Paradoxes of populism in the pandemic and beyond
A commentary on Rogers Brubaker’s essay
In a thoughtful essay, Rogers Brubaker points to the paradoxes of populism unveiled by the pandemic: populists’ difficult relationship with expertise; their challenge of facing a crisis which was not created by them; and their new anti-protectionist feelings that were generated by the alleged overprotectedness of government measures. I certainly agree with him that the pandemic effectively challenged populism, and this is probably the main reason why the COVID-19 crisis, as Brubaker put it, ‘has not generated a coherent or large-scale populist response’ – which could have been expected. After all, populists are supposed to capitalize on crises and, being mostly in opposition, they can easily criticize mainstream politics. Although we cannot say that the pandemic would have swept away populism, it is certainly true that the popularity of populist parties is not soaring. Therefore, I believe Brubaker’s point is valid and the pandemic posed a real challenge to populists.
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