Our work in this area concentrates on the socio-economic dimensions of populism within the discipline of political economy. It aims at studying the socio-economic roots and policy consequences of populism along a “demand” and “supply” division. On the demand side, we focus on income inequality and economic insecurity, two mutually reinforcing but not necessarily overlapping phenomena. On the supply side, the we offer a comprehensive assessment on how varieties of state capitalisms have changed over time from a comparative perspective. While the demand side focuses mostly on the embryonic stage of the rise of (economic) populism and, in turn, critically assesses the effects of economic globalisation in general and the most recent economic and financial crisis in particular, the supply side analysis is more concerned about the matured (or in government) stage of populism. Both demand and supply side will lean heavily on the conceptualisation and theorisation developed in other areas of the project (see, for example, Conceptualisation).
We focus particulalry on the question of how the demand (as defined as the priority of the society given to the perception of economic insecurity) meets the supply (as defined as the “protest”, “anti-establishment” responses of the populist parties) using CEE countries as case studies. We identify the perception of economic (in)security, which is fueled by and highly interconnected with income inequality, as the main cause of the rise of populism in the CEE region. We argue that building upon the fear of economic insecurity and adopting certain elements of state capitalist regimes (such as the increasing share of state ownership, the intimate relationship between the political and business elites, etc.), in addition to the cultural and political supply, a special form of economic populism has emerged in CEE. Such populism with strong CEE–specific characteristics significantly differs from both its Western and Eastern counterparts. We coin a new term catching this phenomenon, the so-called ‘neo-feudal capitalism’, a central concept of POPREBEL.