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Populist Backlash, Democratic Backsliding, and the Crisis of the Rule of Law in the European Union (POPBACK)

The project POPBACK studies the mechanisms ‘exclusionary populist’ movements use to increase their power by undermining the Rule of Law (RoL) and eroding the divide between the public and private domains in the areas of law, the economy, and the media. We investigate the factors that make states vulnerable or resilient to such strategies and how societal actors seek to cope with them.

We compare Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and Turkey all of which have experienced populist success, but differ regarding their institutional structures, permitting comparison.

A first work package focuses on the legal-constitutional aspects of exclusionary populism and seeks to quantitatively establish and explain cross-country differences in the decline in the RoL. A second one focusses on the firm-level to investigate the mechanisms exclusionary populists use to erode the public-private divide between the political and the economic domains. The third one will explore populist media strategies as mechanism of the erosion of the public-private divide, including populists’ discursive strategies and attempts to change mediascapes. 

We engage with a non-academic audience through five International Policy Fellowships created by the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) and with the wider public through a participatory stage performance.

Project links


Research team

Project Leader:
Dr G. Schnyder
Loughborough University (UK)

Principal Investigators:
Dr D. Sallai
London School of Economics (UK)

Professor B. Blaszczyk
Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland)

Professor B. Sauer
University of Vienna (Austria)

Dr M. Pajnik
Peace Institute (Slovenia)

Professor S. Deakin
University of Cambridge (UK)

Professor A. Nölke
Goethe Universität Frankfurt (Germany)