Marisa von Bülow / Rebecca Neaera Abers

Denialism and Populism: Two Sides of a Coin in Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil

Government and Opposition | 2022

  • Abstract

    This article analyses the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Brazil's populist radical right (PRR), as well as the responses of PRR actors to the pandemic, during the period from March 2020 to October 2021. Despite high death rates and declining popularity in the final months of that period, the Brazilian president consistently maintained a denialist narrative that incorporated key aspects of populist ideology. Based on the analysis of opinion surveys, documents, online messages and secondary sources, we argue that explaining this denialism requires understanding Brazil's radical-right populism as more than an ideology: it is a social movement. The impacts of the pandemic on Bolsonaro's PRR government and its responses can only be understood by simultaneously analysing the top-down actions of the leader and the bottom-up role of bolsonarismo – that is, the broad coalition of actors who actively support the radical-right project. The case of bolsonarismo suggests that literature on populism in general would profit from taking right-wing movements more seriously as co-producers of populist rhetoric and practices.


    Government and Opposition

    Number of Pages


    Marisa von Bülow

    Formerly Associate

    Prof. Dr. Rebecca Neaera Abers

    University of Brasília

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