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POPBACK: Populist Backlash, Democratic Backsliding, and the Crisis of the Rule of Law in the European Union

Background, aims and objectives

The POPBACK project aims to inform strategies to increase democratic resilience by studying the mechanisms exclusionary populists use to increase their power by undermining the Rule of Law in the areas of law, the economy, and the media. The project also seeks to identify the coping strategies societal actors use when faced with exclusionary populism. It is funded by the NORFACE programme and is led by Gerhard Schnyder, currently Professor of International Management at the University of Loughborough, London, and a former research fellow in the CBR. Other participants, in addition to the CBR, are researchers from the London School of Economics; the Polish Academy of Sciences; Goethe University, Frankfurt; The Peace Institute, Ljubljana; the University of Vienna; Roehampton University, London; and the University of Delaware.

Adopting an interdisciplinary approach spanning political economy, legal-, management-, and media studies, we compare Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and Turkey, all of which have experienced varying degrees of populist success. The project involves collaboration with the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP), which is tasked with setting up an International Policy Fellowships scheme for key stakeholders from the countries studied. In addition, the project members will collaborate with artists to stage a participatory performance in four cities to engage a dialogue with citizens from the countries being studied.


This project is organised into four work packages (WPs), focusing on:

  1. legal changes (WP1)
  2. business and economics (WP2)
  3. media and communications (WP3)
  4. impact (WP4).

The CBR’s involvement is mainly in WP1, and will take the form of the construction of datasets for measuring developments in laws relating to the business enterprise (labour and company laws) and in the institutional environment of the countries being studied.


The project began in the December of 2020. The CBR contribution has so far mostly taken the form of updating the CBR’s leximetric datasets on labour law and company law. In addition, Sveta Borodina, Simon Deakin and John Hamilton have published a related paper on the evolution of the rule of law in Russia.

Journal Articles

Borodina, S., Deakin, S. and Hamilton, J. (2022) ‘The rule of law as an emergent social norm: evidence from qualitative research in Russia’ Law and Development Review, 15: 1-31

Project team

Project leader: Gerhard Schnyder, University of Loughborough London

Cambridge PI: Simon Deakin

Researcher: Louise Bishop

Project status


Project dates



NORFACE network