EU Neoliberalism at Bay: Social Democratic Renewal or Populist Economic Nationalism?

  • Bryn Jones


After rescuing banks and financial markets from their financial recklessness, the European Union continues with neo-liberal globalism while diminishing social protection and state interventionism. Successive treaties and increasingly restrictive rules for the Eurozone currency system entailed fiscal austerity. The Greek debt crisis of 2015-16 and protest movement such as Occupy! and the Indignados signalled subsequent electoral volatility across Europe. Though constitutionally unrelated to Eurozone restrictions, the UK’s Brexit revolt expresses similar antipathies. In different ways, Italy’s radical right and populist coalition government, the Pandora’s Box of Brexit and a radicalized UK Labour Party pose new, acute threats to neoliberal stasis and, potentially, to pillars of the EU regime. National politics hover uncertainly between aspirations for new forms of social democracy and more dynamic forms of right-wing radicalism embracing ethnic discrimination, economic and cultural nationalism and, potentially, authoritarian 'post-democratic' governance. This analysis dissects right and left populisms in Italy and the UK to ask whether either of these currents might revitalize or subvert liberal parliamentary democracy, break with neoliberalism, or merely support its continuation.

How to Cite
Jones, B. (2020). EU Neoliberalism at Bay: Social Democratic Renewal or Populist Economic Nationalism?. Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research, 31(1). Retrieved from