​Norris, Pippa & Ronald Inglehart (2019) Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 540 pp.

​ISBN: 978-1-108-59584-1

Tore Wig

University of Oslo

Read more about this book: www.cambridge.org

​One explanation for the rise of authoritarian populists like Trump, Orban and Bolsonaro locates their appeal in economic grievances of working-class voters with shrinking livelihoods due to trade, automation and immigration. A second account focuses on politics of identity: authoritarian populism as an outlet for xenophobia and cultural reaction. Norris & Inglehart fuse these two explanations into an account about culture as well as economic change. Decades of empirical research, by the authors, shows that generations coming of age in times of increasing economic and physical security, such as ‘generation X’ (growing up in the mid-1960s to early 1980s), develop ‘postmaterialist values’ of tolerance, self-expression and liberalism. Older generations, who ascended in harsher times, hold more conservative views on immigration, LGBT rights, the environment etc., so-called ‘materialist’ views. The authors show how ‘materialists’ are more likely to also hold ‘authoritarian values’ regarding obedience to authority, strong leaders, and hierarchical family organization. A key claim is that materialists lean into authoritarianism when their values are under threat. Thus, as postmaterialists become dominant in the population, voters with materialist-authoritarian values feel threatened and vote for self-described ‘strong’ authoritarian-populists in a backlash to the cultural revolution heralded by the postmaterialist ascendance. Inglehart and Norris use several streams of data, spanning many countries, to support their theory, combining global World Values Survey data, economic data, voting patterns and party databases. They identify a clear link between their identified value dimensions and, for instance, voting for what they call ‘authoritarian populists’. While this does not show that the ‘cultural backlash’ is the sole driver of the rise of authoritarian populism, this book is required reading for anyone interested in the topic.