Exploring Economic Populism, a Neglected, but Growing, Phenomenon

51 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2021

See all articles by Beatrice Magistro

Beatrice Magistro

University of Washington

Victor A. Menaldo

University of Washington - Department of Political Science; UW Political Economy Forum

Date Written: January 1, 2021

Abstract

What is the relationship between economic crises and populism? Once almost exclusively the domain of Latin Americanists, the study of populism has emerged as a leading research agenda for scholars who study Europe and the US. However, researchers have hitherto failed to systematically account for the logic of economic populism and the fact that populists emanating from either the left or the right tend to converge on a similar political economic model: protectionism, crony capitalism, and inveterate rent seeking. We provide a framework to make sense of this pattern and explain the systematic, mutually reinforcing association between crises and populism. We also adduce supporting evidence from very different places, Argentina, Chile, Greece, and Italy, and across disparate time periods. We argue that populism almost always threatens both liberal democracy and welfare state capitalism and ushers in economic collapse. We posit that a key reason for this is that, rather than seeing economic interactions as “win-win” situations, populists are obsessed with zero-sum thinking. We also speculate about what might be in store for European politics in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Populism, economic crises, liberal democracy, welfare state capitalism, Latin America, Europe

Suggested Citation

Magistro, Beatrice and Menaldo, Victor A., Exploring Economic Populism, a Neglected, but Growing, Phenomenon (January 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3758349 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3758349

Beatrice Magistro

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Victor A. Menaldo (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Department of Political Science ( email )

101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

UW Political Economy Forum ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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