“No to Brussels, yes to France” says the election poster of “Front National”, the French populist party that was about to win the presidential elections in May 2017 with their candidate Marine Le Pen. Other posters, having decorated the streets of Paris and other French cities, stating: “Au nom du people”, “On behalf of the population.” Only the very French population is of course addressed. A typical mark of populism: the reference to a homogeneous group, the people of one nation or race, to recreate an identity, a sense of belonging that might seem swallowed by the expansion of globalization. With the objective of a mass mobilization in order to revolutionize the political system, they use enemy images to employ a universal threat that establishes unification among the group members. Usually, enemies are created that are easily to identify and can be generalized, such as migrants or the political elite of the present system. Populism sues with integration, common wealth and augmented security and goes along with the exclusion of foreigners, the negotiation of same-sex marriage and deportation of migrants back to their countries that are destroyed from war. What seems like contradiction is a current political program all over Europe that feeds from aberration in many democracies as well as from the perpetual fear of humans. In order to examine the origin of populism, this human fear might be a promising lead.
As a matter of fact, the birth of populism is attended by the growing industrialization that took place in Europe by the end of the 19th century as well as the beginnings of globalization by means of imperialism. Along with globalization a liberalisation of society took place among the industrialised nations. Beside economical wealth, augmented cross-culture is a result of releasing national borders in order to think more globally. Due to the enormous pace of global developments, leading elites of economy and politics may have forgotten that there is also a psychological and sociological effect of opening a nation to the world. Liberalisation on a sociological level means the release of traditional values, a relaxation of social structure in order to open the borders to strange values and different structures. Of course globalisation advocates would point out the enriching aspect of a mix of values and a dynamic social structure, but to many people the past development meant great insecurity and a loss of identity. As economic advancement has led to quick social uplift for almost every European nation, the fear of a prompt descent is particularly present in the post-war generation. Especially immigrants from actual war zones are a seemingly constant menace not only because of their strange culture but on account of their social situation that reflect an alarming signal of how bad living conditions could potentially get.
If, additionally to personal disorientation and the liberalization of social identity, economic and political crisis unsettle the situation, wide parts of the population are no longer in favour of globalisation and advance: They search for a group of likeminded people that will lead them back to shared values, simple structure and put an end to their sense of extradition. It is the burden of freedom chasing people back to traditions.
Current situation in Europe
A newly recognizable trend is the political gain of mainly right wing parties, which obtain their publicity through populism. Since the 80`s populist parties, in the beginning predominantly in West- and Eastern Europe countries, start to participate in national parliaments until today populist parties take part in every European parliament. In addition, a considerable number of mandates of the European parliament are gained by right populist parties as well as their extremist secessions. The Sweden country SD, the French FN and the Austrian FPÖ, all of them united by their national thinking and their agitation against all kinds of minorities, equal if it is on a sexual, religious or cultural background.
However, left wing populist parties are as well providing a considerable increase. But in contrast to their right brothers, they are only fostering anti-elitist resentments, not preaching ostracism of minority groups.
Both of them, right and left, are distinctly presenting a real danger for democracy and not at least for our European Union. Although their partly innovative and progressive effect may point at democratically detachable problems and thus represent a political corrective, populist parties are in their principles anti-democratic. To save intercultural collaboration and a safe and fair democracy, we should think of actual ways to change the danger of populism into political improvement.