Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Cultural Codes in Crisis: Unsettled Civil Spheres in Brexit, the 2016 US Presidential Election, and the 2017 German Federal Election

Project description

When populists gain in democratic elections

Populism is rising. While some academics and political commentators warn this is a threat for the stability of liberal democracies, others see it as a sign of democratic resilience. One thing is for certain, populism is rocking the boat. From Brexit in the United Kingdom to the rise of the far-right AfD party in Germany and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, populism is challenging foundational elements of Western democratic social orders. The EU-funded CODE_FLUX project will research political campaigns and media coverage of these three democratic votes. It will investigate the scope and intensity of these challenges, focusing on the meaning structures, or cultural codes and justification narratives. The project will use structural hermeneutics (qualitative) and a digital technique of computational hermeneutics (quantitative).


Populism, ethno-nationalism, and isolationism have rippled through recent elections in Western democracies, unsettling the multicultural, globalist, and neoliberal trajectories many had assumed were durable and determined. Brexit in the UK, Donald Trump’s victory in the USA, and the strong showing of the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) in Germany’s 2017 federal election upended the conventional wisdom and drew deep cultural and social cleavages to the fore. This study approaches these developments as manifestations of severe challenges to foundational cultural elements that control, anchor, and organize liberal, Western democratic social orders. By investigating these dueling political campaigns and press coverage that narrated these three democratic votes, this project examines the scope and intensity of these challenges. The study focuses on meaning structures, or cultural codes and justification narratives, that these events’ principal actors performed in effort to move citizens to vote, and specifies the interpretive resources citizens drew upon to justify their voting actions. In effort to innovate methodologically, the study uses two frameworks to investigate each of these sites, one qualitative, called structural hermeneutics, and one a quantitative, digital technique called computational hermeneutics. Through its investigation of Brexit, the rise of Trumpism and the 2016 US presidential election, and the rise and institutionalization of the AfD in Germany, this study addresses issue of the foundational elements of culture, and explains how these structures came to be agitated into a state of flux.



Net EU contribution
€ 251 002,56
Via calepina 14
38122 Trento

See on map

Nord-Est Provincia Autonoma di Trento Trento
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Partners (1)