Populism and Transnational Projection: The Legitimation Strategies of Pink Tide Neo-Populist Leaderships in Latin America

In: Comparative Political Theory
Daniel F. Wajner Lecturer (Assistant Professor), Dept. of International Relations and the European Forum, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel

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Luis Roniger Reynolds Professor Emeritus of Latin American Studies, Dept. of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US

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This article attempts to engage the burgeoning research on the transnational dimensions of populism with recent theorization on legitimation strategies in international politics. Focusing on the performative practices of the wave of Pink Tide neo-populist leaders in Latin America (also called “Chavista” or “Bolivarian”), this work identifies three main strategies of legitimation – affective, normative, and institutional – and tracks their transnational resonance. Indications of these strategies include the extrapolation of strong emotional attachments with supporters abroad, the empowerment of identity-based solidarities, and the reconstruction of regionalist projects. Their drive to mobilize transnational support has been complemented by a normative flipside – the discursive attack on rival “anti-national” elites and the readiness to use national revenues for demonstrating solidarity with international allies. Analysis details how these strategies projected the populists’ legitimacy onto the regional and global arena. This inquiry may contribute policy-oriented hindsight on the rise of populists worldwide and their potential effects on transnational practices of cooperation and defiance, primarily on regional integration, global governance, and international conflicts.

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