chapter  18
13 Pages

Populism as political marketing technique

ByGeorg Winder, Jens Tenscher

Populism is a widely used communicative strategy in politics that seems to have become more and more important in recent years. Since the mid-1980s populism has entered the political stage of some established Western democracies; to name but a few: Jörg Haider (Austria’s Freedom Party) in Austria; Jean-Marie Le Pen (Front National) in France; Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia) in Italy; Josef Blocher (Swiss People’s Party) in Switzerland; and Geert Wilders (Freedom Party) in the Netherlands. Their success has been perceived by some scholars as a typical symptom of fundamental political transformation or political crisis (Taggart 2000: 5), or reflective of disenchantment with established, ‘old-fashioned’ political parties (Mudde 1996). However, populism is not only a symptom of crisis but also a strategy of managing communicative relationships. Against this backdrop, it is time to reflect on populism as a political marketing technique. So

far, this has neither been done in political marketing studies nor in populism research. Yet, we assume that populism is a political marketing technique in its own right, one that offers a specific form of political communication, organization and mobilization. This chapter will discuss the concept and contextual factors which facilitate or impede the introduction of populist actors and the development of populism as a political marketing technique. Furthermore, we will test its practical relevance by examining case studies from the US (long-time established democracy), Austria (relatively young but strong democracy) and Venezuela (emergent, unstable democracy).