Is the current far-right turn in Europe its new Zeitgeist, the radical transformation of political landscape, or just a temporary systemic crisis that soon will be overcome? It is highly problematic if the numerous and diverse cases of anti-establishment, radical right, far right, alt-right, extremist, anti-pluralist or anti-systemic parties can be all put under the umbrella term of populism. The fact that it is used in public discourse with excessive latitude and frequency doesn’t make the job any easier. It is even more precarious for the cohesion of academic debate itself, since the term provides a typical example of the essentially contested concept. Populism can be conceptualised as an ideology, type of political communication, specific type of political culture, mode of political claims-making, social movement, political rhetoric, political discourse, particular input into a political system, style of political mobilisation, etc, etc. Such vagueness, in consequence, leads to problematic eclecticism in research on populism. Nevertheless, as Paul A. Taggart suggested, adopting contextual approach seems to be justified – different forms of populism are highly determined by the type of political system, political culture, social and economic conditions, time, and so on. If populism is treated as a 'dependent variable', more appropriate attention should be placed not only on its supply side (strategies and techniques of populist/anti-establishment parties) but also on demand, such as psychological dispositions, political sentiments or social attitudes of citizens.
These difficulties are just a few of the many faced when trying to capture the nature, scope and consequence of this democratic crisis in Europe. It involves answering (among many others) questions like:
- Is right-wing, exclusionary populism an inevitable consequence of the culture of fear underlying modern societies?
- If so, in which ways can the rise of the radical right be perceived as a product of the systemic and socio-cultural crisis of liberal democracy?
- Can the radical right still be perceived as the anti-establishment challenge to business-as-usual politics, or does it already constitute a permanent element of the European political scene?
- If that is the case, what are the possible paths of its long-term evolution?
- What are the strategies of the mainstream parties and other institutional/political agents to strengthen and protect the pillars of liberal democracy?
- And finally, since populism seems to be omnipresent nowadays, is it just one of the ways politics is made – or is it the very essence of politics itself?
- New strategies of party politics in post-communist states. Is the right wing turn permanent in Poland and Hungary?
- The nature of Law and Justice and sources of its success with reference to experiences of other post-communist states.