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Global Populisms and Their Impact

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2017


Populism is on the rise: but to understand this phenomenon, we should first clearly conceptualize it and recognize that populism takes on different forms in various historical and political contexts. These “populisms” pose a threat to modern liberal democracy. As Poland and Hungary show, populists exclude entire swathes of society from the polity, and undermine the formal institutions and the informal norms of democracy.

Critical Forum: Global Populisms
Copyright © Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies 2017 

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1. To code parties as populist, I rely on both the parties’ stated programmatic and campaign commitments, and previous codings of parties as populist or unorthodox. See: Deegan-Krause, Kevin and Haughton, Tim, “Towards a More Useful Conceptualization of Populism: Types and Degrees of Populist Appeals in the Case of Slovakia,” Politics and Policy 37, no. 4 (August, 2009): 821–41Google Scholar; Haughton, Tim, “Driver, Conductor, or Fellow Passenger? EU Membership and Party Politics in Central and Eastern Europe,” Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 25, no. 4 (November 2009): 413–26Google Scholar; Mudde, Cas, “The Populist Zeitgeist,” Government and Opposition 39, no. 4 (September 2004): 542–63Google Scholar; Pop-Eleches, Grigore, “Throwing out the Bums: Protest Voting and Unorthodox Parties after Communism,” World Politics 62, no. 2 (April 2010): 221–60Google Scholar; Bustikova, Lenka, “Revenge of the Radical Right,” Comparative Political Studies 47, no. 12 (October 2014): 1738–65Google Scholar. I include all parties that claim to speak in the name of the people or the nation against a corrupt elite, including those that do so in the name of redefining the nation more narrowly (nationalist and some right-wing radical parties) and in the name of rejecting the existing liberal market and political model. Populist parties thus have elective affinities with protest parties: “nonorthodox” and “anti-establishment” parties, and their shared desire to “throw the bums out.” This coding is broader than right-wing extremist parties that are both highly socially conservative and highly nationalistic and narrower than “unorthodox” parties.

2. Canovan, Margaret, “Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy,” Political Studies 47, no. 1 (March, 1999): 216 Google Scholar; see also Mudde, The Populist Zeitgeist”; Taggart, Paul A., Populism (Buckingham, Eng., 2000)Google Scholar; Stanley, Ben, “The Thin Ideology of Populism,” Journal of Political Ideologies 13, no. 1 (January 2008): 95110 Google Scholar; and Weyland, Kurt, “Clarifying a Contested Concept: Populism in the Study of Latin American Politics,” Comparative Politics 39, no. 1 (October 2001): 122 Google Scholar.

3. Krastev, Ivan, “The Strange Death of the Liberal Consensus,” Journal of Democracy 18, no. 4 (October 2007): 5663 Google Scholar; György Gyulai, 2013. Fico’s Slovakia: The Force Restrained,” Hungarian Review 4, no. 2 (March 2013): 3747 Google Scholar, especially 38, also at (last accessed April 25, 2017).

4. The same cannot be said for Fidesz: its failure to resolve the economic woes of Hungary has meant its standing in public opinion polls has dropped over time.

6. European Commission For Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission of the Council of Europe), Opinion on the New Constitution of Hungary, 87th Plenary Session (Venice, 17–18 June 2011), 1–29, here 19, at (last accessed April 25, 2017).

7. Jasiewicz, Krzysztof, “The Political-party Landscape,” Journal of Democracy 18, no. 4 (October 2007): 2633 Google Scholar, here 31.

8. “Transitional Acts of Hungary’s Basic Law” December 2011, at (last accessed April 25, 2017).