About the project

Research in our project was planned to run from 2019 to 2021, and is funded partially by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council.* The project timeline has been extended due to impacts of COVID-19, and will likely run through 2023.

Our project aims to explain and evaluate a new type of regime sweeping the globe – where what we call ‘constitutional populism’ is newly influential and pervasive in the domestic and geopolitical conduct of a variety of countries.

Constitutional populists play by new rules – that they are still making up.  From where we sit this means that politicians, policy-makers, and concerned citizens need to understand them.

The project particularly aims to inform international interaction with such regimes by advancing knowledge of how they combine majoritarian support with assaults on constraints over state power in (often pseudo)-constitutional forms, subverting legal and constitutional checks upon executive and/or legislative powers, and erosion of protections for individual rights and liberties.

Yascha Mounk sees that the world is moving rather rapidly from a ‘populist moment’ to a ‘populist age’, and he is not the only voice for that idea. As scholars, our aspiration for this project is to inform our fellow-citizens and leader as part of understanding of this age, and help shape their responses to it.

Adam Czarnota, Martin Krygier, Wojciech Sadurski

That much said, our project aims are informed by the observation that contemporary populism is such an influential and pervasive factor in the countries concerned that it strongly affects the conduct of those countries in the international sphere.

Hence, understanding it is rapidly becoming an essential part of the know-how of politicians, public policy-makers and diplomats, as well as private sector leaders and business strategists, and government liaison and external/investor relations professionals.  Just for one example, foreign policy of populist governments is mainly determined by domestic rather than international concerns: various policy choices and statements primarily have a domestic audience in view, and are often motivated by a need for societal mobilization.

It seems no modern democracy is fully immune to populist temptations, either internally or in states with which they must interact.  The persistence of local populists is a phenomenon which can be better understood against the background of global populism, all the more so since part of the success of populist movements appears due to mutual reinforcement, encouragement and learning across the national boundaries.

In a globalised world, even robust democracies need an informed approach to these populist tendencies and regimes, since they seem likely to become a significant part of the future of the globe.

*The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council.

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