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Panel 614: Political Economic Causes of Emerging Populism - Mapping and Conceptualizing Key Variables
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
2:55pm - 4:25pm

Session Chair: Zdzislaw Mach, Jagiellonian University
Location: Room 12.34

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Political Economic Causes of Emerging Populism - Mapping and Conceptualizing Key Variables

Chair(s): Zdzisław Mach (Jagiellonian University)

Discussant(s): Andras Tetenyi (Corvinus University of Budapest)

Populism is a loose and broad label, yet most forms of populism share the common characteristics of having a solid basis in polarised societies, where the dominant distinction is between the “pure people” versus “the corrupt elites”. The aim of this panel is to identify, to conceptualise and to operationalise emerging political and economic populism and the most important explanatory variables behind it. To achieve its aim, the presentations in the panel will study the socio-economic roots and policy consequences of populism. The panel also focuses on two key concepts: neo-feudalism and neo-traditionalism which are crucial in understanding Central and Eastern European societies, and which can be used as cornerstone concepts for interpreting socio-economic phenomena with populist characteristics in other regions. The presentations in the panel will investigate characteristics of the demand side of populism (such as income inequality and economic insecurity) and the nature of the supply side analysing how varieties of state capitalisms changed over time or conducting discourse analysis of political leaders. The panel also raises the question of how the demand (defined as the priority of the society given to the perception of economic insecurity) meets the supply (as defined as the “protest”, “anti-establishment” response of the populist parties) in certain cases and over various historical period. The panel brings together a wide range of scholars of economists, political scientists and historians in the framework of the H2020 project entitled: ‘Populist rebellion against modernity in 21st-century Eastern Europe: neo-traditionalism and neo-feudalism’ (POPREBEL) (grant number: 822682).


Presentations of the Symposium


(Re)conceptualising Economic Populism

Istvan Benczes
Corvinus University of Budapest

Populism has recently become one of the most intensively scrutinised social and political phenomena within the academia, both in and outside of Europe. The heated debates that populism generates can be explained by the fact that it has emerged as a viable political platform in countries such as Hungary or Poland. Yet, populism is a thin concept. In order to enrich our understanding of populism, the paper aims at broadening this concept by focusing on its economic and political economy dimensions. The conceptualisation of economic populism is rather rare and even contradictory in the literature. In its original form it was understood as economic policies used for distributive purposes, resulting in dramatic cycles (Dornbusch and Edwards 1991). Most recent interpretations place institutional constraints in the spotlight (e.g., delegation), with the aim of retrieving the capacity to manipulate policy instruments to the people (Rodrik 2018). By critically reviewing the literature, the paper attempts to identify those factors and ideas that can help (re-)conceptualise economic populism in a non-contradictory way. Furthermore, the paper will elaborate on the causal mechanisms between economic and political populisms in order to clarify whether economic populism can trigger political populism.


Analysing Political Alienation and Economic Growth

Elena Cossu
Corvinus University of Budapest

In contemporary politics, both the expectations of economic growth and populism are intuitively considered two of the main challenges on sovereignty. Despite this, the way governments can effectively tackle these problems and their relationship are unclear. For this reason, this paper’s goal is to look at the work regarding economic populism and its relation to the case of Hungary, which is one main example of populism in contemporary Europe. More specifically, the paper will compare the models and outcomes used to analyze economic populism in Latin America to Hungary. It will compare the two main studies through the different macroeconomic indicators highlighted by the main authors on the topic, and it will look at deficit policies and public spending. It will also take into considerations the role of institutional constraints in the elaboration of populist policies.


Disembeddedness in Central and Eastern Europe: a Polanyian Approach to Emerging Populism

Gabor Vigvari
Corvinus University of Budapest

This paper investigates the major political economic causes behind the emerging populism in Central and Eastern Europe. Increasing popularity of populist parties (and also the emergence of newly established political parties throughout the region) should be understood as a Polanyian countermovement against the political and economic regime change of the early 1990s. Around that time social scientist were afraid of the potential unfeasibility of the parallel political and economic regime change, mostly arguing that democracy might be threatened by political pressure coming from the losers of the transitional process. We will argue, that current mobilization of right-wing populist can be understood as a “delayed transformational fatigue”, or a delayed political “U-turn”. We will seek for possible explanations of this delay and timing of this U-turn and try to prove this was caused by the increasing inequality and insecurity because of the increasing exposure to the negative effects of economic globalization: especially during and after the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the 2015 migration crisis.

Eventually the paper seeks to conceptualize the connection between globalization, capitalist transition and the reaction of societies against this process. We will argue, that economic transition caused an accelerating process of disembedding markets: a process that had started in developed countries earlier but was faster and even deeper in case of the CEE region. Using Polanyi’s double movement theory we will argue, that emerging populism can be understood as a natural countermovement against this process.

Globalization, Economic Crises, and Disaffection with Democracy in Europe

Ioanna Christodoulaki

Boston University, United States of America

The paper is focusing on the relationship between Globalization, understood in the form of the global integration of financial markets, free trade, and the free movement of capital, and European integration, and attempts to trace the underlying connections between the two. It looks into the ways in which the tenets of Globalization have been manifested during the Eurozone debt crisis, and the way in which these transpired during the negotiations for crisis management, by looking at the case of Greece. What is the relationship between Europe and the Global financial markets? Is the EU adjusting to the principles of Globalization, and how is this affecting democracy in its member-states? Is the EU acting as a democratic mechanism of checks and balances in order to mitigate the Globalization effects? And more specifically, to what extent does the relationship between Europe and the Globe help explain public disaffection? The paper utilizes data from the Eurobarometer, and other national surveys to gauge public opinion on questions pertaining to the management of the Greek economic crisis. It also applies discourse analysis on the statements and press releases of political elites in Europe and the IMF. Preliminary findings suggest that the economic crisis and the negotiations between Greece and its creditors were permeated by international multilateral institutions setting the stage and dictating decisions and policy making in Europe. Further, the influence of international financial markets was not sufficiently mitigated by the intervention of the European Union as a whole, as viewed in its policy response to the crisis. The paper, finally, argues that in order to understand public discontent and disaffection with democracy in Europe, it is necessary to view Europe within its Global political and economic environment, and not solely on the level of Europe or the level of the nation state alone.

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