The Specter Haunting Europe: Surging Illiberalism in the East

Issue Date October 2016
Volume 27
Issue 4
Page Numbers 77-87
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Populist and nativist political parties have emerged throughout Europe, yet only in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have these illiberal democratic parties gained power. This difference in political fortune can be traced to the countries’ divergent conceptions of nationhood. For CEE countries, nationhood is rooted in ethnic and cultural homogeneity; for Western European countries, it is defined by universalism and diversity. As market globalization and unchecked migration have spurred fear among CEE voters of a nationhood under threat, illiberal democratic leaders have gained power by pledging to defend it. While the return of CEE illiberalism has revived talk of an East-West split in Europe, the crisis of liberalism and rise of populist nationalism are assuredly pan-European phenomena. Can the EU, the last elitist project in the age of populism, overcome its internal divisions and contain the illiberal drift?

About the Author

Jacques Rupnik is senior research fellow at the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI) in Paris and professor at Sciences Po, as well as visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges.

View all work by Jacques Rupnik