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18 marzo 2017 ~ 0 Comments

The rise of populist movements in Europe

Why are we witnessing the rise of new populist movements in Europe and perceiving the rapid diffusion of anti-Europe and anti-Euro strategies among many traditional parties? And what can we do in order to face the possible unexpected consequences of a return to national states, currencies and a protectionist framework?

At the origin of populist movements, as many analysts say, we can find relevant changes in the economic and social conditions of the middle and working class of European (western) countries after the economic downturn of 2008. However it’s true that part of the problem may be attributed to European policies (and today, maybe, to Donald Trump’s policies).

From the point of view of common people, Europe has chosen the framework of globalisation, not providing enough social protection to those groups (and regional communities) that are more exposed to the “creative destruction” of globalised capitalism. The case of Greece has been interpreted as an extreme situation in which a week economy and a poor community, has been exposed not only to bad governments, but also to important decreases in productivity and competitiveness. And found itself not enough protected by welfare policies at the European level.

Podemos in Spain, Movimento 5 Stelle in Italy and other similar movements in other countries, started to criticise the European Union as an inefficient organisation, unable to face international changes, and regional imbalances, by using the tools that had always been considered a point of strength of the European institutions, i.e. the social-democratic welfare (see Michel Albert, Capitalism against Capitalism, 1991).

Brexit in 2016 and the coming of Donald Trump in USA have given further impulse to the protectionist wave and add fuel on fire of anti-globalisation strategies. At the beginning of 2017 western countries seem to be all affected by a new disease, a sort of “luddites movement” against globalization and the excess of exposure to the risks of innovation and new comers’ competition. This kind of social, political and psychological wave is permeating wide sectors of the European and American society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As said, this is easier to happen in those sectors that are more exposed to external shocks, i.e. small and family businesses, traditional economic clusters, regions affected by migration phenomena and cultural changes. From this point of view it’s clear why the populist reaction may be stronger in the countryside, in peripheral industrial areas, in decayed districts of small urban sites, more than in metropolitan areas and key, advanced and well organised, industrial poles.

In this scenario the role of the European institutions (and also the role of international bodies) should change, otherwise the risk of implosion becomes real. The chimera of a new protectionism and the return to a paternalistic national state (committed to give “native” citizens an advantage), could become a nightmare soon, since the seek of a sort of “rent of position or guarantee” to Italians (first), Americans (first), British (first), in front of a globalised world, is rising quickly.

Populist movements find a great source of consensus by the fear of globalisation as a disruptive phenomenon, and they charge the European institutions with the responsibility of demonstrating that united western societies can afford inequalities, for example by constituting a global Welfare System or designing a global Flexicurity System, assisting unemployed people and week communities to find new ways of possible development (see the recent contribution of Habermas to the Italian review Micromega).

The only way to practically contrast the spreading of this rising “luddites movements” is to confirm that the social-democratic scheme can face the creative/disruptive effects of the globalised capitalism. The “two speeds” Europe perspective is the wrong story to tell.

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