Pressure, Protest and Populism

From pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to revolution and civil strife across the Middle East and the success of populist parties in Europe, one of the defining mindsets of our age is a deep-seated hostility to political and financial elites.

In some places this has manifested itself as a call for greater democratic accountability and openness; elsewhere it has translated into a form of divisive anti-intellectualism, where nostalgia, blame and resentment are substituted for balanced debate and consensual policy-making. Whether its aims are constructive or disruptive, anti-establishment mobilisation has the potential to fuel political and economic instability. To understand the risks and the opportunities it presents, Counterpoint’s work takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon. We analyse the ‘hidden wiring’ behind anti-establishment mobilisation, focusing on the underlying social and cultural dynamics that explain why it flares up in some places and not others. Counterpoint’s culture-centred approach provides a unique tool for assessing and responding to the risks posed by anti-establishment mobilisation.

Our current work in this area is focused on the support and influence of populist parties in Europe. We are researching the shifting nature of populism’s support, strategies for countering populist narratives, and policies for engaging with the grievances at the root of populist success. As we predicted in an earlier report, at the recent European Parliament elections, populists surged into the lead in a number of countries, including France, Denmark and the UK. Our analysis and forecasting of the elections and of the subsequent impact of populist parties was widely covered in the national and international press, including in The Financial TimesThe EconomistThe TelegraphCity A.M.Monocle 24LibérationNeue Zürcher ZeitungEuractiv and Der Spiegel. . Please see our recent reports, briefings and articles for further examples of our research.