Sessione 8

The rise of radical and populist parties between social needs and policies.
Opportunities and challenges to European Welfare States

 Coordinatore/i di sessione: Emmanuele Pavolini (Università degli Studi di Macerata) e Marcello Natili (Università degli Studi di Milano)


Testo della Call

 Recent increased electoral relevance of populist anti-establishment parties in several European democracies has steered scholar attention to these “new” parties’ positions on redistribution, the functioning of the economy and, last but not least, the welfare state. This constitutes a challenge to established theoretical framework in the literature, which has mostly focused the role of political actors such as left-wing parties in welfare state expansion and retrenchment. By contrast, with the exception of few recent studies on Radical Right parties, the programmatic options and welfare preferences of diverse “populist” parties – on both fringes of the political spectrum and/or at its very centre – have remained largely under-researched.

The debate on the roots of the rise of populist parties is very lively and two main explanations are offered: a “socio-economic” one (populist parties are able to mobilize different types of constituencies and “losers” of globalization and liberalization reforms of recent decades in labour markets and welfare states; therefore, a welfare state expansion with a “chauvinist” approach becomes a central issue in the dynamics between populist political demand and supply); a “socio-cultural” one (political parties are able to mobilize all those who feel threatened by cultural modernization, including issue such as gender equality, minorities’ rights and migration). Both explanations deal with welfare policies and how social protection works and for whom.

Against such background, this session welcomes papers analyzing – either theoretically or empirically – the role of new populist parties in social policy-making in Europe and beyond, as well as analysis one the roots of the rise of populism in relation to social needs and welfare state answers. The panel aims to address this topic from an interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspective, welcoming contributions from political scientists, economists and sociologists working in the fields of comparative politics, social policies, as well as electoral and opinion studies.

Following this line of research, this session welcomes papers analyzing – theoretically or empirically – the role of anti-establishment parties in social policy-making. Papers presenting both comparative analyses – covering more than one country and/or policy sector – and case studies addressing the following questions are welcome:

– What are the welfare preferences of new populist parties?
– What factors do contribute shaping welfare preferences of new anti-establishment parties – e.g. i) new or well-entrenched Rokkanian cleavages; ii) political competition dynamics both among (right vs left) and within camps (right vs right).; iii) welfare state settings – i.e. universalistic vs occupational vs means-tested; iv) welfare state sectors (health care, pensions, unemployment, anti-poverty policies)
– What are the social policy reforms pursued by populist parties once in government? Do they all pursue similar social policy reforms, or rather different populist parties have diverse ideas and positions on key welfare issues?
– Do mainstream parties adapt to the welfare positions of populist parties?
– What are the potential consequences of the recent rise of populist parties for established welfare arrangements in the EU?
– How important is for the populist electorate the welfare state issue and the functioning of social policies?

Referente per la corrispondenza


Papers accettati

Old and New Social Risks: Labor Market Policy Preferences of the Radical Right Parties. The Case of the Lega. (G.A. Giuliani)

Rethinking Populism as a Way of Welfare Distribution: The Turkish Case (M. F. Aysan)

The radical right & social policy(es) on the two sides of the Atlantic. Similarities and differences (M. Jessoula)


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