Subject: Populism

January 2024, Volume 35, Issue 1

Does Democracy Have a Future in Pakistan?

The schism between Pakistan’s military establishment and former prime minister Imran Khan marks a new era of instability. Is the country experiencing the rise of an autocratic deep state or the fall of authoritarian populism?

January 2024, Volume 35, Issue 1

Why Democracy Survives Populism

Populism is a mortal threat to liberal democracy, but it rarely hits the mark. The evidence shows that these would-be strongmen require an extraordinary set of circumstances to succeed, which is why they so rarely do.

July 2023, Volume 34, Issue 3

How Erdoğan’s Populism Won Again

The opposition thought they had Turkey’s autocratic president on the ropes. But Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brand of authoritarian populism triumphed. A more divisive and repressive chapter will almost surely follow.

April 2023, Volume 34, Issue 2

The Iraq War and Democratic Backsliding

The global democratic decline of the last two decades is rarely discussed in the same breath with the 2003 decision by the United States and Britain to invade Iraq. But the roots of our present disorder can be traced to that disastrous and foolhardy war of choice.

July 2022, Volume 33, Issue 3

The Return of the Marcos Dynasty

A half-century after his father declared martial law and made himself a dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been elected president of the Philippines by a stunning majority. There is little stropping him from dismantling what remains of the country’s democracy.

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January 2021, Volume 32, Issue 1

Why Strongmen Win in Weak States

While analysts of populism have focused on economic woes and “cultural backlash,” a thirst for the restoration of order may better explain the appeal of authoritarian populists in fragile democracies where governance is falling short.

April 2020, Volume 31, Issue 2

The Hard Truths of Brexit

The 2019 election ended years of turmoil over the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU, but challenges to national unity and parliamentary sovereignty are only beginning to come to a head.

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January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

30 Years of World Politics: What Has Changed?

Democracies are grappling with an era of transformation: Identity is increasingly replacing economics as the major axis of world politics. Technological change has deepened social fragmentation, and trust in institutions is falling. As our most basic assumptions come under question, can liberal democracy rebuild itself?

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January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

The End of History Revisited

Is liberal democracy the endpoint of history? The ongoing democratic recession, growing disaffection among citizens, and rising populism pose new challenges to this view. Yet testing Francis Fukuyama’s much-criticized thesis requires us to consider not only liberal democracy’s internal contradictions, but also those of its authoritarian rivals.

January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

Democracy’s Inevitable Elites

Robert Michels’s classic work on the “iron law of oligarchy” can help us to understand why there is so much dissatisfaction with representative democracy.

October 2019, Volume 30, Issue 4

The 2019 EU Elections: Moving the Center

The results of the May 2019 elections to the European Parliament—and particularly the growing influence of the populist radical right—reflect a deep transformation of European politics that can largely be traced to the “refugee crisis” of 2015–16.

October 2019, Volume 30, Issue 4

The Failure of Europe’s Mainstream Parties

Beyond the commonly cited economic and cultural anxieties afflicting many Europeans, a key factor enabling the rise of populism across Europe has been the failure of mainstream parties on both the left and the right to offer clear and credible policy alternatives.

October 2019, Volume 30, Issue 4

Macron versus the Yellow Vests

The gilets jaunes movement erupted suddenly but has now apparently subsided without leaving a significant impact on electoral politics. Yet the tensions that gave rise to the working-class protests remain strong and are reshaping the political landscape of a divided France.

April 2019, Volume 30, Issue 2

Populists in Power

The historical record since 1945 gives us a picture of how populists operate once they hold political power. The record shows that populism is inimical to liberal democracy, and not a corrective to some of its failings.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

Pakistan: Voting Under Military Tutelage

With its recent electoral turnover of power, Pakistan seemingly passed a milestone of democratic consolidation. But beneath the surface, power remains where it long has been—with the military.

October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

Liberal Democracy’s Crisis of Confidence

Public-opinion data from Pew Research Center show that global support for representative democracy is widespread, but often thin. Amid rising economic anxiety, cultural unease, and political frustration, citizens are increasingly open to alternative systems of government.

July 2018, Volume 29, Issue 3

Explaining Eastern Europe: Czech Democracy Under Pressure

Recent electoral victories by a pro-Russian president and a populist prime minister point to an antiestablishment wave in the Czech Republic. Yet strong checks and balances, EU ties, and a different outlook among younger voters may help to safeguard liberal democracy.

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April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

The Populist Challenge to Liberal Democracy

Across the West, economic, demographic, and cultural shifts have spurred the rise of populists who embrace majoritarianism and popular sovereignty while showing little commitment to constitutionalism and individual liberty. 

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: What Is Putinism?

Under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s ruling class again claims to represent a superior alternative to liberal democracy. How can we theorize this regime? Putinism is a form of autocracy that is conservative, populist, and personalistic. Its conservatism means that Putinism prioritizes maintaining the status quo and avoiding instability. Conservatism also overlaps with Putinism’s populism in crowd-pleasing broadsides against gay rights and feminism, but gives…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

The Rise of Referendums: Elite Strategy or Populist Weapon?

Political elites once held referendums to fend off challenges to European integration. More recently, Euroskeptic parties have employed referendums to batter down the walls of elite consensus. But the spread of referendums threatens to undermine the legitimacy of representative democracy.

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

The Rise of Referendums: Demystifying Direct Democracy

Plebiscites have grown less common in recent decades in authoritarian and semi-authoritarian countries, even as the use of referendums in democracies has expanded. Despite their many shortcomings, referendums are, on balance, a mechanism for strengthening democracy.

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April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

The 2016 U.S. Election: The Populist Moment

Rising populism in the U.S. and beyond is calling into question the liberal-democratic bargain that has defined the postwar era. What led to Americans’ present revolt against elites, and what are its implications?

April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

The Modernization Trap

Populist nationalism is emerging as the main competitor to liberal democracy. But despite its current resurgence, in the long run, like other illiberal paths to modernity, it is likely to prove a dead end.

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April 2013, Volume 24, Issue 2

Why Greece Failed

Greece was an early success story of the “third wave,” but since the 2008 financial crisis, it has become a poster child for the pains of austerity and unrest. Its troubles at one level are fiscal and economic, but there is a political dimension that may be even more critical.

October 2010, Volume 21, Issue 4

Reformism vs. Populism in the Philippines

May 2010, Benigno Aquino III bested a crowded field to win the presidency. The election, which was remarkably clean and orderly, gave a clear victory to the reformist narrative that has long vied with populism in the Philippines.

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October 2008, Volume 19, Issue 4

Thailand Since the Coup

Torn between populism and those who fail to respect democratic limits in combating it, Thailand badly needs to locate a middle ground where the best of its old traditions can help it adjust to the new challenges that it faces.

The Son Also Rises

Many feared Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s election would spell the end of Philippine democracy. But the dictator’s son has surprised nearly everyone, playing the role of a reformer while moving fast to sideline his populist rivals.

Ecuador’s Democratic Breakdown

The small Latin American country was a brief democratic bright spot. But it appears to have fallen victim to a clash between populists and anti-populists, without a democrat in sight.