2022 General Conference, Innsbruck

The 2022 General Conference will be held at Universität Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps.

ECPR’s General Conference remains Europe’s largest annual gathering of political scientists, often attracting more than 2,000 scholars from throughout the world and at all stages of their career. With over 400 Panels taking place across around 70 Sections, the academic programme covers the breadth of political science, creating the platform for lively discussion, exchange of ideas and the best thinking in the discipline.

The academic content is complemented by a stimulating plenary programme, including Roundtables addressing topical or contentious themes and a Plenary Lecture delivered by a high profile member of the profession. The timetable is completed by a carefully planned social programme, offering many opportunities to meet with old friends and new colleagues.

The PEWS Standing Group endorses the Section S49 on The Political Economy of Populism, chaired by Istvan Benczes and Denis Ivanov.

Abstract: The Political Economy of Populism

Since 2008, rising economic insecurity, aggravated by the global economic crisis, has sent shockwaves across all of the countries in the European Union. Rising worries about ones’ income, threats of labour substitution due to automation as well as experiences of unemployment of the most economically insecure strata of population has become not only a reality for most Western economies, but also for the younger democracies in Eastern Europe. In addition, the same period witnessed a decline in trust in established institutions as well as growing skepticism towards the European Union. Simultaneously, (especially right-wing) populist parties gained greater electoral success across the continent in neither ‘a uniform, new nor linear’ way (Halikiopoulou, 2018). The present wave of populist mobilizations in Europe, at the beginning of the 2020s, is more politically consequential than any previous wave and has already produced an ‘extraordinary’ (Brubaker 2017a, 2017b) reconfiguration of the political map of Europe.

Populist parties have become significant political players in several Western European countries, including Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, France, UK and Germany, and their number has almost doubled since 2000 (from 33 to 63) (Eiermann et al. 2018). The longest serving right-wing populists, seem to be the most resilient in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE): gaining constitutional majorities or serving in consecutive governments and able to influence policy in various ways.

Against this backdrop, we note that there is still much to clarify regarding the economic side of the rise of populism. How populists came to power, whether they were able to deliver on their promises, and whether capitalist systems are resilient to the way populist attempt to steer it, are all crucial questions that deserve careful attention.

Specifically, this section will enable the discussion from the political economic perspectives. It aims at studying the socio-economic roots and policy consequences of populism along a “demand” and “supply” division. While the demand side focuses mostly on the embryonic stage of the rise of (economic) populism and, in turn, critically assesses the effects of economic globalization in general and the most recent economic and financial crisis in particular, the supply side analysis is more concerned about the matured (or in government) stage of populism. On the demand side, the section focuses on the determinants of voting, or preparing the breeding ground for the emergence of populism. On the supply side, we offer a comprehensive assessment on how varieties of state capitalisms have changed over time from a comparative perspective. We aim to develop new models to describe, interpret and explain the rise of populism in Europe with links to other regions of the world. This section grows out of the cooperation of researchers in the framework of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 projects FATIGUE and POPREBEL. Both projects aim at developing new theories, methodologies, and empirical results from a variety of disciplinary approaches. We see this section as an opportunity to deepen the discussion by inviting panel and paper proposals from diverse academic disciplines and at all career stages which focus on the economic side of populism.

In particular, the panels and papers in this section will/should focus on:

1. Economic Determinants of Populist Voting: The first panel in this section will explore the economic aspects of populist support. Amongst other things, it will test the hypothesis that populism both drives and is driven by the transformation of the economy on the global, regional, and domestic levels (the demand side of populism). In addition, we are open to alternative explanations to populist voting or populist attitudes, including issues surrounding shifts in cultural values, institutions, and other triggers.

2. Economic Policy under Populist Rule: The second panel in this section will engage with how policy is shaped by populists in power or how political parties shift their positions on policy issues in unison to the developments in the economic sphere. We engage with, but also try to challenge the new concept of economic populism, namely neo-feudalism, which relates to state capitalist regimes against the backdrop of the fear of economic insecurity. To this end, we will invite papers using both theoretical and empirical perspectives.

3. Varieties of Capitalism and Populism: The third panel in this section will focus on intersections between varieties of capitalism and populism, whether in terms of policy and the economic system, or within the redefining the state-society relations. Labor market policies, social policies, issues of taxation and related fields are all a part of how the state chooses to shape its economic system under populist rule. At the same time, resilience to populism or democratic backsliding within a particular capitalist system is also a key part of this panel.