The Media and the Growth
in Contemporary Democracies
Since the latter decades of the twentieth century, a number of democracies have been facing intense, dramatic challenges from conflicting forces within their domestic polities and from the constraints of a "world order" based on the Cold War division of the global spheres of socioeconomic and political influence. Among the challenges to democratic institutions in a number of countries—which here include Austria, France, Italy, India, Australia, Canada, the United States, and several Latin American countries—populism stands out. It is a multifaceted phenomenon that besides taking form in opinion movements and in organized parties has affected, as ideology, the policies of mainstream governments and parties.
Historically, populism in its various forms has often blended with nationalist or separatist causes, with anti-politics, and with xenophobic attitudes shared by significant sectors of public opinion. Much of this populism has proved to be radical and anti-democratic in nature, for which reason it has often triggered a counter reaction from democratic forces aiming to preserve the statutes and practices of pluralist and liberal democracy. Even if in Western Europe and North America populist ideas have affected the policies and rhetorics of governments and presidents, in no instance have they yet been capable of overthrowing established democratic systems. The exception to this is Latin America, which has proved to be the safe harbor for endemic populism flourishing in a variety of political systems. Many countries of Africa and Asia, especially following the decolonization phase of the early 1960s, have experienced very specific kinds of populism, often accompanied by very different forms of nationalism, political ideology, religious fundamentalism, ethnic