Paradoxes of populism during the pandemic


  • Rogers Brubaker University of California, Los Angeles

Abstract Views: 348 PDF Downloads: 222


Populist protests against Coronavirus-related restrictions in the US appear paradoxical in three respects. Populism is generally hostile to expertise, yet it has flourished at a moment when expertise has seemed more indispensable than ever. Populism thrives on crisis and indeed often depends on fabricating a sense of crisis, yet it has accused mainstream politicians and media of overblowing and even inventing the Corona crisis. Populism, finally, is ordinarily protectionist, yet it has turned anti-protectionist during the pandemic and challenged the allegedly overprotective restrictions of the nanny-state. I address each apparent paradox in turn before speculating in conclusion about how populist distrust of expertise, antipathy to government regulation, and skepticism toward elite overprotectiveness may come together – in the context of intersecting medical, economic, political, and epistemic crises – in a potent and potentially dangerous mix.




How to Cite

Brubaker, R. 2021. Paradoxes of populism during the pandemic. Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics. 7, 3 (Dec. 2021), 7–20. DOI: