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Photo: “European Parliament Strasbourg Hemicycle – Diliff“, by Diliff, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original

Rupnik, Jacques. “The Specter Haunting Europe: Surging Illiberalism in the East.” Journal of Democracy 27, no. 4 (2016): 77-87.


Populist and nativist political parties have emerged throughout Europe, yet only in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have these illiberal democratic parties gained power. This difference in political fortune can be traced to the countries’ divergent conceptions of nationhood. For CEE countries, nationhood is rooted in ethnic and cultural homogeneity; for Western European countries, it is defined by universalism and diversity. As market globalization and unchecked migration have spurred fear among CEE voters of a nationhood under threat, illiberal democratic leaders have gained power by pledging to defend it. While the return of CEE illiberalism has revived talk of an East-West split in Europe, the crisis of liberalism and rise of populist nationalism are assuredly pan-European phenomena. Can the EU, the last elitist project in the age of populism, overcome its internal divisions and contain the illiberal drift?

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.