Exploring the foreign policies of populist governments: (Latin) America First

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Abstract

How do populists conduct foreign policy? The existing literature on populism focuses mainly on domestic patterns, and until recently the foreign dimension of populism has been largely overlooked. This paper aims to fill theoretical and empirical lacunae by mapping patterns of change and continuity in the formulation of geopolitical and economic international policy among Latin-American populist governments. Striving to conduct a systematic comparative analysis, this paper explores three waves of populist foreign policies in Latin America (classic, neoliberal, and progressive). While it is difficult to highlight a unified phenomenon, the findings reveal that several ‘unifying’ elements indeed exist: they are manifest in the tendency of such governments to jointly (re)construct transnational solidarities for legitimation purposes and to adopt economic foreign policies with a pragmatic bent. Moreover, in opposition to the two first waves of populist governments, the most recent wave has embraced personalist styles, emotional public diplomacy, and clientelist techniques with support networks abroad, thus actively projecting the domestic patterns of populism to the regional and global levels in an attempt to leverage both domestic and international legitimacy. This study offers critical lessons for IR scholarship’s increasing engagement with populism, contributing to the lively debate regarding the rise of populist trends across the globe.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)651-680
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Latin American populism
  • classic populism
  • global populism
  • neoliberal neopopulism
  • populist foreign policy
  • progressive neopopulism

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

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