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Re-feudalizing democracy: an approach to authoritarian populism taken from institutional economics

à dám, Zoltán

Journal of Institutional Economics, 2020, vol. 16, issue 1, 105-118

Abstract: Research on populism has gained importance in the light of the recent global populist surge. Political scientists have become concerned with the problem of authoritarian populism, examining how illiberal, anti-pluralist populist parties have degraded liberal democracies. Economic research on recent forms of populism, although also growing, lack a comprehensive conceptual approach. This paper reduces this gap by conceptualizing authoritarian populism in terms of political transaction costs, arguing that its primary function is to vertically integrate political exchange under conditions of general franchise. If successful, authoritarian populist regimes internalize a large share of political transaction costs inherent in decentralized democratic political exchange. This entails a degraded version of democracy, eliminating a significant part of substantial electoral choice. Through weakening impersonal collective political contracting, authoritarian populists bring back private political contracting as a dominant political coordination mechanism, effectively re-feudalizing democracy.

Date: 2020
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