The ‘four Ds’ behind populism’s revolt against liberal democracy


Populism is on the rise, with the number of identifiably populist governments around the world increasing five-fold in less than two decades, according to a mainstream analysis.

In National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin highlight the ‘four Ds’ underpinning the populist upsurge, notes tank:

  • Distrust: anti-politics movements as an output from very low levels of public trust in the classical establishment;
  • Destruction of long-held notions of communal identity by accelerating patterns of globalisation and movement between cultures;
  • Deprivation brought about by geographic inequalities and the effects of ‘neoliberal’ economics; De-alignment: the dislocation between personal identity and specific political parties or brands.

In the book, some of these ‘Ds’ are handled better than others, Kaye writes for the LSE Review of Books:

  • The term ‘neoliberal’, for example, is often a useful signifier for a rather unspecific conception of different kinds of political economy, and that is to some extent the case here, too – National Populism identifies it with ‘free-market fundamentalism’, which seems a highly reductive way to characterise a variety of divergent approaches taken to economic policy over more than 30 years.
  • The points about the destruction of national identity, meanwhile, are weakened by the fact that – in the UK – the places where ‘national populists’ do best are also the places with the most homogeneous populations rather than the ones where the realities of multiculturalism and high immigration are directly experienced.

Democracy is in retreat, notes Freedom House:

Global freedom has been on the decline for more than a decade. The reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region, from long-standing democracies like the United States to consolidated authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. The overall losses are still shallow compared with the gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous.

Dean Vali Nasr invites you to a

SAIS/JHU SNF AGORA Panel Discussion

Freedom in the World 2019:
Democracy in Retreat


Michael Abramowitz
President, Freedom House

Karen DeYoung
Associate Editor and Senior National Security Correspondent, The Washington Post

Yascha Mounk
Senior Fellow, SNF Agora Institute and Associate Professor, SAIS

Moderated by

Elise Labott
Former CNN Global Affairs Correspondent

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm

Kenney Herter Auditorium, Nitze Building
1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036


This event is open to the public and on the record.


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