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Liberalism, populism and authoritarianism

Europe’s three forked road
The rise of populism and authoritarianism around the globe has received substantial attention in recent years. In Europe, populist parties have gained votes and seats in many countries and entered government in states such as Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Hungary and Poland. UKIP forced the UK out of the EU. In France, Marine le Pen’s Rassemblement National is doing better every time. Since the election of ‘illiberal populist’ governments with absolute parliamentary majorities in Hungary in 2010 and Poland in 2015, these two countries in particular are seen as cases of ‘democracy backslide’, challenging the rule of law. Other EU member states, such as Slovakia and Slovenia, also have had their issues on this point. In response to the backsliding in both countries, the European Commission recently launched a procedure that will allow to suspend the payment of European Funds.

However, at the same time, regimes of these countries claim democratic legitimacy because they are elected by the people and should have the right to shape their own form of democracy. If so, what would be the legitimacy of protest movements that organize political actions against them? The question of democratic legitimacy is aggravated by the fact that everywhere in Europe, also in most of the long-established democracies, the individualistic-liberal dogma with its strong focus on individual rights is increasingly challenged by more paternalistic and traditionalist ideas about society.

This project aims to explore the future of democracy in Europe with a strong focus on protest movements. The assignment is commissioned by the Iron Curtain Project, a multimedia project with online stories, game-like activities, and 'offline' events, which bring together artists and thinkers to exchange ideas about Europe and its future (https://www.ironcurtainproject.eu/en/about-the-project/). One of the topics that the Iron Curtain Project currently works on is the role of protest movements in European democracies. It aims to organize events and game-like activities in Italy, Romania, The Netherlands and Poland.

You are asked to provide input for their project. First, you will visit and evaluate some of their existing projects which will give you a better understanding of what we are currently dealing with. Next, you will analyze question of democratic legitimacy in the light of the above-mentioned tensions, and  subsequently evaluate the role of protest movements. The relative focus will be on protest movements in Central and Eastern European societies, since this region has increasingly attracted media and academic attention as cases of ‘democratic backsliding’,  but you will also comparatively explore protest movements across the European continent.

Weekly meetings
The weekly meetings will take place on Thursdays from 18.30-20.30 unless the group decides otherwise in consultation with the supervisors.

Kick-off weekend
The kick-off weekend of this think tank will be on 28 and 29 October 2022. The kick-off weekend is a mandatory part of the think tank.

prof. dr. Evert van der Zweerde, professor of Political Philosophy
dr. Tim Houwen, programme coordinator Radboud Honours Academy