The populist wave which has submerged Europe and the United States in recent years seems unstoppable. But is it? The End of Populism offers answers and proposes concrete solutions to confront the rise of “illiberal democracy.” Drawing on years of research, the author develops a complete new ideal type of populism, which enables him to identify the basic problems. Deploying a wealth of social science evidence, he refutes the populist claim that democracy is a “demand side” phenomenon, and demonstrates that it is rather a “supply side” phenomenon. He argues that one can have "too much democracy” and shows how methods of direct democracy, such as popular initiatives, referendums, and open primaries, which pretend “to give the power back to the people,” have led to manipulation by populists and moneyed interests. Populist attacks on the judiciary, central banks, the media, and other independent agencies, instead of strengthening democracy, have rather undermined liberal democracy. The author formulates twenty original and bold proposals to fight populism and defend liberal democracy. These proposals include ways to bridge the gap between the people and the elites, fight corruption, improve political party funding, and initiate societal, educational, and macro-economic reforms to increase economic equality and alleviate the insecurity of the citizens.
Populism is promoted by fake news on social media. In this chapter different proposals are made to defend the truth and fight “post-truth” and so-called “alternative facts.” These include defending free speech, rigorous fact-checking, adding an “opposing point of view” button to Facebook pages, and adding the item “propaganda” to the “democratic education” curriculum of secondary schools. The author warns against the use of fake news by hostile powers, such as Russia, which interfere in Western democracies.
In this chapter it is argued that one of the structural causes of populism is growing socio-economic inequality, which evokes reminiscences of the steep inequality which existed in the “Gilded Age” at the end of the nineteenth century. The author pleads for an innovative approach, proposing the introduction of a universal basic income or a negative income tax. He discusses pertinent questions, such as: Can we afford it? And will it not take away the incentive to work?
In this chapter a proposal is made to introduce more democratic procedures in civil society, outside the realm of politics. The author gives the example of Germany, which introduced in 1976 a system of “co-determination,” which requires companies of over 2,000 employees to have a supervisory board of directors, half of which comprises representatives of the personnel. For stock corporations of between 500 and 2,000 workers this representation is one-third. The Scandinavian countries have copied this system, which is interesting, because it gives more power to employees and enhances their feelings of self-esteem and dignity. German research has revealed that workers in companies with co-determination are less inclined to vote for populist parties than their colleagues in small companies without co-determination.
In this chapter proposals are made for a humane and sustainable immigration policy. The author distinguishes four approaches: 1. the populist approach: closing the frontiers; 2. the assimilationist approach: putting pressure on immigrants to adopt the culture of their new homeland; 3. the multicultural approach, enabling immigrants to keep their own language and culture; and 4. the constitutional approach, expecting immigrants to adhere to the values and principles of liberal democracy. The author rejects the first three approaches and develops arguments for the fourth model. He further explores the question of the “absorption capacity” of the receiving countries and explains that good and factual government information can play an important role in reducing the anxiety of citizens, as research results from the USA, Britain, and the Netherlands confirm.
Here it is explained that populism is not new. The author analyzes the origins, methods, and results of two populist movements which emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as a reaction to a deepening economic crisis: the American “People’s Party” and the Boulangist movement in France.
In this chapter the author explores “thin” and “thick” definitions of populism. He constructs an ideal type, along the lines of Max Weber, which gives more information on the phenomenon than a thin definition. This ideal type has three dimensions: 1. organizational (describing characteristics of the leaders and the voters); 2. ideological (what are their ideas?); and 3. institutional (how do they govern and what are their methods?). In this chapter the author explores the first, organizational, dimension. What are the characteristics of the populist leader (his or her charisma, authoritarianism, vulgarity)?
This chapter continues the exploration of the first, organizational, dimension of the ideal type; in this case the identity of the populist voter. He ir she is not necessarily poor, but rather someone who experiences economic and/or identity anxiety. The author analyzes also the reasons why the new rich support populist parties.
In this chapter the author discusses the need to educate new generations. Millennials have become a disaffected generation. Therefore, he pleads for the introduction in the curriculum of “democratic education” in secondary schools, in which not only information is given, but the emphasis lies on lively debate and discussion – a model proposed by John Dewey and Robert Dahl. Another proposal is to lower the voting age to sixteen – this because it would give a logical conclusion to the “democratic education” curriculum, and also because at this age voting can be made a lifelong habit.