Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).

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The Rise of Right-Wing Populism

Causes and Consequences for Europe

Frank Visser / ChatGPT-4o

Me to ChatGPT:

  • In the last European elections populist right-wing parties won big, promoting conservative nationalism and anti-immigration agendas. Please analyse causes and consequences for Europe as a nascent global geopolitical player.
  • Is this just a reaction to perceived EU bureaucracy and globalism?
  • Great Brittain has left the EU ("Brexit") after a referendum. How did this impact its citizens?
  • How would such a move work out for a small trade-oriented country as The Netherlands, in a "Nexit"?
  • Some right wing parties have changed their strategy from leaving the EU to remaining a EU-member, whike primarily serving national interests, such as Italy.
  • Others, like Hungary, choose to frustrate EU policies as long as they get compensated financially or otherwise.
  • In general, well to do citizens lean towards a European identity (or even wider), whereas the have nots are more nationally oriented.
  • How can it be explained that labor workers traditionally voted left, but now have shifted to the right side of the political soectrum (often to their disadvantage)?
  • In fact, populist political leaders are rarely known for having produced viable policies that benefit their own voters (e.g. Trump).
  • If populism does not deliver on its (false) promises, why is it so popular? Is this a matter of values rather than facts?


In the last European elections populist right-wing parties won big, promoting conservative nationalism and anti-immigration agendas. Please analyse causes and consequences for Europe as a nascent global geopolitical player.

The recent success of populist right-wing parties in the European elections, with their focus on conservative nationalism and anti-immigration agendas, can be attributed to several causes and has far-reaching consequences for Europe as a global geopolitical player.


Economic Disparities: Economic inequality within and between EU member states has fueled discontent. Many voters feel left behind by globalization and believe populist parties offer solutions to protect their economic interests.

Immigration Concerns: The migrant crisis and ongoing debates about immigration policies have heightened fears about cultural identity and security. Right-wing populist parties have capitalized on these concerns, promising stricter immigration controls.

EU Skepticism: There is growing skepticism about the European Union's effectiveness and legitimacy. Populist parties often campaign on the premise that the EU is undemocratic and that national sovereignty should be prioritized.

Cultural Identity: A resurgence in national pride and cultural identity has led to a backlash against perceived threats to traditional values. Populist parties have tapped into this sentiment, promoting conservative social policies.

Political Alienation: Many voters feel alienated from mainstream political parties, which they perceive as out of touch with their daily struggles. Populist parties position themselves as the voice of the "common people" against the elite.


Fragmentation of the EU: The rise of nationalist parties could lead to greater fragmentation within the EU. These parties often oppose deeper integration and may push for policies that undermine EU cohesion.

Policy Shifts: With more influence in the European Parliament, right-wing populist parties can push for changes in immigration, trade, and foreign policy, potentially leading to stricter immigration controls and protectionist economic policies.

Impact on EU's Global Role: Europe's ability to act as a unified global player may be weakened. Internal divisions and differing national interests can hinder the EU's ability to formulate coherent foreign policies and respond to global challenges.

Democratic Norms: The rise of populism might challenge democratic norms and the rule of law within some member states. Right-wing populist governments have been criticized for undermining judicial independence, media freedom, and civil liberties.

Geopolitical Alignments: Europe's relationships with other major powers, such as the United States, China, and Russia, could be affected. Nationalist policies might lead to a more inward-looking Europe, potentially altering existing alliances and trade relationships.

Social Cohesion: Increased polarization and nationalism can strain social cohesion within European societies. This could manifest in greater xenophobia, discrimination, and social unrest, challenging the EU's foundational values of unity and diversity.


The rise of populist right-wing parties in Europe represents a significant shift in the political landscape, driven by economic, cultural, and political factors. While these parties may address some voters' immediate concerns, their success poses complex challenges for the EU's unity, democratic norms, and global influence. How the EU navigates this populist wave will shape its future as a geopolitical player and its internal coherence.

Is this just a reaction to perceived EU bureaucracy and globalism?

The rise of populist right-wing parties in Europe is indeed partly a reaction to perceived EU bureaucracy and globalism, but it is also driven by a broader array of factors. Here's a closer look at the role of these perceptions and other contributing factors:

Perceived EU Bureaucracy:

Democratic Deficit: Many citizens feel that the EU's decision-making processes are too distant and opaque, leading to a sense of disenfranchisement. Populist parties exploit this by arguing that national governments should reclaim power from the EU to better represent the people's will.

Regulatory Overreach: The perception that the EU imposes excessive regulations and directives on member states fuels resentment. Critics argue that these regulations can be burdensome and interfere with national sovereignty and local traditions.

Inefficiency and Lack of Accountability: The complex and slow-moving nature of EU institutions often leads to criticisms of inefficiency. Populist narratives emphasize the lack of direct accountability of EU officials to the electorate.

Reaction to Globalism:

Economic Globalization: Many feel that globalization has led to job losses, wage stagnation, and increased inequality. Populist parties argue that global trade agreements and economic policies benefit multinational corporations and elites at the expense of ordinary workers.

Cultural Changes: Globalism is often associated with cultural homogenization and the erosion of national identities. Populist parties promote the idea of protecting national culture, traditions, and values against global cultural influences.

Immigration and Border Control: The free movement of people within the EU and the influx of migrants and refugees from outside the EU are seen as direct consequences of globalist policies. Populist parties leverage fears about security, cultural change, and economic competition to garner support for stricter immigration controls.

Other Contributing Factors:

Economic Disparities: Beyond reactions to bureaucracy and globalism, significant economic inequalities within and between EU countries drive support for populist parties. Regions and communities left behind by economic progress are particularly susceptible to populist rhetoric.

Political Alienation: Widespread dissatisfaction with mainstream political parties, which are often viewed as corrupt or out of touch, fuels the appeal of populist alternatives that promise to shake up the status quo.

Security Concerns: Terrorism and perceived failures in integrating immigrants have heightened fears and security concerns, which populist parties exploit to advocate for more robust national security measures and tighter borders.

Social Media and Information Spread: The rise of social media has allowed populist parties to spread their messages more effectively, bypassing traditional media and directly engaging with voters. This has helped them build strong grassroots support.


While perceived EU bureaucracy and globalism are significant factors driving the rise of populist right-wing parties, the phenomenon is multifaceted. Economic grievances, cultural anxieties, political alienation, and security concerns all play crucial roles in this complex political shift. Addressing the underlying causes requires nuanced policies that enhance economic opportunities, improve transparency and accountability in governance, and foster inclusive societies while respecting cultural identities.

Great Brittain has left the EU (“Brexit”) after a referendum. How did this impact its citizens?

Brexit has had significant and multifaceted impacts on the citizens of the United Kingdom. These impacts span economic, social, political, and individual dimensions:

Economic Impacts:

Trade and Economy:

Trade Barriers: The reintroduction of customs checks and regulatory differences has complicated trade between the UK and the EU, leading to increased costs and delays for businesses. Some companies have faced disruptions in supply chains and increased paperwork.

Economic Growth: The uncertainty and adjustments associated with Brexit have contributed to slower economic growth. Investment decisions have been affected by the uncertainty surrounding the UK's future trading relationships.

Currency Fluctuations: The pound has experienced volatility, which has impacted purchasing power and the cost of imports, contributing to inflation.


Job Market: Certain industries, particularly those reliant on EU trade, such as manufacturing and agriculture, have faced job losses or relocations. Conversely, some sectors have seen a demand for new skills related to regulatory compliance and customs management.

Labor Mobility: Restrictions on the free movement of labor have affected sectors that relied on EU workers, leading to labor shortages in healthcare, agriculture, hospitality, and construction.

Social Impacts:


EU Citizens in the UK: Many EU citizens residing in the UK have faced uncertainty regarding their residency status. The introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme aimed to regularize their status, but the process has been complex for some.

UK Citizens in the EU: British expatriates living in EU countries have had to navigate new residency and work permit requirements, impacting their legal status and access to services.

Social Cohesion:

Divisiveness: The Brexit referendum and its aftermath have deepened political and social divisions within the UK. Communities and families have often been split over their support for or opposition to Brexit.

Xenophobia and Racism: There has been an increase in reported incidents of xenophobia and racism, particularly against EU nationals and other immigrants.

Political Impacts:

National Politics:

Policy Focus: Brexit has dominated the political agenda, often overshadowing other critical domestic issues such as healthcare, education, and social services.

Political Realignment: The political landscape has shifted, with new fault lines emerging around Brexit rather than traditional party loyalties. This has led to changes in party strategies and voter bases.

Devolution and Union Integrity:

Scotland and Northern Ireland: Brexit has intensified calls for Scottish independence and complicated the political situation in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Protocol, designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has been particularly contentious.

Individual Impacts:

Travel and Mobility:

Freedom of Movement: UK citizens have lost the right to live and work freely in the EU. Travel to the EU now involves visa requirements for extended stays, work permits, and potential limitations on professional qualifications.

Health and Education: UK citizens no longer benefit from the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in the same way, potentially increasing travel insurance costs. Students face higher tuition fees and reduced access to EU-funded education programs like Erasmus.

Consumer Impacts:

Product Availability: Some goods and services have become more expensive or harder to find due to trade disruptions and increased regulatory compliance costs.

Digital Services: Access to certain digital services and roaming charges while traveling in the EU have been affected, leading to potential increases in costs.


The impacts of Brexit on UK citizens are wide-ranging and continue to evolve. Economic challenges, changes in migration patterns, shifts in political dynamics, and adjustments in individual freedoms and rights reflect the profound transformation that Brexit has brought about. While some see opportunities in greater national sovereignty and new global trade possibilities, the transition has been marked by significant adjustments and ongoing uncertainties for many citizens.

How would such a move work out for a small trade-oriented country as The Netherlands, in a “Nexit”?

A hypothetical exit of the Netherlands from the European Union ("Nexit") would have profound implications for the country, given its highly trade-oriented economy and deep integration within the EU. The consequences would span economic, social, and political dimensions. Here's an analysis of how such a move might work out:

Economic Impacts:

Trade and Economy:

Trade Barriers: The Netherlands relies heavily on its trade relationships within the EU, with a significant portion of its exports going to other EU countries. Reintroducing customs checks and tariffs would likely disrupt these trade flows, increase costs for businesses, and reduce competitiveness.

Foreign Direct Investment: The Netherlands is a major hub for foreign direct investment (FDI), much of which is facilitated by its access to the EU single market. Nexit could lead to a decline in FDI as companies might relocate to other EU member states to maintain market access.

Economic Growth: The economic uncertainty and potential trade disruptions could slow down economic growth. Key sectors like logistics, agriculture, and technology, which are deeply integrated into the EU market, would be particularly affected.

Labor Market:

Labor Mobility: Restrictions on the free movement of labor could create labor shortages in sectors reliant on EU workers, such as agriculture, healthcare, and hospitality. Conversely, Dutch citizens would face limitations in working and living in other EU countries.

Employment: Industries dependent on EU trade might face job losses. However, some sectors could see new opportunities in adjusting to post-Nexit regulations and compliance needs.

Social Impacts:

Migration and Residency:

EU Citizens in the Netherlands: Many EU citizens residing in the Netherlands might face uncertainty regarding their residency status. New immigration rules would need to be established, potentially leading to a reduction in the EU migrant workforce.

Dutch Citizens in the EU: Dutch expatriates living in EU countries would need to navigate new residency and work permit requirements, impacting their legal status and access to services.

Social Cohesion:

Divisiveness: As seen with Brexit, a Nexit referendum and its aftermath could deepen political and social divisions within the country. Public discourse might become polarized around the pros and cons of leaving the EU.

Xenophobia and Racism: There could be an increase in xenophobic and racist incidents, particularly against EU nationals and other immigrants.

Political Impacts:

National Politics:

Policy Focus: Nexit would dominate the political agenda, potentially overshadowing other critical domestic issues. The political landscape might realign, with new fault lines emerging around EU membership.

Sovereignty and Regulation: While Nexit proponents might argue for regained sovereignty and regulatory independence, the Netherlands would still need to comply with many EU regulations to maintain access to the EU market, without having a say in their formulation.

International Relations:

Geopolitical Influence: The Netherlands' influence within Europe and globally could diminish. As part of the EU, the Netherlands plays a role in shaping EU policies; outside the EU, it might have less clout in international affairs.

Bilateral Agreements: The Netherlands would need to negotiate new bilateral trade and political agreements, a process that could be lengthy and complex.

Individual Impacts:

Travel and Mobility:

Freedom of Movement: Dutch citizens would lose the right to live and work freely across the EU. Travel to the EU would involve visa requirements for extended stays, work permits, and potential limitations on professional qualifications.

Health and Education: Dutch citizens might no longer benefit from the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and face higher tuition fees and reduced access to EU-funded education programs like Erasmus.

Consumer Impacts:

Product Availability: Some goods and services might become more expensive or harder to find due to trade disruptions and increased regulatory compliance costs.

Digital Services: Access to certain digital services and roaming charges while traveling in the EU could be affected, leading to potential increases in costs.


A Nexit would likely have complex and far-reaching impacts on the Netherlands. While there might be perceived benefits in terms of national sovereignty and regulatory independence, the economic and social costs could be significant. Trade disruptions, loss of labor mobility, potential declines in FDI, and a reduction in geopolitical influence would pose substantial challenges. The Netherlands' deep integration with the EU makes it particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of such a move, suggesting that careful consideration and comprehensive planning would be essential to mitigate adverse effects.

Some right wing parties have changed their strategy from leaving the EU to remaining a EU-member, whike primarily serving national interests, such as Italy.

Indeed, several right-wing parties in Europe have shifted their strategies from advocating for leaving the European Union to adopting a more pragmatic approach of remaining within the EU while focusing on serving national interests. This shift reflects a recognition of the complexities and potential downsides of exiting the EU, as well as the benefits of influencing EU policies from within. Here's a closer look at the reasons behind this strategy change and its implications:

Reasons for Strategy Change:

Economic Realities:

Trade and Investment: The economic disruption caused by Brexit has served as a cautionary example. Right-wing parties have acknowledged the importance of maintaining access to the EU single market, which is vital for trade and investment.

Funding and Subsidies: EU membership provides access to various funding programs and subsidies, particularly important for sectors like agriculture, infrastructure, and regional development.

Political Influence:

Influencing EU Policies: Staying within the EU allows these parties to influence policy decisions that affect their countries. They can advocate for reforms and policies that align more closely with their national interests.

Coalitions and Alliances: Building coalitions with like-minded parties across Europe can strengthen their ability to push for changes within the EU framework.

Public Sentiment:

Voter Preferences: Public opinion in many EU countries remains broadly supportive of EU membership. Right-wing parties have adapted to reflect their constituents' preferences, recognizing that a hardline stance on leaving the EU may not be electorally advantageous.

Avoiding Uncertainty: The uncertainties and potential economic disruptions associated with an EU exit have made voters wary. Right-wing parties have thus shifted to advocating for national interests within the EU framework.

Strategic Realignment:

National Sovereignty within the EU: Emphasizing the protection of national sovereignty and promoting national interests within the EU allows these parties to balance their nationalist agendas with the practical benefits of EU membership.

Policy Autonomy: By advocating for specific reforms and greater autonomy within the EU, these parties aim to achieve their goals without the drastic step of leaving the union.


Policy Focus:

Reforms and Flexibility: Right-wing parties are likely to push for reforms that increase flexibility for member states, such as changes to immigration policies, budget contributions, and regulatory frameworks.

National Control: There will be increased emphasis on policies that allow greater national control over areas like border security, judicial systems, and cultural matters.

EU Dynamics:

Internal Tensions: The presence of nationalist parties within the EU could heighten internal tensions, as these parties may frequently clash with more pro-European factions over key issues.

Potential for Change: The push for reforms by these parties could lead to significant changes in how the EU operates, potentially making it more accommodating to national interests and less centralized.

Coalitions and Alliances:

Stronger Bloc: Right-wing parties may form stronger alliances within the European Parliament and the Council, increasing their influence over EU legislation and policies.

Shared Agendas: These parties might collaborate on common agendas such as reducing EU bureaucracy, renegotiating treaties, and defending cultural values.

National Policy Impact:

Domestic Focus: While operating within the EU, these parties will continue to prioritize domestic issues, aiming to leverage EU membership to benefit their national agendas.

Public Services and Infrastructure: They may seek to channel EU funds more effectively into national projects, enhancing public services and infrastructure development.


Italy: Parties like the Lega (League) under Matteo Salvini have shifted from Euroscepticism to advocating for a reformed EU that better serves Italian interests. They emphasize issues like immigration control and fiscal policies that allow more national discretion.

France: Marine Le Pen's National Rally has also moderated its stance, moving from Frexit to calling for significant reforms within the EU to protect French sovereignty and interests.


The shift from advocating for leaving the EU to remaining and reforming it from within represents a strategic adaptation by right-wing parties. This approach allows them to address the practical realities of economic interdependence and public sentiment while pursuing their nationalist goals. The presence of these parties within the EU's framework could lead to significant reforms and a rebalancing of power between the EU and its member states, potentially making the union more flexible and responsive to national interests.

Others, like Hungary, choose to frustrate EU policies as long as they get compensated financially or otherwise.

Hungary's approach to the European Union, particularly under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the ruling Fidesz party, exemplifies a strategy of leveraging EU membership to serve national interests while often frustrating broader EU policies. This approach involves balancing compliance with EU rules to secure financial benefits while resisting and challenging EU initiatives that conflict with national priorities. Here are key elements of this strategy and its implications:

Key Elements of Hungary's Strategy:

Financial Leverage:

EU Funds: Hungary has been a significant beneficiary of EU cohesion funds, which are critical for its development projects. The government seeks to maximize these financial inflows while maintaining a degree of autonomy in how the funds are used.

Conditional Compliance: Hungary often complies with EU regulations to the extent necessary to continue receiving financial support, but resists policies that it perceives as infringing on its sovereignty or political agenda.

Political Resistance:

Judicial Independence and Media Freedom: Hungary has implemented policies that undermine judicial independence and media freedom, drawing criticism and legal challenges from the EU. The government resists these pressures by framing them as attacks on national sovereignty.

Immigration and Refugee Policies: Hungary has consistently opposed EU quotas for redistributing refugees, implementing stringent anti-immigration measures. This stance aligns with the government's nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric.

EU Policy Frustration:

Veto Power: Hungary has used its veto power within the EU to block or delay initiatives that it opposes, such as sanctions on certain countries or joint statements on human rights issues.

Forming Alliances: Hungary often collaborates with other like-minded countries, such as Poland, to form a bloc that can more effectively resist EU policies. This coalition-building helps to amplify its influence within the EU.

Strategic Concessions:

Negotiated Settlements: When facing significant pressure or potential sanctions, Hungary sometimes makes strategic concessions to avoid severe penalties. This balancing act helps maintain its financial benefits while limiting the impact on its domestic policies.


EU Cohesion:

Internal Tensions: Hungary's approach exacerbates tensions within the EU, highlighting the challenges of maintaining unity among member states with divergent political agendas and values.

Rule of Law: Persistent resistance to EU norms and rules regarding democracy and rule of law undermines the EU's ability to enforce its core values uniformly across all member states.

Financial Dynamics:

Conditionality of Funds: The EU has increasingly tied the disbursement of funds to adherence to rule-of-law principles. Hungary's strategy of frustrating EU policies while seeking financial benefits has led to the development of mechanisms like the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation, which aims to protect the EU budget from breaches of the rule of law.

Geopolitical Influence:

Reduced Influence: Hungary's confrontational stance can limit its influence within the EU on broader geopolitical matters. While it can block specific policies, it risks isolation on larger strategic issues.

Strategic Autonomy: By maintaining a degree of distance from EU policies, Hungary seeks to preserve its strategic autonomy, but this can come at the cost of reduced collaboration and support from other member states.

Domestic Politics:

Nationalist Narrative: The Hungarian government uses its resistance to EU policies to bolster its domestic narrative of defending national sovereignty against foreign interference. This strategy resonates with its voter base and reinforces the government's legitimacy.

Economic Development: While benefiting from EU funds, Hungary's approach can create uncertainties about future funding, potentially impacting long-term economic development plans.


Hungary's strategy of leveraging EU membership to gain financial benefits while frustrating EU policies highlights the complexities of maintaining unity within a diverse political and economic union. This approach reflects a balancing act between securing financial support and asserting national sovereignty. While effective in the short term for achieving specific national goals, this strategy poses significant challenges for the EU in terms of cohesion, enforcement of common values, and the overall functioning of the union. It underscores the need for the EU to find ways to address these internal challenges while maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of the union.

In general, well to do citizens lean towards a European identity (or even wider), whereas the have nots are more nationally oriented.

The tendency for well-to-do citizens to lean towards a European or broader identity, while those who are less well-off tend to be more nationally oriented, can be explained by several socio-economic and cultural factors. This pattern reflects how different groups experience and perceive the benefits and challenges of globalization, European integration, and national policies.

Factors Influencing European vs. National Identity:

Economic Stability and Mobility:

Well-to-Do Citizens: Individuals with higher economic stability often benefit more directly from the opportunities provided by European integration. They may have jobs that involve international travel, higher education, and greater access to cultural exchanges. These experiences foster a broader, more inclusive identity.

Less Well-Off Citizens: Those with fewer economic resources may not experience the same benefits from European integration. They might face job insecurity, lower wages, and limited social mobility, leading to a stronger attachment to national identity and local community as a source of security and familiarity.

Education and Cultural Exposure:

Well-to-Do Citizens: Higher levels of education often correlate with greater exposure to diverse cultures and international perspectives. Educated individuals are more likely to support and identify with broader political and cultural entities like the EU.

Less Well-Off Citizens: Limited educational opportunities can restrict exposure to different cultures and ideas, fostering a more localized worldview. National identity can be a source of pride and a way to assert control over one's immediate environment.

Perceived Benefits and Costs of EU Membership:

Well-to-Do Citizens: These individuals may see the EU as providing significant economic and social benefits, such as freedom of movement, trade opportunities, and cultural exchanges. Their positive experiences with these benefits enhance their identification with the EU.

Less Well-Off Citizens: Those who perceive themselves as left behind by globalization and European integration may associate the EU with negative economic changes, such as job losses, wage stagnation, and increased competition. This can reinforce a nationalistic outlook.

Cultural and Social Capital:

Well-to-Do Citizens: Individuals with high cultural and social capital are often more cosmopolitan, valuing diversity and multiculturalism. Their social networks may include international connections, further fostering a European or global identity.

Less Well-Off Citizens: Limited cultural and social capital can result in stronger ties to local and national communities. These individuals may prioritize cultural homogeneity and national traditions, viewing them as crucial to social cohesion.

Consequences of This Divide:

Political Polarization:

Electoral Behavior: This socio-economic divide often translates into political polarization, with wealthier, cosmopolitan voters supporting pro-EU parties and policies, while less affluent, more nationally oriented voters support populist or nationalist parties.

Policy Preferences: The well-to-do may advocate for policies that promote international cooperation and integration, while the have-nots may prioritize policies that protect national interests and sovereignty.

Social Cohesion:

Integration Challenges: The differing identities and priorities can create challenges for social cohesion, as policies that benefit one group may be perceived as detrimental by the other.

Community Tensions: In areas where economic disparities are stark, tensions between groups with different identities and interests can lead to social unrest and divisions.

EU Policy and Unity:

Fragmentation Risks: The EU faces the challenge of addressing the needs and concerns of both groups to maintain unity. Policies perceived as favoring the elite or more prosperous regions can exacerbate feelings of disenfranchisement among the less well-off.

Reform Pressures: There is increasing pressure on the EU to implement reforms that ensure the benefits of integration are more evenly distributed, addressing issues like economic inequality, job security, and social welfare.


The divide between well-to-do citizens who lean towards a European or broader identity and the have-nots who are more nationally oriented is a significant socio-economic and cultural phenomenon. It influences political behavior, social cohesion, and the stability of the European Union. Addressing this divide requires policies that promote inclusive economic growth, improve access to education and opportunities, and ensure that the benefits of integration are widely shared. By doing so, it may be possible to bridge the gap between different identity orientations and foster a more cohesive and resilient society.

How can it be explained that labor workers traditionally voted left, but now have shifted to the right side of the political soectrum (often to their disadvantage)?

The shift of labor workers from traditionally voting for left-wing parties to increasingly supporting right-wing populist parties is a complex phenomenon influenced by several socio-economic, political, and cultural factors. Here are some key explanations for this trend:

Economic Factors:

Globalization and Deindustrialization:

Job Losses and Economic Insecurity: Globalization and the decline of traditional manufacturing industries have led to job losses and economic insecurity for many labor workers. Left-wing parties, traditionally associated with protecting workers' rights, are sometimes seen as having failed to protect these jobs.

Perceived Betrayal: Many labor workers feel that left-wing parties have shifted their focus away from the working class to issues such as identity politics and environmental concerns, which may not resonate as strongly with their economic struggles.

Stagnant Wages and Inequality:

Wage Stagnation: The stagnation of wages and rising income inequality have eroded the economic position of many labor workers. Right-wing populist parties often capitalize on these frustrations, promising to protect jobs and improve wages by reducing immigration and renegotiating trade deals.

Cultural Factors:

Identity and Cultural Change:

Cultural Displacement: Many labor workers feel culturally displaced by rapid social changes, including increased immigration and multiculturalism. Right-wing populist parties often emphasize national identity and cultural preservation, appealing to workers who feel their traditional way of life is under threat.

Nationalism and Sovereignty: Right-wing populist parties often promote a narrative of restoring national sovereignty and pride, which can resonate with labor workers who feel left behind by the globalist policies of mainstream parties.


Perceived Competition: Labor workers often perceive immigrants as competitors for jobs, housing, and social services. Right-wing populist parties exploit these fears, advocating for stricter immigration controls and prioritizing native citizens in job markets and welfare programs.

Political Factors:

Disillusionment with Traditional Left:

Shift in Party Focus: Many left-wing parties have increasingly focused on issues like climate change, social justice, and identity politics, which may not align with the immediate economic concerns of labor workers. This shift has created a perceived disconnect between the parties and their traditional base.

Perceived Elitism: Left-wing parties are sometimes seen as being dominated by urban elites who are out of touch with the needs and values of working-class communities. This perception drives labor workers towards parties that appear more in tune with their daily struggles.

Populist Rhetoric and Appeal:

Simple Solutions: Right-wing populist parties often offer simple, direct solutions to complex problems, which can be appealing to voters frustrated with the status quo. Their rhetoric is often more accessible and emotionally resonant than the technocratic language of traditional parties.

Anti-Establishment Sentiment: Populist parties position themselves as outsiders challenging the political establishment, appealing to labor workers who feel ignored or betrayed by mainstream politicians.


Policy Impacts:

Right-Wing Economic Policies: Despite their appeal, the economic policies of right-wing populist parties may not always benefit labor workers in the long run. Deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, and reductions in social welfare programs can exacerbate inequality and economic insecurity.

Focus on Nationalism: While nationalist policies may address some cultural concerns, they may not effectively tackle the structural economic issues faced by labor workers, such as job automation and global market competition.

Political Realignment:

Shift in Party Strategies: The shift of labor workers to the right has forced left-wing parties to reconsider their strategies and policies to reconnect with their traditional base. This realignment may lead to changes in party platforms and political discourse.


The shift of labor workers from left-wing to right-wing parties is driven by a combination of economic insecurity, cultural displacement, and disillusionment with traditional left-wing parties. Right-wing populist parties have effectively capitalized on these factors, offering a narrative of national restoration and simple solutions to complex problems. To address this trend, left-wing parties may need to refocus on the economic and social needs of labor workers, bridging the gap between their broader agendas and the immediate concerns of their traditional base.

In fact, populist political leaders are rarely known for having produced viable policies that benefit their own voters (e.g. Trump).

Populist political leaders often rise to power by capitalizing on widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo and promising sweeping changes that resonate with voters' immediate concerns. However, translating these promises into viable policies that deliver long-term benefits is frequently more challenging. Here are several reasons why populist leaders may struggle to produce policies that genuinely benefit their voters:

Reasons for Policy Ineffectiveness:

Simplistic Solutions to Complex Problems:

Over-Simplification: Populist leaders often propose simplistic solutions to complex issues, such as promising to bring back manufacturing jobs without addressing the broader economic forces like automation and globalization that affect employment.

Lack of Feasibility: These solutions may lack detailed planning and feasibility, leading to ineffective implementation or unintended negative consequences.

Focus on Short-Term Gains:

Immediate Gratification: Populist policies often aim for quick, visible results to maintain voter support, but these short-term gains can come at the expense of long-term stability and growth. For example, tax cuts might boost short-term disposable income but increase deficits and reduce funds for public services over time.

Political Expediency: Decisions driven by the need for immediate political victories can lead to poorly thought-out policies that fail to address root causes.

Economic Nationalism and Protectionism:

Trade Wars: Populist leaders frequently advocate for protectionist trade policies. While these might protect some domestic industries temporarily, they often lead to retaliatory tariffs, increased costs for consumers, and disruptions in global supply chains.

Isolationism: Economic nationalism can undermine international cooperation and investment, harming the broader economy and limiting growth opportunities.

Undermining Institutions and Norms:

Erosion of Trust: Populists often attack established institutions and norms, undermining trust in democratic processes and governance. This can lead to institutional instability and reduced effectiveness of government functions.

Legal and Institutional Challenges: Efforts to bypass or weaken institutions, such as the judiciary or regulatory bodies, can lead to legal challenges and administrative chaos, hindering policy implementation.

Polarization and Division:

Social Division: Populist rhetoric often exacerbates social and political divisions, making it difficult to build consensus around policies that require broad support.

Governance Challenges: High levels of polarization can lead to gridlock and ineffective governance, as opposing factions are unable to collaborate on necessary reforms.


Donald Trump (USA):

Economic Impact: Trump's tax cuts primarily benefited the wealthy and corporations, leading to increased deficits without significantly improving economic conditions for lower-income voters. His trade wars with China and other countries led to higher costs for consumers and disruptions for farmers and manufacturers.

Healthcare: Efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) were unsuccessful, leaving many of his supporters without the promised improvements in healthcare access and affordability.

Brexit (UK):

Economic Uncertainty: The Brexit campaign, driven by populist leaders, promised economic and political independence but has led to economic uncertainty, trade disruptions, and complex negotiations that have yet to deliver clear benefits for many voters.

Viktor Orbán (Hungary):

Rule of Law: Orbán's government has faced criticism for undermining judicial independence and press freedom, which has led to conflicts with the EU and potential reductions in EU funding, impacting the country's economic stability and growth.

Consequences for Voters:

Economic Hardship:

Job Losses and Wage Stagnation: Protectionist policies and trade wars can lead to job losses in industries dependent on international trade, while wage growth may remain stagnant due to economic uncertainty and reduced investment.

Higher Costs: Tariffs and reduced competition can lead to higher prices for goods and services, disproportionately affecting lower-income households.

Social and Political Instability:

Increased Polarization: Populist rhetoric often deepens social and political divides, leading to instability and conflict that can undermine community cohesion and effective governance.

Erosion of Trust: Attacks on institutions and democratic norms can erode public trust in government, making it more difficult to implement effective policies and reforms.


While populist leaders often succeed in mobilizing voter support through their rhetoric and promises, they frequently struggle to produce viable policies that deliver long-term benefits. The complexities of governance, economic interdependence, and the need for institutional stability pose significant challenges to the implementation of populist agendas. For their voters, this often results in unmet promises, economic hardship, and increased social and political instability. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for addressing the underlying issues that drive populist support and developing policies that genuinely benefit all citizens.

If populism does not deliver on its (false) promises, why is it so popular? Is this a matter of values rather than facts?

The popularity of populism despite its often unfulfilled promises can indeed be attributed to a complex interplay of values, emotions, and perceptions rather than purely factual outcomes. Here are several key reasons why populism remains appealing to many:

Emotional Appeal and Identity:

Empowerment and Representation:

Voice for the Marginalized: Populist leaders often portray themselves as champions of the "ordinary" people against a corrupt or out-of-touch elite. This narrative resonates with individuals who feel ignored or marginalized by traditional political establishments.

Identity and Belonging: Populism can provide a sense of belonging and identity, especially in times of economic uncertainty or cultural change. It offers a clear distinction between "us" (the people) and "them" (the elite or foreigners), reinforcing a sense of community among supporters.

Simplistic Solutions to Complex Issues:

Clear Messaging: Populist rhetoric tends to offer simple, easily understandable explanations for complex problems. This clarity can be comforting to voters who may feel overwhelmed by the intricacies of policy debates.

Immediate Action: Populists often promise swift and decisive action on issues like immigration, trade, or corruption, contrasting with perceived bureaucratic inertia or gridlock in mainstream politics.

Economic and Social Discontent:

Economic Insecurity and Dislocation:

Globalization's Discontents: Populist appeals often capitalize on economic anxieties stemming from globalization, technological change, and job insecurity. Promises to protect jobs, renegotiate trade deals, or limit immigration appeal to those directly impacted by these trends.

Unequal Distribution of Benefits: Even if populist policies fail to deliver long-term economic gains, their promises to redistribute wealth or protect national industries can still attract support from those who feel left behind by economic growth.

Cultural and National Identity:

Cultural Anxiety: Populism frequently taps into fears about cultural change, such as demographic shifts or perceived threats to national identity. Leaders who promise to preserve traditional values or restrict immigration may gain support among voters concerned about these issues.

National Sovereignty: Appeals to national sovereignty and independence resonate with those who feel that global institutions or agreements undermine their country's autonomy.

Distrust of Establishment Politics:

Anti-Establishment Sentiment:

Perceived Elitism and Corruption: Populist movements thrive on anti-establishment sentiment, portraying mainstream politicians as elitist, disconnected, or corrupt. This distrust can be amplified by real or perceived failures of mainstream parties to address voters' concerns.

Media and Information Bias: Populists often challenge mainstream media and experts, positioning themselves as truth-tellers against a biased or deceitful establishment narrative.

Psychological Factors:

Confirmation Bias and Echo Chambers:

Selective Information: Populist supporters may seek out information and sources that confirm their beliefs, reinforcing their support for populist narratives and policies.

Social Validation: Support for populism can be strengthened within social circles where like-minded individuals reinforce each other's views, creating echo chambers that shield against dissenting opinions.


The popularity of populism is multifaceted and deeply rooted in emotional appeals, cultural anxieties, economic discontent, and a distrust of traditional political institutions. While populists may not always deliver on their promises or improve economic conditions in the long run, their ability to tap into these underlying sentiments and values continues to sustain their appeal. Understanding these dynamics requires addressing both the factual shortcomings of populist policies and the deeper values and perceptions that drive their support among certain segments of the population.

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