Democracy, Populism, and Neoliberalism in Ukraine : On the Fringes of the Virtual and the Real book cover
1st Edition

Democracy, Populism, and Neoliberalism in Ukraine
On the Fringes of the Virtual and the Real

ISBN 9781032132310
Published December 10, 2021 by Routledge
140 Pages

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Book Description

This book explores the reasons behind the unexpected rise to power of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian with no political background, and offers an in-depth analysis of the populist messages he delivered to the Ukrainian people via his TV show.

Taking a discourse analysis approach, the author draws on two main arguments of critical scholarship: the “populist explosion” of the recent decade came as a reaction to the inequalities and injustices of the global neoliberal order, and the success of neoliberalism can be explained by its ability to mask itself under attractive progressive covers. Developing these lines of argument, the book demonstrates not only how the “populist explosion” can lead to  further neoliberalization, but also that the euphemizing effect can be achieved by mixing the virtual and the real, as in the case of Zelensky.

This first of its kind study will resonate with any scholar or upper-level student working on populism, neoliberalism, political communication, media studies, political science, European studies, Ukrainian studies, and discourse analysis.

Table of Contents


1. The Populist Explosion as a Reaction to the Neoliberal Order

2. Euphemizing the Neoliberal Promise   

3. The People vs. The Elites

4. On the Fringes of the Virtual and the Real: Simulating the Political 

5 “Do not Sell Our Motherland!”: Zelensky’s Land Reform 

6. “To bury communism”: A Failure of Modernization Rhetoric of “Servants”  

7. The Post-Political Tyranny of the Integral 

8. Democracy-to-Come: A Perpetual Promise 


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Olga Baysha earned her PhD in Communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Previously, she worked as a news reporter and editor in Ukraine. Dr Baysha’s research is on post-Soviet new media and social movements for democracy and justice.