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Photo: “Library“, by Stewart Butterfield licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Joppke, Christian. “Populism and the Double Liberalism: Exploring the Links.” Theory and Society 50 (March 15, 2021): 769–790.


The rise of populism in the West is often depicted as opposition to a “double liberalism”, which is economic and cultural in tandem. In this optic, neoliberalism and multiculturalism are allied under a common liberal regime that prescribes “openness”, while populism rallies against both under the flag of “closure”. This paper questions the central assumptions of this scenario: first, that neoliberalism and multiculturalism are allies; and, secondly, that populism is equally opposed to neoliberalism and to multiculturalism. With respect to the alliance hypothesis, it is argued that only a diluted version of multiculturalism, in terms of diversity and antidiscrimination, is compatible with neoliberalism, which also needs to be sharply distinguished from liberalism. With respect to the dual opposition hypothesis, it is argued that the economic inequalities generated by neoliberalism may objectively condition populist revolts, but that these inequalities are not centrally apprehended and addressed in their programs; furthermore, it is argued that the rejection of multiculturalism indeed is central to populist mobilization, but that the two have important things in common, not least that both are variants of identity politics, if incompatible ones.

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.