President’s Plenary: Challenging the Borders of Liberal Democracy: The Global Rise of Populism

Plenary Sessions

Speaker: İlter Turan

Presentation: Challenging the Borders of Liberal Democracy: The Global Rise of Populism

No democratic society appears these days to escape the rise of populist movements that challenge not only the power of the prevailing political classes but often also the political institutions and the rules through which political power is exercised. Populist movements, usually backed by those who lack efficacy, feel alienated and marginalized, are often perceived as a threat to the smooth functioning of a liberal democratic system.  Is this a warranted concern? Are those at the margins of societies challenging the borders of liberal democracy and narrowing it? What are the roots of the rise of populism in widely different political environments? Have all populist movements arisen in response to similar developments or do they have widely different origins? What are the failures of liberal democracies that have given rise to successful populist movements? What kind of a challenge has the rising of populist political movements and populist governments pose for liberal democracy? Will liberal democratic governments be able to weather the populist storm?

The President’s Plenary brings together distinguished scholars from different regions of the world to search for answers to these and similar questions within the framework of a multi-disciplinary and comparative perspective.

Speaker: María Esperanza Casullo

Presentation: Populist Myths and Populist Bodies: Understanding Populist Representation

Professor Casullo will touch upon the matter of what is proper of populist representation and why it posits such a forceful challenge to liberal representation. Populist mobilization, with its charismatic leaders and antagonistic publics, is an effective tool for amassing and wielding political power. All over the world, people continue to choose to support leaders who go against “good” politics and who promise to shake up the status quo and devolve power into the hands of its true owner, the people. Why are these promises attractive? While liberal-technocratic representation invites loyalty based on the promise of good governance, the populist bond is based on the promise of retribution. Two different factors are central: The first one is a certain type of discourse (the populist myth) that articulates the grievances of social groups and maps out a path to their redemption. The second one is a particular type of bodily self-presentation on the part of the populist leade r that performs  the "disruptive making-present of the people." The body of the leader presents itself as in synecdochal relation with the people as a whole. Examples from South America and the North Atlantic area will be discussed to illustrate these points.

Speaker: Duncan McDonnell

Presentation: Respectable Radicals? Right-wing Populists and Mainstream Parties

This presentation will discuss how radical right populists have increasingly gone from being pariahs to acceptable partners for mainstream parties at both national and supranational level in the twenty-first century. Based on party positional data and interviews conducted with key figures from relevant parties over the past five years, it will consider why contemporary mainstream parties and radical right populists choose to co-operate (or not) with one another. The presentation will cover national-level cases of both co-operation and non co-operation such as Denmark, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. It will also discuss the logics underpinning current European Parliament groups containing right-wing populists and mainstream parties. It will argue that radical right populists have ‘come of age’ in many countries, being able to secure greater legitimisation within national and supranational politics via their alliances, while not abandoning their key policies and positions.

Speaker: Ersin Kalaycıoğlu

Presentation: Democracy and Populism: The Achilles ’ Heel of Democratic Government

Populism emerged as mass political participation with democratization began to take hold of industrial and industrializing states in the 19th century; later contributing to the development of Nihilism in Russia, and married with nativism and racism, populism swept through Europe in the early 20th century. Cold War era seemed not to have been so strongly influenced by the spell of populism in the same political geography. With the advent of globalism which had created so much hype about the end of nation-states, populism married with nativism and nationalism seems to be making a comeback with a vengeance. The many faces of populism or even populism that successfully evolved into providing the support and mechanisms for many different left and right wing movements over the years in different political geographies will be analyzed. A classification of populism(s) and account for the domestic and international factor and conditions that seem to help to contribute to its resurgence in mass politics, especially of democracies will also be attempted.

Speaker: Leonardo Morlino

Presentation: New Populism and Protest Parties

The intervention will start by singling out the key differences between the traditional populist parties with a strong leader and without intermediate structures and the new protest populist parties that mobilize the dissatisfaction and resentment of voters towards the political class, but also toward specific policies and policy issues (austerity, security, immigration) and/or institutions (parliament, government, parties, central banks), and international organizations. Three factors are central for those parties: 1) the anti-establishment content of the protest to find a scapegoat, someone responsible for a negative situation; 2) the relationships that are developed with other actors and political or economic institutions (cooperation vs. conflict); 3) the level or scale of the challenge that may concern partial aspects of or the entire political and economic system. Moreover, when analyzing these parties we should distinguish between ‘extremist parties’ (or anti-system) and ‘radical parties’: the former have an ideology (total opposition) and strategies (high conflictuality) that are incompatible with existing systemic constraints; the latter increase the level of confrontation with other political forces and institutions (high conflictuality) because of their anti-establishment characteristics, but without a total rejection. A few examples will integrate the analysis.

Speakers: Pippa Norris

Presentation: Tipping Points, Cultural Backlash & Rising Populism

Rising voting support for parties blending populist and authoritarian appeals has disrupted mainstream party competition in many Western societies and had major consequences worldwide. What explains this phenomenon?  We theorize that an important part of any explanation lies in perceived cultural threats, where rapid and profound value change in post-industrial societies during recent decades have affected core feelings of social identity, wrapped around values of family, faith, and nation. These developments have generated a tipping point, activating authoritarian reactions among social conservatives, and mobilizing voting support for populist parties with authoritarian policy positions. These changes have deepened cultural cleavages dividing older and non-college educated social conservatives resident in peripheral communities from younger college-educated social liberals living in urban metropolis. To consider these issues, Part I develops the conceptual and theoretical framework. Part II operationalizes the notion of tipping points in the mass electorate and among voters, using longitudinal and cross-national survey data. Part III uses multilevel models to examine the evidence. The conclusion summarizes the key findings and considers their implications.