University of Lisbon, Portugal, 1-4 September 2019
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Panel 714: Political Economic Causes of Emerging Populism: Mapping and Conceptualizing Key Variables
Political Economic Causes of Emerging Populism: Mapping and Conceptualizing Key Variables - POPREBEL - Economics - 2
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
Economic Inequality and Insecurity and their Connection towards Populism – some Conceptual Considerations
Populism is a loose and broad label, yet most forms of populism share the common characteristics of having a solid basis on polarised societies, where the dominant distinction is between the “pure people” versus “the corrupt elites”. This research focuses on the demand side of populism, and in particular on the socio-economic context, which establishes the ground for the rise of populism using the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region as a case study. The paper investigates whether a prerequisite for populism is in the “inequality-economic insecurity” vicious circle and if so, up to what degree these two phenomena can explain the rise of populist parties. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to conceptualise and to operationalise economic inequality and insecurity with an additional aim of identifying the mechanisms through which these two can be linked with one another.
This research conceptualizes economic inequality from a material perspective and is expanded to offer a broader understanding of inequality of opportunities. The article utilises both the vertical (relative and absolute) understanding of inequality along with the horizontal theory to offer a more balanced perspective. Economic insecurity is conceptualised in the paper as the co-existence of actual and perceived risk, where persistent economic inequality (measured in loss of wages, higher inflation, spiralling mortgage etc.) exacerbates the perception of risk, by focusing solely on negative economic tendencies. This framework is applied to the case of CEE since the EU accession and identifies the most important indicators.
The Curious Case of Inequality and Political Party Competition in CEE: Hungary and Poland
The growth of economic inequality between 2008 and 2018 slowly became the reality not only for the major Western countries (as exemplified by France and the US), but also the likes of Lithuania (GINI score: 0.37 – third highest in Europe), Hungary (center-periphery divide, growing GINI) and Poland (regional disparities) as well. The goal of the article is to test whether the growing inequality in above-mentioned countries affected major political parties in terms of their positions across the spectrum of economic cleavages. The case selection shows that major competing political parties in Poland (Law and Justice versus Civic Platform), Hungary (MSZP versus Fidesz) and Lithuania (emergence of strong Liberal versus Conservative) do, in fact adjust their programs to the growing economic inequality within those countries and attempt to communicate strong redistribute policies. The paper uses descriptive statistics of inequality to analyze the evolution of regional disparities. In addition, it compares it to the change of party positions on redistributive policies using the results of expert surveys as well as party programs themselves. Finally, it briefly discusses whether the implemented policies by ruling parties have been in line with the promises and reflect their position on economic inequality. The expected findings are parties have adjusted their programs with references to economic inequality since 2007-08, and have attempted to implement welfare-maximizing policies (if in power). Moreover, even right-wing parties are expected to become in favor of increased government spending on social programs among other factors, borrowing their positions from the traditionally left-wing economic preferences.
Economic Populism in the Light of Challenge to the Liberal Economic Order
The growth of emerging powers and the world financial crisis of 2008 substantially changed the perception of liberal economic principles in the world, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Populist parties began to challenge the role of institutions such as the IMF, World Bank or the World Trade Organization as pillars of the world economic order. Countries such as China or Russia grew as sources of hope for populist parties and entities. Populists positioned the growth of the East as a promise for those suppressed under liberalism. As a result, protecting industry, securing new markets or creating new jobs represented their core argumentation. To some extent, these developments were a reaction to the previous round of globalization.
The paper explores the projection of anti-globalist and anti-liberalist tendencies in Central and Eastern Europe, on the example of Czech and Slovak populist parties and their attitude towards emerging powers in the economic sphere. Despite the hopes in Chinese investment and Russian markets, the reality proved to be more than disappointing. The paper therefore examines the gap between the plans for greater involvement of Russia and China in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and the results through juxtaposing top promises related to Russia and China, distilled through discourse analysis of public declarations and the economic performance in the fields outlined by those promises. It shows that the gap between promises and actual achievements is still large.
Νο Taxation without Representation? The National Semester and the Challenge to Parliamentary Sovereignty
University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
The Italian budget drama became a headline issue in the last months of 2018. The unprecedented rejection of the Italian budgetary plan for 2019 by the European Commission triggered a heated reaction from the country’s political leadership. The incident highlighted the Commission’s increased fiscal surveillance authority after the adoption of the Two Pack reform of economic governance in 2013. Member States are expected to incorporate EU level fiscal policy guidance issued in the first half of the year (European Semester) into national budgetary policies formulated in the second half of the year (National Semester).
This paper argues that the post-crisis changes in European fiscal surveillance challenge parliamentary sovereignty at the national level. Drawing on the theory of Sociological Institutionalism it analyses the delegation of increased surveillance authority to the Commission as an outcome of emerging economic policy beliefs. The paper turns to the contrasting organisational principles of (Member States) ‘keeping their own house in order’ and ‘considering their economic policies as a matter of common concern’ to explore the effects of the prevailing economic rationale on the national democratic process. The first part of the paper unpacks the theoretical framework and proceeds to a short review of the Italian budgetary dispute. Subsequently, it explores the policymakers’ underlying economic policy beliefs regarding fiscal and macroeconomic management tracing their impact on the organisational framework of the EMU. Finally, with reference to the Italian budget the paper shows how the delegation of fiscal authority to supranational institutions violates parliamentary sovereignty.
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