There is an interesting post today on Social Europe about the loss of legitimacy of the established political parties in Europe – and the growth of populist sentiment. It’s by a Dutch political scientist who has spent the past decade looking at the issue and has a nice short explanation of the phenomenon under the heading 10 Definitions of The Populist Crisis in Western Politics:
1. Populism is the substitute for the eroded Left/Right divide in politics. It replaces it through the populist cleavage of ‘the establishment’ versus ‘the people’. They are perceived as false unities and indeed pose a potential threat to the pluralist and constitutional dimensions of democracy.Cuperus was a new name for me – but he writes coherent stuff eg in 2004 on the situation facing the Dutch parties and a particularly intersting 2006 paper on the situation at the European level And one of the early comments rightly suggested the anglo-saxon world (to which The Netherlands apparently belongs) should be set apart from that part of Europe (particuarly Germany) which has managed to resist the blandishments of neo-liberalism and retains public values. I mentioned not so long ago that there was an intersting debate about 15 years ago about different models of capitalism – and I find it odd that this has not come back into the debate. Hopefully blogs like Cuperus’ will help bring this back into the mainstream discussion.
2. Populism is a revolt against (the narrative of) globalisation.
3. Populism is a revolt against what the Germans call the Second Modernity, or late modernity: that is the modernity of individualisation, de-traditionalisation, cosmopolitanism, neoliberal capitalism and the global network society.
4. Populism is a revolt against expert-driven, technocratic policy-making.
5. Populism is the revolt of the working class and the squeezed lower middle class against the dominance of academic professionals in society and public discourse.
6. Populism is the revenge of the working class after the neoliberal betrayal (permanent welfare state austerity reforms) of socialist and social-democratic parties.
7. Populism is a dangerous, xenophobic revolt against ill-managed mass migration which negatively affected the lower end of society much more so than the upper end.
8. Populism is a revolt against a world that is changing too rapidly and where traditions, identities, and securities are no longer respected.
9. Where socialism and Christianity no longer act as moral and cultural restraints or breaks to the disrupting process of globalisation, populism has filled the vacuum: populism is a romantic, irrational, emotional revolt against the inhuman philosophy of efficiency in both the market and the state.
10. Populism is a revolt against the powerlessness of the political class who have seemingly lost all grip after handing control over to the anonymous forces of globalisation, the financial markets, and the logics of EU technocracy.
An example of progress in Sofia. Three years ago I used to have great relaxation at the nearby Sparta sports centre where – for 45 euros – I was allowed 12 visits to a VIP part which gave me access to swimming, sauna, very civilised changing rooms and towels. Today I learned there has been a change of ownership and, for the same price, I get the same number of visits to the pool only (no sauna now - that's an additional 30 euros; vastly inferior changing facilities (you have to take off and put on shoes in the public waiting area); and bring your own towel. That’s abaout a 75% increase in price. The next step will clearly be to reduce the number of visits to 10, then 8. I have to find out the nature of the change of ownership - is this an example of cowboy privatisation?