The Rise of Populism and Europe

I have a colleague who teaches a course on the rise of populism in Europe, which is an increasingly important topic. What is interesting to me is how quickly populist and nationalist movements have emerged and flourished in the region. Anne Applebaum had an article in the Atlantic on this topic titled “Polarization in Poland: a Warning from Europe.” This beautifully written piece captured the rapidity of these movements’ growth, and their manifold contradictions. What I most liked about this article was her ability to personalize these trends, by talking about her own personal experiences, and how these political forces have torn apart families and friendships. I also liked her point that what is strange about the rise of these forces is that they cannot be explained by the traditional narrative that these movements reflect the hardships of economic recession. Poland has been experiencing a prolonged period of remarkable growth. And yet we see the rise of conspiracy theories and extremist views, which have traditionally perceived in the literature (including my own work) as signs of economic and social crisis. Applebaum’s piece is long-form journalism at its best, and would be an excellent choice for a course on modern Europe, or the rise of Populism.

Interested in Eastern Europe? You can read my blog post about folklore and World War Two in Poland here.

Shawn Smallman, 2019