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Volume 37, 2020

Populism and Globalization

Heikki Patomäki
Pages 101-151

Neoliberalism and Nationalist-Authoritarian Populism
Explaining their Constitutive and Causal Connections

Can the rise of nationalist-authoritarian populism be explained in terms of neo­liberalism and its effects? The frst half of this paper is about conceptual under­labouring: in spite of signifcant overlap, there are relatively clear demarcation criteria for identifying neoliberalism and nationalist-authoritarian populism as distinct entities. Neoliberalism has succeeded in transforming social contexts through agency, practices and institutions, with far-reaching efects. The prevailing economic and social policies have also had various causal efects such as rising inequalities, progressively more insecure terms of employment, and recurring economic crises. I argue that these have led to discontent with globalization and various political responses, including those of nationalist and authoritarian populisms. Finally, by juxtaposing constitutive and causal explanations, and by stressing the history of national-authoritarian populism, I raise questions about geo-historical specifcity of diferent formations. The standard Karl Polanyian interpretation of Trump, Brexit and such like phenomena is misleading, yet a partial historical analogy especially to the interwar era populism is valid if understood in a subtle, processual, and suffciently contextual way. The Polanyi-inspired historical analogy can be explored further. While the 19th and 20th century working class movement emerged from a variety of socio-economic conditions, socialists who believed in its world-historical role actively made it. Since the 1970s the working class has been largely unmade both as a result of impersonal processes and deliberate attempts to undermine it. Only a learning process towards qualitatively higher levels of refexivity can help develop global transformative agency for the 21st century.