1996). The New Populism and the New Politics. London: Palgrave. Taggart, P. (2000). Populism. New York: McGraw Hill.


What aspects of populism interest you particularly, and why? Can you point to an author or work that inspired you and made you consider populism under a different light? At first, I was drawn to the debate about what is populism and how we can measure its fluctuations over time and across political contexts (Gidron and Bonikowski, 2013; Bonikowski and Gidron, 2016). Later on, another debate emerged –​this time regarding the drivers of support for populism. In the aftermath of Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections and the Brexit referendum in 2016, a growing body of literature investigated whether support for populism is rooted in economic or cultural developments (Margalit, 2019). On the one hand, we have those who argue that populism is a reaction to economic factors such as exposure to trade shocks (Colantone and Stanig, 2018) and financial crises (Algan et al., 2017). On the other hand, we have scholars who make the case that support for populism –​particularly on the right –​draws on cultural concerns regarding national identity and traditional gender norms (Norris and Inglehart, 2019; but see Schafer, 2021). Together with Peter Hall, I wanted to better understand the electoral growth of right-​wing populist parties, but also to consider the broader issue of how economic and cultural forces intersect in shaping electoral politics. In thinking about this ‘economy vs culture’ debate, we found much interest in research that approaches this phenomenon from a different perspective from what we usually find in the electoral politics literature. In particular, ethnographic studies that are based on listening to stories of people who support right-​wing populists suggested a different lens for approaching this issue. In this regard, I was influenced by Justin Gest’s (2016) work on white working-​class support for right-​wing populism

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74  Noam Gidron

in the United States and the United Kingdom. This work elegantly documents populist radical-​right voters’ sense of alienation and lack of social recognition. Didier Eribon’s discussion of support for the populist radical right in France points in a similar direction (2018). In a different political context, Arlie Hochschild’s conversations with populist right supporters in the American South capture a sense of declining social status (2018) –​similar to what we find in Kathrine Cramer’s work on rural consciousness in the American Midwest (2016). So, we have these studies that examine support for right-​wing populism in different contexts but come up with common themes: supporters of populist radical-​right parties and candidates feel that their contribution to society is no longer recognised and acknowledged, their social standing is diminished and their lifestyles are discredited by mainstream society. This work impacted my thinking about the role of social status in shaping political developments, including voting behaviour. Engaging in a gruelling tug of war, different schools of thought claim that the reasons behind the success of right-​wing populism are either cultural or economic. However, you propose to combine both sides: why do you think that right-​wing populism is rooted in both economic and cultural developments? Indeed, important research has analysed both economic and cultural indicators that explain support for right-​wing populist radical parties, trying to determine which factors more strongly predict voting for the populist radical right. However, over time there was also a growing agreement that we need an alternative framework, one that goes beyond this horserace between economic and cultural variables. In my work with Peter Hall (Gidron and Hall, 2017; 2020), we argue that focusing on social status is a promising avenue for research on right-​wing populism –​among other things, since people can derive a sense of social standing from both economic and cultural aspects of their lives. And indeed, analysing survey data collected across Europe, we show that a lower sense of social status predicts voting for populist parties. Of course, we are not the first to suggest that social status is crucial for explaining support for the radical right. Lipset’s work on this topic is foundational (1955). To some extent, we wanted to rethink this notion of status politics that Lipset developed already in the 1950s in light of more recent work in sociology about status (Lamont, 2000; Ridgeway, 2014) and then apply it to contemporary research on populism in Western democracies. In studies of electoral politics, we have research on how various economic factors –​such as income or occupations –​are associated with voting. Yet in my reading of this literature, at least until recently, we pay less attention to how people’s sense of their social status relates to voting –​ although this is changing (Carella and Ford, 2020; Engler and Weisstanner, 2021; Kurer, 2020; Bolet, 2021).

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The support for the populist right comes especially from a core group of white working-​class men. How do you explain this phenomenon? And does this mean that the populist right plays the role of a modern-​day Robin Hood, taking from the rich to distribute to the poor? Whenever populist radical-​right parties, candidates and movements gain broad support, it is because they succeed in building a diverse coalition. That being said, at the core of these diverse coalitions we oftentimes find white working-​class men with lower levels of formal education (Bornschier and Kriesi, 2013). One reason for that is likely the relatively low status of this group. In line with other studies, we found suggestive evidence of a sense of status decline among this group (Gidron and Hall, 2017) –​although more recent work challenges this claim (Oesch and Vigna, 2021). In any case, white working-​class men without formal education often report relatively low status, coupled with nostalgia for when they enjoyed higher social standing (Gest, Reny and Mayer, 2018) –​and this provides fertile ground for populist radical-​r ight mobilisation. With regard to the alleged ‘Robin Hood effect’, I think it is important to stress that the core constituency of the populist radical right is not the poorest of the poor. That is, supporters of the populist radical right are mostly not those at the bottom of the income distribution but rather those who are a few rungs above the bottom: those who experience a certain degree of economic hardship, but not the most acute hardship (Gidron and Hall, 2020). Research by Simon Bornschier and Hanspeter Kriesi (2013) as well as Thomas Kurer (2020) reports similar findings. To go back to what we talked about earlier: white working-​class men without academic education are among the core supporters of the populist radical right and have seen their economic opportunities diminish, but they are not necessarily the least well-​ off. This questions the image of radical-​r ight parties as a modern-​day Robin Hood. In 1980, right-​wing populist parties secured less than two percent of the vote in national elections in Europe; today this number is six times higher: 12 percent.Why are many more people voting for the populist right now than did so in the past? It is often assumed that support for the populist radical right is growing because people have changed their attitudes, moving closer to the nativism and authoritarianism of the populist radical right. However, the political scientist Larry Bartels (2017) argued several years ago that this is a myth.We do not really see such a major shift in public opinion. Instead, Bartels proposes considering the growing success of the populist radical right not as the result of a change in public opinion, but rather as resulting from the activation of pre-​existing worldviews and sentiments. According to this line of argument, people did not change their views as much as they changed the importance they attach to different views. That is, people’s opinions did not move closer to the populist radical right –​instead, they now put more weight on the issues on which radical-​r ight parties campaign. If this is correct, when trying to explain the rise of the populist radical right, instead of asking why people changed their minds –​we need to examine why the emphasis they put on

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different issues has shifted to the benefit of the populist radical right (Bonikowski, 2017). Status concerns have likely played a role here: those who think that their social status is declining may put additional weight on consolidating traditional hierarchies. I hope we see more work on this topic in the near future. In your research, you find that people feeling socially marginalised are often alienated from mainstream politics and more likely to support radical parties.This deep-​seated discontent is mostly channelled through a populist and radical choice. How can institutions and mainstream parties channel part of this discontent? Indeed, we find that social disintegration –​that is, people’s sense that they are not being treated with respect and cannot trust those around them –​is predictive of lower status, which is in turn associated with support for populist parties (Gidron and Hall, 2020). This proposes another way of thinking about support for populist parties compared to existing arguments about economic and cultural factors –​and also another way of how mainstream parties may deal with this challenge. Those who emphasise the cultural drivers of right-​wing populism –​such as concerns over multiculturalism –​may suggest that mainstream parties, including those on the left, should consider adopting more conservative positions on cultural issues (Hjorth and Larsen, 2020; but see Abou-​Chadi and Wagner, 2019).Alternatively, those who see support for populism as driven by economic developments may call for welfare policies to compensate economic losers (Colantone and Stanig, 2018). Yet when you listen to supporters of populist radical-​r ight parties, they do not ask so much for more welfare spending but rather for social recognition and respect. Interestingly, the issue of respect played a key role in the successful campaign of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 2021. It remains to be seen whether and how this emphasis on respect will be translated into specific policies. The economist Dani Rodrik, for instance, emphasises the idea of ‘good jobs’ –​jobs that provide middle-​class living standards, economic security and career opportunities in ways that provide workers also with a sense of social recognition (Rodrik and Stantcheva, 2021; Rodrik and Sabel, 2019). I think there is an emerging conversation about how labour market reforms may –​directly and indirectly –​address concerns about social disintegration and I hope political scientists contribute to this conversation.

Bibliography Abou-​ Chadi, T. and Wagner, M. (2019). ‘The Electoral Appeal of Party Strategies in Postindustrial Societies: When Can the Mainstream Left Succeed?’ The Journal of Politics, 81(4): 1405–​1419. Algan,Y., Guriev, S., Papaioannou, E. and Passari, E. (2017). ‘The European Trust Crisis and the Rise of Populism’, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, (2): 309–​400. Bartels, L. (2017). ‘The “Wave” of Right-​wing Populist Sentiment is a Myth’, Washington Post. www.was​hing​tonp​​news/​mon​key-​cage/​wp/​2017/​06/​21/​the-​wave-​of-​ right-​wing-​popul​ist-​sentim​ent-​is-​a-​myth/​

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Bolet, D. (2021). ‘Drinking Alone: Local Socio-​cultural Degradation and Radical Right Support –​The Case of British Pub Closures’, Comparative Political Studies, 54(9): 1653–​1692. Bonikowski, B. (2017). ‘Ethno-​ nationalist Populism and the Mobilization of Collective Resentment’, The British Journal of Sociology, 68: S181–​S213. Bonikowski, B. and Gidron, N. (2016). ‘The Populist Style in American Politics: Presidential Campaign Discourse, 1952–​1996’, Social Forces 94 (4): 1593–​1621. Bornschier, S. and Kriesi, H (2013). ‘The Populist Right, the Working Class, and the Changing Face of Class Politics’. In J. Rydgren (ed.), Class Politics and the Radical Right. London: Routledge, 10–​29. Carella, L. and Ford, R. (2020). ‘The Status Stratification of Radical Right Support: Reconsidering the Occupational Profile of UKIP’s Electorate’, Electoral Studies, 67: 102214. Colantone, I. and Stanig, P. (2018). ‘The Trade Origins of Economic Nationalism: Import Competition and Voting Behavior in Western Europe’, American Journal of Political Science, 62(4): 936–​953. Cramer, K. J. (2016) The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Engler, S. and Weisstanner, D. (2021). ‘The Threat of Social Decline: Income Inequality and Radical Right Support’, Journal of European Public Policy, 28(2): 153–​173. Eribon, D. (2018). Returning to Reims. London: Penguin UK. Gest, J. (2016). The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality. New York: Oxford University Press. Gest, J., Reny, T. and Mayer, J. (2018). ‘Roots of the Radical Right: Nostalgic Deprivation in the United States and Britain’, Comparative Political Studies, 51(13): 1694–​1719. Gidron, N. and Bonikowski, B. (2013). ‘Varieties of Populism: Literature Review and Research Agenda’, Weatherhead Center Working Paper Series, No. 13–​0004. Gidron, N. and Hall, P. A. (2017). ‘The Politics of Social Status: Economic and Cultural Roots of the Populist Right’, The British Journal of Sociology, 68: S57–​S84. Gidron, N. and Hall, P. A. (2020). ‘Populism as a Problem of Social Integration’, Comparative Political Studies, 53(7): 1027–​1059. Hjorth, F. and Vinæs Larsen, M. (2020). ‘When Does Accommodation Work? Electoral Effects of Mainstream Left Position Taking on Immigration’, British Journal of Political Science, 52(2): 949–​957. Hochschild, A. R. (2018). Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. New York: New Press. Kurer, T. (2020). ‘The Declining Middle: Occupational Change, Social Status, and the Populist Right’, Comparative Political Studies, 53(10–​11): 1798–​1835. Lamont, M. (2000). The Dignity of Working Men. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lipset, S. M. (1955). ‘The Radical Right: A Problem for American Democracy’, The British Journal of Sociology, 6(2): 176–​209. Margalit,Y. (2019). ‘Economic Insecurity and the Causes of Populism, Reconsidered’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 33(4): 152–​170. Norris, P. and Inglehart, R. (2019). Cultural Backlash:Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press/​ Oesch, D. and Vigna, N. (2021). ‘A Decline in the Social Status of the Working Class? Conflicting Evidence for 8 Western Countries, 1987–​2017’, Comparative Political Studies. doi:10.1177/​00104140211047400 Ridgeway, C. L. (2014). ‘Why Status Matters for Inequality’, American Sociological Review, 79(1): 1–​16.

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Rodrik, D. and Stantcheva, S. (2021) ‘Fixing Capitalism’s Good Jobs Problem’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 37(4): 824–​837. Rodrik, D. and Sabel, C. (2019). ‘Building a Good Jobs Economy’, HKS Working Paper No. RWP20–​001. Schäfer, A. (2021). ‘Cultural Backlash? How (Not) to Explain the Rise of Authoritarian Populism’, British Journal of Political Science, 1–​17. doi:10.1017/​S0007123421000363


What aspects fascinate you most about populism? Can you name an author or study that particularly captured your interest and inspired you to study populism? Counterintuitively, it was not a study on populism that inspired me to study populism. I was primarily interested in studying the failures of democratic representation and its consequences. In this sense, it was Peter Mair’s essay, ‘Responsible vs. Responsive Government’ (2009) that inspired me to deepen my understanding of the factors that constitute a fertile soil for the emergence and success of populism. In this essay, Mair pointed out that the growing tension between the representation and governing roles of parties resulted in a preference for the former. In other words, parties neglected their role of bringing pressure to bear on the state on behalf of civil society (representative function) to focus on their role of governors. Along this line, subsequent literature has demonstrated the negative consequences for the democratic regime of the increasing disconnection between partisan elites and citizens (see Morgan, 2011). Several of these studies touch on the fact that when democratic representation linkages are poor, or the party system collapses, personalist ties between voters and elites tend to thrive. On closer scrutiny, many of these personalities display a populist discourse. In other words, when conceived as a ‘thin ideology’ (Mudde 2004), populism seems to constitute a more immediate way to reconnect with voters since it does not entail a complex ideological message. Due to its lack of ideological complexity, populism tends to flourish when traditional parties in the system fail to represent voters. Therefore, voters are more likely to prefer a populist political option. This is associated with populists’ morally polarising discourse, as they present themselves as ‘pure’ while depicting the whole establishment as ‘corrupt’ through a process known as blame attribution. Populist actors use anti-​establishment discourse to blame elites, depicting them

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80  Lisa Zanotti

as ‘all the same’ and holding them responsible for the dire circumstances of the country (Zanotti, 2021). Populism is supposed to thrive when mainstream parties become too similar to each other and fail to provide a credible alternative. In Europe, for example, populist radical-​right parties emerged after centre-​right and centre-​left parties converged on both socioeconomic and sociocultural issues. Is this always the case? Or can populism also emerge in more polarised contexts? As you mentioned, populism in Western Europe has mostly emerged as a consequence of the increasing ideological and programmatic convergence among the main parties in the system. In other words, when mainstream parties converge on certain issues, it is likely that a relevant portion of the electorate feel unrepresented. This is the core argument of various studies that explain the rise of the populist radical right in Western Europe, which emerged as a sort of counter-​revolution (Ignazi, 1992) in response to the widespread support for liberal cultural values (e.g. pro-​choice positions, LGTBQA+​rights and environmental policies). However, populism can also be the result of increasing polarisation. This was the case of Bolsonaro in Brazil, for example. His election in 2018 resulted from a gradual polarisation between the left (mainly the Party of the Workers) and the post-​transition right due to the radicalisation of the discourse on the latter after 2014 (Santos and Tanscheit, 2019). This radicalisation of the right reached a peak in 2016 with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. At that point, the confrontation between right and left became more and more emotional, generating a widespread rejection of Rousseff ’s party. When mounting polarisation together with corruption scandals involving the mainstream right led to its implosion, Bolsonaro was able to occupy that political space. In sum, even though in Europe particularly, populism emerged in response to the growing programmatic convergence –​sometimes collusion –​of mainstream parties, populist actors can also thrive in a highly polarised context especially when combined with ramping corruption scandals and strong negative identities. The effects of polarisation for the success of populism might differ across regions and political systems. For example, what can we learn by comparing Europe, Latin America and the United States? Moreover, is it the case that polarisation can produce different effects when populists are in power and when they are in opposition? As I mentioned before, populist actors can emerge from different scenarios. On the one hand, in Europe we can observe how both populist radical rightist and leftist parties are the result of the convergence of mainstream political formations on different issues. While the former are the consequence of mainstream parties disregarding the issue of immigration, the latter gained relevance through their opposition to the mainstream parties’ convergence on austerity measures imposed by supernational institutions (especially the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund). In Latin America, populist

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actors from both the left and the right have emerged in contexts of growing programmatic convergence –​Venezuela and Chile –​as well as extreme polarisation –​Brazil (see Zanotti and Roberts, 2021). With respect to the United States, the scenario was different because we saw a traditional mainstream party transforming into a populist radical-​right party in what has been defined as a mainstreaming of the far right. However, this transformation did not occur with the election of Donald Trump. Indeed, the Republican Party had clearly become more radical and populist from at least the emergence of the Tea Party in 2009 (Rhodes-​Purdy, Navarre and Utych, forthcoming). In this sense, we can interpret the election of Donald Trump in 2016 as the result of the mainstreaming of radicalism and populism that were once minoritarian within the Republican Party. Therefore, while some populist actors profited from contexts of scarce polarisation (see for example Western Europe), in other cases polarisation can lead to the success of relevant populist options (see Brazil and the US). Conversely, when populists are in power, they are generally unable to actually deliver as the simple solutions they promised during the campaign often prove ineffective or even impossible. As a consequence, to maintain support they strategically target political opponents as well as out-​g roups, deliberately polarising society. It is worth noting that the main component of this polarisation is not ideological but affective (based on emotions). This means that it leads citizens to simultaneously liking those individuals who belong to their group (party) while increasingly disliking those belonging to the opposite one. In sum, ‘by consistently reinforcing resentment, populists can promote solidarity within the movement and maintain mass mobilisation and engagement of their movements’ (Rhodes-​Purdy, Navarre and Utych, forthcoming). Populist parties benefit from ideological convergence, but often produce extreme polarisation. Doesn’t this create a paradox in which populist parties gain from the absence of polarisation, but then contribute to polarising the political debate, which in turn penalises them? To give a proper answer to this question, the key is to highlight the difference between ideological and affective polarisation. While populist actors can usually benefit from poor democratic representation, especially in those contexts in which mainstream parties converge on one or more axes of competition, the polarisation that they produce once in power is more affective that ideological. In some contexts more than others, it is only through a process of demonising their opponents (out-​ group), based on a morally loaded discourse that populists can maintain the mobilisation of their constituencies without delivering what they promised during the campaign. Consequently, they deliberately intensify the level of affective polarisation within the polity, assuring the continued mobilisation of their supporters not through programmatic closeness but through sentiments of in-​g roup belonging and out-​group discrimination. In some cases, this cleavage between the in-​and the out-​group revolves around a pro-​and anti-​populist leader.

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A clear example of this is the polarisation of the Chávismo/​anti-​Chávismo political cleavage in Venezuela from the late 1990s. It can be said that from the 1999 election to the election of Nicolás Maduro as President of the Republic in 2013, the political field in Venezuela was divided between those in favour of Chavismo and those against. The same logic defined Argentinian and Peruvian politics with Peronism/​anti-​Peronism and Fujimorism/​anti-​Fujimorism, respectively. At this point, it should be stressed that the oppositions play an extremely relevant role. If oppositions engage in the same tactic of demonising ‘the others’ because of their opposing political identity, politics will become increasingly tribal and divisive. In other words, the polarisation that somehow inevitably arises when populist parties or leaders come to power can be increasingly intensified by the opposition and further worsen its effect on democracy. More specifically, when non-​populist actors engage in the same discursive techniques as populists, shifting attention away from policy proposals, mocking, ridiculing and attacking populist leaders (depicting them as the out-​group), it will reduce the common ground and thus make compromise increasingly unlikely. However, as populism emerges due to the shortcomings of mainstream parties, the latter need to address the issues that populist own as well as unmask the impracticability of the easy solutions populists propose to solve the country’s problems. However, as mentioned before, the dynamics of populism are different in power from when it is emerging. If the group targeted by populists with their polarising discourse responds in kind, a vicious cycle of polarisation will ensue (Rhodes-​Purdy, Navarre and Utych, forthcoming). All in all, when in power, populists can only retain their followers’ loyalty if they intensify their polarizing discourse, assuming the easy solutions they proposed in the election campaign do not work. More polarisation can produce more engagement and, why not, a more vibrant democratic life. However, it could also produce a situation in which opposing camps are unwilling to negotiate their positions and fail to reach any common ground. How can we summarise the effects of polarisation on democratic institutions: are they both positive and negative? And how does this impact the success of populist parties? When referring to the level of ideological party system polarisation, different studies have pointed out that a certain amount of it is necessary for voters to be able to differentiate among political options and candidates, strengthening political parties as well as mobilising supporters. In other words, a degree of polarisation is necessary for a healthy democratic representation being as extreme convergence is as perilous as excessive polarisation (Morgan, 2011; Zanotti, 2019). However, polarisation has recently become much less ideological, entailing a strong emotional component instead (McCoy, Rahman and Somer, 2018). Scholars refer to this phenomenon as affective polarisation which has been described as the hostility towards opposing political parties or compatriots with an opposing political identity. In fact, the attachment to certain political identities (mostly partisanship) and to the emotions that stem from it is increasingly common among

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citizens. This process results in a division of society into in-​g roups and out-​g roups, reducing the objective pluralism of society into a single dimension of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Thus, affective polarisation has become one of the main dangers for democracy due to the social-​psychological intergroup conflict dynamics it produces. In this dynamic, which is mostly elite-​driven, the distinctions between groups become mutually exclusive identities in which individuals feel forced to choose a side or be labelled by others as belonging to one side or the other. In this sense, it is evident how this contraposition between the in-​and the out-​g roup leads to the questioning of the latter’s legitimacy, which is problematic since it may lead to the erosion of citizens’ willingness to engage with opposing political views, to accept others’ democratic claims and ultimately even to accept defeat in elections (McCoy, Rahman and Somer, 2018). In other words, when extreme polarisation is primarily based on emotions, it can have a more negative effect on democracy because people perceive that they hold a legitimate (partisan) identity but, others do not. In this regard, some scholars emphasise that affective polarisation can also have a bad effect on democracy when populist leaders do not use polarisation as a strategic tool. This dynamic is typical of cases in which populist leaders incorporated previously marginalised sectors. In theory, incorporating new sectors in the political arena should be beneficial for democracy. However, this incorporation is often associated with the displaced elites’ backlash when they attempt to take back power. What happened in Bolivia after the election of Evo Morales as the leader of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) is a good illustration of this. The party can be defined as a ‘charismatic’ and a (peasant) ‘movement-​based’ party that opposed neoliberal policies and sought to represent previously excluded ethnic groups. After an alleged electoral fraud in the 2019 presidential election that saw Morales prevail with 45.3 percent of the vote, he was forced to resign in what many observers and pundits described as a coup orchestrated by the Bolivian elite and power groups. Morales’ resignation threw the country into chaos, triggering violence and broad human right violations, and this paved the way for the presidency of Jeanine Añéz Chávez, a Catholic opposition leader widely accused of holding racist views.

Bibliography Ignazi, P. (1992). ‘The Silent Counter-​revolution: Hypotheses on the Emergence of Extreme Right-​wing Parties in Europe’, European Journal of Political Research, 22(1): 334. Mair, P. (2009). ‘Representative versus Responsible Government’, MPIfG Working Paper, 09/​ 08. http://​edoc.vifa​​opus/​vollte​xte/​2010/​2121/​. McCoy, J., Rahman, T. and Somer, M. (2018). ‘Polarisation and the Global Crisis of Democracy: Common Patterns, Dynamics, and Pernicious Consequences for Democratic Polities’, American Behavioral Scientist, 62(1): 16–​42. Morgan, J. (2011). Bankrupt Representation and Party System Collapse. University Park: Penn State Press. Mudde, C. (2004). ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition, 39(4): 541–​563.

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Rhodes-​Purdy, M., Navarre, R. and S. Utych (forthcoming). Discontent: Populism, extremism, and conspiracy theories in the age of the Great Recession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Santos, F. and Tanscheit, T. (2019). ‘Quando velhos atores saem de cena: a ascensão da nova direita política no Brasil’, Colombia Internacional, 99: 151–​186. Zanotti, L. (2019). Populist Polarization in Italian Politics, 1994–​2016: An Assessment from a Latin American Analytical Perspective. Dissertation, University of Leiden. Zanotti, L. (2021). ‘How’s Life After the Collapse? Populism as a Representation Linkage and the Emergence of a Populist/​Anti-​Populist Political Divide in Italy (1994–​2018)’, Frontiers in Political Science, 79. doi:10.3389/​fpos.2021.679968 Zanotti, L. and Roberts, K. M. (2021). ‘(Aún) la Excepción y no la Regla: La Derecha Populista Radical en América Latina’, Revista Uruguaya de Ciencia Política, 30(1): 23–​48.


You wrote, often together with Cas Mudde, some of the most influential work on populism: can you tell us what work or author most inspired you and contributed to your understanding of populism? Although my own thinking about populism has been influenced by many different authors, the work of Margaret Canovan has been of great relevance to me. I have always found the contributions of Canovan stimulating, particularly because of her capacity to employ the tools of political theory to analyse populism but avoiding any intricate jargon. In fact, when I started to develop my own reflections about populism, Canovan’s book entitled The People was pathbreaking for a better understanding of not only the concept of populism, but also its difficult relationship with democracy. In this work, she gives a very clear explanation of why democracy cannot be understood properly without paying great attention to the notion of ‘the people’ and how that can be easily appropriated by populist forces of different kinds. As Canovan convincingly argues, one cannot understand democracy without taking into consideration that the ultimate political authority is vested in ‘the people’ and not in divine powers or unelected bodies composed of experts.Yet contemporary democracies rely on independent institutions that are neither controlled nor elected by ‘the people’, generating a problem that is anything but simple to solve. Put shortly, the work of Canovan has helped me to understand that the rise of populism should not be thought of as a virus or disease, but rather as the symptom of the failure of democratic regimes to meet the standard of collective self-​determination.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-17

86  Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser

In recent years, you have focused on the links between populism and negative partisanship. How can we define negative partisanship and why is it relevant to consider this for the analysis of populist forces? Political scientists and pundits alike tend to study which parties people identify with. However, it is also important to reflect on which parties voters really dislike. The latter phenomenon can be thought of as negative partisanship and is crucial for a better understanding of how the electorate relates to the political world today. In effect, a limited number of people normally identifies with existing political parties, but most voters reject certain parties. This is particularly important when it comes to analysing populist forces, since the latter usually have a base of fervent supporters as well as a large number of detractors. Because of their polarising language, I think populist actors and parties are prone to generating strong feelings of antipathy within large segments of the population. Therefore, my intuition is that scholars would do well to empirically and theoretically analyse the link between populism and negative partisanship. Nevertheless, as yet we have limited research on this. US scholars have been at the forefront of the analysis of negative partisanship, but there are few studies that try to bring populism into the analysis. And while populist forces have received growing attention in Europe, scholars interested in European politics have made little effort to investigate negative partisanship. Can you give any example of how negative partisanship is linked to the performance of populist parties and leaders? Given that there is not much research about this, it not easy to offer general arguments that might travel to different countries. Nevertheless, in a recent contribution that I have written with Carlos Meléndez for the journal Democratization, we analyse novel survey data for ten Western European countries that allows us to examine the profile of those who have a positive and negative identity towards populist radical-​r ight parties. Three issues stand out in my opinion and reveal the relevance of undertaking studies on positive/​negative partisanship towards populist forces. First, when comparing the populist radical right with other party families in Western Europe, its singularity stands out: it simultaneously generates the largest base of supporters (approx. ten percent of the electorate) as well as of detractors (approx. 50 percent of the electorate). Second, those who have a positive and negative identity towards the populist radical right have very different profiles: whereas the former are in favour of democracy, the European Union and immigration, the latter prefer authoritarianism, are at odds with the European Union and reject immigration.Third, it seems that turnout is higher amongst those who have a positive identity towards the populist radical right than amongst those who have a negative identity towards the populist radical right. While more research is needed to test if these arguments hold true for other countries and other populist forces, this contribution demonstrates that research on populism and negative partisanship can generate novel insights about the impact that populist forces are having on the political system in general and on democracy in particular.

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In your opinion, do citizens become populist because they dislike mainstream parties, or do they dislike mainstream parties because they are populist? And is it possible that mainstream parties manage to mobilise voters by constructing and politicising negative feelings towards populist parties? In most advanced democracies, the rise and consolidation of populist forces is a relatively new phenomenon. This means that a sector of the electorate that voted in the past for mainstream parties has shifted its preferences in favour of populist candidates and parties. There is little doubt indeed that populist forces have the ability to politicise issues which, deliberately or not, have been ignored by mainstream parties. Those who feel left behind by ‘the elite’ are particularly likely to support populist forces, which not only criticise the establishment but also speak about the need to respect the will of ‘the people’. Seen in this light, the very formation of populist parties is directly related to the anger of certain sectors of the electorate with mainstream parties. Nevertheless, once populist forces are able to entrench themselves into the political system, mainstream parties often attack them by arguing that supporting populism is irresponsible and dangerous. By promoting a discourse against populism, mainstream political parties tend to facilitate the formation of a cleavage that seeks to divide the voting public into two blocks: those who are in favour of and those against populism, which is usually depicted as a threat to democracy. Those who dislike the populist radical right tend to be strong supporters of democracy. On the other hand, populist radical-​right parties maintain an ambivalent and difficult relationship with key elements of liberal democracy. Is it possible to conclude that those supporting the populist radical right are against democracy per se, and liberal democracy in particular? As mentioned before, we need more research on both positive and negative partisanship towards the populist radical right to answer this type of question properly. We certainly have a good number of studies on the characteristics and preferences of those who support the populist radical right, but there are very few studies analysing those who reject the populist radical right, and their political preferences. Nevertheless, based on the existing empirical evidence, it seems to be clear that voters of the populist radical right have a definite regime preference: they tend to be at odds with the democratic system, particularly with the existence of independent institutions in charge of protecting minorities and that can put limits on the principle of majority rule. This is related to the fact that the populist radical right defends an authoritarian vision of society, according to which foreign ideas and people are not welcome, so that those actors and institutions that defend multicultural positions and liberal values are depicted as traitors. Not by chance, independent media and the judiciary are usual targets of the populist radical right. But we have limited empirical evidence in comparative perspective on those who reject the populist radical right. However, the contribution I have written together with Carlos Meléndez presents evidence for ten Western European countries and we

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find that those at odds with the populist radical right represent a large constituency (approx. 50 percent of the electorate) that has strong democratic credentials and is in favour of progressive values. In fact, these are citizens who not only defend immigration and European integration, but also promote the electoral, liberal and social democratic dimensions of democracy. This finding reveals that those who develop a negative partisanship towards the populist radical right can be thought of as a democratic reservoir of Western European societies.Yet the empirical evidence also demonstrates that this segment of the electorate has very heterogenous voting preferences, including the option of no voting. Thus, more research is needed to understand the kind of strategies that political actors and institutions should promote to achieve effective politicisation of negative partisanship towards the populist radical right. So far, we have talked about citizens with strong positive or negative sentiments towards political actors. However, we know that a sizeable amount of the population normally has no strong feelings for politics, and in fact are rather apathetic. Do these voters vote or abstain? And if they vote, do they vote for populist or mainstream parties? This is a very interesting question, which is difficult to address for a simple reason: research of non-​voters is far from simple since surveys normally include only a limited number of people who do not participate in elections. Despite significant differences between countries, turnout levels have been declining in most advanced democracies over time and this is related to decreasing levels of identification with mainstream political parties. Given that the latter have increasing difficulty in representing the ideas and interest of the electorate, an important segment of the electorate has become apathetic. But it is also true that another segment of the electorate has opted to vote for populist forces of a different kind. To better understand the differences between those who vote for mainstream political parties, populist parties and those who do not vote, I have written a contribution with two colleagues (Cedric Koch and Carlos Meléndez) that relies on a survey conducted in Germany that oversamples non-​voters, providing us with enough observations for three different constituencies that are becoming increasingly common across advanced democracies: non-​voters, populist voters and mainstream voters. The empirical analysis reveals interesting aspects about each of them. First, mainstream voters tend to consist of higher earning, more educated female citizens, who are interested in politics, support democracy in principle and report high satisfaction with democratic practice. Moreover, despite their internal party-​political competition, voters of mainstream parties exhibit shared ideological preferences in opposition to populist voters’ views and report strong anti-​populist partisanship. Second, populist voters are distinguished by exhibiting high interest in politics and retaining greater belief in democracy as a political system than non-​voters, but they report the greatest dissatisfaction with democratic practice and are unique in demanding greater use of direct democratic tools to supplement representative politics. At the

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same time, populist voters are much less likely than non-​voters to report no positive partisanship and do not consistently lack a negative partisan identity. Third, non-​ voters tend to be male, with low levels of education and below-​average income levels, and they are less likely than the two other constituencies to consider democracy as the best political system, and also the most likely to be apartisan in the sense of not reporting positive or negative partisanship for any political party. While further studies should demonstrate whether these findings are similar for other democracies beyond the German case, this preliminary research shows that mainstream voters, populist voters and non-​voters should be considered as three different constituencies with their own sociodemographic and sociodemographic characteristics. Let’s conclude with Chile, which has recently elected a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution: amid several corruption scandals, great inequality and authoritarian legacies, how do you explain the fact that populism has not yet emerged? To answer this question, it is important to make the distinction between the demand-​side and the supply-side of populism.While the former refers to the existence of citizens that believe in the populist set of ideas, the latter alludes to the actors who promote populist discourses of a different kind (e.g. populist radical-​ right or populist radical left programmatic proposals).This distinction is particularly important when analysing the political situation in contemporary Chile, since the country experienced the emergence of a populist movement in 2019, that is, the rise of massive protests against the establishment and the claim the people should have the right to re-​found the social contract. Seen in this light, one could argue that the populist demand is very present in the country today. After all, millions protested in 2019 demanding an end to the status quo and a huge majority voted in favour of drafting a new constitution in the 2020 referendum. Nevertheless, actors who promote populist ideas have not been particularly successful so far.This means that the populist supply exists, but it has not convinced a large segment of the population. Part of the explanation of this peculiarity lies in the fact that the 2019 populist social movement did not have a clear leader and articulated many different demands (discrimination against indigenous communities, ecological issues, gender disparities, socioeconomic inequality, etc.). Therefore, the formation of a populist force that it is able to represent the 2019 wave of protests is far from simple. In other words, the very heterogeneity and leaderless nature of the 2019 populist movement complicated the rise of an electorally successful populist figure. This does not mean that populist actors are completely irrelevant, however. In effect, in the 2021 presidential election a populist radical-​r ight candidate was able to pass to the ballotage. His name is José Antonio Kast and he is a well-​known right-​wing politician who opted to abandon his political party and build a personalist electoral vehicle, which advances a similar programmatic agenda to the one that the populist radical right has developed in many other places around the world. The relative success of this project hinges on Kast’s capacity to mobilise a sector of society that is at odds with the 2019 populist movement and the ongoing constitutional process. Similar

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to what has happened in other countries, the rise of the populist radical right in contemporary Chile should be thought of as a backlash against the promotion of progressive programmatic positions and values. Given that the mainstream right in the country supported Kast in the ballotage, it remains to be seen what will happen in the near future. As I have argued with my colleague, Tim Bale, in a recent edited volume, one of the main dangers for democracy worldwide is the growing symbiosis between mainstream right and populist radical-​r ight forces.

Bibliography Bale, T. and Rovira Kaltwaser, C. (eds) (2021). Riding the Populist Wave. Europe’s Mainstream Right in Crisis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Canovan, M. (2005). The People. London: Polity. Koch, C., Meléndez, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (forthcoming). ‘Mainstream Voters, Non-​Voters and Populist Voters: What Sets Them Apart’, Political Studies. doi: 10.1177/​ 00323217211049298. Meléndez, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2021). ‘Negative Partisanship Towards the Populist Radical Right and Democratic Resilience in Western Europe’, Democratization, 28(5): 949–​969. Mudde, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2018). ‘Studying Populism in Comparative Perspective: Reflections on the Contemporary and Future Research Agenda’, Comparative Political Studies, 51(13): 1667–​1693.


First, can you tell us how, as a media scholar, you approached populism? Then, can you pick a key title among the burgeoning literature on the topic that you would particularly recommend? I am generally interested in how the content and style features of messages influence attitudes and behaviour. This was also my approach to populism. When I started to work on that topic, the success of many populist parties in Europe suggested that their messages are more persuasive than those of other parties. Thus, I wanted to understand what distinguishes populist communication from other forms of political communication and which of its characteristics make it persuasive. One key title that helped me approach this topic, and that I would recommend, is an article by Margaret Canovan (1999). Emotions versus rationality. Gut feelings against facts. Flamboyant politicians making jokes and serious technocrats proposing boring analyses. Sometimes the success of populist parties is explained in these terms. How much truth is there in this frame? Can we say that the communication style of populist actors is more emotional than the style of mainstream, pluralist and technocratic actors? Indeed, my research (2018) provides evidence that populist actors make use of an emotional, dramatised and colloquial language, and that they do so more often than mainstream actors. Populist actors try to demonstrate that they are normal citizens and do not belong to the political establishment; that’s why they avoid using the complex language that is often associated with politics and rather choose to speak like the man on the street. However, this is only one part of the phenomenon.What I find more remarkable is that even without using an explicitly emotional language, populist actors elicit emotions through the content of their messages. The populist ideology paints the DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-18

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world in black and white; people are either friend or foe, positions are either right or wrong, there is no room for different opinions. By making such strong evaluations, populist messages are very likely to trigger emotions –​negative emotions towards the bad people and positive emotions towards the good people. Populist actors speak to the guts of the people, and this generates a strong emotional response. Still, this does not explain the success of populist actors. A struggle between good and evil, typical of the populist ideology, might increase the perceived relevance of political messages. Is that the case? Are emotional appeals more persuasive? Emotional arousal is actually a consequence of perceived relevance. I will only be afraid when I assume that a certain threat might affect me or people who are important to me. I will only get angry when I consider an offence to be directed at myself or a group I identify with. Populist messages create this personal relevance because they depict every issue as a struggle between the people and some dangerous others. By always relating to this bigger context, even the most insignificant events are used as pieces of evidence for the failure of the elite to protect the interests of the people. For instance, I recently read an article describing the situation of an old lady living in an apartment where the heating broke down and was not repaired for three weeks. By framing this as a failure of the government to care for the people who have spent their lives working for the prosperity of the country, this unpleasant but actually trivial incident became not only newsworthy, but also set off a lot of emotional comments. Because many people can relate to those common people who are depicted as the victims of failed politics, populist messages trigger emotions. And as negative emotions are unpleasant, people feel a strong need for immediate solutions. This is what makes populist appeals especially persuasive. Populist messages, coming in particular from right-​wing parties, are supposed to tickle the Wutbürger, or ‘enraged citizen’, because they convey negative emotions such as anger and fear. Migrants, foreigners, the elite, and many other groups, are presented as the enemy of the people. Are these negative emotions effective in persuading and mobilising the electorate, or do they rather have a paralysing effect because they make the people feel powerless? Negative emotions usually call for relief: angry people want the culprit to be punished, and people who are afraid want to feel safe again. Research has shown that depending on the emotion that individuals experience, they prefer different policies. As long as political actors can come up with solutions to tackle the emotional problems they have nurtured, people are likely to be mobilised. If people however feel that there is no solution for the problem, they are likely to draw back. This emphasises the importance of how solutions are presented. Populist actors often propose simple and straightforward policies, which correspond very well with emotional needs. Other actors acknowledge the complexity of our globalised society, which might leave the emotional needs unfulfilled instead. However, the

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presentation of simple solutions is not a golden key to success. This strategy only pays off when people believe that these solutions will work.The more sophisticated people are, the more they will doubt the effectiveness of simple solutions. Do you find traces of more positive emotions, such as hope and pride, in the range of feelings linked to populist messages? How do these feelings manage to persuade and mobilise the electorate? These positive emotions are triggered by messages that address the good side of the populist antagonism, thus the people and the populist actors themselves. As individuals identify with ‘the pure people’, they feel proud when their virtues and achievements are mentioned. Furthermore, by promising to help the people to gain back their voice and power, populist actors spread hope. The positive emotions triggered by populist communication are thus the other side of the coin to the negative emotions. Populists point at the problems and present themselves as the ones who will solve them. This might be promising, as the electorate of populist parties is often described as unpolitical, as individuals who actually do not want to engage in elections or referenda, but instead prefer a strong leader who takes care of everything. Why do you think that mainstream, established actors fail to speak to the guts of the people? Are they actually more rational and fact-​based, or should they simply hire better communication strategy consultants? Simple solutions might be appealing, but most likely they are not a remedy as the world is much more complex. Mainstream, established actors acknowledge this complexity; the policies they propose are therefore often not that far-​reaching.This would backfire if the debate was too emotional, so they are probably right to stick to the facts. Nevertheless, they should hire good communication consultants who are able to describe complex issues in a way that everybody is able to understand. Research has repeatedly shown that populist appeals are especially persuasive for individuals with lower education. It is thus the challenge for mainstream politicians to explain in a more accessible way why the simple populist solutions will not pay off. Which are good examples, nowadays, of political actors (or parties) that represent an emotional and a rational communication style respectively? Looking at the former and current presidents of the United States, we can see both styles: Donald Trump had an emotional communication style; he was able to spread anger and hope alike. Anger against the political establishment, the Mexicans, the media, the Democrats … and hope because he promised to put America first, to provide a better future for the ordinary people. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is an example of the rational style. He shows that this style can be successful too –​maybe even more so after a phase of emotional communication and ‘alternative facts’.

94  Dominique Wirz

If emotional messages speak to the guts of the people, and this in turn translates into mass mobilisations and successful electoral campaigns, one could expect this communication style to become the standard in the future. Do you think this will be the case or, alternatively, do you believe that mainstream actors will fail to adapt to this new type of political communication and simply open the road for long-​lasting populist governments? The question is if populist actors can stay successful once in power. If they cannot deliver what they have promised, this will open the door for new actors or movements who will step into their footsteps. Therefore, I doubt that populist governments can be very long lasting, but I believe that the emotional style will remain. However, the topic has gained a lot of attention in the last years, not only in academia. For this reason, I hope that the more people are aware of these mechanisms, the more they will be able to cope with this communication style. If the ‘extra emotional ingredient’ typical of populist messages became the norm of political communication, what consequences should we expect? In the long-​term, fake news, simplistic memes and violent verbal attacks might substitute arguments, facts and dialogue.We are already witnessing this transformation, without necessarily looking at the USA. This would be highly detrimental to the quality of democratic deliberation.What could be the antidote to this situation? I think education and accessibility are the crucial factors. Some studies show that a large part of the adult population is not able to fully understand a TV news show. We don’t have to be surprised if these people get their information from sensational headlines and simplistic memes.We cannot blame them if they are not able to identify fake news. So, on the one hand, we have to make sure that people get the education that is necessary to be a conscientious and well-​informed citizen, and on the other we have to make sure that political information is disseminated in a way that it is appealing to less interested citizens and that you don’t need a university degree to understand it.

Bibliography Canovan, M. (1999). ‘Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy’, Political Studies, 47(1): 2–​16. Wirz, D. (2018). ‘Persuasion Through Emotion? An Experimental Test of the Emotion-​ Eliciting Nature of Populist Communication’, International Journal of Communication, 12: 1114–​1138.


You have been doing research on populism for years now; what do you find especially fascinating about this topic? Can you recommend an author or work that particularly inspired your vision and understanding of populism? I arrived at populism as an object of investigation rather indirectly, via my research agenda on campaign negativity and, more recently, on the (dark) personality of politicians. Against this backdrop, populism acts as a fil rouge that connects the dots, as I discuss below. What fascinates me about populism as a research object is that it offers a ductile framework for the study of proximate phenomena, allowing us to consider insights from disciplines as different as (political) communication, psychology, and sociology. Broadly speaking, what emerges from my work is that populism is associated with a more aggressive political style and profile. A strand of research that has been particularly influential in this sense includes work highlighting the ‘performative’ dynamics of populism above and beyond ideological and electoral considerations –​for instance the work by Benjamin Moffit (2016), who very convincingly articulates the stylistic dynamics of contemporary populism. There are many myths and few certainties about the style in which populist actors express themselves, and your work is extremely helpful in this regard. For example, the populist style is often described as being flamboyant, based on provocations, offensive, and aggressive. Is that true? Yes, I would say that in general this statement holds in light of recent empirical evidence. Of course, as is often the case when making generalisations, an important caveat is that such broad trends do not apply equally well across the board. More specifically, it would be a mistake –​in both concrete and epistemological terms –​to claim that all populists reflect the description above. Certainly, there are exceptions and even counterexamples. But this caveat notwithstanding, I think a good case DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-19

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can be made that the stereotypical populist style tends to encompass bombastic, provocative and even aggressive elements. Examples abound, from Trump to the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders. To unpack the claim that something like a ‘populist style’ exists, I believe that we should focus on two main elements: the character and persona of populists on the one hand, and their typical rhetoric and communication on the other. Populists across the world seem to showcase a rather peculiar set of character and personality traits. Ferran Martínez i Coma and I have analysed the personality profile of more than 150 political leaders and ‘top’ candidates worldwide –​including over 30 populists, from Trump to Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Marine Le Pen in France,Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and many more; we found a rather consistent trend: compared to traditional, mainstream politicians, populists in our data tend to be less agreeable and conscientious (that is, they showcase a less cooperative, tolerant, disciplined and responsible character), but more extroverted and neurotic (that is, they showcase a more energetic, charismatic, excited and anxious character). Furthermore, populists systematically score higher on the three ‘dark’ personality traits: narcissism, that is, the tendency to seek attention and admiration and engaging in flamboyant and bombastic ego-​ reinforcement behaviours; psychopathy, that is, the lack of remorse and empathy, and a proclivity for insensitivity; and Machiavellianism, that is, a marked preference for strategic behaviours and manipulation. There are quite substantial differences between the average score of populists and mainstream candidates on those traits, notably for agreeableness and neuroticism (Nai and Martínez i Coma, 2019). This overarching trend, according to Ferran and myself, echoes three narratives that are frequently associated with populism. According to the ‘drunken dinner guest’ narrative, populists tend to showcase their pleasure in engaging in ‘bad mannered’ behaviours (Moffit, 2016). This first narrative suggests populists are impolite, loud, vulgar, ‘low-​brow’. Low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness and high levels of neuroticism seem to be good personality markers for this narrative. Second, the ‘agent provocateur’ narrative portrays populists as showcasing a more excited, exaggerated, bombastic and provocative behaviour, intended specifically (and strategically) to destabilise the consensual political order and the ‘politically correct’ status quo –​reflected in greater extraversion, neuroticism and Machiavellianism. Third, according to the ‘charismatic leader’ narrative, populists tend to project an aura of invincibility and charisma, and are able to mobilise and persuade the masses via their energetic, bold and emotional style. Our results echo this narrative, showing that populists score higher in narcissism and psychopathy (itself associated with social boldness) and, again, extraversion. So populists seem to have a rather peculiar personal profile, characterised by low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness, high energy and excitement –​and a generally ‘darker’ character. However, this is only part of the story. Next to their unique persona, populists across the world also seem to showcase a higher degree of political aggressiveness in their rhetoric. More specifically, there is a quite substantial difference between populists and mainstream politicians when looking at

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the content of their election campaigns. On examining the campaigns of about 200 politicians worldwide, I found that populists make a significantly stronger use of attacks against their political opponents, that their attacks tend to be more vicious and personal when compared to the attacks of other politicians, and also tend to rely more heavily on narrative intended to stir ‘negative emotions’ such as fear and anxiety in the public (Nai, 2021). Populists, in other words, tend to campaign more ‘negatively’ and aggressively than their mainstream counterparts. As I discuss below, this is far from trivial and can have consequences for democracy in the short and long term. To be sure, dark personality and dark campaigns are associated with each other also beyond populism –​that is, across the board politicians that showcase a more uncompromising personality profile (low levels of agreeableness, high levels of dark traits) tend to campaign more negatively.Yet populism frequently exists at the nexus between dark personality and more aggressive forms of political communication and rhetoric; populists clearly showcase a ‘darker’ personality profile –​provocateurs, bad mannered, disagreeable, narcissist and neurotic –​and are substantially more likely to engage in more aggressive communication behaviours, by relying on vicious attacks against their opponents and fearmongering, for instance. I believe that a good case can be made that populism likely fuels the centrality of dark personality and negativity in contemporary electoral democracies. Do populist candidates benefit from their bombastic style and increase their chances of electoral success? Or might voters actually punish them for their ‘bad manners’? That is a tough question. It might be tempting to see the recent success of numerous ‘darker’ political leaders –​Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán, Duterte –​as a sign that a more aggressive and bombastic style and profile is electorally beneficial; but given the multitude of factors coming into play to decide the result of elections, I would argue that we should be cautious about seeing those circumstantial events as an indicator of a broad and established phenomenon. This being said, there is preliminary evidence that a darker political style might be beneficial for populists.Together with colleagues in the Netherlands and Germany, I have investigated the campaign of all major parties in the 28 European countries during the 2019 elections for the European Parliament (Nai et al., 2021). On average, campaigns only had a very marginal effect on the performance of the parties during the election; a more negative tone, incivility and fearmongering were on average not significantly associated with better (or worse) results. Importantly, the situation was different when looking at different types of party, most notably when comparing the performance of mainstream and Eurosceptic parties (e.g. France’s Rassemblement National, the Brexit Party in the UK, or Italy’s Lega), many of which have of course a clear populist profile. Our results show that while harsher campaigns (more aggressive, more negative) tended to be detrimental for mainstream parties, they were likely to provide an electoral advantage for Eurosceptic parties. Quite simply, we found preliminary evidence that Eurosceptic parties perform better when they use a harsher rhetoric –​likely

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because it is more ‘in character’ for them. Voters, thus, generally seem to punish populists much less when they go negative –​indeed, populists might benefit from it. As I discuss at the end of this interview, this effect might be particularly strong for some specific voters. Is it possible that, in the long term, the ‘populist’ style based on negativity and attacks will increase cynicism and disaffection with politics, which in turn will boost the support for populism even further? The fact that populist parties might benefit from showcasing a more aggressive political profile makes sense intuitively. Political aggressiveness is ‘in character’ for populists, as discussed above, and it thus seems natural that they are rewarded for behaving as expected. After all, violating social expectations is a rather surefire way to make people dislike you; candidates that are expected to behave provocatively and subvert the consensual rules of ‘politics as usual’ would likely lose much of their appeal if they started behaving ‘normally’. Would Trump’s base be as vocal and supportive if he would abandon his vitriolic rhetoric? Unlikely. Populists are expected to behave aggressively, and thus have incentives to do so. In the short term, the likely consequences of political aggressiveness by populist parties and candidates are the normalisation and generalisation of negativity as a fundamental campaigning technique. Despite little systematic evidence that this is so, I believe that a case can be made that the rise of political movements that promote aggressiveness is likely to fuel negativity and political aggressiveness in general, including among more mainstream movements –​if only in reaction to attacks received from populist themselves. But it is in the long term that the dynamics of populist aggressiveness are likely to put a more permanent dent in the democratic machinery. More negative, vitriolic, uncivil campaigns likely have two nefarious systemic consequences. On the one hand, they are likely to foster cynicism and a general disaffection with politics; the public at large tend to be wary of political aggressiveness, and it is unlikely that being exposed to a never-​ending series of ad hominem attacks, fearmongering and incivility promotes a more positive image of the political system in the eyes of the voter. On the other hand, and perhaps even more perniciously, campaign negativity might deepen the rift between opposed ideological camps (Iyengar, Sood and Lelkes, 2012) –​what is usually referred to as ‘affective polarisation’.Voters not only disagree with their political opponents; they increasingly loathe them. Exposure to vitriolic campaigns is likely to make the negative attributes of the opponents particularly salient in the eyes of the voter, fostering political tribalism and a strong dislike for voters with other ideological leanings. Importantly, the development of cynicism and affective polarisation may well provide a more fertile ground for populist movements, known to feed off sentiments of political disaffection and antagonism between social groups. In other terms, while promoting a more aggressive form of politics might not necessarily bring electoral success for populist movements in the short term, it is likely to plant seeds for their future success down the line.

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You analysed the personality traits of politicians, and it is very interesting what you found about the ‘dark side’ of personality. Populist candidates are characterised by narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. What are the main implications? And how do we reconcile these findings with the notion that populists are often described as able to form a direct and effective connection with their followers? As discussed above, contemporary populism seems to go hand in hand with a more negative and ‘dark’ style of politics –​a more uncompromising personality profile, and the use of a more aggressive and vicious rhetoric. These dark elements tend to be disliked by the public at large; dark personality is at odds with the rather consensual idea that good leaders should be conscientious, competent and consensual, and voters are quite vocal in their dislike of an excessive use of political attacks, incivility, and fearmongering. How do we square this general dislike for dark politics in the public at large with the claim that populists have incentives to ‘go dark’? I discussed part of the answer to this question above: in terms of political supply, dark politics is ‘in character’ for populists. Because they are expected to behave in a more aggressive way or showcase a darker personality profile, they are less likely to be penalised when they do so. The other part of the answer relates to political demand: the dynamics of dark politics are likely to be particularly appreciated by a specific segment of the electorate. Who likes dark politics? Recent research that triangulates observational and experimental data provides some concrete answers on this. On the one hand, higher support for populist parties is found especially among voters that themselves score lower in agreeableness (Bakker, Rooduijn and Schumacher, 2016). On the other hand, perfectly mirroring the trend above, voters that score high in populist attitudes are significantly more likely to appreciate candidates with a darker personality profile (Nai, 2022). All in all, dark voters like dark politicians. With this in mind, one of the implications of my research is that populists might be likely to form a direct and affective connection with their voters –​not necessarily via charisma, but via the promotion of a more aggressive and darker political style, particularly appreciated by some.

Bibliography Bakker, B. N., Rooduijn, M. and Schumacher, G. (2016). ‘The Psychological Roots of Populist Voting: Evidence from the United States, the Netherlands and Germany’, European Journal of Political Research, 55(2): 302–​320. Iyengar, S., Sood, G. and Lelkes,Y. (2012). ‘Affect, Not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 76(3): 405–​431. doi:10.1093/​poq/​nfs038 Moffitt, B. (2016). The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Nai, A. (2021). ‘Fear and Loathing in Populist Campaigns? Comparing the Communication Style of Populists and Non-​populists in Elections Worldwide’, Journal of Political Marketing, 20(2): 219–​250. Nai, A. (2022). ‘Populist Voters Like Dark Politicians’, Personality and Individual Differences, 187: 111412.

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Nai, A. and Martínez i Coma, F. (2019). ‘The Personality of Populists: Provocateurs, Charismatic Leaders, Or Drunken Dinner Guests?’ West European Politics, 42(7): 1337–​1367. Nai, A., Medeiros, M., Maier, M. and Maier, J., (2021). ‘Euroscepticism and the Use of Negative, Uncivil and Emotional Campaigns in the 2019 European Parliament Election:A Winning Combination’, European Union Politics. doi: 10.1177/​14651165211035675.


As a communication scholar, what interests you most about populism? Is there an author or a study that particularly inspired you and shaped your understanding of populism? The lack of knowledge and fear-​driven assumptions regarding which news and information sources populist citizens use and what they think about them already shaped my research as a PhD student. Many were and continue to be concerned that those who support populist ideas and/​or vote for populist parties get all their information on social media and that all this information is de facto disinformation. Populist citizens are often thought to live in filter bubbles and echo chambers, completely isolated and disconnected from the mainstream discourse. My research was one of the first to show that things are much more complex than these assumptions suggest. A scholar who has inspired my own thinking in this direction is Matthijs Rooduijn. I enjoyed reading one of his articles in which he worked around stereotypes and ‘widely held beliefs’ about populist voters. Using European Social Survey (ESS) data, Rooduijn found ‘no consistent proof that the voter bases of populist parties consist of individuals who are more likely to be unemployed, have lower incomes, come from lower classes, or hold a lower education’ (2018: 14). At the point of reading this, I struggled with the fact that many public observers dealt with populism as something rooting within the lower class. This felt extremely judgemental and wrong, and I was thankful for Matthijs’ article that called these stereotypes into question. Most importantly, it helped me to phrase my own research questions openly and encouraged me to stick more to my data and less to my beliefs.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-20

102  Anne Schulz

From a populist perspective, the media are part of a detached elite that neglects the citizens’ interests. As a textbook example of this, Donald Trump attacked what he calls ‘fake news media’ throughout his presidency, accusing most of the press of being ‘enemy of the American people’. Is this reflected in the findings of your research? Do populist citizens distrust the media? There are very few studies today that show that either voting for populist parties or populist attitudes relate to hostile media perceptions (Schulz, Wirth and Müller, 2020), generally perceived media bias (Eberl, 2019) or lower levels of trust in public service news (Schulz, Levy and Nielsen, 2019). Relatedly, other studies could show that political populism relates to beliefs in naïve media theories such as ‘The media purposely report the untruth’ (Fawzi, 2019: 154) or the conviction that journalists report in a way ‘that harms the interests of ordinary citizens’ (Fawzi and Krämer, 2021: 3300).That said, we know there is an association between lower levels of trust in news and higher levels of populism. However, there are three aspects regarding this finding about which we know very little. One is that knowing about relationships between variables seldom informs us about the level of these relationships. It is possible that populist citizens trust public service news less than non-​populist citizens, but they could still be trusting these outlets more than private broadcasters or social media. Second, we do not know what causes these hostile media attitudes among populist citizens. It might be populist leaders’ anti-​media rhetoric that persuades followers that the media is the enemy. But it would not be difficult to imagine, for example, that people who are unsatisfied with the news media because they do not feel represented by it, turn toward populist politicians who claim to stand up for those who are otherwise neglected. And last, much of the research on the relationship between populism and news attitudes comes from German-​speaking countries; we lack evidence from other countries where populism might work differently, for example, as part of the government, which often compromises the free media and changes public attitudes accordingly. In Poland, for example, the public service broadcaster’s news show has the lowest trust ratings of all major news offerings in the country and this has little to do with populist citizens distrusting this particular source. Can you tell us what kind of citizens use public service news? Are they more right-​ wing or left-​wing? Are they populist or not? The answer depends very much on where we look. Mostly, public service news still manages to cater for politically diverse audiences. This is true for the BBC in the UK, Yle in Finland and Radiotelevisione italiana (RAI) in Italy to give a few examples. But in other countries, like Germany (ARD and ZDF) or Greece (ERT), public service news audiences tend slightly toward the left. Country differences also depend on how populist public service news audiences are. There are a few countries where public service news audiences are slightly less populist than the population average; this is the case of BBC audiences, for example, and ERT in Greece. But the audiences of RAI in Italy and RTVE in Spain are a little more populist

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(Schulz, Levy and Nielsen, 2019). We have to be careful when interpreting these findings, as this does not mean that the news itself is in fact tilted toward the left, the right, in favour of or against populist views. It might just mean that (maybe due to right-​wing populist anti-​media rhetoric) an outlet has a more left-​wing image and is thought to be against what populism represents. In some countries, public service news might also face strong competition from private news outlets that might be better at catering to conservative and populist viewpoints, for example. Reach is one thing, trust is another. Do populist citizens trust public service news? And what about private broadcast competitors? In many European countries, and also in Canada or Australia, public service media continues to provide the most trusted news. Even among populist citizens, the average level of trust in public service news is not low. On the contrary, if we measure trust on a scale from zero (not at all trustworthy) to ten (completely trustworthy), the mean trust score for public service news among populist citizens is above five in the 12 European countries where we did this research (Fletcher, Schulz and Nielsen, 2021). The finding that populists trust public service news on average less than non-​populist citizens can be explained by i) populist citizens’ mixed views about public service news and ii) non-​populist citizens’ exceptionally high trust in public service news. In another study where I compared populist citizens’ attitudes toward public service news, quality newspapers, private TV news and the tabloid press, more interesting patterns emerged (Schulz, 2021). In fact, populist citizens’ evaluations across these different news types do not seem to vary much. Across all types, the average among populist citizens is close to the scale’s midpoint. I still struggle to interpret this finding and more research will have to be done to shed light on this. But it could mean that rather than disliking all news media, populist citizens are generally indifferent when it comes to their attitudes to traditional news sources. Social media are increasingly used to gather political information. Since they allow the official sources of information to be bypassed, one might think that they are used and trusted more by populist people. Is that the case? Yes and no. In some countries populist citizens are more likely to use Facebook or YouTube as news sources but communication research has long shown that using a news source and trusting the source are not necessarily the same thing. People have many reasons for using social media as news sources. When it comes to Facebook, most people do not go there with the intention of finding news, but run into it accidentally. For Instagram or YouTube, the mix of news and entertainment is the main driver for most people, and I assume that this will include populist citizens. It would fit the finding that populist citizens are also more likely to use private TV news (Schulz, 2019) which often comes as a mix of soft and hard news as well. Findings become very interesting when we look at populist citizens’ attitudes toward social media as news sources. Contrary to commonly held beliefs, populist citizens express strong scepticism about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

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as sources for news and information. I found that in the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland, populist and non-​populist citizens were equally sceptical toward the information they come across on different platforms. Although there is a slight trend toward populists being a little less sceptical, this finding was statistically insignificant (Schulz, 2021). It might be that the social media critical discourse fostered by mainstream news organisations has had quite an effect on how people in general think about social media as a news source, populist citizens included. We know that online misinformation is linked to lower trust in mainstream media. Is it possible that people with populist attitudes do not trust mainstream media and become exposed to misinformation, which, in turn, reinforces their populist attitudes? Even if exposure to misinformation leads to lower trust in mainstream media, we should remember that this will only ever be true for a very tiny part of the population. For one, we know from other research that the chance of running into false news is extremely small as disinformation makes up only a tiny fraction of all the information circulating on social media. We also know that convincing people to believe false things is probably the most difficult persuasion task that one can attempt. Few people will ever fall for this trap and it is easier when prior beliefs match the false information. As for populist citizens, their motivations for using social media as a news source are still not clear. They might be doing so because it offers perspectives that are not available in the ‘mainstream media’. But this does not have to be disinformation and it would also not mean that social media becomes the only source of news these people use. In your opinion, in which directions should future research on populism and news media go? What are the most interesting questions we can ask? I believe we will have to go back to almost square one to see what the coronavirus pandemic has changed for populist parties and their followers and this includes their relationship with the news media. The parties had to readjust their messaging and, the way I see it, some of the more established parties took surprisingly long to do this. Other and sometimes more extreme actors have filled this void and gathered people around them that seem to have little in common with the populist citizens we knew from before the pandemic.The market for disinformation was also deeply reshuffled with some players having lost all impact and others taking over. In particular, closed messaging apps like Telegram have gained importance in some parts of the world. But we have to remember that as extreme and despicable as the content on these platforms is, its reach continues to be fairly limited. But to be sure, low reach does not mean that the impact of this messaging on the few that are exposed to it is not worthy of our attention. Future research should continue to gauge which news sources are used by supporters of populist parties, how consumption patterns change over time, and how this accords with what populist citizens think about these sources. I believe there is also a lack of knowledge on populist citizens’

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motivations for using news media they distrust. Media effects research will have to establish the sources for people’s false beliefs and this might not always be populism and social media.

Bibliography Eberl, J. (2019).‘Lying Press:Three Levels of Perceived Media Bias and Their Relationship with Political Preferences’, Communications, 44(1): 5–​32. doi:10.1515/​commun-​2018-​0002 Fawzi, N. (2019). ‘Untrustworthy News and the Media as “Enemy of the People?” How a Populist Worldview Shapes Recipients’ Attitudes Toward the Media’, The International Journal of Press/​Politics, 24(2): 146–​164. doi:10.1177/​1940161218811981 Fawzi, N. and Krämer, B. (2021).‘The Media as Part of a Detached Elite? Exploring Antimedia Populism Among Citizens and its Relation to Political Populism’, International Journal of Communication, 15, 23. https://​​index.php/​ijoc/​arti​cle/​view/​14795 Fletcher, R., Schulz, A. and Nielsen, R. K. (2021).‘Polarized Public Trust in News from Public Service Media Across Europe’, Presentation held at the annual European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA).Virtual conference. Rooduijn, M. (2018). ‘What Unites the Voter Bases of Populist Parties? Comparing the Electorates of 15 Populist Parties’, European Political Science Review, 10(3): 351–​ 368. doi:10.1017/​S1755773917000145 Schulz,A. (2019) ‘Where Populist Citizens Get the News:An Investigation of News Audience Polarization Along Populist Attitudes in 11 Countries’, Communication Monographs, 86(1): 88–​111. doi: 10.1080/​03637751.2018.1508876 Schulz, A. (2021). ‘Sceptical Toward All News or Only Public Service News? An Analysis of Populist Citizens’ News Media Type Perceptions in 4 Countries’, Presentation held at the annual European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA). Virtual conference. Schulz, A., Levy, D. and Nielsen, R. K. (2019). ‘Old, Educated, and Politically Diverse: The Audience of Public Service News’, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford. Schulz,A.,Wirth,W. and Müller, P. (2020).‘We Are the People andYou Are Fake News:A Social Identity Approach to Populist Citizens’ False Consensus and Hostile Media Perceptions’, Communication Research, 47(2): 201–​226. doi:10.1177/​0093650218794854


As a media scholar, what brought you to study populism? Can you tell us which author or study particularly inspired you and shaped your understanding of populism? On the one hand, I was always particularly fascinated by research topics at the intersection of communication and politics: How politicians communicate via different channels, how the media report on political topics and actors, and how citizens respond to political communication. In this regard, populism seemed like a burning glass that allowed me to investigate multiple trends that were also relevant to political communication more broadly. On the other hand, it was also fortunate circumstances that brought me to study populism. When I was looking for a topic for my Master thesis, I was inspired by an interdisciplinary, international research project on populism that already existed at my university. In my Master thesis, I then analysed how politicians used populist communication across different communication platforms, parties, and countries. This was my gateway into populism research as well as into academia. One of the first scientific texts I read on populism was by Margaret Canovan (1999). Her work has influenced me not to think of populism as a new and purely negative phenomenon. Rather, Canovan sees populism as inherent in the struggle between what she calls ‘two opposing faces’ of liberal democracy: one ‘pragmatic’ and the other ‘redemptive’. Furthermore, Canovan already pointed to the central role of communication and mass media for populism, which had otherwise long been neglected. Another, lesser-​known study that particularly inspired me in the beginning was by Mirjam Cranmer (2011). This study was among the first (apart from the pioneering study by Jagers and Walgrave, 2007) to empirically investigate populist communication and show that political actors employed populist messages differently in different contexts. For me, this study highlighted the importance of DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-21

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focusing not just on typical populist actors –​the usual suspects –​but rather on the populist communication of a broad spectrum of actors and analysing influencing factors across different contexts. Social media allow populists to communicate directly with ‘the people’, while their emotional and controversial style generate attention. This, in turn, is an important factor in the growing electoral success of populist actors. At least, this is the general opinion: is there any empirical proof of this? Can we say that social media constitute an advantage for populist compared to non-​populist actors? Indeed, it is a widely held belief that social media provide fertile ground for populist actors. Populists frequently claim that social media contributes to their success because they allow them to bypass traditional gatekeepers and communicate directly with their voters. Empirically, there is certain evidence for these claims but there are also some caveats. I should clarify that my research follows a communication centred approach. This means that my work does not divide actors from the outset into ‘populists’ and ‘non-​populists’. Instead, whether actors are populist is determined as a matter of degree based on their communication; if and to what extent they use specific populist key messages (e.g. people-​centrism, anti-​elitism) and styles (e.g. emotionalisation, absolutism). Accordingly, I do not investigate how typically populist actors use social media, but rather how a broad range of political actors use populist communication on these platforms, under what circumstances, and with what effects. One aspect of the above claim is the expectation that political actors’ communication is more populist on these platforms than on other communication channels.The empirical findings in this regard are mixed. In one of our studies, first authored by my colleague Nicole Ernst, we found politicians’ communication to be more populist on social media –​particularly on Facebook –​compared to political talk shows, but less populist compared to their statements in the printed press. In another similar study, we found politicians’ communication to be less populist on social media compared to talk shows. These (partly) contradictory findings indicate that although social media provide several opportunity structures for populist communication, the extent of populism in political actors’ communication depends on additional factors, such as the situational or issue context. However, an important related question is whether populist communication particularly elicits user reactions on social media. Politicians want to publish content that resonates with their followers and gains a large amount of attention. Followers’ reactions to tweets or Facebook posts, such as likes or shares, help politicians reach wider audiences. Furthermore, a high level of social media popularity may render political actors and their messages more newsworthy and give them more attention in traditional media. Several empirical studies indicate that the content and style of politicians’ populist communication resonates with audiences on social media. In one of our own studies, we find that Facebook posts receive more user reactions in the form of likes, shares, or comments than do non-​populist messages. We find a

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similar effect for news articles: populist news articles receive more reader comments than news articles without any populist messages. This confirms the theoretical expectation that the content and style of populist communication are highly compatible with network media logic. Yet again, there are some caveats: first, we need to differentiate between different platforms. For example, our findings do not show the same effect for Twitter. Second, we find similar effects for typically populist and typically non-​populist actors. Thus, politicians who are not typically considered populist can potentially gain higher resonance by communicating populist messages. To summarise, politicians’ self-​presentation on social media is not inherently more populist compared to other self-​ presentational communication channels. However, populist social media messages receive disproportional attention, both directly from followers –​specifically on Facebook –​and indirectly via traditional mass media. Strategically, a strong popularity of populism on social media may incentivise political actors –​typically populist or not –​to use populist communication to gain attention and reach. Whether and how this affects political actors’ electoral success is still an open question. Most research focuses on the relation between populist politicians and social media. You looked into something different: how citizens contribute to the spread of populism.What did you find? Despite the central role of ‘the people’ in populist ideology, research on populism has long neglected the role of citizens. If citizens were considered, they were either regarded as an abstract object of populist communication or in an aggregated form as a source of electoral support for populist actors. However, in online communication environments, citizens have more and more possibilities to publicly voice their opinions and give direct feedback. This development is accompanied by an increasing audience orientation of both the mass media and politicians. Therefore, citizens have become a much more central actor group for populist online communication. Citizens are no longer only recipients of and audiences for populist messages by politicians and journalists; they can also exert a more active role online. In my dissertation, I propose distinguishing between citizens as gatewatchers, originators, and interpreters of populist messages (Blassnig, 2020). First, citizens can influence how much attention and reach populist statements by other actors achieve on online platforms. Social media are built on a multi-​ step flow of communication. In a first step, published posts go only to the direct followers of a political actor or a media outlet. These direct followers are often highly motivated, politically interested citizens, so-​ called ‘opinion leaders’. By interacting with populist messages –​for example by liking a politician’s populist Facebook post or by sharing a populist news article on Twitter –​these direct followers disseminate these messages to their own networks. With each reaction, these messages spread to a larger audience. To describe this role, I apply Axel Bruns’ (2018) concept of ‘gatewatching’ to populist online communication: as gatewatchers, citizens observe populist communication that passes through the output gates of

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news outlets or social media and identify relevant material that they share and discuss on their own sites or profiles. Empirically, as elaborated in response to the second question, we find that populist online communication resonates particularly well with citizens and is frequently recirculated by them. Thus, the role of citizens as gatewatchers plays an important role in the dissemination of populist communication by politicians or in the news media. Second, just like politicians or journalists, ordinary citizens can publicly voice populist ideas themselves –​for example by demanding popular sovereignty or discrediting the elite as corrupt and incompetent. In the past, such statements might have been made mostly at the ‘Stammtisch’ in the local pub and thus remained in a smaller circle. Today, even ordinary citizens can potentially reach a large audience via social media, blogs, or the comment sections of mass media. In that sense, citizens can become originators of populist messages. Empirically, we investigated how citizens use populist messages in reader comments below news articles and find that populist communication by citizens is quite common in comment sections. Furthermore, commenters are more likely to make populist statements if the news article already contains populist messages. Thus, populist communication by politicians or in the media multiplies and leads to more populist communication by citizens. Third, citizens can also act as interpreters of populist messages: they can contextualise, reinterpret, criticise, legitimise, attenuate, or amplify populist messages by politicians or journalists. Whether and how citizens critically assess populist messages by politicians or other actors has not yet been investigated empirically to the best of my knowledge. Finally, it is important to note that citizens’ contribution to the spread of populism depends on their individual predispositions. In an experimental study, we find that only citizens with strong populist attitudes are more likely to react to a populist Facebook post than a non-​populist post.Thus, only citizens who already agree with populist ideas beforehand are more likely to like or share the populist messages that they come across online. Consequently, only a limited, specific group of people spreads populist ideas online. However, this group seems to be especially active on social media and in comment sections and therefore contributes to the impression of an overrepresentation of populist messages online. In your research, you find that populism in online articles about immigration leads to more frequent and more populist reader comments.This seems to indicate that populism has a strong mobilising potential because it pushes people to engage in a debate and express their opinions. Is it possible to conclude that populism can enhance the participation of citizens in the public debate? That is a good question, and one I cannot answer conclusively.These findings could indeed indicate that populist communication contributes to the increased participation of citizens in the online public sphere. Considering populism’s problematic stance on central ideas of liberal democracy, this multiplication and spread

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of populist ideas to a larger audience through citizens is highly problematic. But from the viewpoint of participatory democracy, such an enhanced participation could also be interpreted as positive, especially against the background that traditional political participation, such as voting in elections, as well as membership and engagement in political parties or trade unions, has declined dramatically. However, other research indicates that although being exposed to populist communication may make citizens more likely to increase their online participation or other noninstitutionalised forms of political engagement, it may not necessarily motivate people to vote. Liking, sharing, or commenting provides citizens with an easy means of responding directly and immediately to politicians or journalists online. However, it may not translate into real-​world political actions or influence. This mismatch between citizens’ experience of apparent influence online and continued inefficacy offline may further deepen the perceived divide between the people and the elite that is propagated by populist ideology. Social media are increasingly important, but traditional media still provide political information to a majority of citizens. Moreover, rather than simply competing, new and old media interact. For example, news media journalists often republish social media posts. How is the interaction between old and new media going to shape the diffusion of populist messages and the electoral fortunes of populist actors? This question speaks to another central point of my research. In communication science, we speak of ‘hybrid media systems’ (Chadwick, 2017), in which old and new media and their respective media logics intertwine and complement each other. Politicians can choose from an increasing variety of possible media channels to spread their messages and get in direct contact with their voters. However, politicians use social media channels not only to side-​step traditional mass media but also to get their messages into the reporting of those news media. This intermedia agenda setting has become increasingly prevalent in hybrid media systems. Journalists constantly monitor what politicians say on other channels and incorporate these messages in their news reporting. Often, news media directly embed politicians’ tweets or Facebook posts in online news articles. Thereby, the news media regularly provide an unfiltered and uncritical platform for political actors, including for populist communication. This is in my view a crucial point that –​as simple as it may seem –​journalists are still too little aware of. As mentioned above, large numbers of user reactions on social media may also contribute to greater attention in traditional news media. Journalists increasingly focus on issues that seem sought after and promise a wide reach or virality. Thus, populist communication on social media can be expected to drive populism in traditional mass media. This connection has not yet been empirically investigated specifically regarding populist communication. Yet, this argument is supported by recent studies showing that Donald Trump’s Twitter use, in combination with the volume of likes and retweets by his followers, played an important role in his gaining publicity from elite media organisations. In turn, since Donald Trump was

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banned from Twitter, you hardly read any statements from him in the mass media anymore. Thus, journalists need to be aware of their role as gatekeepers for populist messages by politicians. The media should critically reflect and contextualise populist messages, correct wrong statements, and call out violations of democratic norms. Finally, journalists should not mistake popularity for relevance.

Bibliography Blassnig, S. (2020). Populist Online Communication: Interactions among Politicians, Journalists, and Citizens (Dissertation). Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Zurich: University of Zurich. Bruns, A. (2018). Gatewatching and News Curation: Journalism, Social Media, and the Public Sphere. New York: Peter Lang. Canovan, M. (1999). ‘Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy’, Political Studies, 47(1): 2–​16. https://​​10.1111/​1467-​9248.00184 Chadwick, A. (2017). The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power (2nd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cranmer, M. (2011). ‘Populist Communication and Publicity: An Empirical Study of Contextual Differences in Switzerland’, Swiss Political Science Review, 17(3): 286–​307. https://​​10.1111/​j.1662-​6370.2011.02019.x Jagers, J. and Walgrave, S. (2007). ‘Populism as Political Communication Style: An Empirical Study of Political Parties’ Discourse in Belgium’, European Journal of Political Research, 46(3): 319–​345. https://​​10.1111/​j.1475-​6765.2006.00690.x

20 POPULISM IN POWER Giorgos Venizelos

Giorgos, can you tell us which author or work made you realise you wanted to study populism? Ernesto Laclau was the author that made me curious about populism. I encountered his work in a period when leftist movements and parties with an ‘alternative outlook’ seemed to have found a way out of the deadlocks of the left and appealed to a social majority. His work, also with Chantal Mouffe, on socialist strategy and democracy was found at the centre of intellectual and militant discussions. Of course, Laclau’s work, which dates back to the 1970s, extends far beyond populism, but this is something that most scholars of populism fail to recognise. His work on hegemony and discourse paved the way to the development of a whole school of thought, commonly known as the Essex School, that utilises his complex conceptual apparatus to understand how meaning is created, social change takes place and collective identities are formed. Not all ‘Laclauians’ focus on populist communication and performativity though. Significant contributions have been made to the fields of education, policy and so on.Today there are some scholars, like Yannis Stavrakakis who made significant contributions to the fields of populism and discourse theory. Outside the Essex School, scholars like Maria Esperanza Casullo, Pierre Ostiguy and Benjamin Moffitt made important contributions regarding performative and stylistic aspects of populism as well as the function that bodily choreographies and taste play in collective identification.

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Populism in power is mostly studied in terms of the (negative) effects it has on democracy as well as its capability to implement policy. However, you claim that we should rather look at the ability of populists to remain populists after taking power, focusing on the type of discourse they articulate. Do populists manage to remain populists even if they become part of the elite or once in power? Studying populism’s effects on democracy, its ability to implement policy and whether these policies differ from non-​populist policies is indeed important. But this does not allow us to define populism, because having effects on democratic institutions or the capability to pass policy are neither exclusive nor defining features of the phenomenon. Non-​populist politicians also fail to implement policy. At the same time, whether populists pose a threat to democracy is often related to the very ideology that accompanies populism rather than populism itself. For these reasons, I tend to study populism in power by focusing on the very features that define populism: its people-​centric and anti-​elitist performativity found in the ways populists speak, their bodily choreographies and style, so to speak. These traits are very important in generating affective relationships between leader and masses. Do populists remain populists in power? The picture, empirically speaking, is very diverse. Some populists, like Alexis Tsipras, failed to maintain collective enthusiasm despite having continued to perform as populists. Other populists, like Donald Trump, continued to mobilise grassroots supporters and even increased their electoral support although they failed to implement key policies, such as to ‘build the wall’. Some populists become more moderate and some more radical in power –​ both in terms of their populist performativity (pitting ‘the people’ against ‘the elite’) as well as the ideological agenda they seek to implement. Nevertheless, I think we should avoid coming up with a general answer as to what happens when populists achieve power. It is wiser to pose precise questions and establish concrete criteria as to what we want to study when we study populism in power.We also need to take the context very seriously. Populism’s success or failure may have nothing to do with populism itself but exogenous reasons related, for example, with the national or supranational system (EU, IMF), elite resistance, internal conflicts within the (populist) party, failure to secure majorities and so on. A lot of the discourse surrounding populism is negative: populism is often described as ‘bad’,‘anti-​democratic’ and ‘anti-​pluralist’. Is populism destined to destroy democracy? Indeed, most pundit discourse links populism with illiberalism, demagogic or xenophobic politics and the far right. But not all populisms are the same. Parties such as Syriza and Podemos, as well as the indigenous Evo Morales who led the Plurinational State of Bolivia, sought to enhance political participation. Of course, right-​wing populists also claim that they stand for democracy, transparency and so on, but their narrative betrays the exclusionary and anti-​democratic character of their vision. In contrast, left-​wing populists embody pluralistic and egalitarian features. They include migrants, LGBTQI+​communities and women in their definitions of ‘the people’. This challenges the ‘homogenisation thesis’.

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While populism may be normatively at odds with liberalism, it does not mean that it is not democratic. This is the argument made by Mudde and Kaltwasser. Thinkers such as Panizza and Canovan advocate that populism and democracy are in constant interaction, and thus frame populism as the mirror, or the shadow of democracy. One must also not neglect the democratic roots of populism manifested in political traditions that existed long before the anti-​ pluralist populism that thrives today (i.e. Russian and American populisms). In Europe, populist actors rarely manage to rise to power, while in Latin America this happens more frequently.Why do you think this is the case? This is indeed what many (European) scholars claim but I am not sure it is entirely true. PASOK’s historic leader, Andreas Papandreou, who is thought of as a populist archetype, ruled for 11 years. Twenty years after his death he still remains a central signifier in Greek politics. Archbishop Makarios, who was president of Cyprus between 1960 and 1974, is another profoundly (ethno)populist leader who mesmerised the masses and received the support of over 90 percent of the population. However, his case is never studied through the lens of populism. Perhaps we think of populism as a phenomenon that is relatively absent in Europe because of the tools we use to study it, the way we define it and the assumptions we have about it. Let us not forget that, until recently, populism in Europe was almost exclusively studied by scholars of the far right. The rise of left populists in the aftermath of the financial recession in 2010s left many analysts puzzled. This is not to dismiss the relative absence of populism in Europe. The reasons behind this are very complex though. Political scientists have highlighted that the institutional setting creates both opportunities and obstacles for populists to gain office. In European party systems, we have mostly observed populist parties taking up power at subnational levels, serving in the parliamentary opposition, being minor partners in coalition governments. Recently, we have seen coalition governments, in Greece and Italy, constituted by two (ideologically opposing) populist parties. Poland and Hungary have been governed by (populist) majority rules. So it also depends how you define ‘power’. Generally, it is said that it is much easier for populists to rise in parliamentary systems (like Greece, Italy and France) than in presidential systems, but this again depends on factors such as the populists’ ability to build coalitions. In some countries, ‘cordon sanitaire’ was often applied in order to prevent populists and radical rightists entering parliaments. Traditionally, two-​party systems allowed little political space for challenger parties to become relevant. Recently though, populist leaderships like those of Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have risen within non-​populist parties (i.e. Labour and the Republicans). In Greece and Spain, the two-​party system collapsed in the first half of the 2010s. Populists have achieved power at different levels, defying predictions. No one expected Donald Trump to beat Hillary Clinton. Experts thought that electoral system and institutions would secure American democracy from populism. But

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populism is flexible and performative. It adapts to the institutional settings and cultural particularities and is informed by it in order to construct collective identities. Reasons may be also found in political traditions and cultures. Greece and Italy, many Latin American countries, but also the US, have strong traditions of populism that are contingently activated and deactivated. Finally, we need to pay attention to structural conditions, increasing inequalities and unmet popular grievances which, in times of deep crisis, may completely realign the party systems as well as the political and cultural norms. You studied Donald Trump’s presidency and focused on some paradoxical elements. For example: how is it possible for someone as rich, promiscuous and politically incorrect as him to have received the support of poor people, evangelicals and conservatives? Moreover, how could he maintain a high electoral approval even though his record in office was low? Politics is not just about the best argument, data or facts. People do not participate in politics just because they agree with a party’s manifesto. On the contrary, on many occasions people vote against what are perceived to be their own material interests. This is not paradoxical. Cultural or symbolic matters play an important role in political identification. Crucially, affect is another key aspect that is commonly neglected. This is exactly where performativity comes into the picture. Trump’s transgressive style –​characterised by unadorned and politically incorrect vocabulary –​disrupted the rules and norms of American political culture. His style (e.g. awkward hand gestures) was perceived as authentic rather than pretentious. His performance was perceived as an opposition to the elitist style of a ‘political establishment’ that was framed as boring and self-​indulgent. This is very closely related to the fact that ‘common people’ felt underrepresented by and alienated from mainstream politics which was seen as ‘business as usual’. Politics is not only connected with who we identify with but also who we oppose.Trump emerged against such a backcloth. His style was in some way entertaining. His abrasive and loud character resonated with those who felt they were not allowed to behave like this publicly. But Trump’s politics of the spectacle, to cite Guy Debord, challenged social and political norms.Trump’s promise to punish the cosmopolitan elites resonated with many people. Evangelicals were not asked about abortion. Rural Americans felt repressed by the ‘political correctness’ of the urban classes.This is what Trump supporters told me during my fieldwork in the US. Trump managed to increase his electoral approval even though many commentators described his term in office as catastrophic. He did not manage to ‘build the wall’ –​his flagship policy.The way he dealt with Covid-​19 led to millions of deaths. Even in this context, Trump gradually obtained the support of his own party which had previously been hostile towards him. In 2020 he received ten million more votes than in 2016. In January 2021, thousands of ecstatic supporters stormed into the Capitol to defend their leader against alleged electoral fraud. You think these people are crazy? Maybe they are, but it does not matter. What

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matters is that emotions (such as love for the leader and hatred for the establishment) mobilised the grassroots to unprecedented degrees. Emotions must not be neglected from any attempt to understand political identification. In Latin America, the left-​wing populist ‘pink tide’ of the early 2000s was replaced by a conservative wave in the 2010s. In Europe, left populism seemed to gain momentum after the 2008 economic crisis but largely failed to make any significant impact. Is left populism declining, or does its performance simply reflect the overall crisis of the radical left? It is evident that the left populist moment that began with the rise of the square movements in the 2010s is now declining. Podemos faced setbacks due to institutionalisation, Jeremy Corbyn never won the general elections in the UK, Bernie Sanders did not become the president of the US. Syriza’s capitulation to the demands of ‘the troika’ was framed as the ultimate betrayal. Syriza’s experience sparked intellectual and militant discussions. Some argue that it actually signified the end of left populism. I think this is an exaggeration that lacks nuance and is of little help to our understanding of contemporary radical left and left populist politics. Syriza failed to materialise its promise to end austerity. This is undeniable. But did it fail because it was populist? Second, is it its populist character that eroded or the leftist one? These questions may seem pedantic to some, but I think they are important. There is no specific policy that can be defined as ‘populist’ and there is no populist guideline on how to cancel austerity. Populism is a particular way of framing programmatic agendas as ‘common sense’ –​dividing the socio-​political space between ‘the people’ and the ‘elite’. Populist discourse can be employed by anarchists, socialists, social democrats and so on. In this respect, we observe one populist component and one ideological coming together constituting a variety of leftist typologies. Going back to Syriza, it can be argued that it is the leftist component of the party that has eroded and not the populist one. As for why Syriza failed, an array of reasons that are external to populism can be identified for how things ended up: the supranational framework (IMF, Eurogroup, EU), matters of leadership, lack of plan B and so on. Suspicion towards (left) populism, and its association with reformism, is a-​historical. There is, in fact, a long history that reveals the intimate if not organic relationship between the two. Spanish anarchists during the civil war employed populist tactics. Marx was interested in populism. Why does nobody speak about that? This argument is part of what Yannis Stavrakakis and I are currently developing within a different project. Of course this does not mean that we should not discuss the implications of institutionalisation for the contemporary left. The contemporary left has not developed any concrete and up-​to-​date plan for the administration of the state and the economy or indeed for other issues that have traditionally made the left uncomfortable. Questions of governance are in fact very important.

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Now, does the trajectory of contemporary left populism signify its death? While I do think that the specific moment is over, it is wiser to speak in terms of the end of the anti-​neoliberal populisms that rose in response to austerity politics. In other words, what has ended is a populist temporality that arose in a specific historical conjuncture. I do not believe in ‘the end of history’. Political conflict is a contingent cycle of sedimentation and reactivation, Laclau would argue. It emerges and declines accordingly, in moments of dislocation and crises that offer windows of opportunity. The anti-​austerity protests emerged against a background of serious and diachronic failures for the left. Who knows what will follow? In Latin America, the conservative wave that replaced ‘the pink tide’ is again being replaced by another leftist wave –​see Boric’s victory in Chile in December 2021, the return of Kirchnerist Peronism in Argentina and so on. The current conjuncture led to the emergence of ‘new’ issues and demands such as universal access to healthcare and the vaccine, the environmental question, precarisation and casualisation in the gig economy. This offers an array of possibilities for the left, populist or not. Of course, strategic choices are required as success is not guaranteed. But let us not forget that populism was a precious ingredient for the wide appeal of the previous left moment.

Bibliography Panizza, F. (2004). Populism and the Mirror of Democracy London:Verso. Venizelos, G. and Stavrakakis,Y. (2022). Bound to fail? Assessing contemporary left populism. 10.1111/1467-8675.12638


Issues and Topics Luca Manucci

Most aspects of humans’ lives are, one way or another, regulated and influenced by politics. Since populism is a way of doing politics and considering its success all over the world, it is inevitable that when talking about populism we end up discussing other topics, and that when discussing the most pressing issues we end up talking about populism. Because, as a wise man said, ‘Just because you do not take an interest in populism, doesn’t mean populism won’t take an interest in you.’ This part seeks to address some less studied aspects, such as the populist use of memory and the role of popular music in creating collective identities, to show that populism operates in a complex system of symbols, stories, and myths. Overall, there are two lessons that can be learned from this part. The first is that populism goes well beyond the sphere of party politics: whenever we observe the eternal struggle between ‘us, the good people’ and ‘them, the corrupt elites’, at any level, it originates a populist worldview, a populist message flourishes, and a battle for sovereignty is set in motion. The second lesson is that populism can have an impact on every major development of today’s world, from the spreading of conspiracy theories to the denial of climate change, passing through the regulations to tackle the Covid-​19 pandemic and international relations. One of the buzzwords that have been most used in recent years is ‘new nationalism’, or the idea that the national interest clashes with global incentives and because of this we need policies that promote the ‘national preference’. Since some politicians articulate both a populist and a nationalist discourse, ‘populism’ and ‘nationalism’ have been misleadingly used as synonyms, as explained by Daphne Halikiopoulou. Furthermore, she argues that there are different types of nationalism, such as ethnic and civic nationalism, and she explains that to understand the success of the far right we have to move beyond the false dichotomy ‘culture

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vs economy’. For example, negative attitudes towards immigration are likely to be associated with one’s position in the labour market. We continue with Levente Littvay, whose research shows that citizens who believe in conspiracy theories and also show populist attitudes can be found not only on the right of the ideological spectrum, but also on the left. Moreover, people with populist attitudes tend to believe that a small but powerful group controls world events and information, and those who believe in conspiracy theories are also more likely to endorse violent political actions. Littvay then comments on the QAnon and Trump’s supporters who stormed the Capitol on 6 January 2021, and argues that depolarisation and unity are necessary. While banning Trump from Twitter is an easy solution, it is also counterproductive because it deepens the existing divisions. Better, although harder, solutions would include education, responsible and collegial disagreement and strong political accountability. Another topic that could not be more crucial, and around which conspiracy theories abound, is climate change: Robert Huber argues that we need to disentangle populism and ideology to understand what drives citizens’ attitudes towards climate change. Since effective climate policy is futile without citizen inclusion, citizen assemblies could be one instrument to make climate policy more acceptable. After discussing the increasing electoral success of green parties and the perceived elitist nature of movements like Fridays for Future, Huber concludes that we need more research to determine what populist parties and their voters think about climate change. Ole Frahm and Dirk Lehmkuhl argue that the practical implications for domestic politics, and concerns about the newly emerging forms of aggressive nationalism, obscured the view of the international dimension of populism. Focusing on Turkey, they observe how in the 2000s an increasing focus on the former Ottoman territories was meant to provide a steppingstone for Turkey to become a vital regional power with a seat at the big powers’ table. They explain that Erdoğan portrayed his party (AKP) as standing in the tradition of the Ottoman Empire, thus managing to transpose a populist template of claiming to represent the ‘real people’ in opposition to the ‘old elites’ into the realm of foreign policy. Next, Alessia Donà explains why the gender dimension of populism has remained understudied until recently, and shows how in some countries a female activism within the populist radical right eventually transformed into female leadership, as in the case of Pia Kjærsaard in Denmark, Giorgia Meloni in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France. She argues that female leadership did not change the ideology and agenda of these parties, but rather changed their style of communication. The following interview focuses on the links between populism and religion. Nadia Marzouki claims that populist leaders use religion as a tool to define who belongs or does not belong in a political community, and explains that right-​wing populist parties have increasingly resorted to a selective religious rhetoric to give more authority to their exclusionary definition of the nation. Moreover, Marzouki shows how the mainstreamisation of Islamophobic arguments had profound effects on Muslims’ lives. Nomi Claire Lazar illustrates how populist leaders commonly use what she calls a grand-​cyclic conception of the flow of time. First, there is a glorious moment in

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the past, when the people were born and, through their superlative character, they rose to glory; then, some external force dragged the people down; finally, in this time of crisis the people need to trust the leader’s charisma to turn things around and achieve a better future. Stressing the importance of time, she discusses the storming of the Bastille and how revolutionary France created a new calendar, how successive Chinese leaders have dated and redated the birth of the Chinese people depending on the political needs of the moment and how the pandemic and climate change offer the opportunity to capitalise on apocalyptic narratives. The next interview tackles a more specific aspect of the relationship between time and populism: memory. Meral Ugur-​Cinar explains that in populist interpretations of the past, we are told the story of a people moving through history, with the leaders of today conducting struggles against alien or hostile groups in ways that rhyme with the past. First she focuses on Turkey, where she argues that in the government’s political agenda, the Ottoman past is tied to contemporary politics and Erdoğan is presented as the one who fulfils the destiny of the people. Then she considers Austria, where the Freedom Party (FPÖ) draws on the repertoire of the 1848 revolutions to show its dedication to the struggle for freedom, and uses the Turkish sieges of Vienna to divide genuine Austrians from internal and external enemies and to present itself as the sole embodiment of people’s interests. In possibly the most unexpected, exciting and fascinating interview of the entire book, Melanie Schiller explains how popular music plays a role in the articulation of populist discourses and performative construction of the ‘people’/​‘elite’ antagonism. She mentions Andreas Gabalier, the self-​declared Austrian ‘Volks Rock’n’Roller’, and how he mobilised the populist notion of a ‘dictatorship of opinion’, which he, heroically, would resist as a lone fighter against the system. Moreover, she explains how musician Peter Jezewski combines nostalgia for a particular white, masculine and working-​class rebel culture with nationalism and a typically Swedish rural subculture known as ‘raggare’. Last but not least, we conclude this exploration with an interview about populism and the Covid-​19 pandemic. Nils Ringe and Lucio Rennó are editing a volume on the topic and let us take a peek at the most interesting results.They were mostly interested in looking at how populists performed the same crisis over time, and they found that all populists invoked ‘the people’ to justify their responses to the pandemic. However, only those in opposition tried to perpetuate the Covid-​19 crisis by conflating it with general political and representational crises like immigration and globalisation. Moreover, they say that the response of populist politicians such as Trump and Bolsonaro are more the exception than the rule, and were driven mainly by their nativism and authoritarianism. Finally, they point out that other factors are very important, such as regime types, political systems and levels of poverty. They conclude that in democratic countries, the pandemic does not seem to have increased the demand for populism in the short term. However, populists who are in government in non-​democracies have been using the pandemic to consolidate power and exploit it for their own political benefit.

21 POPULISM AND NATIONALISM Daphne Halikiopoulou

Can you tell us something about how you approached the topic of populism? Do you have a publication to recommend to our readers because it inspired and shaped your work? My interest in the field stems from researching the far right. I have always been fascinated by the appeal of the far-​right message, whether expressed in ‘radical’ or ‘extreme’ terms. This appeal is linked to nationalism on the supply-​side, as I will argue below. Although distinct, populism and nationalism share a number of common features including that they both emphasise the collective and claim their legitimacy from below. This dimension, which interests me the most, is captured in Riker’s (1982) definition of populism as a vision of legitimating collective choice. In other words, a worldview of how we make political decisions in society and how these decisions are justified. According to the populist vision, the only legitimate –​ and indeed morally superior –​decisions are those made from below because they reflect the indivisible popular will. This sheds light on the relationship between populism and authoritarianism. Although its vision rests on the (pseudo)democratic premise of the embodiment of the popular will, in practice populism is the antithesis of liberal democracy because it undermines the institutional framework upon which it is premised. Let’s now discuss a somewhat controversial topic that might be disconnected from populism but, in fact, is quite relevant. Many commentators talk of New Nationalism. What exactly is new in ‘new’ nationalism, and how often is nationalist content presented in populist terms? The ‘New nationalism’, a term famously used by the Economist in 2016, is a political phenomenon –​global in range –​based on the pessimistic worldview that global and national interests are in direct competition with each other. It is characterised DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-24

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by the rise of parties, movements and individuals who maintain that the national interest clashes with global incentives and pledge policies that promote the ‘national preference’. Examples abound, ranging [from] Donald Trump’s Presidency in the US (2017–​2021) to a series of far-​right populist parties in Europe such as the French Rassemblement National (formerly Front National), the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and others.While these parties are different in many ways, their common denominator is the use of both populist and nationalist language: they draw on two sets of conflict lines, first between the ‘pure people’ against ‘the corrupt elites’ and second between the in-​group and the out-​group. Two points have to be emphasised here: first, nationalism and populism are actually distinct. Populism is ‘chameleon-​like’ in character, and not necessarily always nationalist –​for example, left-​wing populism pits ‘the people’ against an economic elite. Second, while the rise of the ‘new nationalism’ alludes to the emergence of new cleavages, it is mostly a supply-​rather than a demand-​side phenomenon. In my work, I have argued that although the rhetoric of these parties is centred on nationalism, the drivers of support are neither necessarily new nor exclusively nationalism-​related (Halikiopoulou and Vlandas, 2019). At the demand-​side level, voters’ economic concerns remain pivotal within the context of the transnational cleavage. Take, for example, immigration: research shows that both cultural and (especially sociotropic) economic concerns over immigration shape those anti-​ immigration attitudes that drive far-​right party support. While cultural drivers are stronger predictors, economic drivers are still significant (Halikiopoulou and Vlandas, 2020). This is often overlooked in cultural backlash explanations. At the supply-​side level, parties use nationalism strategically in an attempt to broaden their appeal by presenting themselves as legitimate to large sections of the population. You claim that several far-​right parties have become successful after adopting ‘civic nationalism’. Why was civic nationalism so effective in making these parties appear to be more legitimate? In my work I have argued that, given that nationalism is so central to the discourse and programmatic agendas of far-​right parties, it is worth nuancing the type of nationalism these parties use to attract voters and extend support beyond their secure voting base (Halikiopoulou, Mock and Vasilopoulou, 2013). Nationalism is the common denominator of all far-​r ight parties and underpins their entire agenda. The ‘far-​right’ umbrella includes parties and groups that justify a broad range of policy positions on the basis of nationalism. The point here is not simply that they are all, to a degree, nationalist; but rather, that they use nationalism to justify their positions on all socioeconomic issues. They put the ‘national preference’ first, exclude immigrants from welfare provisions and public services and promote the nation in foreign policy at the expense of international trade-​offs. Beyond this, however, the type of nationalism used in the programmatic agendas of the different far-​r ight variants differs.

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The traditional extreme right adopts ethnic nationalism, that is, biological justifications of national inclusion, and identifies the in-​g roup in terms of ascriptive criteria of national belonging, such as common descent, blood, race and creed.These parties tend to be electorally marginalised in Western Europe. Those better able to expand their support base and attract a variety of social and attitudinal groups are those that utilise ‘civic nationalism’, that is, put forward ideological justifications of national inclusion and place their emphasis on values, democratic institutions and liberal cultures. Paradoxical as it may sound, these parties use a liberal language to exclude those who they classify as threats to the liberal-​democratic traditions of Western European nations. This is precisely what makes them more appealing to a broad range of social and attitudinal groups: the ability to shed the stigma of fascism and appear legitimate by drawing on –​and reshaping –​the boundaries of toleration and exclusion; in other words, presenting themselves as the authentic defenders of the nation’s unique reputation for democracy, diversity and tolerance. Examples are abundant: parties such as the Dutch PVV, the French RN, the Swiss SVP and the AfD are doing this to some extent. You argue that the success of several far-​right parties has to do with what you call civic nationalism, but recently far-​right parties such as VOX, Lega, or (post-​Brexit) UKIP started presenting themselves for what they are. They no longer need to ‘hide’ behind –​ or within –​ more institutional and moderate parties. They overtly undermine liberal democracy, leaving mainstream, traditional right-​wing parties dealing with checks and balances, and political correctness. Is that just a gloomy vision, or could it illustrate the near future of politics? Indeed, the civic nationalism thesis is not universal. First, it does not really apply to eastern Europe where far-​right parties adopt narratives more closely aligned to ethnic nationalism. Second, there are variations with Western Europe. A good example is the Golden Dawn in Greece, which managed to grow from a marginalised, violent grass roots movement to a fully-​fledged political party with parliamentary representation during Greece’s crisis years. The Golden Dawn is completely different from those moderate far-​r ight variants using civic nationalism that I described above: the party is openly neo-​Nazi and espouses violence. The party’s success, however, was short-​lived. In Greece’s 2019 national elections it failed to make the three percent threshold and did not enter parliament. In late 2020 its leading cadres were imprisoned for maintaining a criminal organisation. Another example, as you mention, is UKIP: following the referendum, the party has shifted its rhetoric adopting more traditional far-​r ight positions. Its electoral support, however, has declined dramatically. VOX is an interesting case. On the one hand, the party indeed does not fall neatly within the civic nationalism category. While explicitly Islamophobic, similarly to many ‘civic nationalist’ Western European far-​r ight parties, the justification of this position derives largely from the need to defend Spain’s Christian democratic heritage rather than secularism. On the other hand, however, VOX is best

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categorised as a radical far-​r ight variant and differs from extreme variants that adopt ethnic nationalist narratives such as the Golden Dawn in that it has managed to gain support by shedding the stigma of fascism. So while not all far-​r ight parties adopt a form of civic nationalism, the ones that do tend to (not always and not exclusively) be more electorally successful. I am not sure this is less gloomy. Through these narratives, far-​r ight parties are more resilient and better able to permeate mainstream ground. If we look at Southern Europe, we notice that both right-​and left-​wing populist parties obtain significant electoral results in Greece and Spain, but not in Portugal. Do you think this is mainly linked to supply-​side factors? Is it possible that the three countries developed different levels of stigma of the fascist past, which in turn influence the acceptability of far-​right populist actors? A comparison between these three countries is very interesting. They all experienced the severity of economic crisis and received bail-​outs. Yet in the immediate aftermath of the crisis only Greece experienced the dramatic rise of a far-​r ight party, the Golden Dawn –​indeed an extreme right variant. In Spain, VOX’s success came much later. Portugal is catching up with Chega. I am not sure the fascist past per se is the explanation here. Interestingly, the Golden Dawn experienced high levels of support in 2015 even in constituencies that had suffered the worst of Nazi atrocities. In my work, I have explored the variation in far-​r ight party support in Greece, Portugal and Spain, arguing that the difference between the three countries has to do with the extent to which the system was able to withstand the crisis (Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou, 2018). This does not have to do with the intensity but rather the nature of the crisis, and the extent to which voters perceived the system as able to handle its effects. In other words, it is a question of state capacity and democratic representation: in Greece, severe issues of governability impacted upon the ability of the state to fulfil its social contract obligations, resulting in declining levels of trust in state institutions and party system collapse. This increased the electoral opportunities of anti-​systemic forces like the Golden Dawn, which in the immediate aftermath of the crisis were elected because of, rather than despite, their extremism. To conclude … social democracy is in crisis, or so they all claim. Europeans seem more concerned about gender, borders, and race, rather than inequalities, redistribution, or climate change. Do you think the economic dimension will again become central in the near future? In that case, who will benefit from it? While the emergence of a ‘cultural cleavage’ is very much in the spotlight, I would not go as far as to argue that, within this context, the economic dimension is irrelevant. Cultural insecurity tells half the story. First, we need to look at different patterns within Europe: while ‘new’ issues are more prominent in the West, in Southern Europe the left-​r ight cleavage remains dominant.

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Second, even within the context of the transnational cleavage in Western Europe, the economy still matters. Inequalities remain embedded in –​and shape the salience of –​this emerging cleavage. A substantial number of voters across Europe are concerned about inequality. People are anxious about job security, working conditions, unemployment risks, equal pay, housing and health access and balancing work obligations and childcare. The culture vs economy distinction, therefore, is very much a false dichotomy –​ value-​based and economic concerns overlap, shaping each other and reinforcing broader societal insecurities. Indeed, there are significant economic and trust-​related voter concerns that are often overlooked in the current hype about ‘new’ issues. A case in hand is immigration, which is often referred to as a cultural factor. However, there are ample reasons to expect the material aspects of immigration scepticism to still matter as material interests continue to shape policy preferences and perceptions of competition with immigrants. Negative attitudes towards immigration are likely to be associated with one’s position in the labour market, one’s perceptions of how well public services function or even one’s perception of security threats. Third, these parties themselves are very much focusing on economic issues in their manifestos and programmatic agendas. Indeed, while we are quick to dismiss economic explanations, many far-​r ight populist parties, for example the RN and the Austrian FPÖ, focus on welfare in their attempt to capitalise on voters’ economic insecurities. Take Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric: the RN has significantly shifted its economic platform from predominantly right-​wing to left-​wing, in an attempt to make the party appear credible to deal with rising unemployment and economic hardship, and attract those economically insecure French voters marginalised by the crisis, globalisation, technological change and other societal shifts. So, to conclude, this is a multi-​faceted backlash driven not only by cultural concerns, but also inequalities, lack of trust in institutions and perceptions of loss of social status. At the demand-​side level, societal insecurities are multiple and overlap. At the supply-​side level, far-​r ight parties are using nationalism to appeal to a broad range of insecure voters. They are the beneficiaries of economic anxieties as much as they are the beneficiaries of cultural anxieties, and they have indeed tailored their programmatic agendas accordingly to capture these voters. Social democratic parties can regain these voters, but to do so they must reclaim ownership of their ‘signature theme’: equality. In other words, the crisis of social democracy can by averted not by co-​opting the far-​right message, but by clearly articulating a vision of an equitable society aimed at addressing the economic anxieties that remain salient.

Bibliography Halikiopoulou, D., Mock, S. and Vasilopoulou, S. (2013). ‘The Civic Zeitgeist’, Nations Nationalism, 19: 107–​127. Halikiopoulou, D. and Vasilopoulou, S. (2018). ‘Breaching the Social Contract: Crises of Democratic Representation and Patterns of Extreme Right Party Support’, Government and Opposition, 53(1): 26–​50.

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Halikiopoulou, D. and Vlandas, T. (2019) ‘What Is New and What Is Nationalist About Europe’s New Nationalism? Explaining the Rise of the Far Right in Europe’, Nations and Nationalism, 25: 409–​434. Halikiopoulou, D. and Vlandas, T. (2020). ‘When Economic and Cultural Interests Align: The Anti-​immigration Voter Coalitions Driving Far Right Party Success in Europe’, European Political Science Review, 12(4): 427–​448. Riker,W. H. (1982). Liberalism Against Populism:A Confrontation Between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice, Illinois: Waveland Press.


You are a prolific scholar who studies a variety of topics, but you keep going back to populism: what fascinates you about it? And is there a study or an author that profoundly influenced the way you understand and examine populism? I think you are overestimating my attention span. I would not say I keep going back to populism. At this point I feel I am trying (and failing) to escape it. But it is fair to say that things that interest me nowadays are related to populism. Populism is hard and this is what attracted me to it. But I would be lying if I said it is the substance that was the hook. It was the recognition that, methodologically, I can contribute. The rest came later. At heart, I will always be a methodologist and this is the reason for the ‘variety’ (or confusion) in my research portfolio which, in my case, includes the study of kidney wall thickness, genetic and environmental influences on political thinking and the connections of populism on the elite and mass levels. It is the diversity of these questions that now makes me advise junior scholars not to do what I have done and focus on one topic. The funny thing about the second half of the question is that there is no study that profoundly influenced me. To me, science happens through collaboration and conversation. (And in most of these conversations, as a methodologist, I bring to the table the how, and not the what we should be researching.) The studies to me are just background. What got me into populism research was a conversation with Kirk Hawkins about what I am doing on the measurement of ideology and what he is doing in his attempts to study the demand-​side of populism in public opinion surveys. And today we have published several books together. Kirk is one of my closest friends and collaborators. The most relevant study in the background of this conversation, Measuring Populist Attitudes (Hawkins, Riding and Mudde, 2012), is actually unpublished, appearing only as a working paper on the web. Later, these ideas were picked DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-25

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up by Akkerman, Mudde and Zaslove, (2014) and applied to the Netherlands. This was when attitudinal measures of populism took off. Not to take away from the importance of these studies, I actually found them to be clumsy attempts at measuring public opinion. They felt like people without much experience in public opinion research trying to write survey questions. It turns out this impression was correct and Kirk was super supportive of trying to see if we can do better. But we really could not. My youthful arrogance just got the best of me at the time. It was an important learning experience. (Did I mention populism is hard?) Still, we contributed along the way to the state of the art. In your studies on populism and conspiracy theories you found that people with populist attitudes tend to believe that a small but powerful group controls world events and information. Is the global rise of populism partially explainable with the growing diffusion of conspiracy theories? I find it difficult to separate the two things. The classic definition of populism is ‘a worldview where the pure people are being exploited by a conspiring elite’. Well if this is your worldview, how is this different from conspiratorial thinking? There is a deep underlying commonality between the two. In 2018–​2019, I collaborated with The Guardian on their ‘New Populism’ Series. I pitched the most popular piece in the series titled ‘How Populist Are You’ (The Guardian, 2018). It asked people a few questions (based on the aforementioned ideology and populist attitude measurement research) and showed people how populist they are compared to famous politicians. But I digress, as the piece I wanted to talk about revealed that ‘populists are far more likely to believe in conspiracy theories’ (Lewis, Boseley and Duncan, 2019). When we started working on this, I expressed concern about the inseparability of populist attitudes and conspiratorial thinking, but got a strong push-​back from the editor Paul Lewis. Populism can be a response to actual elite malpractice like corruption that has nothing to do with conspiracies. And that is true. Though conspiracies can also prove to be true. Still, people who are more suspicious of rumoured wrongdoings (that sometimes turn out to be right) are still more conspiratorial thinkers. This just shows that there is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of scepticism about the world. It is only problematic when it becomes all-​consuming. So I do not see populism and conspiratorial thinking as causally related in either direction as the question implies. Rather they are a manifestation of the same underlying something. I do not see populism as being more popular because conspiratorial thinking is more popular with the Internet, which allows likeminded people to coalesce, whereas before someone neck deep in the world’s conspiracies was the isolated village idiot nobody listened to (even when they should have). That is not what is going on. Rather, in the past populist actors were more limited in their ability to get their message out. If you rail against the elites who control the flow of information, they will not offer you a platform. The Populists of the late 1800s in the United States constantly struggled to get their ideas out: guerrilla

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printings, word of mouth. In the print media, they were constantly ridiculed at a time when that was the only channel through which world events became known. Latin American populists built large grassroots political machines, networks of activists to effectively compete against the establishment. Ross Perot, the third-​ party US presidential candidate running against Bill Clinton and George Bush (the elder), got 19 percent of the vote, won zero states and still posed the most significant challenge of a third-​party candidate since World War I. But he got his populist message out only because he was incredibly rich. Silvio Berlusconi of Italy bought an entire media empire that was instrumental in his rise to the prime ministership. With the Internet, this all changed. Candidates had a direct channel of communication with the people, bypassing the establishment gatekeepers. Donald Trump, without his effective use of Twitter, would have had to buy a media empire. Even Fox News was not too excited about a Trump presidency early on. In sum, the rise of the Internet gave populist forces a communication platform, and conspiracy theorists a place of community. But I really think these were unrelated processes and this is a classic case of correlation not meaning causation. Citizens who believe in conspiracy theories and also show populist attitudes can be found only on the right of the ideological spectrum, or are they also on the left? I get this question a lot and it annoys me. It sounds like the stereotypical question journalists always ask which boils down to some form of ‘what is wrong with conservatives’. So I push back, highlighting that it is not that simple. Liberals are not perfect either and it makes me sound like I am some sort of conservative ripping on liberals, which I am not. Quite the contrary. While his populism bothers me, ideologically I am probably closest to Bernie Sanders in the US, the country I study the most. So, with this caveat, forgive me if I will sound like a crazy conservative and let me sketch out two admittedly extreme examples. 1. Think of the most hippie, barefoot, one-​with-​nature, electric car driving, yoga class-​going, upper-​middle-​class liberal you can imagine. This person is stereotypically suspicious of modern medicine and prefers a natural everything, probably does not see homeopathic medicine for the sham it is selling empty pills (or placebo, as we call it in the medical world, which I might add is about the most scientifically proven substance for its effectiveness).This person might even reject vaccines (and did so long before Covid-​19 made the rejection of vaccines a thing). This person hates pharmaceuticals and rejects the technological advances of growing the exact same quality food with industrialised methods that they prefer to grow in their backyard less effectively, because the corporate food industry is conspiring to either kill us all or at least profit heavily along the way. Never mind that science and technology, a group this person now is also suspicious of, has the best chance of ending world hunger. This person would prefer to ban most of food science and technology, never mind that they claim they deeply care about poor people.

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2. Or think of the hardcore supporters of the most populist US politician, Bernie Sanders (Hawkins and Littvay, 2019). His supporters are down at Wall Street protesting because these bankers, the financial establishment and corporations in general are conspiring to ruin the little guy. Despite the politician they support being openly Jewish, these anti-​banker sentiments, intentionally or unintentionally, can easily echo the anti-​semitic overtones of pre-​World War II Germany about this group of influential people who set out to ruin the rest of us. Obviously, these were extreme caricatures but can you identify potential conspiracies behind the worldviews of these people? Of course, they could be right. I do not feel good about GMO food, but I also fear my worries are irrational and taking action against them could hurt poor people of the world who need those genetically engineered products that can grow in harsher climates. If this research is shut down, would more people starve? Real people and what they think are, of course, more complex but the conspiratorial, anti-​science, anti-​tech, anti-​financial and corporate-​elite thinking are present on the left as well. How much? That would require more research but such sentiments are incredibly difficult to study. People hide their conspiratorial thinking, for example on surveys. (Who knows who is behind that survey, right?) In a recent study (Vegetti and Littvay, 2021) you show that those who believe in conspiracy theories are also more likely to endorse violent political actions. In January 2021, a mob of Donald Trump supporters, including QAnon adherents, took over the US Capitol trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections. Social media are often the thriving ground for this type of conspiracy theory. In your opinion, is banning populists like Trump from mainstream social media platforms going to make a difference? Which measures can counteract the diffusion of conspiracy theories and their violent degeneration? I am personally an unconditional free speech advocate. I do not think governments should have the power to ban anyone; and neither should monopolistic communication platforms who should either not exist or should be regulated like the monopolistic phone and television companies were back in the day. I say this on principle, and not because I would not like to see Donald Trump gone or toned down. But heading down the path of selecting who can and cannot speak is a slippery slope. Call me an idealist, but the answer is not to go back to a pre-​Internet age, ensuring all communication channels are elite-​controlled. The solution is education, building civil society, convincing people, responsible and collegial disagreement, politicians doing a good job for the public, strong political accountability. This is hard. It is easier to ban Trump or anyone mentioning QAnon from Twitter. That will only further the divisions.You cannot depolarise by strongarming people. And depolarisation and unity are what is badly needed in politics today. If you want

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to get rid of something, get rid of the 24-​hour news cycle, get rid of the profit motive in public information.That may help. And regulate information monopolies of the 21st century. As for dealing with the people, I spent a lot of time researching specific remedies for these problems and I cannot say I am succeeding. But I know what does not work. Shutting people up does not work, and it is wrong. In Round 10 of the European Social Survey, there will be a module, that you have co-​designed, on Covid-​19 conspiracy beliefs and government rule compliance. Do you expect the pandemic to be a boost for the success of populist actors? Or could the demand for competence and technocratic governance grow instead? That research proposal was my attempt (with Kostas Gemenis) to sneak conspiracy questions on to the European Social Survey, the most important multi-​country social science survey we, social scientists, have. I asked the question, what reasonable theories can we put forth where this is relevant in the context of Covid-​19? An attempt to understand general and Covid-​19-​specific conspiratorial thinking and its impact on life-​saving rule compliance was the answer and the pitch was successful. Whether Covid-​19 will help or hurt populists is a different question. Last time I thought about this, I said that the pandemic will be a curse to populists in power. Without expertise, they will do a horrible job and the people will see it. Now I am not so sure. The world has turned upside down. Fidesz in Hungary is working with the experts on the pandemic (though they fail to invest the resources needed to adequately fight it). Austria is over-​cautious, probably angering anti-​ elitist sentiments in the public.Trump is suddenly pro-​vaccines, trying to take credit for their quick development. And their supporters, the true believers, think that Covid is a hoax, or just the flu, or some government conspiracy. They do not seem to mind the death and destruction around them; they make up credible sounding theories based on half-​truths about how being careful or that the vaccine is what is destroying us, and they do not seem to mind the horrible performance of these governments in keeping people safe. Not sure how we can get through to such people. But maybe we will not have to. Elections are won at the margins with people who can be reasoned with. But they should not be pushed away either. Soon we will see how populists in power will do as Bolsonaro of Brazil and Orbán of Hungary are up for re-​election.

Bibliography Akkerman, A. Mudde, C. and Zaslove, A. (2014) ‘How Populist Are the People? Measuring Populist Attitudes in Voters’, Comparative Political Studies 47(9: 1324–​1353. Hawkins, K. and Littvay, L. (2019). Contemporary US Populism in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hawkins, K., Riding, S. and Mudde, C. (2012) ‘Measuring Populist Attitudes’, Political Concepts Committee on Concepts and Methods Working Paper Series #55. https://​works.bepr​​cas_​mu​dde/​72/​

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Lewis, P., Boseley, S. and Duncan, P. (2019).‘Revealed: Populists Far More Likely to Believe in Conspiracy Theories’, The Guardian, 1 May 2019. www.theg​uard​​world/​2019/​ may/​01/​revea​led-​populi​sts-​more-​lik​ely-​beli​eve-​con​spir​acy-​theor​ies-​vacci​nes The Guardian (2018). ‘How populist Are You?’, 21 November 2018, available at: www.theg​ uard​​world/​ng-​inte​ract​ive/​2018/​nov/​21/​how-​popul​ist-​are-​you-​quiz Vegetti, F. and Littvay, L. (2021). ‘Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Attitudes Toward Political Violence’, Italian Political Science Review, doi: https://​​10.1017/​ipo.2021.17.


Robert, can you tell us why you ended up studying populism and why you find it a fascinating topic? And can you name a particular work or author that inspired you and contributed to your understanding of populism? When I did my Bachelors in Salzburg, I was definitely exposed to populism research. The book by Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser (2012) caught my eye and inspired me to conduct the first pieces of ‘real’ research together with Christian Schimpf, which was eventually published in Political Studies (2016). While I have moved away from the narrow focus on populism towards a broader research interest in globalisation-​induced challenges to liberal democracy, I have remained fascinated by populist actors, their style and politics. As my work falls into the ideational approach to populism, scholars like Kirk Hawkins and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser inspired me. I also have a soft spot for Bart Bonikowski’s work. Coming to the relationship between populism and climate change, you write that right-​wing populist supporters, parties and leaders ‘often express climate skepticism and hostility towards climate policy’. Is it possible to claim that climate scepticism and more limited support for environmental protection derive –​at least partially –​ from a distrust of the elites? To some extent, yes. At the end of the day, thick and thin ideology are interrelated. Because of its nature, climate change seems to be an ideal target for populism. It is abstract, elite-​driven, temporally and cognitively distant (so we rarely see the consequences of climate change in the short-​run). Hence, we could expect populists –​be they left or right –​to be sceptic about climate change and its politics for at least two reasons. First, existing research by Castanho Silva and colleagues emphasises that populists embrace conspiracy theories (2017). The above-​mentioned key characteristics of climate change invite conspiracy theories, DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-26

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scepticism and denial of the very existence of the issue. The underlying scientific decision-​making processes are important source of scepticism. Second, climate policy was an elite phenomenon for a long time and political institutions are at the core of formulating and implementing far-​reaching climate policy. Climate policy was mostly discussed in international fora or among domestic elites.The public was somewhat excluded and the issue was not salient in the media. This aspect invites criticism that climate change is an elite project. However, for right-​wing populists a couple of additional mechanisms are plausible. Existing research suggests that right-​wing individuals (and parties) are substantially less enthusiastic about climate and environmental policy. With a focus on the US, Dunlap and McCright (2011) suggest that Republicans (as more right-​wing actors) support free-​markets and thus perceive environmental protection as interference with the free market. This is one potential explanation for why right-​wing individuals tend to oppose climate policy. Lockwood claims that right-​wing populist voters are often directly affected by these policies. He argues that right-​wing populist parties represent voters who commonly work in low-​skilled manufacturing sectors. In Western Europe, environmental regulation might undermine their company’s competitiveness.This threat could lead to wage reduction or in the worst case, job loss. Thus, it might be rational for them to oppose climate policy. We could also anticipate that conservative individuals oppose the societal change they equate with far-​reaching climate policy. All these mechanisms can explain how partisanship and political ideology relate to climate and environmental attitudes. The mechanism you emphasise –​distrust of the elites –​should drive climate scepticism irrespective of –​and additional to –​ideology. The central message of my research is that we need to disentangle populism and ideology to understand what drives citizens’ attitudes towards climate change. Following up on the initial publication that inspired this interview, we scrutinise the aforementioned links through trust in science and institutions and find support for these causal mechanisms (Huber et al., 2021). Citizens refuse to support measures for environmental protection, among other things, because they imagine the negotiations about climate change as some abstract, elitist event to which they are not invited. Do you think there are realistic ways in which they could be included in the decision-​making process? Would this make any difference? This is certainly one of the most pressing questions. Not only from the perspective of populism and climate scepticism, but also from a more general climate mitigation perspective. Phenomena such as the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement in France suggest that effective climate policy is futile without citizen inclusion. Not all participants of the Gilets Jaunes are against climate policy, per se. However, they want their interests to be represented and considered in the making of climate policies. Clearly, Macron’s style of politics induced some opposition. At the same time, more concrete opposition relates to the choice of policy instruments. We are fighting a battle on at least two fronts. However, there are ways forward. On the one hand, economic mechanisms could allow for the compensation of those negatively affected by climate policies. For example, combining progressive

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income tax cuts with the introduction of a carbon tax could bolster public support for climate policies. More generally, combining different policies might help overcome some obstacles associated with the choice of policy instruments. On the other hand, active citizen inclusion, such as citizens’ assemblies on climate change, might help to integrate citizens in the debate. The UK recently started a first citizens’ climate assembly, and France implemented a similar model to address the Gilets Jaunes protests. However, there are reasons to be sceptical. Will these assemblies change policy outputs? Because climate change is a technical and complex issue, it benefits from expert involvement. Some questions cannot be entirely solved in a bottom-​up approach. However, contrary to direct democratic votes on climate policy, citizen assemblies could be one instrument to make climate policy more accessible and acceptable, and thus boost public support to tackle one of the most prolific challenges to liberal democracy in the coming years. This may also depend on its design. Whether French protesters were convinced by a citizen assembly, which had a pre-​defined policy target, is up for debate. In an era of post-​truth and fake news, even solid scientific proof is often irrelevant. To complicate things even further, people with strong populist attitudes often tend to believe in conspiracy theories. This means that it is not enough to provide scientific evidence about the human impact on climate change. Which other strategies would you propose? What kind of argument could convince citizens with populist attitudes to change their minds about climate change? In an exciting paper, Eric Merkley (2020) argues that anti-​intellectualism (something populism scholars might call anti-​elitism) explains opposition to scientific positions on a variety of issues, such as climate change. He further shows that populist rhetoric increases citizens’ negative views towards scientific consensus. There is similar evidence from Niels Mede and Mike Schäfer (2020) who designed a scale capturing ‘science populism’. In a follow-​up research project to my work on the topic, we focus on how policymakers could convince individuals to support far-​reaching climate policy. Our findings suggest that emphasising responsiveness, that is, ensuring that the average citizen feels cared about, could be significant (Huber et al., 2020). This point relates to the citizens’ assemblies already mentioned. If political elites manage to include citizens in the process and credibly demonstrate that they will implement the outcomes of these deliberations, they might convince some sceptical citizens that climate policy is necessary and in line with what average citizens think. However, this is by no means easy and is one of the major challenges in future climate policy efforts. So far, we have mainly tried to introduce relatively simple measures in terms of climate policy, such as plastic straws and diesel bans that will not be implemented in the next 20 years. Harder, more coercive policy measures might lead to similar or worse outcries than those witnessed in France. What is more, movements like the Fridays for Future (FFF) ultimately increased societal climate concern but also led to some backlash, precisely because FFF is perceived to be somewhat elitist (Zulianello and Ceccobelli, 2020).

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Populism is theoretically orthogonal to the left-​right spectrum. Do you find any difference between people who are ideologically right or left in their support for environmental protection? In other words, do you find that introducing populism into the equation gives us a more comprehensive view of the phenomenon? From a theoretical perspective, several outstanding scholars have focused on political ideology, mainly in the US. This literature has primarily addressed partisanship, conservatives vs liberals, and right-​wingers vs left-​wingers. Adding populism to the equation opens this rather narrow, one-​dimensional definition of political ideology. While there are other aspects (like authoritarianism) that might further broaden the scope of what we understand by political ideology, considering populism already allows for a more comprehensive understanding of how political and climate attitudes relate. Empirically, it seems that populism indeed explains substantial variation in climate and environmental attitudes regardless of ideology and partisanship. In statistical terms, I do not observe a strong interaction of populism and ideology in the UK. This result strongly suggests that the correlation of populism with climate and environmental attitudes is similar across the left-​r ight spectrum. The association of populism and climate attitudes is not driven by being a voter of a specific party or having a particular ideology. There are several explanations for this. For example, in contrast to the US, climate policy in the UK is much less polarised and (most) established parties do not openly deny climate change. Hence, there are fewer conflicting party cues structuring how voters would think about the issue. In return, climate scepticism is less socially acceptable in the UK than in the US. We could observe an amplifying effect of populism if there were evident polarisation of climate and environmental issues. The findings from our follow-​up study in the US are consistent with this view. In the US, climate change is polarised along party lines. Our findings suggest that populist Democrats are even more concerned about climate change and willing to support far-​reaching policies than non-​populist Democrats. For Republicans, we find the opposite, namely that populist Republicans reject climate change and oppose climate policies. While these are just two (exceptional) country cases, these findings suggest that taking political context, that is, polarisation and party cues, into account might be particularly important in this case to disentangle the supply and demand of climate attitudes. From that perspective and with this research in mind, it seems that populism matters for climate and environmental attitudes and adds to the equation for a more comprehensive understanding of how political ideology (with populism being one aspect) relates to climate and environmental views. Green parties have obtained very encouraging results in the last years. Already in the 1990s they were considered as the ‘new thing’, but they continued to struggle for a long time in the shadow of mainstream, catch-​all and populist parties. Do you think we are reaching a turning point in which green parties can seriously compete with

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right-​wing populist parties for the votes of disillusioned voters who no longer feel represented by mainstream parties? Concern about climate change has increased substantially in the last couple of months. Green Parties profit from these developments. Potentially, they profit most from those who feel that mainstream parties are not active enough to mitigate climate change. However, there is a lot that sets Green Parties and right-​wing populist apart. Besides obvious spatial arguments (Greens tend to be more to the left), the political discourse and emphasis on pluralism is vastly different for the two-​party families. Greens tend to emphasise an open, plural society, something radical-​r ight populists directly oppose. Hence, I remain sceptical about the extent to which Greens and populist radical-​r ight parties try to attract the same voters from mainstream parties. Notwithstanding, this does increase pressure on mainstream parties since they may lose different voters to different challengers. I think a comparison to left-​wing populist parties might be more fruitful. Left-​ wing populists and green parties hold quite similar views on many issues. Future elections and research will show whether and how these two compete for voters. Some left-​wing populist parties, like Podemos in Spain, explicitly take progressive, pro-​environmental positions. Movimento Cinque Stelle in Italy also pushes pro-​ environmental positions very actively, although it is hard to pin them down in terms of left-​r ight ideology.We will need more research to fully comprehend what populist parties and their voters think about climate change and the extent to which they are an obstacle to far-​reaching climate policy.

Bibliography Huber, R. A., Greussing, E. and Eberl, J-M. (2021). ‘From populism to climate scepticism: the role of institutional trust and attitudes towards science’, Environmental Politics, 1–24. DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2021.1978200. Huber, R. A., Fesenfeld, L. and Bernauer, T. (2020). ‘Political Populism, Responsiveness, and Public Support for Climate Mitigation’, Climate Policy, 20(3): 373–​386. Huber, R. A. and Schimpf, C. H. (2016). ‘Friend or Foe? Testing the Influence of Populism on Democratic Quality in Latin America’, Political Studies, 64(4): 872–​889. McCright, A. M. and Dunlap, R. E. 2011. ‘Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States’, Global Environmental Change, 21(4): 1163–1172. Mede, N. G. and Schäfer, M. S. (2020). ‘Science-​related Populism: Conceptualizing Populist Demands Toward Science’, Public Understanding of Science, 29(5): 473–​491. Merkley, E. (2020). ‘Anti-​intellectualism, Populism, and Motivated Resistance to Expert Consensus’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 84(1): 24–​48. Mudde, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2012). Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or corrective for democracy? New York: Cambridge University Press. Silva, B. C., Vegetti, F. and Littvay, L. (2017). ‘The Elite Is Up to Something: Exploring the Relation Between Populism and Belief in Conspiracy Theories’, Swiss Political Science Review, 23(4): 1–​38. Zulianello, M. and Ceccobelli, D. (2020). ‘Don’t Call it Climate Populism: On Greta Thunberg’s Technocratic Ecocentrism’, The Political Quarterly, 91(3): 623–631.”

24 POPULISM AND FOREIGN POLICY Ole Frahm and Dirk Lehmkuhl

Populism was initially not the main focus of your research: what brought you to study it? Is there a work or author that particularly inspired and interested you and made you decide to do research on it? Given that our research has been a cooperative project from the start, there have been two different paths that led to our joint work on populism and foreign policy. As part of the Horizon2020 project EU-​STRAT, Ole looked at Turkey’s relations with the countries of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership and conducted research across the region from the Black Sea to the South Caucasus. Dirk meanwhile was dealing with the issue of populism and populist parties in Europe as chair of European politics in his teaching at the University of St. Gallen. In going through our empirical findings, the Turkish state’s seemingly eclectic and unpredictable policies and actions in and towards its neighbouring regions could not neatly fit into any theoretical models from the field of international relations. This is where our different research agendas crossed paths. During an extended brainstorming session, we speculated that the Turkish government’s populist approach to domestic politics might also play a part in shaping its outlook on foreign policy. We then dove into the literature on populism, populists in government and the relatively new and few works on populist foreign policy and used different theoretical lenses from the state of the art to look with fresh eyes at our empirical material. Amongst the most prominent works linking populism and foreign policy at that time was that of Angelos Chryssogelos and the general discussion on whether populism ought to be conceived as a thin or thick ideology.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-27

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Populism has been explored in all its dimensions and aspects, but somehow the impact that populism has on foreign policy has been largely ignored, at least until very recently.Why do you think this is the case? Does it have to do with the fact that populism is often nationalist? Indeed, the interest in the way in which domestic populism links to foreign policy making and foreign policies was much more limited only a couple of years ago. The scholarly debate focused primarily on the domestic context in its efforts to identify both the reasons for the emergence of populism in the first place and the search for general features and patterns that hold for more than individual cases. What is more, the practical implications for domestic politics and concerns about the newly emerging forms of aggressive nationalism obscured the view of the international dimension. In part, this was due to especially right-​wing populists’ professed claim that their only focus was their nation and nation-​state and that the targets of their attacks were overwhelmingly domestic elites. Another factor is the legacy of the –​now mostly debunked –​notion in foreign policy studies that a country’s foreign policy has deep institutional roots and therefore remains mostly constant irrespective of changes in government. In addition, the small number of cases and the prevalent conception of populism as thin and thus devoid of specific ideological content meant that studying populism’s links to foreign policy did not at first sight present a very promising terrain for research; certainly not for theory-​ building research. This began to change when more and more populist parties came into power and the question of the international impact of populist policies in the national framework became increasingly salient not just for academia but for policymakers alike. Only then did the existing contributions to the literature of populist foreign policy (in particular on cases in Latin America, see for example Davila on Venezuela’s oil imperialism) receive more attention and the topic took off as a research field in its own right. Outstanding in the effort to broaden the field are the contributions by Destradi and Plagemann as they address some of the broader conceptual issues while shifting the geographical scope to include cases outside of Europe and the Americas. More recently, there are many scholars that add a more methodological note to the programme. Is it possible to summarise the positions of right-​wing and left-​wing populist parties in power when it comes to trade, immigration and international relations? Is there a common core of foreign policy principles shared by populist actors? By now, there is a shared understanding that broad assertions about general patterns in the foreign policy positioning of populist parties are off the mark.When we look at Europe, for example, the fact that until now populist parties in the European Parliament have not managed to form a coherent group indicates both the significance of differences and cautions against generalisations. However, we can say that right-​wing populist parties in Europe share some characteristics. They tend to be against free trade and in favour of protectionist measures for national markets. They

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are against immigration and in favour of restrictive border and visa regimes. They are against multilateral organisations, especially the EU but also other organisations such as the UN or NATO while favouring a bilateral conduct of foreign relations. And, finally, they are against the United States’ hegemonic role and in favour of more lenience towards Russia. Having said that, there is quite a lot of variation and not all criteria hold across the board. For instance, in the United Kingdom neither UKIP, the Brexit Party nor the Tory right-​wing subscribe to anti-​free trade or anti-​US positions. Several East European populist parties, most notably Poland’s PIS, see no contradiction in being ardent nationalists while welcoming foreign investments and trade. But despite these important qualifications, the search for more general features is indeed an important effort that moves the field from case-​based insights into a broader and more general understanding of the link between populism and foreign policy. The latest of these efforts is Chryssogelos’ typology of populists in Europe (Atlanticist nationalists, continental nationalists and anti-​imperialist internationalists). You have been focusing, in particular, on countries with an imperial past to see how right-​wing, neo-​imperial populism shapes foreign policies. An interesting case is Turkey: how is the Ottoman past used by contemporary populism to shape the country’s foreign policy? Praising the Ottoman past has been a constant feature during the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 20-​year tenure in government. What has changed over time has been the emphasis on different elements of Ottomanism. During the 2000s and early part of the 2010s, a period that aligns with Ahmet Davutoglu’s terms as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, the focus on the former Ottoman territories was meant to provide a steppingstone for Turkey to become a vital regional power with a seat at the big powers’ table. Crucially, portraying the AKP with its combination of conservative Islamic piety and progressive economic policy as standing in the tradition of the Ottoman Empire enabled the party to transpose its populist template of claiming to represent the ‘real people’ in opposition to the ‘old elites’ into the realm of foreign policy. On the one hand, rehabilitating the Ottomans worked as a low blow against the country’s founding elite and their Kemalist successors that dominated politics until the AKP’s ascent. Mustafa Kemal, modern Turkey’s founder, explicitly conceived of the new state as the very opposite of the Ottoman Empire whose alleged backwardness was to be overcome by turning to the enlightened West and modelling Turkey on Western Europe. Thus, ending preceding governments’ sole focus on Western integration and neglect for the territories of the former Soviet Union, the Balkans and especially the Middle East that had been part of the Ottoman Empire’s historical reach served the same function in international relations that dismantling the strict conception of secularism and laicité has had in domestic politics: showing that the AKP, in contrast to the maligned ‘Kemalist elites’, represented and valued the common man’s appreciation for Turkey’s glorious imperial history.

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The upheavals in Turkey’s domestic politics and within the governing AKP’s own ranks in recent years have, however, also found expression in the way the Ottoman past is reimagined for present-​day purposes. As the party and state have become ever more hierarchical and centralised, embodied by the shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system from 2017 onwards, a concerted effort has been made to publicly exonerate Sultan Abdulhamid II who had previously been deemed a prime culprit for the Empire’s demise. After winning elections in 2018, President Erdoğan declared that this was also a victory for the people of Bosnia, Palestine, Syria and other former Ottoman possessions as the Empire and the contemporary system and ruler are being linked ever more explicitly. This is reflected not only in ‘softer’ tools of foreign policy such as preferential trade agreements, investments and a welcoming immigration regime, but also increasingly in ‘hard power’ as evidenced by military involvements in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan. While school curricula have been modified and there are public commemorations and symposia to reshape the official historiography and memorialisation of the Ottoman Empire, the imperial legacy is most clearly visible in the production of television series that are not coincidentally popular across the regions of the former Ottoman Empire. The shift in emphasis from the civilisational achievements and grandeur of the Ottoman Empire to its leaders’ elevated status and glory also finds expression on the small screen. Whereas Muhteșem Yüzyil/​Magnificent Century about the opulent reign of Suleiman the Magnificent was a smash hit around 2010, the national television channel TRT has since 2017 been broadcasting Payitaht Abdülhamid/​The Last Emperor, a show whose hero is Sultan Abdulhamid II and that portrays the Ottoman Empire’s last decades with a revisionist and strongly anti-​Western tinge. Apart from Turkey, you have focused on three other countries with an imperial past: Russia, United Kingdom and France. Do all right-​wing populists propagate populist neo-​imperialism when it comes to foreign policies? In fact, there were factions of right-​wing populists in all three former imperial countries that favoured a neo-​imperialist agenda for the party’s or movement’s foreign policy manifesto. There are, in our view, three core pillars of populist neo-​ imperialism. First, in the field of immigration, a neo-​imperial sense of regional or continental mission leads to a more generous and welcoming environment for refugees and migrants from the former imperial territories and countries that are associated to the reimagined idea of the contemporary state’s supranational reach. Second, in the area of trade, the same sense of international importance drives a preference for free trade agreements and a liberalisation of trading regimes with the regional and/​or former imperial territories with which a special –​and in many cases asymmetrical –​relationship is thought to exist. And third, despite rejecting the incumbent global multilateral system, populist neo-​imperialists are proponents of regional integration and regional multilateral organisations, expecting that these fora will present a vehicle for regional leadership.

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As it turns out, however, only the Russian government has pursued a full-​ fledged neo-​imperial agenda with a preferential immigration regime for citizens of the former Soviet Union member states, the setting up of regional organisations in its ‘Near Abroad’ such as the Eurasian Economic Union and (currently stalled) negotiations over a free trade zone with Belarus and Kazakhstan. What sets the three cases apart is the opportunity structure that each of the right-​wing populist actors was and is faced with. In Russia, much like in Turkey, the previous elites had consciously distanced themselves from the country’s imperial past in its Soviet and Czarist guise, which made it easier for Putin’s government to portray itself as the guardian of Russian greatness and great power status. Mainstream parties in the United Kingdom and especially in France meanwhile still adhere to a positive notion of their nation’s respective empires and at least in part reject the revisionist discourses that emphasise the injustices of colonisation. Hence, the populist actors in neither France nor the United Kingdom had much to gain by playing on the populist trope that the elites had wrongheadedly vilified the country’s glorious past. Moreover, only Vladimir Putin and United Russia have been in a dominant electoral position to rival that of Erdoğan and the AKP; thanks, in part, to the regime’s policy of either co-​opting or oppressing the political opposition. This position of domestic dominance is vital in implementing a populist neo-​ imperial policy because some aspects of the neo-​imperial turn to the territories of the former empire, such as a liberal immigration regime, may not in fact be popular with the domestic coalition that sustains the populists. Thus, despite strongly leaning towards a neo-​imperial vision during the British Conservative Party’s populist turn under Boris Johnson that included the oft-​repeated slogan of Global Britain and an emphasis on the Anglosphere as fixtures of a post-​Brexit British foreign policy, the anti-​immigration message has been too integral to the party’s success to allow for any leeway on that front. The Front National, now Rassemblement National, has of course never been in power in France and opposition to immigration is arguably the thickest part of its ideological core. Hence, it remains for us to study the extent to which right-​wing populists hold onto their neo-​imperial agenda even in times of crises when their popularity is on the wane. Contemporary Turkey therefore presents a fascinating case study that we will keep a close eye on.

Bibliography Chryssogelos, A. (2017). Populism in Foreign Policy, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Retrieved 10 May 2022, from https://​oxfor​​polit​ics/​view/​10.1093/​acref​ore/​ 978019​0228​637.001.0001/​acref​ore-​978019​0228​637-​e-​467 Chryssogelos, A. (2021). ‘Is There a Populist Foreign Policy?’ Chatham House. Research Paper Europe Programme March 2021. Davila, L. R. (2000). ‘The Rise and Fall of Populism in Venezuela’, Bulletin of Latin America Research, 19(2): 223–​238.

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Destradi, S. and Plagemann, J. (2019). ‘Populism and International Relations: (Un-​ ) Predictability, Personalisation, and the Reinforcement of Existing Trends in World Politics’, Review of International Studies, 45(5): 711–​730. Hadiz, V. and Chryssogelos, A. (2017). ‘Populism in World Politics: A Comparative Cross-​ regional Perspective’, International Political Science Review 2017, 38(4): 399–​411. Verbeek, B. and Zaslove, A. (2017). ‘Populism and Foreign Policy’, in C. Rovira Kaltwasser et al. (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


As an expert on gender equality policies, European Union, human rights and international relations, how did you approach the topic of populism? Is there any particular author or study that sparked your interest in populism? I began my academic research on populism in summer 2016, after the victory of the Brexit referendum in June, the attempted coup in Turkey in July and the upcoming US presidential elections eventually won by Donald Trump in November. At the time, I was attending a Summer School promoted by the Venice Academy of Human Rights not accidentally titled ‘A backlash against human rights?’. Its focus was on the growing criticisms against international organisations such as the Council of Europe and the European Union and the rise of the political ideology promoting the defence of the nation-​state and national sovereignty –​namely sovereignism. Then I began reviewing the key literature on these topics, from the 1980s early works by Margaret Canovan to Cas Mudde’s work. Keeping in mind the established definition of populism as a thin ideology based on an antagonism between the bad elite vs the good people, I decided to focus on the populist features of the far right, which was on the rise in Europe. The more I searched, the more I realised the utility of studying far-​r ight populism from a gender perspective. In this vein, I was also stimulated by the work of linguist Ruth Wodak (2015) on what she called ‘the politics of fear’ vehiculated by the right-​wing populist discourses. According to Wodak (2017: 403), ‘we are confronted with, on the one hand, globalised tendencies to transcend the nation-​state frequently promoted as post nationalism; and, on the other hand, with strong and virulent tendencies proposing a return to the nation-​state, defined via cultural and ethnic (as well as racist and racialised) criteria’. The return of nationalism meant the revival of traditional gender roles embodied –​according to right-​wing populism –​by the traditional heterosexual family conceived as the foundation of the nation. When DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-28

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in power, right-​wing populism meant exclusion through the so-​called measures of welfare chauvinism, namely that social services must be provided only to the ‘deserving us’ as opposed to the ‘threatening others’. The othering process is strictly associated with nationalism. It refers to the process whereby an individual or group is described as different from the dominant group (for reasons connected to race, ethnic origin, religion or gender identity) and, because of this target difference, it is said to threaten the pureness of the real people (Lazaridis and Campani, 2016). Hence, when in power radical-​r ight populist parties not only promote exclusionary policies but also oppose gender equality and diversity policies on the basis of a supposed pre-​existing natural order that has to be restored and preserved. One of the first studies documenting the effect of the anti-​gender discourse promoted by the far-​right parties was published in 2015 and referred to national cases of Central and Eastern Europe (Kováts and Põim, 2015). In my view, those cases represented just the beginning of a wave of de-​democratisation which could spread to the rest of Europe in the long run. That is why I became increasingly convinced that the gender dimension represents an avoidable aspect of populism, specifically for those studying radical-​r ight populism. While populism has been analysed in many of its dimensions and following different approaches, its gender dimension has remained largely understudied. Why do you think this is the case, and how have things evolved in this regard during the last years? Although the research on populism has a long tradition and an established scholarship, the gender dimension of populism has remained understudied for many reasons. First, political science as a discipline continued to be male dominated until recently and after many difficulties and obstacles feminist scholars emerged, albeit in a scattered way across countries. For example, in Italy it took a long time to establish a standing group on gender and politics within the professional association, eventually coming about in 2018 (see Donà, 2020). In the meantime, for many gender scholars the ECPR conferences (and notably the recurrent Conferences on Politics and Gender, whose first edition was held in Belfast in 2011) represented an extraordinary opportunity to build networks of knowledge and research beyond the traditional and narrow borders of mainstream (national) political science. It happened also in the case of studying populism, which became a fashionable and popular term during the 2000s but without attracting the attention of feminist scholarship so much. When the rise of populism to power in Europe meant the opposition to gender equality and, in some cases, brought a process of democratic backsliding, a growing group of scholars put populism in their research agenda and the relevance of gendering populism became widely acknowledged. Cas Mudde (2007) himself, who initially described PRRPs as Männerparteien to point out that these political parties are largely run, supported by, and representative of men, years later admitted that it was too simplistic an argument. Since then, gender scholars have provided detailed account of the female role in PRRPs, both as voter and as leaders (Spierings and Zaslove, 2015). A close analysis of the PRRPs’ political agenda and

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discourses revealed the intersection between gender, religion and ethnicity in promoting their exclusionary policies (Köttig, Bitzan and Petö, 2017). Another stream of research revealed the close connection between PRRPs and the so-​called anti-​ gender movement (Verloo and Paternotte, 2018) by using the idea of the nation and ‘natural families’ to fight against gender equality rights. When it comes to populist radical-​right parties (PRRPs), the idea that men are usually the leaders of these parties is very rooted, as is the notion that men vote for these parties more often than women. Is it still true? Are PRRPs still men’s parties? For a long time, studies have associated male attributes to the leader, speaking of a vigorous and authoritarian style, thereby creating the stereotypical image of the charismatic and macho male leader. There have been many examples of this since the 1990s: Jean-​Marie Le Pen, Umberto Bossi, Jörg Haider, Geert Wilders, Silvio Berlusconi, Donald Trump, and so on. Consequently, the supposed male hegemony of the leadership inside and outside PRRP party organisations remained unquestioned for a long time, until gender research demonstrated the presence of militant activism on the part of women. In some countries, this female activism eventually transformed into female leadership, thereby demolishing the widespread conviction that the leadership of these parties must be paired with exclusively male characteristics. Exemplary in this sense is Meret’s (2015) study of the case of Pia Kjærsgaard, the first female leader of a PRRP party (she led the Danish People’s Party from 1995 to 2005). The study illustrates how the role of populist leader was gendered with female characteristics (emotionality, control, discipline) resulting in Kjærsgaard being named ‘mother of the party’ (Mamma Pia). Today’s examples of female populist leaders include Marine Le Pen of the French Front National/​ Rassemblement National and Giorgia Meloni of Brothers of Italy. Is it possible to claim that the growing role of women in PRRPs has contributed to change in these parties’ agenda and ideology, as well as in the way in which they communicate? In my opinion, the agenda of PRRPs has not changed.The basic elements of right-​ wing populism remain unchanged whether there is a woman or a man as party leader. Instead, what changes is the style of communication as evidenced by Meret’s work when studying Pia Kjærsgaard. As already mentioned, she was called ‘Mamma Pia’ and publicly presented herself as a caring mother, housewife and social worker. The same holds true for Italian Giorgia Meloni, whose self-​representation as a mother, a woman and a Catholic during a public rally went viral in a video song and became her key electoral message. Female leadership has not changed the agenda of PRRPs agenda and ideology; rather, it evidences the role of conservative women in opposing the libertarian left and what they call the rights-​focused radical feminism. In fact, radical-​r ight women and men have been much more active on women’s issues than their counterparts from other parties, thus questioning the female rights so far achieved (among which, abortion rights).

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You have studied, in particular, the case of the Italian Lega (League), a party that traditionally did not emphasise gender issues. Why did Lega become the main promoter of anti-​equality and anti-​feminist demands, and how has this contributed to the backsliding on gender equality policies in Italy? What general lessons can we learn from the Italian case? Before answering, I would like to stress that the agenda and discourse of Lega Nord included gender issues well before Matteo Salvini took the leadership in 2013. Scholars such as Francesca Scrinzi, Martina Avanza and Elisa Bellè were pioneers in documenting the traditional gender roles within party organisation and militancy together with the conservative content of the party agenda, promoting the traditional family and contrasting LGBT+​rights. Over the years, Lega Nord promoted the defence of women’s rights in an anti-​Muslim stance. Sarah Farris (2017) explained well how the demands for women’s rights were used by Lega Nord to advance its anti-​immigrant and xenophobic agenda. When public debate on LGBT+​rights started in Italy in the early 2000s, Lega Nord allied with the emergent anti-​gender movement in defence of the traditional family and against the threat of the so-​called ‘gender ideology’. As Sara Garbagnoli (2016) explained, gender ideology represents a rhetorical device invented and used by the Vatican hierarchies in association with ultra-​conservative groups (religious fundamentalist and pro-​life) to delegitimise gender studies and women’s and LGBT+​rights and to reaffirm the existence of a natural gender order, where men and women are different but complementary. Over the years, the collaboration between Lega and the anti-​gender constellation became stronger, especially under Salvini, whose leadership turned Lega from regionalism to nationalism (Donà, 2021). Intertwined with the nationalist turn was the process of ‘othering’. The ‘others’ refer to those individuals or groups who are positioned outside the dominant group (‘the people’), and who are often associated with negative characteristics or with threatening features. The recent nationalist turn of the party –​exemplified in the slogan ‘Prima gli italiani’ (Italians first) during the 2018 election campaign –​is grounded on two main otherisation processes. On the one side, there is the exacerbation of anti-​immigrant and xenophobic positions, with the promotion of segregationist and welfare chauvinist policies, at both national and local levels. On the other, there is the defence of Christian values and the ‘natural’ family against sexualised and gendered others, namely LGBT+ people and families, gender experts and feminist groups. When Lega was in power (2018–​2019), many political initiatives were put forward to attack women’s and LGBT+​rights (Bellè and Donà, 2022). Moreover, the rise of another PRRP, namely Brothers of Italy, whose political agenda is built around the defence of the nation and the traditional family to ‘contrast the moral and societal disorder promoted by the international secular liberal elite’, might further reinforce the Italian anti-​equality coalition in the near future. On the other hand, the pro-​ equality coalition (composed of left-​ wing parties and feminist/​ LGBT+ movements) appears rather weak and fragmented. Overall, the case of Italy

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is instructive of the perils of right-​wing populism in the context of an unstable political system with the upcoming risk of a democratic backsliding. What are, in your opinion, the most relevant and promising research paths for those who are interested in studying populism from a gender perspective? First, I would consider how the pandemic outbreak might have accelerated the process of democratic backsliding in those countries ruled by PRRP with an anti-​ equality and anti-​others agenda. Second, we should study the communication of PRRPs on social media, in particular how the PRRPs strategically frame their opposition between ‘us’ and ‘them/​threatening others’. In this vein, the PRRP’s critics of ‘political correctness’ could be investigated as a rhetorical device to dismiss proposals aimed at promoting inclusive and equality policies in order to preserve traditional values or Christian roots.This topic might be connected to what is called ‘cancel culture’, a term that emerged in the US debate on equality and later, when it arrived in Europe, was redefined by PRRP with different meanings and implications. Another promising research line would be to explore the connections between PRRPs and conspiracy theories spreading across Europe. For example, gender conspiracy theories sustain that gender studies and activism for LGBT+ rights are the visible manifestation of a secret plot by powerful groups to hurt other in-​g roups, such as the Catholic Church, or to threaten the family unit by triggering conflict between the sexes. Here the question is how far PRRPs will contest the role of science and scientific knowledge and which ‘knowledge’ they aim to promote. After all, they started with the de-​legitimation of gender studies (in Hungary first), now they could go further with the production of their ‘own natural (post) truth’ in the name of the people.

Bibliography Bellè, E. and Donà, A. (2022). ‘Power to the People? The Populist Italian Lega, the AntiGender Movement, and the Defense of the Family’. In Bianka Vida (ed), The Gendered Politics of Crises and De-Democratization Opposition to Gender Equality. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Canovan, M. (1981). Populism. New York: Harcourt Brace. Donà, A. (2020). ‘Who is Afraid of “Gender”? Gender and Politics Research between Institutionalization and Contestation in Italy’, Italian Political Science, 14(3): 206–​216. Donà, A. (2021). ‘Radical Right Populism and the Backlash Against Gender Equality: The Case of the Lega (Nord)’, Contemporary Italian Politics, 13(3): 296–​313. Farris, S. (2017). In the Name of Women’s Rights: The Rise of Femonationalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Garbagnoli, S (2016). ‘Against the Heresy of Immanence: Vatican’s “Gender” as a New Rhetorical Device Against the Denaturalization of the Sexual Order’, Religion & Gender, 6(2): 187–​204. Köttig, M., Bitzan, R. and Petö, A. (eds) (2017). Gender and Far Right Politics in Europe. London: Palgrave.

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Kováts, E. and Põim, M. (eds) (2015). Gender as Symbolic Glue:The Position and Role of Conservative and Far Right Parties in the Anti-​Gender Mobilisations in Europe. Budapest: Foundation for European Progressive Studies, and Friedrich-​Ebert-​Stiftung. Lazaridis, G. and Campani, G. (eds) (2016). Understanding the Populist Shift: Othering in a Europe in Crisis. Routledge Studies in Extremism and Democracy. Abingdon: Routledge. Meret, S. (2015). ‘Charismatic female leadership and gender: Pia Kjærsgaard and the Danish People’s Party’, Patterns of Prejudice, 49(1–​2): 81–​102. Mudde, C. (2004). ‘The Populist’, Zeitgeist: Government and Opposition, 39(3): 541–​563. Mudde, C. (2007). Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Spierings, N. and Zaslove, A. (2015). ‘Gendering the Vote for Populist Radical-​r ight Parties’, Patterns of Prejudice, 49(1–​2): 135–​162. Verloo, M. and Paternotte, D. (2018). ‘Editorial: Feminist Project Under Threat in Europe?’ Politics and Governance, 6(3): 1–​5. Wodak, R. (2015). The Politics of Fear:What Right Wing Populist Discourses Mean. London: Sage. Wodak, R. (2017).‘Discourses About Nationalism’. In John Flowerdew and John E. Richardson (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Critical Discourse Studies. New York: Routledge, 403–​420.


Populism frames politics as a cosmic struggle between the will of the people and an evil elite. This shares with religion a moral vision of society opposing good and evil in a Manichean way. Moreover, populist leaders often act as prophets, preaching an impending apocalypse while offering salvation and redemption. Can we say that populism is a quasi-​religious phenomenon? One of the most distinctive features of populism is indeed the opposition it draws between a corrupt and evil elite, and the good people (Mudde, 2004). A subsequent element of this narrative is the redemptive power that populist leaders claim to have. Unlike the crooked establishment, they can and will save the people from their current state of exploitation. To do so, groups designated as dangerous or free riders need to be expelled or at least tamed. Since the 2010s, migrants and Muslims have been the main targets of this othering process. Djihadist attacks throughout Europe have consolidated the right-​wing populist discourse around the Islamic threat and the need to reinforce Europe’s so-​called Christian heritage. While the opposition between good and evil, the designation of a saviour, and the scapegoating of a group of supposed evil-​doers does resonate with some archetypal structure of religious worldviews, defining populism as a religious or quasi-​religious phenomenon requires some qualification. First, right-​wing populist leaders and thinkers select a set of identity markers and symbols in religious traditions that they use to consolidate their exclusive definition of a political community. For example, they refer to the cross, nativity scenes, or church buildings as markers of a national culture that needs to be defended against Muslim immigrants, rather than as sites where a faithful community expresses and cultivates its faith and values. Scholars have used terms such as Christiandom (Roy, 2019) or political Christianism (Brubaker, 2017) to designate this selective use of Christianity. DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-29

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The affirmation of the religious rhetoric among populist parties has also revealed the pitfalls of binaries such as secular v religious that scholars of religion have questioned for decades. The division between Manichean worldviews and pluralist approaches traverses both secular and religious groups, as shown by the deep divides among US and European Catholics and Evangelicals about immigration, abortion and LGBTQI rights. In that sense, the current shapes of right-​wing populism do not reveal a process of becoming more religious, but invite scholars of religion and politics to revisit the idea of a clear distinction between a modern and rational space of politics and an emotional moral space for religion. Most of the existing scholarship approaches populism as the antithesis of liberalism. Populist scholars have extensively discussed the illiberal policy of leaders such as Orbán, Modi and Bolsonaro, and the negative impact of such a policy on individual rights. Indeed, right-​wing populists’ opposition to the rights of women, LGBTQI individuals and migrants contrasts with essential tenets of the equalitarian perspective of liberal political theory (Sangiovanni, 2017). However, the mainstreamisation of right-​wing arguments –​notably around issues such as Muslims’ rights and abortion –​indicates that there are some contexts in which liberalism and populism are not only in opposition, but can also ally. Political controversies around migration, citizenship and the structure of families in Western Europe and Northern America suggest a form of contagion of liberalism by populism. In conclusion, it is important to stay away from two pitfalls in the study of religion and populism. Liberalism tends to discard populism as anti-​modern and irrational. By contrast, some religious approaches to populism are motivated by a form of nostalgia for pre-​modern, communal forms of sociality that populism allegedly embodies better than liberalism. Away from these two pitfalls, the empirical and ethnographic documentation of how religious traditions, movements and institutions play out in the double process of rejection and association between liberalism and populism seems more productive. In Western Europe, populists tended to challenge the Church as part of the establishment. Since the 1990s, however, right-​wing populists in ‘secular’ European democracies started to invoke religion as a key support. Is populism ‘hijacking’ religion to protect a common identity and culture rather than a faith or belief? That’s the argument Olivier Roy, Duncan McDonnell and I made in the book we edited, Saving the People, How Populists Hijack Religion (2017). Contributors in this volume examine how in contexts as different as Poland, Hungry, Italy or France, right-​wing populist parties have increasingly resorted to a selective religious rhetoric to give more authority to their exclusionary definition of the nation. The volume presents a series of in-​depth cases from Western Europe, Israel and the US, but more investigation is needed to document the strategies used by political and religious leaders to build domestic and transnational coalitions. How do they mobilise voters and shape media discourse around issues such as migration,

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gender and the family, and education not only in Western countries, but also in Southern and Central America and India? While some religious leaders vehemently reject this populist instrumentalisation of religion –​Pope Francis being the most obvious example of this stance –​many religious leaders take part in this dynamic. In other words, religious leaders and faithful communities are not passive and gullible believers of Machiavellian politicians. They have very good reasons to believe in populism (Smilde, 2007). Some scholars, like Kirk Hawkins and Pedro Zúquete, have critiqued the hijacking argument as offering too functionalist an approach to the interaction between religion and politics.We totally agree with the critique according to which the institutional and strategic analysis needs to be supplemented with an analysis of how and why the populist discourse and strategy appeals and connects with popular religiosity.This was simply not the focus of this specific volume.The study of populism and religion offers a compelling site to rethink the ‘believing vs belonging’ opposition (Davie, 1994).While populist leaders use religion as a tool to define who belongs or does not belong in a political community, religious leaders and believers may find in their rhetoric both a standard of belonging and a set of norms that resonate with their belief and practice. The tendency of numerous right-​wing populist parties in Europe and the North America to define Islam as the most prominent threat to national cultures makes the use of categories such as religion and secularism even more complex. From Donald Trump contending ‘I think Islam hates us’ to French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour’s recurrent comments about French Muslims’ so-​called reluctance to assimilate into the French nation, the Islamophobic rhetoric of right-​wing populists has been extensively documented. Geert Wilders has travelled through the US warning those of Christian heritage that they are in danger just like in Europe. For example, in 2011, he told an audience gathered in a Tennessee church: ‘Wake up Christians of America. Islam is at your gate’. The impact of such rhetoric on Muslims’ civil liberties has also become obvious in legislation such as the so-​called ‘Muslim ban’ in the US or the ‘separatism’ law in France. An aspect of this anti-​Muslim rhetoric and policy that has been less commented is the degree to which it relies on a peculiar contention that has featured regularly in right-​wing populist appeals: that Islam is not in fact a religion (as ‘we, the people’ know it). Rather, it is a political ideology that aims to conquer and suppress Western liberal democracies. If we accept this view of Islam, then every Muslim becomes a potential threat, since they are all said to adhere to an undemocratic and violent political ideology. Most importantly, right-​wing populists here act as theologians who can distinguish between true and false religion. An effect of this discourse is to make the defence of the rights of citizens of Muslim faith dependent on a theological battle about whether or not Islam is a true religion (Marzouki, 2017). As absurd as this may seem, it does show again how populism blurs the line between religion and secularism.

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From the religious point of view, the populist use of religion to sanctify the nation and create enemies might be problematic. Some populist leaders even make unscrupulous use of religious symbols for propaganda purposes. An example is Matteo Salvini, leader of the populist radical-​r ight Lega, who asks for the protection of the Holy Mary at political rallies and kisses his rosary in parliament. Is it possible that religious people will actually turn their back on right-​wing populism? Indeed, stories abound about how, from Great Britain to Italy and France, populist leaders are far from devout churchgoers and do not implement in their own personal lives the strict moral rules that they advocate for others. Their public performance of religious symbols such as the rosary pertains to what Olivier Roy (2018) has called the ‘Christian kitsh’. Numerous religious leaders and activists from all faith traditions reject this folklorisation of religious symbols. They put forward radically opposed interpretations of religious values. Such divides create rifts not only among leaders of churches and religious congregations, but within faith communities more widely. Studies of the US ‘ex-​vangelicals’ and of the internal divides within Evangelical communities across gender and generational lines show that the right-​wing populist appropriation of religious rhetoric is met with strong resistance. As documented most recently by religious journalist Jack Jenkins (2020), faith-​ based groups across the United States use the scriptures and religious values to mobilise around the rights of undocumented immigrants, the environment and LGBQTI rights. One of the most eloquent examples of such initiatives is the movement against poverty co-​led by Rev William Barber, a Black pastor from Greenleaf Church in North Carolina, and Rev Liz Theoharis, a white female pastor from the Kairos Centre for religious rights and social justice in New York City. They launched the Poor People’s Campaign, a National Call for Moral Revival in 2016 to mobilise against systematic racism and economic inequalities. They are one of the most vocal groups against the populist rhetoric of right-​wing Evangelical Christians. Such initiatives draw on a long tradition of faith-​based mobilisation (Danielson, Mollin and Rossinow, 2018) for civil rights, and against economic, gender and racial discriminations, from Dorothy Day and Sojourner Truth to Martin Luther King and the Berrigan Brothers. In Europe too, faith-​based and interfaith groups have engaged in civil disobedience actions to host migrants in churches or houses. Catholic communities throughout Europe, whether in France or Poland, are deeply divided around issues of gender and immigration. An issue of the French journal Projet gives a voice to thinkers and Jesuit theologians who defend the principles of transnational fraternity and solidarity enunciated by Pope Francis in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti against conservative Catholic theologians who argue for more exclusionary understanding of the national community.

156  Nadia Marzouki

You studied the role of religion in the Tea Party and then in Trump’s platform.What is specific in the links between populism and religion in the USA? Is it just a marriage of convenience or is there a deeper connection? The Tea Party made itself known in the 2010 mid-​term election in which it contributed to the success of the Republican Party. Rather than a party, it is a broad social movement that draws on a loose coalition of three main types of actors, right-​ wing media, grassroots associations and anti-​ tax foundations such as Americans for Prosperity. The Tea Party succeeded in bringing together two longstanding traditions of American politics, anti-​tax mobilisations, and Evangelical nativism. While Tea Party groups initially included some libertarian, secular trends, right-​wing Evangelical discourses defining America as a Christian nation eventually became dominant. The activism of the Tea Party prepared the ground for the success of Donald Trump in 2016, who used a very similar rhetoric based on excess and provocation, and drawing on a long tradition of paranoid rationality (Hofstadter, 1965). Two differences with right-​wing populist parties in Europe are the Tea Party’s condemnation of secular-​liberal values, and its encroachment with nativism and white supremacy. In the US, Christianist populism defines two clear enemies, Islam and secularism. By contrast, populist leaders in Europe have had a more ambiguous stance toward secularism. While they do critique the liberal-​ secular establishment, they also defend secular and liberal values such as women’s rights and LGBQTI rights against the Islamic threat. In France, right-​wing populist leaders such as Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour have outbid other politicians in their defence of laïcité. Right-​wing populism in the US also uses religious rhetoric to support neoliberal, anti-​tax policy against ‘big government’, and discards Pope Francis’ calls to social justice as socialist. In Europe, populist leaders are more divided when it comes to the type of social and economic policy they support. While some populist leaders like Viktor Orbán support neoliberal policy, most European leaders’ advocacy for a strong state contrasts with the US populists’ call for small governments. In France, Marine Le Pen’s critique of the impact of the European Union on the standard of living of lower classes echoes some critiques also made by the Left. Islamophobia is admittedly a common feature of right-​wing populism on both sides of the Atlantic, and has had real effects on Muslims’ lives. I have analysed in my book, Islam an American Religion, how Tea Parties funded and supported, sometimes manufactured, anti-​mosque and so-​called anti-​Sharia mobilisations in small towns of Tennessee, Arizona and Oklahoma in the 2010s. The mainstreamisation of Islamophobic arguments in Europe has also had well-​documented effects on legislation regarding the right of Muslim women to wear a hijab, strict monitoring of the production and distribution of halal food and has consolidated a context of securitisation of Islam. In the case of the US, however, the concept of populism only partially covers the complex set of phenomena at play in the interaction between religion and right-​wing politics. Race is indeed a central aspect of that history, and analysing

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this relationship through the lens of populism sometimes over-​ideologises and de-​ racialises the long history of Evangelicals’ rapprochement with white supremacy. As shown by historian and theologian Anthea Butler (2021), racism is not a mere accident of the history of white Evangelicalism in the United States. It is an integral and foundational part of this history. In Europe, left-​wing populism challenges the notion of a Christian European identity, but Chávismo in Venezuela relies on an expressly Christian imagery. Is religion compatible only with right-​wing populism, or with any type of populism? Countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela offer very compelling cases to think about the connection between religion and populism more broadly, and to go beyond a Eurocentric approach. Cases in South and Central America not only show that populism is compatible with left-​wing populism as well, but that the reason for the appeal of populism’s religious rhetoric is the degree to which it resonates with the forms of popular sacralities that are often ignored by political scientists. The Argentinian anthropologist Pablo Seman has produced ground-​ breaking work on how the populist discourse resonates with new forms of popular religiosities and sacred ritual in Argentina. Whether left or right, religious populism builds not just on the ad-​hoc encounter of interests, but draws on deeper historical structures and forms of lives. It speaks to specific affective dispositions (quest for purity of the body, authenticity of leadership) that explain the convergence, and not just the instrumentalisation, between popular sacralities and populist strategies. Mobilisations aimed at opposing the vaccination mandate or at defending some natural conceptions of motherhood are instructive illustrations of this type of convergence.

Bibliography Brubaker, R. (2017). ‘Between Nationalism and Civilizationism: The European Populist Moment in Comparative Perspective’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(8). Butler, A. (2021). White Evangelical Racism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Danielson L., Mollin, M. and Rossinow, D. (eds). (2018). The Religious Left in Modern America: Doorkeepers of a Radical Faith. Cham: Palgrave. Davie, G. (1994). Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell. Hofstadter, R. (1965). The Paranoid Style in American Politics. New York:Vintage. Jenkins, J. (2020). American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country. San Francisco: Harper Collins. Marzouki, N., McDonnell, D. and Roy, O. (eds) (2017). Saving the People: How Populists Hijack Religion. London: Oxford University Press. Marzouki, N. (2017). Islam, an American Religion. New York: Columbia University Press. Mudde, C. (2004). ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition, 39(4): 542–​563. Mudde, C. (2007). Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Raboteau, A. J. (2016). American Prophets, Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Roy, O. (2018). ‘  “A Kitsch Christianity”: Populists Gather Support While Traditional Religiosity Declines’, LSE Blog, 22 October 2018, available at: https://​​ religi​ongl​obal​soci​ety/​2018/​10/​a-​kit​sch-​chris​tian​ity-​populi​sts-​gat​her-​supp​ort-​while-​ trad​itio​nal-​reli​g ios​ity-​decli​nes/​ Roy, O. (ed.) (2019). Is Europe Christian. New York: Hurst. Sangiovanni, A. (2017). Humanity without Dignity: Moral Equality, Respect, and Human Rights. London: Oxford University Press. Smilde, D. (2007). Reason to Believe, Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

27 POPULISM AND TIME Nomi Claire Lazar

As a political theorist interested in power, democracy, emergencies and constitutions, how did you end up dealing with populism? Is there a particular author or study on populism that inspired you and that you would like to recommend? The threads of my scholarship are woven together by an interest in crisis. Moments of crisis illuminate how power interacts with institutions to reshape the world going forward. Legal and normative constraints are not the only ones in play in crisis politics, and this led to my recent work on the boundaries of time. Temporality, like many institutions, seems to be fixed, but the ways leaders play with time in moments of crisis reveal it is not. In Out of Joint: Power, Crisis, and the Rhetoric of Time, I showed how leaders use constructions of time to shape our perceptions of crisis. Indeed, leaders sometimes use temporal framing to construct a crisis, and this brought me to engage with the writing and speeches of populist leaders. Along these lines, I have found Team Populism’s leader profile resources invaluable. A treasure trove of primary materials and analysis! You claim that political actors use, manipulate and shape time to gain legitimacy. Is there a specifically ‘populist way’ of using time? Historically speaking, can a consistent pattern of populist use of time be identified? Populist leaders commonly –​though not exclusively –​use what I have called a grand-​cyclic conception of the flow of time, and this is because it is well suited to express populist themes. Grand cyclicality peppers the speeches of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, and is also deployed with particular power and brilliance by Viktor Orbán. Once we understand how temporal rhetorical framing works and what the grand cyclic frame does in particular, its usefulness to populists will be evident.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-30

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Framing is the practice of keying an event or object’s social meaning with contextual cues. If we see a person in a lab coat, we interpret the coat’s significance based partly on where we see its wearer: in a hospital? At a costume party? On a stage? On a child at kindergarten? If a bomb detonates, we interpret its political meaning partly through the context of the agent’s intention: state or rogue action? Accident or intention? Frames take many forms, but include elements of intention, location and temporality. Together, these structure the meaning of an object or event, and clarify its role in a story. When leaders tell stories –​‘Four score and seven years ago …’ or ‘I have a dream …’ –​they can use frames to communicate where we are, who we are, how we got here and where we are going. Here temporal framing is invaluable. What does this mean? Narratives tend to take on one of a series of stock forms which reflect ideas about how time flows. Is it linear or cyclical? Does it have a beginning or an end? Is the trajectory of events in time up or down? Is the pace even? Combinations of these yield stock structures or conceptions of temporality. Across cultures, we find examples of primitivism (there was an Eden ‘before time’, and the violent introduction of time –​through modernisation and urbanisation, for instance –​brought corruption and decay) and eschatology (this corruption and decay will spark a final conflagration bringing about time’s ultimate end). And we find examples of grand cyclicality (to everything there is a season, which comes and comes again) and progress (we pass through life’s seasons once only). Even where and when one such conception of the flow of time stands out, as with progress in 19th-​century Europe, for example, they are all always present in some form because these patterns mimic aspects of universal human experience. Our lives move in cycles and lines all at once, and while each of us will some day die, family and culture make it appear as though time carries on. This makes it easy for leaders to move between temporal frames, since we are used to switching among them anyway. Temporal framing can create a crisis or shape the public perception of it.To build the frame, leaders pick an event series from the infinite span of actual past events. They set up a dot-​to-​dot, event to event, while the arc, which crosses through the moment at hand, points the way forward. It tells us what the present moment means for the future. Now, the temporality most often favoured by populist leaders is some variation on the grand cyclic frame. This is because populist rhetoric centres on certain assumptions: that there is a unified people or nation with an identifiable shared interest; that the efforts of nefarious outsiders to undermine and subvert that interest constitute a crisis, and that to respond to this crisis requires trust in the leader, the people’s avatar.This basic structure is common to left and right populisms. Consider how tidily these assumptions fit the narrative structure of grand cyclicality. At some glorious moment in the past, the people were born and, through their superlative character, they rose to glory. This is the top of the cycle, high noon. But some external force –​a coloniser, a polluter, a scheming monied elite –​has intervened, and with underhanded and impure methods, dragged the people down. The leader arrives on the scene at dusk, at 6 o’clock, at the crisis moment. The people must

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recognise that they are at the bottom of the cycle, that they need to trust the leader’s charisma to turn things around, defeat the nefarious outsiders, lest their former glory be lost forever. The upward swing is the people’s own glory, and the downward is evil subversion, beyond their control. The leader offers this simple solution: unmask and eliminate the insidious and corrupting power of the out-​g roup. Focus power on the people’s avatar. Then they can set out on a new glorious rise. Can you illustrate how Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán put this ‘grand cyclic frame’ into action? I have mentioned that Viktor Orbán, the populist Hungarian prime minister, is a particularly brilliant user of grand cyclic rhetoric. Beginning in the 1990s, Orbán began referencing the coincidence of St. Steven’s founding of Hungary in 1000AD with the approaching year 2000. In speech after speech, Orbán catalogued the Hungarian people’s virtues, how this virtue led to Hungary’s glorious rise as a bastion of Christian European culture. He worked to return St. Steven’s crown, which he assiduously associated with the Hungarian people’s spirit, from the National Museum to the Parliament. This was a symbolic –​if ironic –​recension of power, bolstering the connection between the years 1000 and 2000, the first rise to glory, and now the Hungarian people’s imminent second coming. Early on, Orbán claimed that in the 20th century, it was the Communist outsiders who dragged Hungary down and made everything grey. As he began to pivot Hungary away from Europe, the European liberal order –​trying to homogenise and erase Hungarian culture –​took over the villain’s role. It was not the Hungarian people that were at fault for life having become hard and grey, but of these sinister external forces. The preamble to the 2012 Basic Law (which Fidesz drafted more or less without consultation and which entrenches their power) narrates how the Hungarian people have overcome these conniving forces and are ready to rise again. This grand cyclic narrative tells Hungarians who they are, where they have come from, what the present moment of power consolidation means and what Hungarians can hope from the future. From this example, we see how effectively grand cyclic framing communicates populism’s key messages. Revolutions often introduce a symbolic shift by creating new calendars. During the French revolution, for example, the Jacobin Council created a new calendar and clock, which subsequently inspired Benito Mussolini to create a calendar of the Fascist Era, with the March on Rome being day 1 of year 1. How do populists use time to create their own symbolic order? Every Year 1 is arbitrary and the Gregorian calendar’s Year 1 was itself a political compromise, which can claim only the monopoly of convenience. And there are good rhetorical reasons for a leader to carefully select a people’s birthday: to designate a birthdate is to designate that feature essential to the people’s existence as a people. Before this designated date, this event, the people were not-​yet, and after, they have become. Whatever the chosen political event –​the storming of the

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Bastille, a Declaration of Independence –​it rhetorically and symbolically transforms an amorphous collective into a people, a nation.This explains why populists of many stripes founded new calendars. There is a fine Roman example: in the republican period, years were counted by pairs of elected consuls. When the populist Augustus sought to rework republican trappings to support his princely ambitions, he advocated a calendar shift, such that Rome’s age would be counted in sequential years since the city’s founding. Year 1 predated the republic, and thus republicanism was symbolically reframed as just a phase through which the Roman people passed, not as the element constitutive of the people’s political identity. It would then follow that as Augustus reworked institutions to entrench his power, this was just a novel (but purer, less corrupt) phase in the people’s history. Similarly, successive Chinese leaders have dated and redated the birth of the Chinese people, depending on the political needs of the moment. In the preamble to the 1978 constitution, for instance, the Chinese people were born into consciousness with the overthrow of feudalism, but in the 1982 constitution, with the onset of Deng Xiaoping’s period of reform, it was necessary to displace the centrality of the Communist struggle as constitutive of Chinese identity. In an echo of Augustus’ move, in the newer document, the Chinese people are as old as time. Generally speaking, to restart a calendar from Year 1 as Pol Pol, the French Revolutionaries and others have done suggests a new birth for the people, a new purity, a new dawn. With the people restored to their rightful place, thanks to the efforts of the great leader, their avatar, time can begin again. The Covid-​19 pandemic forced political leaders to gain or retain legitimacy during a crisis. In such an emergency, some political actors might be tempted to resort to apocalyptic messages, which however tend to have a paralysing effect and fail to mobilise people to act against, for example, climate change. In this context, do you think that the vision of time proposed by populist actors might boost their popularity and legitimacy? Why leave the opportunity to the populists? Why not, instead, learn from them? It is true that, particularly at times of upheaval, grievance and difficulty, people need a story, a narrative that makes sense of the situation in which they find themselves. And as you note, in the urgency of sparking action, leaders are sometimes tempted by another temporal rhetorical frame –​the apocalyptic. Repent for the end is nigh! Or else: repent or the end is nigh. For decades, this was the structure of the climate movement’s rhetoric and it mostly sparked apathy. It has met with limited success in Covid communications also. This is not surprising: few find imminent catastrophe enticing. And even among those who do, apocalyptic frames are not compelling without claims of inevitability. The movement cannot fail because God is on our side! Or: history culminates in this pre-​ordained moment! When these external organising imperatives are absent,

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apocalyptic framing creates no sense of urgency, community and common purpose, and people shrug the crisis off. But populists are popular for reasons. Among these is the power of the grand cyclic temporal frame for engaging crisis. It satisfies in the same way apocalyptic narratives can, but without the drawbacks: It gives a sense of meaning, poignance, identity, common purpose and a promise of a certain restoration of just order. It offers a happy ending, and rests inevitability in the peoples’ own character and agency, not in some external guarantor whose existence some may doubt. So rather than leave room for populists to capitalise on apocalyptic scenarios by reframing them as grand cyclic opportunities, why shouldn’t we repurpose this rhetoric for inclusive and humanistic ends? Why shouldn’t democratic leaders of a more liberal temperament make use of grand cyclicality to bring a people round to a necessary common purpose? Covid has brought us low, but together we can overcome and thrive again. Climate change threatens us all, and only through the sheer force of our collective will and ingenuity can humanity change course. At challenging moments, populists are popular for a reason. The rest of us could learn a thing or two.

Bibliography Team Populism. (n.d.). Leader Profile Series. Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://​popul​​

28 POPULISM AND MEMORY Meral Ugur-​Cinar

What brought you to study populism? Is there an author or a publication that you would recommend because it helped you making sense of populism? It was the political atmosphere I live in that drew me most to the study of populism. In the spirit of Weber and Arendt, I see that as old certainties lose their grip on people, the world has lost meaning for many. As a result, populism appeals to people as a way of re-​enchanting the world. I also understand that the current state of democracy is far from fulfilling many people’s expectations, particularly economically. I am especially concerned about the fact that these grievances and the search for meaning in the contemporary world make populism an attractive alternative for citizens. Populism, with its disregard for institutions, its Manichean outlook and dismissal of pluralism, is detrimental to democracy. I have witnessed first-​hand in my home country how, ‘in the name of the people’, politicians have eroded most of the pillars of democracy. It also worries me to see how populist leaders recklessly exploit existing cleavages for their own political motivations. I am grateful to many scholars for helping me make sense of populism and develop my thinking on this matter. Cohen’s work and Arato’s work clearly showed how the left populist paths proposed by scholars such as Laclau or Mouffe paved the way for dangerous political adventures. I find Arato’s discussion of populism in the context of political theology an extremely useful articulation of the main drivers and consequences of populism. Latin America, not American scholars, such as Roberts, have helped me develop my thinking about the cases I study, particularly on the non-​populist paths toward social equality. Weyland’s work has helped me make sense of the (counterintuitive) elective affinity between populism and neoliberalism and Berman’s work has helped me think about the rise of populism in relation to the failures of contemporary social democracy. Finally, I have found Rogers Smith’s work fruitful when thinking about the crucial role narratives play DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-31

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in politics while at the same time encouraging me to reflect upon alternative, non-​ populist stories that are more inclusive, peaceful and pluralistic. You observe two post-​imperial countries,Turkey and Austria, and show that different perspectives on the past produce different ideas of ‘who is a citizen’. How does populism in these two countries interpret and exploit the past to create its own idea of nationhood? In my dissertation, which later became a book, I was interested in showing how both the past trajectory of a country and the interpretation of the past are consequential for citizenship policies and collective membership. Similarly, with populism, it is not necessarily a given history but rather the framing of the past that has crucial political consequences. In populist interpretations of the past, we are told the story of a people moving through history, with the leader fostering historical struggles that rhyme with the past. In the case of Turkey under Erdoğan’s populist regime, the polarisation of the secular-​religious divide plays out centre stage. Pious people constitute the ‘us’, while secular elites (politicians and members of the military and judiciary perceived as the guardians of Atatürk’s secular establishment until the 2010s) constitute the corrupt, alienated and despotic ‘other’. As per this populist formula, history is framed in such a way that Erdoğan is depicted as the authentic representative of the people in a historical struggle against those who are alien or hostile to the will of the people. The nostalgia for an Ottoman past that has never really existed serves as an anti-​establishment, anti-​elite discourse, which is essential for populism. This historical struggle is depicted as one between the Western-​oriented, ‘culturally alienated’ (Young Turks) and those who support the genuine values of Turkishness and Islam. The reign of Sultan Abdülhamit II (1876–​1909) becomes the cornerstone of this depiction, as evidenced by the number of TV series produced on his reign by the state TV channel, TRT, under Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi-​ AKP) rule and by the government-​ organised events to commemorate Abdülhamit. Two youth figures from the Ottoman era, Haluk and Asım, are prominent in this regard. Haluk was the son of the famous poet, Tevfik Fikret. Fikret was a dissident of Abdülhamit. He was a humanist, westernised Ottoman intellectual whose son Haluk went abroad to study and ended up converting to Christianity and becoming a Presbyterian priest. Many letters and poems written by Fikret addressed Haluk in his youth as a future ideal citizen. On the other hand, Asım was a fictional figure in the works of Mehmet Akif (1873–​1936), a prominent Islamist poet. Asım is depicted as the representative of an ideal youth by Mehmet Akif. Juxtaposing the youth figures of Haluk and Asım in multiple speeches, Erdoğan framed collective memory so as to further his populist hegemonic struggle, particularly in his efforts to transform the Turkish education system in accordance with his political outlook. In the government’s political agenda, the Ottoman past is tied to contemporary politics and to Erdoğan through a lineage of right-​wing political figures. Erdoğan

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is presented as the one who fulfils the destiny of the people and is willing to do whatever it takes to reach this goal, with the ends justifying the means in this process. There is also intense victimisation in the way the AKP narrates the history of the early republican era; this is most evident in Erdoğan’s speeches, which urge his younger supporters not to forget their victimisation and to ‘hold on to their grudges’. When we turn to populist discourse in Austria, the Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs-​FPÖ) situates itself as the protector of the authentic Austrian people against both foreign intruders and their domestic ‘accomplices’. The party draws on the repertoire of the 1848 revolutions, for example, to show its dedication to the struggle for freedom. However, the Turkish sieges of Vienna are the focal point for FPÖ’s historical references. These sieges serve to divide genuine Austrians from internal and external enemies and to present the FPÖ as the sole embodiment of people’s interests. To illustrate, we can briefly examine a comic book prepared by the FPÖ for the 2010 Vienna mayoral elections. This comic book, called Sagen aus Wien (Legends from Vienna), draws parallels between the past and the present and signals urgency for action for which only FPÖ and its leader, Strache, are deemed fit. In the cartoons, Strache is depicted as a knight defending Vienna against the Turks arm in arm with the famous historical figure of the Siege of Vienna, Prince Eugen. Strache and FPÖ are situated in the best position to fight the ‘Turkish offensive’, which is played out in different forms today, and they criticise their opponents for not being cut out for this job. One cartoon depicts the incumbent social democratic mayor as indifferent to the invasion (which is said to bring minarets, muezzins and compulsory headscarves), while Strache is trying to defend his country with his sword. The book suggests that by letting Turks in, Austrian political elites and intellectuals are betraying history and are being naïve about the dangers, which only the FPÖ can see and correct. These two cases are by no means unique and we can see similar examples in other places; for example, in Hungary, Orbán draws liberally upon Hungarian history from the 1848 Revolutions to the Soviet occupation to send the message that Hungary faces a siege of globalist elites collaborating with domestic allies and that he is the authentic representative of the people who fight an existential battle for them. You claim that populists manipulate collective memory to consolidate a sense of community and to define the boundaries of ‘the people’. Which elements are specifically populists in this way of dealing with the past? What differentiates non-​populist actors in this regard? While historical narratives are planned to provide a cohesive, homogenous history of the nation in order to bolster unity, compliance and solidarity, such narratives prove to be very divisive in the hand of populists. By providing an envisioned sense

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of peoplehood and depicting the leader as the embodiment of the people, these narratives also define the limits of inclusion and seek to mobilise the power bases of populist leaders. In populist narratives, populist leaders are mostly depicted as the ones who will ensure that the country does not fall into the traps of the past and that the nation fulfils its destiny despite the enemies working against this. Such enemies supposedly have counterparts in the past; they are mostly depicted in populist narratives as the descendants of people who desperately want bad things for the country or as the ones who are historically alienated from their own people and do not know what is best. Whereas non-​populist actors can, in principle, talk about history in a way that shows communalities and can derive lessons for a more inclusive agenda, populists need the Manichean outlook to history as a rationale for their existence. Without a heroic historical struggle, there is not much left for populists and that is one of the reasons populism is dangerous, in my opinion. Selectively quoting from empirical facts (or deliberately distorting them), populist stories not only create a common understanding among supporters but also an urgency for action which populist leaders use to extend their power, silence dissent and criminalise opposition –​all of which are detrimental for pluralism and liberal democracy. You studied, in particular, the case of Ulucanlar, a prison that was turned into a museum between 2009 and 2011 by the ruling party, AKP.You argue that the way in which the past has been memorialised is based upon the celebration of a plebiscitary democracy and anti-​pluralism, two populist elements that aim to create a unidimensional idea of collective identity. What lessons can we learn by observing the case of the Ulucanlar prison museum? What does it tell us about the populist use of collective memory? In the Invention of Tradition, Hobsbawm observes that the study of the invention of traditions enables us to see the first symptoms and indicators of phenomena that might otherwise go unnoticed and to observe developments that we might otherwise not be able to identify and date. I think studying Ulucanlar has served a similar purpose. The Ulucanlar prison was turned into a museum in the relatively early years of the AKP rule, when the party seemingly championed democratic ideals. Present representations of the past, such as recent attempts to commemorate the 2016 failed coup attempt, are much more overt in their exclusionary and Manichean tone. Yet, as we tried to illustrate in our article, even behind the façade of a democratic rhetoric surrounding the years of the founding of Ulucanlar, it is possible to discern the homogenising, univocal tone of the AKP via strategic omissions and absences through the ‘museumification’ of this notorious prison.

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Coming to terms with the past is normally considered, at least in Europe, as a positive element for a society that went through collective traumas and violence. Is this idea rooted in a Eurocentric vision? And is it possible that a populist way of dealing with the past can have rather negative consequences? I think that the original idea of coming to terms with the past is very commendable, and it works particularly well in the German case. I see no reason why this idea cannot be replicated outside Europe.Yet in the hands of populists, ‘coming to terms with the past’ becomes a buzzword, a kitsch. It compartmentalises time so that wrongdoings are treated as something that belongs solely to the era before the populist comes to power. While it may seem commendable that populist politicians bring up past wrongdoings, they treat these as themes of the past, dealt with and not to be criticised once the populists themselves are in power. I agree with Traverso, who is critical of turning commemorations into justifications of present political actions and vindications of the status quo of the powerful. Against these,Traverso reminds us of the Frankfurt School’s messages, particularly regarding the fact that past wrongdoings are not alien to our contemporary world but can instead only be understood as embedded in it. In addition to barring further reflection in the present by hijacking the story of past wrongdoings and giving it an ending, populism also instrumentalises these wrongdoings as justifications for new wrongdoings, such as transgressions of the rule of law, pluralism and institutions. In the Turkish case, we saw during multiple constitutional referenda in the AKP era how the traumas of the military interventions were used in the quest for extended power, the silencing of pluralism and for the creation of a unilinear trajectory straitjacketing the country’s future. The instrumentalisaton of the past for populist purposes has wide-​ ranging consequences. How can we do justice to past wrongdoings without perpetuating a culture of vengeance and parochialism? That is the ultimate question. Yet in the hands of populists, collective memory serves the opposite purpose. Namely, populism exploits past traumas and propagates animosity and revanchism within society and thereby deepens existing cleavages and increases polarisation. There is a sense of irony then in the way ‘coming to terms with the past’ is utilised by populist politicians in the sense that a concept developed to bolster constitutionalism and democracy is used to erode both. Instead of serving the creation of a more conscientious and pluralistic society that takes ethical responsibility for the consequences of its actions, which was one of the primary goals of the effort of coming to terms with the past, in the hands of populists it becomes a slogan used to silence opposition and expand executive power with the moral high ground obtained by discursively employing this very phenomenon.

Bibliography Arato, A. (2013). ‘Political Theology and Populism’, Social Research, 80(1): 143–​172. Berman, S. (2016). ‘The Specter Haunting Europe: The Lost Left’, Journal of Democracy, 27(4): 69–​76.

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Cohen, J. L. (2019). ‘What’s Wrong with the Normative Theory (and the Actual Practice) of Left Populism’, Constellations, 26(3): 391–​407. Roberts, K. M. (2008). ‘Is Social Democracy Possible in Latin America?’ Nueva Sociedad, 217: 70–​86. Smith, R. (2003). Stories of Peoplehood: The Politics and Morals of Political Membership. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Weyland, K. (1996). ‘Neopopulism and Neoliberalism in Latin America: Unexpected Affinities’, Studies in Comparative International Development, 31(3): 3–​31.

29 POPULISM AND MUSIC Melanie Schiller

As a scholar interested in media studies and popular music, how did you approach populism? Is there an author or a publication that particularly inspired you and influenced your perspective on populism? Much of my work to date has focused on concepts of national identity and nationalism in connection with popular music (especially in post-​war Germany). I am therefore rather new to populism studies. Coming from a cultural studies background, I initially felt rather ambivalent toward populism as a concept. I was familiar with debates over cultural populism in cultural studies and Jim McGuigan’s seminal book Cultural Populism (1992). In this field, cultural populism refers to an uncritical celebration of popular culture’s subversive potential as an anti-​elitist culture of the people. Some scholars, such as John Fiske, were criticised for their cultural populism on the grounds that it was ideologically naïve, ignoring larger social, political and economic structural factors. In a way, this form of populism overstated popular culture’s importance and potential for challenging hegemonic power structures. I was also familiar with the work of Jan-​Werner Müller, who conceptualises populism as ‘a way of perceiving the political world that sets a morally pure … people against elites who are deemed corrupt’ (2016: 19–​20). Like most theories that deem populism (in one form or another) to be an ideology, Müller’s normative understanding of populism is limited to what he terms ‘the political world’. Accordingly, it ignores the cultural realm entirely. Hence, neither of these approaches seemed suitable for understanding the important and complex role of popular culture –​and music –​in contemporary populism. Populist discourses are disseminated and negotiated not just in the political realm, but in popular culture and music too. Populist actors and movements use

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-32

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popular music to express their politics, some popular music artists also make explicit populist statements, while others make music that implicitly plays into populist narratives and worldviews. Ultimately, I have found discursive-​performative perspectives, for which populism is a discourse and political style, most useful for understanding how populists increasingly perform as celebrities or ‘pop stars’. Indeed, they use popular musical tastes to define the ‘real’ people (as opposed to ‘cultural elites’). But these figures still operate in the narrowly political realm of party politics and politicians. I believe that Ernesto Laclau and Stuart Hall’s concept of articulation is most helpful when it comes to grasping how populism’s rise has precipitated a wider cultural shift in how we understand the world and what is considered sayable, normal or ‘common sense’. Laclau says that ‘the people’ is not a pre-​existing category but constituted through representation, which includes (popular) culture and music. In popular music, then, politics and culture are articulated (expressed and connected) and accepted definitions of ‘the people’ are negotiated. Political and economic perspectives on populism are dominant, while insights from other fields are almost ignored. How can cultural studies contribute to our understanding of populism in your opinion? Cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field. Through theoretically, politically and empirically engaged analyses of culture, it seeks to understand everyday texts and practices in contemporary society. Although cultural studies scholars concentrate on contemporary culture’s political dynamics, they also consider its historical foundations, characteristics, conflicts and contingencies. Hence, cultural studies attends to power relations in society as they are negotiated in (popular) cultures. Culture –​the constant process of generating meanings from social experiences –​ is fundamental to social identities (understandings of who ‘we’ are) and processes of exclusion (who ‘they’ are). According to Stuart Hall (1998), popular culture is where collective social understandings are created, attempts to win people to particular perspectives on the world are mounted, and struggles for and against the culture of the powerful play out. In short: hegemony arises and is secured, partly, in popular culture. Contemporary populism, especially the populist radical right, draws heavily on (popular) culture in the ongoing ‘war of positions’ over what is deemed ‘common sense’ in society (i.e. hegemony) and to constitute a particular ‘people’ in opposition to its ‘other’. For instance, after the 2014 EU election, Mattias Karlsson of the populist radical-​r ight Sweden Democrats, declared that:‘The main conflict is … between conservative patriots and cosmopolitan cultural radicals. The big and decisive battle regarding the survival of our civilisations, our cultures and our nations has reached a new, more intensive and decisive phase’ (cf. Tamas 2021). Elsewhere, he expands that he aims to bring about a conservative cultural revolution that would undo the supposedly questioning, relativising and deconstructing climate of the post-​1969

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culture in Sweden (SVT 2021). It would reinstate an essentialist understanding of cultural identities, encompassing the nation (articulated in histories and traditions of Swedishness), gender roles and social relationships. Clearly, the Sweden Democrats’ populist radical right project is profoundly cultural. Indeed, they consider culture an important bearer of ideals, a crucial part of life and society and primary to politics. ‘Culture influences politics more than the other way around’, Karlsson argues (SVT 2021). Consequently, the Sweden Democrats (SD) are heavily invested in cultural policies, questions of a national cultural canon and cultural production, including popular music. Many SD MPs are musicians; the party leader, Jimmie Åkesson, plays in a rock band that releases music, videos and live DVDs; regularly performs at party events such as the annual party summer festival; sells merchandise; and organises meet & greets and autograph sessions with fans. Cultural studies has a long tradition of analysing how insurgent subcultures relate to dominant cultures and reappropriate cultural codes to inscribe them with new meanings. Analysing populism from a cultural studies perspective shows how the music of the Sweden Democrats, for instance, is symptomatic of their broader attempt to redefine Swedish culture and rearticulate it in terms of the populist radical right. But it also allows us to better understand how populist discourses struggle for hegemony by bringing about wider cultural shifts in society. Whereas populism studies often focuses on the realm of party politics and voter mobilisation, populist discourses aim to alter the common frameworks through which societies make sense of the world. Populism and popular music culture are intertwined in contemporary Europe. For example, folk singer Andreas Gabalier has repeatedly expressed sympathies for the populist far-​right Freedom Party of Austria. In his songs, Gabalier confronts the ‘political correctness dictated by the elite’, acting as a warrior for free speech in representation of a silent majority. Can you give us some examples of the links between populism and popular music, and tell us how populist actors can benefit from it? Andreas Gabalier, the widely popular, self-​declared Austrian ‘Volks Rock’n’Roller’, is an example of what my colleague Mario Dunkel and I term ‘culture of populism’ (Dunkel and Schiller, forthcoming). Although Gabalier claims to be apolitical and to make music for entertainment only, he has also repeatedly positioned himself as representative of ‘the people’. Questioning liberal democracy, he has defended ‘traditional’ social values, national identity and his Heimat from supposed threats. His song ‘A Meinung haben’ (Having an opinion, 2015) probably exemplifies this most clearly. In our article, Dunkel, Anna Schwenck and I (Dunkel, Schiller and Schwenck, 2021) discuss how the song was released as a protest song of sorts after Gabalier refused to sing the new, gender-​inclusive version of the Austrian national anthem.After receiving heavy criticism, Gabalier claimed victimhood and mobilised the populist notion of a ‘dictatorship of opinion’, which he, heroically, would resist as a lone and brave (hyper-​masculine) fighter against suppression by elites.The song

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‘A Meinung haben’ articulates several populist tropes in the form of a successful pop song on chart-​topping albums in Austria and Germany. We argue that Gabalier’s songs –​whether they are explicit works such as this or more indirect and implicit –​ exemplify how populist discursive struggles for cultural hegemony work at the level of representation, myths, signs, emotions and affect. The example of Gabalier shows how popular music can create populist subject positions and lead people to identify with populist narratives in the form of widely disseminated, accessible and popular cultural works, which are not necessarily linked to party politics or ‘the political world’ in direct ways. It should be noted, though, that Gabalier has indeed expressed sympathies for the Freedom Party of Austria and FPÖ politicians have been keen to be associated with Gabalier’s popularity. You studied in particular the case of the rockabilly musician Peter Jezewski, who openly declared his political association with the populist radical-​right party Sweden Democrats. Starting from Jezewski’s example, can you tell us in what ways popular music is able to express and spread the political message of the radical right? Peter Jezewski in Sweden is another interesting example of how popular music plays a role in the articulation of populist discourses and performative construction of the ‘people’/​‘elite’ antagonism. Jezewski is a well-​known popular musician and singer, who rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s with his popular rockabilly band The Boppers, which had a few hits at the time. In recent years, however, Jezewski, has gained media attention largely for his association with the Sweden Democrats rather than his music. In 2016, the Swedish media reported that he performed at the Sweden Democrat-​organised annual summer festival. This led a number of venues to cancel gigs with him, for they refused to collaborate with an artist associated with the SD or feared related protests. In the wake of this minor, self-​inflicted scandal, Jezewski, like Gabalier, presented himself as the victim of a systematic silencing campaign by a dictatorship of opinion, a normal guy being ‘punished’ for representing ‘the people’. At the same time, Jezewski claims that he simply wants to play his Rock’n’Roll music and has no political intentions. Given the financial hardship Jezewski purportedly incurred because of the supposed public ‘boycott’ of his music, the Sweden Democrats’ leader called on his social media followers to buy Jezewski’s most popular solo single in support, resulting in the 20-​year-​old song ‘Jeannie’s coming back’ briefly topping the Swedish iTunes charts. Since then, Jezewski has played regularly at SD events and even ran (unsuccessfully) as an SD candidate in a local election. Jezewski is interesting in that he brings together different musical and performative elements that are not populist per se, but strongly resonate with populist discourses and narratives that feature an underdog representing ‘the people’. Jezewski’s music thrives on nostalgia, especially for southern-​US and rural-​inspired Rock’n’Roll and Rockabilly of the 1950s and 1960s. It also extends to country music. Indeed, on his tours Jezewski regularly covers the music of Johnny Cash, for instance. His music and persona combine nostalgia for a particular white, masculine

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and working-​class rebel culture –​centred on the leather-​clad guy sporting a pompadour –​with nationalism and a typically Swedish rural subculture known as ‘raggare’. This low-​brow retro-​culture celebrates and cultivates a love for classic US cars, along with heavy drinking and the flaunting of masculinity and traditional gender roles. Given that ‘raggare’ are typically rural and deemed somewhat ‘backward’ or generally of low social status, Jezewski’s combination of these elements aligns perfectly with the Sweden Democrats’ rhetoric of representing the underdog from the Swedish ‘heartland’ (as opposed to the urban ‘elite’). Jezewski combines a subcultural ‘raggare’ style with the notion of populist rebellion (i.e. cultural revolution, as Karlsson had it). After a terrorist attack in Stockholm in 2017, this combination culminated in Jezeweski’s song ‘My Land’ (2018): a melodramatic anthem expressing love for his country and asserting the beauty of the Swedish landscape and ‘his people’, performed in the style of ‘raggare’ authenticity. You argue that radical-​right populism intersects with ‘popular cultural retromania’. In particular you analyse a phenomenon called ‘Swedish fashwave’, an audio-​visual genre that combines music with radical-​right messages. Can the populist radical right be understood as a cultural and aesthetic movement, and how does this work? The cases of Andreas Gabalier and Peter Jezewski indicate how populist radical-​r ight discourses are articulated with a nostalgic retro-​culture and style in popular music culture. Another example of this populist retromania is a genre that, in Sweden, is associated with another –​arguably more extreme –​populist radical-​r ight party: the Alternativ för Sverige (AfS), established in 2018. The AfS is more open about its associations with the international alt-​right ‘movement’ and its cultural aesthetic is heavily inspired by that of US white supremacism. For instance, it includes the common use of popular memes such as Pepe the Frog or the ‘OK’ hand gesture. Musically, AfS fans are invested in fashwave. This musical genre, which emerged online, combines the retro-​ cultural and post-​ ironic aesthetic of other popular genres such as synthwave and vaporwave with populist radical (and extreme) right content. Songs including ‘EXAKTWAVE’, ‘SWEXITWAVE’ or ‘KΛSSΞLWΛVΞ –​Can’t Hassel The Kassel –​Alternativ för Sverige’ (named after prominent AfS politicians, political agendas, and inside jokes) express the cultural practices in populist radical right’s participatory culture. Although they are produced by AfS fans and shared online, these songs are also played at official AfS party events and election rallies. The songs and the accompanying videos are inspired by 1980s and 1990s popular culture and play on the ironic appreciation of outdated aesthetics and the implicit utopianism of technology during those decades.This specific combination of retro-​culture with populist radical-​r ight messages creates a space of collective identification and a specific way of ‘making sense of the world’ for those involved in the culture. Such music, based on memes, post-​ironic humour and a shared set of cultural and aesthetic codes, hence not only creates an ‘inside group’ who ‘get’ it, but also effectively rearticulates the culturally dominant retro-​trend of the past decade in populist radical-​r ight terms.

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Bibliography Dunkel, M., Schiller, M. and Schwenck, A. (2021). ‘Researching Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe’. In K. Kärki (ed.), Turns and Revolutions in Popular Music. Turku: International Institute for Popular Culture, 31–​34. Dunkel, M. and Schiller, M. (forthcoming). ‘Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe: An Introduction’. In M. Dunkel and M. Schiller (eds.), Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe. Routledge. Hall, S. (1998). ‘Notes on Deconstructing the Popular’. In J. Storey (ed.), Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 442–​453. Müller, J.-​W. (2016). What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. McGuigan, J. (1992). Cultural Populism. London: Routledge. Schiller, M. (forthcoming). ‘Populism, Subcultural Style and Authenticity: Popular Music, Rock Rebellion and the Radical Right in Sweden’. In C. Goer and M. Anastasiadis (eds.), Popkultur und Populismen. Interdisziplinäre und internationale Perspektiven. Bielefeld:Transcript. SVT. ‘Min Sanning: Mattias Karlsson’ (10 January 2021). www.svtp​​video/​29692​902/​ min-​sann​ing/​min-​sann​ing-​matt​ias-​karls​son-​sas​ong-​13-​matt​ias-​karls​son Tamas, G. (2021). ’John Ausonius såg ingen skillnad mellan sitt fysiska våld och debattens verbala våld’, Dagens Nyheter.​kul​tur/​gell​ert-​tamas-​john-​auson​ius-​sag-​ingen-​ skill​nad-​mel​lan-​sitt-​fysi​ska-​vald-​och-​debatt​ens-​verb​ala-​vald/​

30 POPULISM AND THE COVID-​19 PANDEMIC Nils Ringe and Lucio Rennó

You have been analysing how populists around the world responded to the Covid-​19 pandemic. Did you find any distinctly ‘populist response’ to the pandemic, something that characterises all populist actors? For example, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro received much attention, but were they setting the example or being the exception? Donald Trump’s and Jair Bolsonaro’s responses to the Covid-​19 pandemic were reflective of their authoritarianism and of their exclusionary right-​wing nativism, but they were also plainly populist by propagating simple solutions, conflating the crisis with their existing catalogue of grievances, vilifying ‘liberal elites’ and rallying core supporters behind their ‘strong leadership’. But one of the main takeaways from our edited volume on ‘Populists and the Pandemic’ is that there is more variation in how populists around the world have reacted to Covid-​19 than those highly publicised cases suggest (Ringe and Rennó, 2022). Their response is at one end of the spectrum; at the other end, we find populists who generally adhered to mainstream public health recommendations and eschewed conspiratorial rhetoric, for example the Peronist government of Alberto Fernández in Argentina, or even Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. There is also variation in what types of policy responses populists favoured or opposed. Most have been supportive of vaccines, for example, although they may emphasise voluntarism and decry vaccine mandates. Populists were more critical from the outset –​and also grew critical over time –​of measures that constrain the movement of people, such as restrictions of crowd sizes or strict lockdowns. But it would be misleading to say that the average populist leader or party in our sample was opposed to public health measures. Similarly, few populists considered in our book engaged in overt denialism, by maintaining that

DOI: 10.4324/9781003250388-33

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Covid-​19 is not real, or by promoting alternative treatments or religious practices as protection from the pandemic. The bottom line is that Trump and Bolsonaro are more the exception than the rule. But we tried to avoid the fallacy of observing how populists responded to the Covid-​19 pandemic and then labelling that response ‘populist’. Instead, drawing from Moffitt (2015), we considered whether populists ‘performed’ the Covid-​19 crisis in quintessentially populist terms, in that they invoked ‘the people’ while seeking to perpetuate crisis. This allowed us to evaluate whether the reaction of at least some populists was not, in fact, particularly populist. What we learned is that all populists invoked ‘the people’ to justify their responses to the pandemic, but only those in opposition actively sought to perpetuate the Covid-​19 crisis, which they did by conflating it with general political and representational crises that they framed in reference to issues over which they have ownership, like immigration and globalisation. In this way, they sought to manufacture a political crisis out of an exogenous public health crisis that was, as such, difficult for them to capitalise on. This approach combined populism, their core ideologies and standard opposition behaviour. This is not to say that all opposition parties acted totally alike, however. There are notable differences in particular between opposition populists who have been trying to ‘de-​demonise’ themselves in the eyes of voters, like Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National in France or Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and who therefore embraced mainstream positions on public health measures; opposition parties that have mainly sought to mobilise their core constituents, like Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland; and opposition parties that embraced either more moderate or more radical positions in an effort to differentiate themselves from other populists with whom they are in domestic electoral competition. The only populists in government who took a similar approach as opposition populists, of perpetuating the Covid-​19 crisis by linking it to their traditional grievance narratives, were populist leaders in two of the most autocratic countries (Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela) –​as well as Bolsonaro and Trump, for whom the Covid-​19 crisis provided an opportunity to feed division and polarisation. The pandemic allowed them to sow enough discontent, resentment, anger and distrust to allow for rules and norms to be ignored, for institutional constraints to be relaxed, for electoral integrity to be cast into doubt and for political opposition to be denigrated –​in other words, it was an opportunity for pursuing illiberal democracy with a distinct authoritarian bend. But overall, populists in government, in both democratic and non-​democratic regimes, have sought to avoid perpetuating the monumental health, social, economic and political crises they were charged with managing.

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You analysed 22 countries with different political systems from Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and included both right-​and left-​wing populist actors, in power as well as in opposition. What are the main variations introduced by these regional, ideological, and institutional differences in the populist response to the pandemic? Government or opposition status explains a lot, but we also found that other factors matter. One is regime type: populists in power in non-​democracies all engaged in some degree of fudging or manipulation of Covid-​19 data, and all have used the Covid-​19 crisis to consolidate power. This has generally been successful, in that institutional checks and balances, especially constraints on the executive, have become weaker in Hungary, India, Indonesia, Russia, Philippines and Venezuela, while they remained at already very weak levels in Nicaragua, Tanzania and Turkey. These efforts were successful, in part, because an effective pandemic response required strong, intrusive state actions, which could readily be exploited for consolidating power. We also identified interesting patterns when trying to explain what we label ‘Covid-​radicalism’ (which combines consistent denialism with opposition to public health measures). We found that there are more Covid-​radicals in countries that have presidential systems (see also Greer et al., 2021), when politics is more personalistic, and in comparatively poor countries where state capacity is low. In our sample, these variables generally capture five countries that have Covid-​radicals in power (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Tanzania) and three that do not (Argentina, India, Philippines). Unlike parliamentary systems –​which tend to encourage moderation over polarisation and feature stronger parties and less personalised leadership –​politics under presidentialism is more personalised and greater power is vested in the executive. Hence, the buck stops with the president, who may therefore be inclined to downplay the pandemic and eschew potentially unpopular policy measures. Moreover, executive-​legislative relations under presidentialism are not designed to be cooperative; instead, the separation of power between executive and legislature produces rival centres of authority and decision-​making and reduces incentives for compromise (Linz, 1990). Politics tends to be more antagonistic, especially when polarisation is high. In these contexts, presidents might pursue a policy of blame avoidance by downplaying the severity of the pandemic and blaming the legislature for unpopular mitigation policies. At the same time, lower levels of development, macroeconomic constraints, limited fiscal capacity and high levels of poverty and inequality mean that countries are less able to cushion the economic shock of the pandemic through either established social safety nets or temporary relief measures. This is a problem when poverty and high levels of job market informality prevent large numbers of citizens from taking part in lockdowns or social distancing, as they threaten their very livelihood. Furthermore, implementing successful mitigation policies requires levels of state capacity that many countries lack, especially when the central government faces significant subnational variation both in the levels of development and in its

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political reach. In the face of these challenges, the ability of leaders to pursue what is generally considered a ‘responsible’ pandemic response is severely constrained. In contrast, there are only three Covid-​radical parties in wealthy countries with parliamentary systems and high levels of state capacity (even though there are more of those in our sample), all of which are –​again –​in domestic electoral competition with a more moderate populist rival, from which they are apparently trying to differentiate themselves through their willingness to challenge the depoliticisation of the pandemic, to attribute blame, and to serve as the only true voice of ‘the people’. And then there is Donald Trump, of course, a populist leader in a presidential democracy that did not lack the necessary wealth or state capacity to confront Covid-​19, but had a political leadership unwilling or incapable of harnessing the necessary state power to manage the pandemic. Moreover, the already highly polarised country found itself in the midst of a bitter presidential election campaign, which contributed to the politicisation of Covid-​19 and the measures intended to curb the pandemic. Our findings are not as clearcut for some other factors, but they are at least suggestive. For example, more Covid-​radical populists are right-​wing and exclusionary than left-​wing and inclusionary; high levels of polarisation also seem to encourage Covid-​radicalism; and the pandemic responses of populists in countries in which elections took place between spring 2020 and summer 2021 were at least in part driven by electoral considerations. Populism thrives in times of crisis, but a pandemic also requires competence and expertise. So far, has the pandemic been more a challenge for populist actors, or an opportunity? Is the pandemic going to spell the end of the populist wave, or rather boost it even further? One reason for pursuing this project was that it offered the opportunity to examine how populists around the world reacted to the same external crisis, a crisis that was, moreover, genuinely exogenous to populism itself and the rise of populism in recent years. How do populists respond to a crisis they did not produce? What institutional, political, social and economic factors shape their responses? Are they still able to exploit an exogenously triggered public health crisis for political gain? On the one hand, we might think that they can, since this particular exogenous shock seems to favour the objectives of populists. After all, a pandemic has the potential to undermine trust in political, economic and social elites; to reveal or exacerbate societal schisms; to increase individual anxiety and collective malaise; to negatively affect the overall mood of a country; and perhaps even to increase acceptance of authoritarianism. On the other hand, the pandemic may not be the type of crisis that would play to the strengths of populists, since a successful response to the pandemic requires decisive state action, reliance on scientific expertise and data and careful consideration of policy options at odds with populists’ rhetoric and agendas. So while populists tend to strive in crisis, this particular crisis might conflict with basic

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features of populism and standard populist approaches to crisis politics –​especially when it comes to populists garnering public attention, polarising opinion and offering apparently simple solutions to complex policy challenges, to be achieved through decisive leadership. We were, therefore, eager to find out if and how populists across the globe would approach ‘pandemic politics’ and, to come back to the first question, whether Trump and Bolsonaro were the exception or the rule. Plus, we now know that 12 of the top 20 countries with the highest Covid-​19 death tolls have (or had) populists in power, which underscores the importance of understanding how populists have reacted to the pandemic and which institutional, political and structural factors have mediated their response. But we also wanted to look beyond populists’ initial response, and one strength of our volume is that it does not only focus on the external crisis that marked the beginning of the pandemic. Instead, the contributors investigated systematically and comparatively how populists performed the same crisis over time (until early summer 2021). So we were able to establish not only how populists reacted initially, but also whether or not they were able to ‘endogenise’ the exogenously triggered crisis. The reaction of populists in opposition is a great example of this: they were unsure how to exploit a crisis for immediate political gain that was, at least at the outset, external to domestic politics and political competition, and they were (for the most part) reluctant to perpetuate the public health crisis as such, given its human toll. They conflated the Covid-​19 crisis with their existing grievance narratives, thus turning an exogenously triggered public health crisis into an endogenously performed political crisis, which is very much within populists’ comfort zones. Did the pandemic break the populist wave though? That is difficult to gauge while the pandemic is still ongoing. As of summer 2021, most populists in democratic countries seem not to have been able to exploit the pandemic for political gain: about half have lost support and the other half stayed steady. It appears that the pandemic has lowered the demand for populism, at least in the short term. But the story is different in non-​democracies, where populists in government used the pandemic to consolidate power and were thus able to exploit it for their political benefit. Conspiracy theories about the origin of Covid-​19, its diffusion and the vaccines have proliferated since the beginning of the pandemic.We know from previous research that people with populist attitudes tend to believe more in conspiracy theories. Is it possible that the pandemic will deepen even further the cleavage between people prone to believe in conspiracy theories and those who follow mainstream media and believe in commonly accepted scientific knowledge? Could populists benefit from the long-​term effects of the pandemic? Looking beyond the short term, populists’ strategies of pushing division, disruption and polarisation may well end up paying off. This may be the case because politics return to ‘normal’ and the social, economic and political problems that have facilitated and contributed to the rise of populism in the first place remain

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unresolved, or because those problems end up being exacerbated by the pandemic. Time itself is also a factor, because some of the challenges populists faced initially may fade. As the pandemic drags on, it may become easier to push populist messaging; to mobilise core supporters while winning over new ones; to devise and propagate a narrative about how ‘the corrupt elite’s’ crisis response has been hurting ‘the pure people’; to denigrate experts; or to offer apparently ‘easy solutions’ while spreading contempt for ‘the “slow politics” (Saward, 2011) of consensus and negotiation’ (Moffitt, 2015: 201). We know that because of their inflammatory rhetoric and ability to politicise, populist forces are particularly good at hijacking political agendas (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser, 2017), and a prolonged pandemic crisis is likely going to work in their favour. In fact, we are already seeing bigger, more frequent and more intense protests in several countries considered in our book. But the extent to which populists will be able to exploit the pandemic and its consequences is not just up to them. For example, it is clear that the pandemic has empowered certain (scientific and political) elites who have pushed for highly intrusive mitigating actions that were implemented by the executive branch. And, to be clear, that kind of rapid, decisive action was absolutely necessary. But it provided little space for democratic deliberation and parliaments, in particular, were sidelined. Those institutions, especially legislatures made up of the people’s representatives, must eventually recover their central role. If they do not, liberal and democratic institutions end up being more vulnerable to populists’ attacks. Another question is if, when and how mainstream political actors are able to alleviate the short-​and longer-​term consequences of the pandemic. The social and economic fallout from Covid-​19 has been devastating for many, and failure to deal with the after-​effects of the pandemic would open the door to populist messaging and political success. The potential successes or failures of populist actors, therefore, hinge not only on themselves, but also –​or perhaps mainly –​on the ability of mainstream/​non-​populist actors to master the economic and social consequences of the Covid-​19 pandemic in the years to come.

Bibliography Greer, S. L., King, E. J., da Fonseca, E. M. and Santos, A. P. (2021). Coronavirus Politics: The Comparative Politics and Policies of COVID-​19. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Linz, J. J. (1990). ‘The Perils of Presidentialism’, Journal of Democracy, 1(1): 51–​69. Moffitt, B. (2015). ‘How to Perform Crisis: A Model for Understanding the Key Role of Crisis in Contemporary Populism’, Government and Opposition, 50(2): 189–​217. Mudde, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2017). Populism:AVery Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ringe, N. and Rennó. L. (eds.). (2022). Populists and the Pandemic: How Populists Around the World Responded to COVID-19. New York, NY: Routledge. (The eBook is available for free (open access) on Saward, M. (2011).‘Slow Theory:Taking Time over Transnational Democratic Representation’, Ethics and Global Politics, 4(1): 1–​18.


9/​11 30, 55 abortion 31, 115, 148, 153 Åkesson, Jimmie 172 Añéz Chávez, Jeanine 83 alienation 74, 115, 165 Alternative for Germany (AfD) 38, 41, 68, 124–​5 Alternative for Sweden (AfS) 174 AMLO 7 ANO 2011 36, 38 anti-​pluralism 26, 53–​4, 113–​14 anti-​populism 53, 81, 88 anti-​emitism 13–​16, 22, 24, 29–​30, 132 anxiety 17, 19, 96–​7, 127, 179 Archbishop Makarios 114 Atatürk, Mustafa Kemal 142, 165 attitudes 3, 6, 9, 43–​4, 46–​9, 57, 59, 75, 91, 99, 102–​3, 109, 124, 127, 130, 136, 138, 180 austerity 21, 80, 116–​17 Austria People –​Freedom –​Fundamental Rights 32 Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) 15–​16, 29, 45, 121, 127, 166, 173; see also Haider, Jörg; Strache, Heinz-​Christian authoritarianism 7, 31, 40, 48, 68, 75, 86, 123, 138, 176, 179 backlash 30, 83, 90, 124, 127, 138, 146 Bannon, Steve 57 Barrès, Maurice 14–​15 Berlusconi, Silvio 25, 27, 30–​1, 56, 131, 148

Biden, Joe 27, 32, 97 Bolsonaro, Jair 25, 27, 31, 80, 96–​7, 121, 133, 153, 159, 176–​7, 180 Boric, Gabriel 117 Bossi, Umberto 148 Boulanger, Ernest 13 Brexit 52–​3, 56, 73, 125, 144, 146 Brexit Party 97, 142 Brothers of Italy 148–​9; see also Meloni, Giorgia Buchanan, Pat 70 challenger parties 34–​8, 55, 67, 114, 139 charisma see charismatic leader charismatic leader 15, 29, 63, 83, 96, 99, 121, 148, 161 Chávez, Hugo 25, 27, 72 Chega 126 Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Germany 42, 68 civil society 24, 27, 68, 72, 79, 132 cleavage 46, 67, 81–​2, 87, 124–​7, 164, 168 Clinton, Bill 131 Clinton, Hillary 115 Conservative Party (UK) 142, 144; see also Johnson, Boris conspiracy theories 12, 32, 130–​3, 135, 150 constitution 25, 27, 31, 72, 89, 162 Conte, Giuseppe 32 Corbyn, Jeremy 7, 114, 116 Correa, Rafael 32 corruption 36, 59, 80, 130, 160

Index  183

Covid-​19 32, 43, 115, 119, 121, 131, 133, 162–​3, 176–​81; see also pandemic crisis 7, 30, 33, 43, 68, 71, 115, 121, 125–​7, 159–​60, 163, 166, 176–​81 Danish People’s Party 148; see also Kjærsaard, Pia Davutoglu, Ahmet 142 democracy 24–​7, 45–​8, 50, 53, 82–​3, 85–​90, 97, 112–​14, 125, 164; capitalist 20–​1; direct 15, 47; illiberal 177; intra-​party 42; liberal 9, 15, 24, 43, 47–​8, 51, 58, 106, 109, 123, 135, 137, 167, 172; participatory 110; populist 24; presidential 179; reactionary 51; representative 27; social 127, 164 demonisation 13, 24–​7, 72, 81–​2, 177 DiEM25 8 Die Linke 41 discrimination 91, 89, 155 disinformation 101, 104 distrust 51, 102, 105, 136, 177; see also trust Donnelly, Ignatius 13 Duterte, Rodrigo 25, 97, 176 education 75, 89, 93–​4, 101, 132, 154, 165 emotions 5, 17, 42, 80–​3, 86, 91–​4, 96–​7, 107, 116, 148, 153, 173 Erdoğan, Recep Tayyip 31, 72, 143–​4, 166 Essex School 6, 112 European Parliament 97, 141 European Union (EU) 8, 29–​30, 39–​40, 56, 80, 86, 113, 116, 142, 146, 156, 171 Euroscepticism 40, 57, 68, 97 Facebook 103, 107–​10 fascism 21, 23–​7, 29–​31, 50–​1, 125–​6, 161 fashwave 174 feelings see emotions Fernández, Alberto 176 Fidesz 38–​9, 133, 166; see also Orbán,Viktor Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle) 36, 43, 139 Fortuyn, Pim 55–​6, 65 Forza Italia 41; see also Berlusconi, Silvio Frankfurt School 31, 168 Fridays for Future (FFF) 33, 137 Front National 11, 14–​15, 21, 124, 144, 148 see also Le Pen, Marine; Le Pen, Jean-​Marie; Rassemblement National Gabalier, Andreas 172–​4 GERB 36 Gilets Jaunes 136–​7

globalisation 17, 92, 119, 123, 127, 135, 143, 146, 166, 177 Golden Dawn (XA), Greece 31, 125–​6 GreenLeft (GL), Netherlands 42 Green Party (MP), Sweden 70 grievances 50, 115, 162, 164, 176–​7, 180 Haider, Jörg 29–​30, 56, 148 Hanson, Pauline 5 identity 9, 15–​17, 71, 73, 80–​4, 86, 89, 112, 115, 147, 152, 162–​3, 170–​2 illiberalism 8–​9, 15, 22, 38–​9, 51, 53, 113, 153, 177 immigration 7, 9, 12–​16, 29, 43, 49, 67–​8, 80, 86, 88, 113, 124, 127, 142–​4, 149, 152–​5, 177 immigrants see immigration inequality 73, 89, 115, 127, 155, 178 Instagram 103 Islam 11, 14, 49, 121, 125, 142, 152, 154, 156, 165; see also Islamophobia; Muslims Islamophobia 120, 125, 154, 156 Jezewski, Peter 173–​4 Jobbik 31 Johnson, Boris 31, 144 Justice and Development Party (AKP) 142–​4, 165–​8; see also Erdoğan, Recep Tayyip Kaczyński, Jarosław 31 Kast, José Antonio 26, 89–​90 Kjærsgaard, Pia 148 Know Nothings 12 Kurz, Sebastian 31–​2 Labour Party (UK) 7; see also Corbyn, Jeremy Laclau, Ernesto 5–​6, 19, 23, 26, 30, 112, 117, 164, 171 Law and Justice (PIS) 142; see also Kaczyński, Jarosław leadership 6–​7, 42, 66, 114, 120, 143, 148–​9, 157, 176–​80; see also charismatic leader League, the see Lega Lease, Mary 113 Lega 15–​16, 32, 38, 45, 97, 149 legitimacy 25, 34–​5, 38, 52, 67–​8, 83, 109, 123–​5 La France Insoumise 7 Le Pen, Jean-​Marie 30, 50, 52, 56, 148 Le Pen, Marine 14–​15, 52, 96, 120, 127, 148, 156, 177

184 Index

LGBT 113, 149–​50, 153 LGBT+​ see LGBT LGBTQI see LGBT LGBTQI+​ see LGBT liberalism 9, 53–​4, 114, 153 Long, Huey 71 Macron, Emmanuel 136 Maduro, Nicolás 7, 82, 177 mainstreaming 34, 51, 81, 120, 153, 156 media 27, 31, 35, 41, 52, 56–​8, 66–​8, 72, 87, 93, 102–​11, 131, 136, 153, 156, 173; see also social media Meloni, Giorgia 120, 148 meme 94, 174 memory 25, 165, 168 Merkel, Angela 32, 68 migrants see immigration Miller, Stephen 57 Modi, Nerandra 25, 27, 153 Morales, Evo 7, 83, 113 Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) 83; see also Morales, Evo multiculturalism 17, 76, 87 Muslims 14, 120, 149, 152–​6 Mussolini, Benito 31, 161 N-​VA 41 nationalism 8, 15, 21, 30, 36, 48, 57, 68, 72, 123–​7, 141–​2, 146–​9, 170, 174 nativism 8, 11–​16, 35–​6, 40, 43, 56, 58, 72, 75, 82, 121, 156, 176 national socialism 15, 24, 29, 68, 126 Nazi see national socialism New Democracy (ND), Greece 7 New Democracy (NyD), Sweden 70 normalisation 31, 33, 35, 54, 98 nostalgia 26, 75, 121, 153, 165, 173–​4 Ocasio-​Cortez, Alexandria 7 Orbán,Viktor 15, 25, 31–​2, 96–​7, 133, 153, 156, 159, 161, 166 Ortega, Daniel 177 Ottoman Empire 121, 142–​3, 165 pandemic 7–​8, 25, 32, 43, 104, 133, 150, 162, 176–​81 Papandreou, Andreas 114 Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) 7 partisanship 83, 86–​9, 136, 138 Party for Freedom (PVV) 40–​1, 48, 68, 83, 86–​9; see also Wilders, Geert PASOK 114; see also Papandreou, Andreas People’s Party 13, 20

Perón, Juan 23, 71 Peronism 82, 117; see also Perón, Juan Perot, Ross 70, 131 Pétain, Philippe 29 Pinochet, Augusto 26 Podemos 7, 38, 113, 116, 139 polarisation 72, 79–​83, 86, 98, 133, 138, 165, 168, 177–​80 pluralism 9, 47–​8, 58, 83, 113, 139, 153, 164–​8; see also anti-​pluralism public opinion 54, 75, 129–​30 Putin,Vladimir 31, 144 QAnon 132 racism 16, 22, 24–​5, 30–​1, 50–​1, 53, 68, 83, 146, 155, 157 ‘raggare’ 174 Rassemblement National 97, 124, 144, 148, 177 referendum 7, 15, 73, 89, 93, 125, 147, 168 refugees 7, 22, 30, 68, 143 religion 14, 24, 26, 147–​9, 152–​7, 165, 177 Republican Party (USA) 31, 81, 114, 136, 138, 156 Republikaner 11, 14, 16 resentment 11, 17, 81, 177 revisionism 18, 26, 29, 143–​4 Rousseff, Dilma 80 Šarec, Marjan 36 Salvini, Matteo 25, 27, 32, 96, 149 Sanders, Bernie 8, 116, 131–​2 Serbian Progressive Party 38 Social Credit 16 social media 101–​5, 107–​10, 132, 150, 173 social movement 20, 33, 89, 156 social status 17, 74–​6, 127, 174 Social Democratic Party (SPD), Germany 76 Socialist Party (SP), Netherlands 41 Socialist Party of America (SPA), USA 22 Soros, George 32 status quo 37–​8, 51–​3, 89, 96, 168 stigma 68, 125–​6 Strache, Heinz-​Christian 166 Sweden Democrats (SD) 38, 171–​4 Swiss People's Party (SVP) 125 Syriza 7, 113, 116 Tea Party 81, 156 Telegram 104 The Guardian 57, 130

Index  185

Trump, Donald 12, 25, 27, 30–​2, 42, 52–​3, 56–​7, 70, 72–​3, 81, 93, 96–​8, 102, 110, 113–​15, 124, 131–​3, 146, 148, 154, 156, 159, 176–​7, 179–​80 trust 46, 63, 76, 102–​4, 121, 126–​7, 136, 160–​1, 179 Tsipras, Alexis 113; see also Syriza Twitter 30, 63, 103, 108–​11, 131–​2 UK Independence Party (UKIP) 125, 142 Ulucanlar 167 unemployment 16, 101, 127 vaccines 32, 117, 131, 133, 157, 176 Vargas, Getúlio 23–​4 Vichy 29; see also Pétain, Philippe

Vlaams Belang 14, 177; see also Vlaams Blok Vlaams Blok 11, 14, 16 VOX 26, 125–​6 Wilders, Geert 40, 65, 96, 148, 154 working class 15, 52–​3, 73, 75, 174 World War II 24–​6, 68, 132 Watson, Thomas E. 13, 21–​2 welfare 14, 16, 76, 124, 147, 149 xenophobia 16, 24, 68, 113, 149 YouTube 103 Zemmour, Eric 14, 154, 156