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Joppke, Christian. “Explaining the Populist Right in the Neoliberal West.” Societies, vol. 13, no. 5, 25 Apr. 2023, p. 110


With the 2016 double shock of Brexit and Trump, the populist right has become a game-changing force on both sides of the North Atlantic. A proper explanation needs to combine political, economic, and cultural elements. Qua populism, the populist right addresses a political condition, which is neoliberalism’s endemic democracy deficit. However, the illiberal democracy that populists advocate is not a cure for it. Cleavage theory in the Lipset–Rokkan tradition sheds light on the rightist orientation and the nationalist content of this populism. The main explanatory challenge remains the combination of economic and cultural factors in the rise of populism. In economic respect, middle-class decline under a neoliberal order seems to be the root cause of populism. However, its agenda is culture-focused, amounting to a nationalist opposition to immigration and cosmopolitanism. This “cultural deflection” is a persistent puzzle. The minimum to conclude is that one-sided accounts of populism in exclusively economic or cultural terms are unconvincing.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.