Saving and Strengthening 'Democratic Society': The European Court of Human Rights in Times of Populism

Book project by Alain Zysset to be published in Cambridge University Press in 2024.

The book offers the first comprehensive account of the European Court of Human Rights’ actual and potential response to the wave of populism consolidating across Council of Europe states. It combines conceptual, empirical and legal analysis. Conceptually, the book builds upon the fast- growing literature in the social and political theory of populism and offers an account of how populism distorts democracy and corrupts the rule of law, making populism relevant to the foundational purpose of the Court. Empirically, the book incorporates recent findings documenting the populist erosion of Convention-relevant rights at the domestic level with a view to best conceptualizing and designing the Court’s subsequent response at the supranational level.

Building on foundations, the book’s contribution is to evaluate and inform the Court’s response to populism on three levels of argument: whether the Court has already responded to populism; whether it should respond - and if yes, whether it is equipped to do so at the level of adjudication. While the Court has not employed the word ‘populism’ in its jurisprudence, an increasing number of emerging cases point to the abuses that are typical of populism, which poses the question of whether the Court should address populism specifically, and how the Court would go about detecting and countering it

Published Aug. 23, 2022 12:52 PM - Last modified Aug. 23, 2022 12:54 PM