Election results and opinion polls indicate that right-wing populism is slowing down again in some countries. But right-wing populist parties have established themselves in numerous party systems. They attribute the success of populist politics to economic, but also to cultural causes: the negative consequences of economic globalization for certain groups and regions as well as cultural changes that go too far for some. In both respects, what is being rebelled against can be described as an opening: for global trade and economic competition as well as for new social groups and their claims to inclusion. Protectionism or social and cultural isolation are propagated as counter-strategies.
One can describe this constellation in such a way that populism is directed against two political currents: against neoliberalism and against multiculturalism - and thus against a "double liberalism", which, economically and culturally, stands for an openness that right-wing populists call "globalism" is attacked.
But is there such an alliance of liberal positions that, in the opinion of right-wing populists, has gained too much influence in many countries?
In a recent article, the Bernese sociologist Christian Joppke has doubts about this interpretation and argues that populism has more in common with its supposed opponents than one would assume at first glance.
Right-wing populist parties do not suit their voters
The idea of a “double liberalism” assumes that economic neoliberalism is not only compatible with multicultural ideas, but supports them. The political success of the neoliberal program, which was mainly driven by the Thatcher and Reagan governments, was based more on (neo) conservative ideas. The fixation on economic efficiency leads to the fact that there is no longer any place for discrimination or exclusion in the “competitive state”. Neoliberalism has a cosmopolitan attitude that makes it compatible with a “thin” multiculturalism, which is now also cultivated by many international organizations under the title of “diversity”. But that has little to do with politicsthat would rely on the support of minorities and social justice. Neoliberalism can provide arguments for universalistic equal treatment, but not for the particularistic promotion of individual groups.
It should therefore come as no surprise that populism is fighting neoliberalism at best regionally, for example in left-wing populist currents in southern Europe. Rather, many right-wing populist parties were and are more economically liberal: not only in Germany, where the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) began as a party critical of Europe but believing in the market, but also, for example, in Switzerland, where the Swiss People's Party (SVP) is Defended market liberalism. This is astonishing insofar as these parties are often elected by groups that are particularly negatively affected by the economic consequences of neoliberal politics: This has significantly increased the gap between the middle and upper classes and thus promoted a relative decline of the middle class.
The situation is similar with regard to multiculturalism. Right-wing populists do not tire of emphasizing their rejection of “multiculturalism”, but that cannot hide the fact that they practice “identity politics” themselves. “Ethnopluralism”, which is represented, for example, by pioneers of the New Right, does not want to abolish cultural diversity, but argues that “locals” should be protected as well as minorities. Everyone can be and stay different - if they just stay “at home”.
So there is neither a clear positioning of right-wing populism against neoliberalism and multiculturalism, nor an alliance between these ideologies.
So far, “double liberalism” has been a construction that right-wing populists serve as an enemy and social scientists as an explanatory formula.
This, according to Joppke, could of course change if “The Greens” successfully continued their path to becoming an “alliance party” of left and right milieus: This could make a double liberalism a reality, which right-wing populism could work on for a long time to come.Keywords: populists, parties, neoliberalism, multiculturalism, changes, systems, connection, the double liberalism, populism, one, alliance, liberalism, consequences, groups, countries