The Populist Mindset and Resentment to the Law

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Pisa, Italy: Scuola Superiore Sant’AnnaPopulism, Constitutional Democracy, and the Rule of Law workshop

The afternoon sessions kicked off with a presentation from Paul Blokker, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Economic Law, University of Bologna, Italy

On his topic of The Populist Mindset and Resentment to the Law Blokker notes that recently, East-Central Europe seems to have been going from the ‘legal revolutions’ and/or ‘rights revolutions’ of the early 1990s to increasingly manifest forms of counter-constitutionalism – most clearly so in Hungary and Poland. Current constitutional politics of the populists see, in various ways, to be going strongly against the tide of 20-odd years of building constitutional democracy according to a legal-constitutional blue-print and invoke what which Blokker refers to as ‘legal resentment’.

He explains further that legal resentment includes a critique on the legalistic, neutral understanding of the rule of law in legal constitutionalism as well as what is perceived as a form of ‘legal fundamentalism’.

His paper argues that the current developments in Hungary and Poland need to be understood as an anti-liberal project and as a conservative reaction to the liberal-legalist domination of post-communist transformation process. If understood in this manner, it becomes possible to analyse populism as a distinctive political project that mobilizes anti-liberal, conservative forces in society and to elucidate populist rhetoric and practice as attempts to dismantle liberal-constitutional institutions in the name of a conservative, illiberal project, echoing similar political developments elsewhere.