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Anno LV, n. 227, gennaio-aprile 2020
A spectre is haunting the Western world, the spectre of populism. What do events like Brexit in 2016, the election of Trump in the same year, Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece, Podemos in Spain, and the growth of right wing movements like the Front National in France, or Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and in Scandinavia etc. have in common? In the paper we argue that some of their shared and deep roots lie in the functioning of economic institutions over the past forty years. We shall pay particular attention to the distribution of the burdens and benefits created by global economic integration and by the latest wave of technological change. In addition, we shall claim that a further element that can explain populists’ success in Western countries is closely related to the economic policy measures adopted by several Western governments over the past four decades. We shall briefly outline two such policy regimes, namely, the debt driven consumption boom in the US and the resort to the theory (and associated policy measures) of ‘expansionary austerity’ in Europe. Our claim is that the failure of the latter policy regimes has contributed to magnify the distributive impact of global economic integration and technological change and has thus favoured the emergence of populist movements.