The Rise of Populism


Because of the recent political surprises, delivered by the supporters and users of populistic policy strategies and communication, the phenomenon of populism has become one of the most discussed subjects both in the EU and USA. The Centre for East European Policy Studies (CEEPS) presented its latest book “The Rise of Populism: Lessons for the European Union and the United States of America”, at the European Union House (Riga), on November 24th. The book has been co-edited by Andis Kudors, CEEPS’s Executive director and Dr. Artis Pabriks, member of the European Parliament.

In the foreword of the book, Dr. A. Pabriks points out that “during recent years in different parts of the world, including established Western societies, we have witnessed a series of political events such as elections, referendums, changes of governments and Presidents, which seem to be difficult to explain in accordance with previously established conventional political measurements. Frequently, these political “surprises” have been associated with rising populist sentiments in politics as well as in society in general. The aim of this book was to analyse the phenomenon of populism and explain its rebirth considering the current situation in the political and social economy. I very much hope this book will shed light to our path going forward, and will help us not to fall for the naked promises of populists once more.”

What defines populism nowadays and what are the reasons behind its rise in use and public support? What part has it played in the unexpected outcomes of political events in the UK, EU and USA? How populism functions in different European countries such as Germany, France, Greece and the Baltic States? What part in the spread of populist messages do the media play? Has the year 2016 been the highest point for populism or has it only begun its journey to the centre of politics in Europe? The aim of this collection of articles is to seek answers to these questions and continue the debate on the nature of populism, to analyse the experience of the US and the EU and produce conclusion-based recommendations to politicians and decision-makers. This book features the work of researchers from Latvia, Germany, France, UK, Greece and USA.

Presentation of the new book was opened by its co-editor – CEEPS’s Executive director Andis Kudors and Elisabeth Bauer – head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation office for the Baltic States and Scandinavia. The event featured main conclusions on the research theme from the co-authors of the book – Dr. Ilze Balcere, researcher of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute, and Dr. Florian Hartleb, political consultant and researcher. Dr. Ilze Balcere focused on the theoretical perspective of populism, its roots in history, the modern definition of populism and its theoretical boundaries. In his turn, Dr. Florian Hartleb presented his assessment of the recent elections in Germany and the Netherlands, taking into consideration the rise of populism in the political area of these countries, caused by the migration crisis. Co-editor of the book and member of the European Parliament Dr. A. Pabriks shared his opinion and experience when witnessing populism in the politics of Europe. Presentation was moderated by Māris Cepurītis, researcher at the CEEPS. Attendees had a chance to ask questions to the authors of the book at the end of the event.

People are accustomed to consider populism as a part of the political practise. However, populism is no longer to be found exclusively in politics, it has also spread to the areas of media and economy. Co-author of the book Anda Rožukalne explains the notion of media populism, the main characteristic of which is the media’s choice to put economic interests above those of the society. Brexit can be viewed as an example for the dissemination of populistic messages by the media in the UK. Populistic style of communication encloses emotional communication, provocation and negative characterisation of the opponent. It is concluded in the book, that this style of communication is widely spread by the media, because of its harshness, as it attracts a wider audience.

Although the wave of populism has reached the EU and USA only in the past few years, researchers have discussed the nature of populism for a long time now and not always in negative terms. Co-author of the book, professor Michael Kazin (USA) points out in his article that sometimes populism can be a necessary remedy for bettering the way a democracy works.

The book has been published in English, and its electronic version can be accessed here.

This collection of articles has been published with the support of the European People’s party (EPP) Group at the European Parliament and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.