Populist Success in Latin America and Western Europe: Ideational and Party-System-Centered Explanations.

The Ideational Approach to Populism. Concept, Theory, and Analysis, edited by Kirk A. Hawkins, Ryan E. Carlin, Levente Littvay, and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. Abingdon: Routledge, 2018, pp. 202–37.

This chapter brings the ideational approach to populism into dialogue with cleavage-based accounts of party system change. Both approaches converge in the idea that failures of democratic representation create populist potentials. This contribution starts out by testing this hypothesis across Latin America and Western Europe by analyzing one case of populist success and one case of failure in each context. In Latin America, Venezuela is a prominent case of populist success and Uruguay one of failure. With respect to Western Europe, the analysis explains why the populist right achieved its breakthrough several decades earlier in France than it did in Germany. The remaining differences between the cleavage and the ideational populism approaches can be fleshed out by distinguishing “majoritarian” and “segmented” populism. The majoritarian type, exemplified by the case of Venezuela’s Bolivarian movement, is characterized by a large and correspondingly diverse populist electoral coalition in ideological terms. Here, the populist element prevails over more substantive ideologies. The appeal of the segmented type, on the other hand, is restricted to rather specific segments of the electorate: The Front National, a paradigmatic case of the radical populist right in Western Europe, finds support almost exclusively among ideologically like-minded voters in terms of the cultural dimension of conflict prevalent in the French party system.

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