Happy to say that my article “Forget Populism!” has been published in Global Discourse. In it I challenge the highly misleading argument, widespread among the media, policymakers and (some) academics, that populism as such is a danger to democracy, Europe, the West, the liberal international order, or all of the above. Even a superficial reading of the actual academic research on populism reveals that anti-elitism and a demand to take the people’s will seriously (the most important distinguishing features of populism) can be an expression of both illegitimate demagoguery and legitimate criticism of an actual lack of democracy. As a consequence, populism as such is neither good nor bad, and pretending otherwise is a recipe for bad science and misguided political action. If journalists, policymakers and academics want to contribute instead of hamper efforts to counter dangerous actors like Donald J. Trump, Viktor Orbán or the German Alternative für Deutschland, they need to stop playing down the danger by calling them populist and instead use terms that make clear what they stand for, such as racist, corrupt and/or authoritarian.
My co-authored chapter on non-state actors and foreign policy (with Rainer Baumann) has finally been published online. The official version is available here, for a pre-print see my Publications page.
Here’s the summary:
The rise of non-state (international, private, and transnational) actors in global politics has far-reaching consequences for foreign policy theory and practice. In order to remain able to explain foreign policy also in the 21st century, foreign policy research needs to take into account the growing importance of nonstate actors. A good way to do this would be to engage the literature on globalization and global governance. Both fields would benefit from such an exchange of ideas because their respective strengths could cancel out each other’s weaknesses. Foreign policy research on one hand has a strong track record explaining foreign policy outcomes, using a broad range of theoretical concepts but almost completely ignores non-state actors. This is highly problematic for at least two reasons: Firstly, foreign policy is increasingly made in international organizations and intergovernmental and transnational governance networks instead of national institutions like foreign ministries. Secondly, also the latter increasingly open up to, and involve, non-state actors in their policymaking procedures. Thus, if foreign policy research wants to avoid becoming marginalized in the future, it needs to take into account this change. However, especially systemic approaches like neorealism or constructivism have difficulties adapting to the new reality of foreign policy. Not only do they explicitly stress the importance of states at the expense of non-state actors, which are only of marginal interest to them, as is global governance. Moreover, they also conceptualize states unitary actors which forecloses the possibility of examining the involvement of non-state actors in states’ decision-making processes. Agency-based approaches such as Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) fare much better, at least in principle. FPA scholars stress the improtance of disaggregating the state and looking at the individuals and group dynamics that influence their decision making. However, while this commitment to opening up the state allows fro a great deal more flexibility vis-à-vis different types of actors, FPA research has so far remained state-centric and only very recently turned to non-state actors. On the other hand, non-state actors’ involvement in policymaking is the strongsuit of the literature on globalization and global governance, which has spent a lot time and effort analyzing various forms of “hybrid” governance. At the same time, however, this literature has been rather descriptive, so far mainly systematizing different governance arrangements and the conditions under which non-state actors are included in governance arrangements. This literature could profit from foreign policy research’s rich theoretical knowledge in explaining policy outcomes in hybrid governance networks and IOs.
Foreign policy researchers should take non-state actors seriously. In this regard three avenues in particular are relevant for future research: (1) comparative empirical research to establish the extent of non-state actors’ participation in foreign policymaking across different countried and governance arrangements (2) explanatory studies that analyze the conditions under which non-state actors are involved in states’ foreign policymaking processes and (3) the normative implications of increased hybrid foreign policymaking for democratic legitimacy.