The Manifestation of Authoritarian Populism in Europe: Challenging the Fragile Compromise of Liberal Democracy

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  • Norma Tiedemann
  • Heiko Bolldorf
  • Daniela Caterina
  • Nikolai Huke
  • Benjamin Opratko
  • Felix Syrovatka
Liberal democracy has been described as a ‘risky project’. Political forces in the European Union such as Lega in Italy; the FPÖ in Austria; Rassemblement National, or National Rally (known as the Front National, or the National Front, until 2018) in France; the SDS in Slovenia; and the HDZ and the Homeland Movement in Croatia reveal the fragility of the compromises of liberal democracy – and they also illustrate its precarious nature. Drawing on these case studies, we trace the conjunctures of the involution of liberal democracy in the EU in recent decades, which have created fertile ground for authoritarian populism to thrive. We argue that the declining cohesive force of parties or civil society organisations such as trade unions, the increasing disciplinary pressures generated by a globalised world market and the limited prospect of overcoming the authoritarianism of modern capitalist societies within liberal democracy, opened the door for the successful mobilisation of anti-democratic
sentiments. Authoritarian populist forces in Austria, Croatia, France, Italy and Slovenia have managed to reinforce the half-heartedly concealed hierarchical structures of society. Their efforts to re-normalise inequality and authoritarianism not only pose a threat to the political participation and physical integrity of minorities and subaltern groups; they also undermine basic principles of liberal democracy, as deliberation is replaced by a putative homogeneous ‘will of the people’. The chapter concludes with a look at how their counter-attack against previous achievements of emancipatory movements within the confines of liberal democracy has played out in the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the fairly dynamic nature of the current situation and the chaotic handling of the health/social crisis, we stress that social movements and progressive
forces will be crucial in working towards a socially inclusive political alternative
that defends – and potentially transcends – the incomplete democratisation of
liberal democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Crisis and Future of Democracy
EditorsAda-Charlotte Regelmann
Number of pages42
Place of PublicationBrussel
PublisherRosa Luxemburg Stiftung
Publication date08.11.2022
ISBN (print)9782931198810
Publication statusPublished - 08.11.2022