ASTK15493U CANCELLED - SEMINAR: The rise of populism: actors, causes and implications

Volume 2017/2018

This course focuses on the political nature, causes, consequences and implications of the emergence and presence of populist attitudes and parties in pluralist political systems. The course will provide a rigorous review of the most recent developments and state-of-art literature in the field and it will help students to familiarise with the complexities of this wide and blossoming phenomenon. Also, the course will delve into the commonalities and particularities of left- and right-wing populism and the values and objectives of populist parties in each side of the ideological spectrum. Next, the course will assess the possible explanations that may account for the emergence of populist attitudes and populist parties, as well as the reasons for which populism has not appeared in some countries (yet). Last, it will assess the consequences of the existence of populism in modern societies, with a specific focus on the future of liberal democratic States. The course is centred on regular reading and participation in class, and it places a strong emphasis on recent research literature.

Learning Outcome


  • Understand the meaning and the diverse approaches to the phenomenon of populism

  • Explore the causes and the effects of the existence of populist attitudes and populist parties

  • Learn about the different expressions and dimensions of populism in a comparative way



  • This seminar will help students to apply the theoretical foundations of populism into a case-study of a (dubious) populist actor

  • They will be able to critically read research articles and identify their weaknesses and strong points

  • They will learn how to interpret quantitative empirical evidence from research articles

  • They will be able to train their skills in designing and writing a short empirical research paper, as we will proceed step by step, and closely follow their progress throughout the seminar.

Block 1: Overview and theoretical approach

1. Introduction
Preview of the course; assign student presentations, discuss prior understandings of the term and brief summary of the nature of literature on populism

2. What is populism? A theoretical approach
How has been populism been defined in political science? Which are the different perspectives on the term? How do we empirically operationalise it?

Akkerman, A., Mudde, C. & Zaslove, A., 2014. How Populist Are the People? Measuring Populist Attitudes in Voters. Comparative Political Studies, 47(9), pp.1324–1353.
Mudde, C., 2004. The Populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition, 39(4), pp.542–563.
Mudde, C. & Rovira Kaltwasser, C., 2017. Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taggart, P., 2000. Populism, Buckingham; Philadelphia: Open University Press.

3. Who are the populists and how are they? An overview
Populism is multifaceted and boundless phenomenon that has to be distinguished in its diverse manifestations in northern Europe, southern Europe, Latin America, US, etc.

Mudde, C. & Rovira Kaltwasser, C., 2013. Exclusionary vs. inclusionary populism: comparing contemporary Europe and Latin America. Government and Opposition, 48(2), pp.147–174.
Oesch, D., 2008. Explaining Workers’ Support for Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe: Evidence from Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, and Switzerland. International Political Science Review, 29(3), pp.349–373.

4. Populism and ideology
Populism is a ‘thin-centered’ ideology that attaches to it some common values. But the public policies and perspectives on how societies should develop and evolve crucially depends on the ideology of the populist party.

Daenekindt, S., de Koster, W. & van der Waal, J., 2017. How people organise cultural attitudes: cultural belief systems and the populist radical right. West European Politics, on-line first, pp.1–21.
Judis, J.B., 2016. The populist explosion. How the Great Recession transformed American and European politics, New York: Columbia Global Reports (Chapter 5).
Judis, J.B., 2016. The populist explosion. How the Great Recession transformed American and European politics, New York: Columbia Global Reports (Chapter 6).
Otjes, S. & Louwerse, T., 2015. Populists in Parliament: Comparing Left-Wing and Right-Wing Populism in the Netherlands. Political Studies, 63(1), pp.60–79.

5. Research paper advice
Individual meeting between the student and the teacher to discuss the topic of the research paper, its relevance, the theoretical approach and the empirical strategy (20 minutes per student). The following meetings will be hold upon request by the student.

Block 2: The causes of populism

6. Why populism emerges?
Which mechanisms explain the emergence of populist parties? Are the reasons accounting for the rise of populism common across democracies?

de Vries, C. & Hoffmann, I., 2016. Fear not Values. Eupinions, 3. Retrieved from: https:/​/​​fileadmin/​files/​user_upload/​EZ_eupinions_Fear_Study_2016_ENG.pdf
Golder, M., 2016. Far Right Parties in Europe. Annual Review of Political Science, 19(1), pp.477–497.
Kriesi, H. et al., 2006. Globalization and the transformation of the national political space: Six European countries compared. European Journal of Political Research, 45(6), pp.921–956.

7. Who are the populists and who votes for populist parties?
Which are the individual-level variables that explain the emergence of populist attitudes? Are these endogenous to the presence of a populist party? Which parties do populist individuals support when there is electoral supply of a populist party? And when there is not?

Anduiza, E., Guinjoan, M. & Rico, G. The mobilization of populist attitudes. Working paper.
Elchardus, M. & Spruyt, B., 2016. Populism, Persistent Republicanism and Declinism: An Empirical Analysis of Populism as a Thin Ideology. Government and Opposition, 51(1), pp.111–133.
Lupu, N., 2010. Who Votes for chavismo?: Class Voting in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. Latin American Research Review, 45(1), pp.7–32.
Rico, G. & Anduiza, E., 2016. Economic Correlates of Populist Attitudes: An Analysis of Nine European Countries in the Wake of the Great Recession. Acta Politica, forthcoming.
Spruyt, B., Keppens, G. & van Droogenbroeck, F., 2016. Who Supports Populism and What Attracts People to It? Political Research Quarterly, 69(2), pp. 335-346.

8. Populism and the eradication of the participation gap
Are individuals with populist attitudes more likely to show interest in politics, vote at elections and engage in political participation? To what extent populist attitudes may serve as a moderating factor of some socio-economic features long thought to be constraining factors of political engagement?

Allred, N., Hawkins, K.A. & Ruth, S.P., 2015. The Impact of Populism on Liberal Democracy, Paper presented at the 8th Congreso de la Asociación Latinoamericana de Ciencia Política, Lima, Peru, 22-24 July 2015.
Anduiza, E., Guinjoan, M. & Rico, G., Populism, participation and political equality. Paper presented at the CVAP Seminar, UCPH, 9th March 2017.
Aslanidis, P., 2016. Populist Social Movements of the Great Recession. Mobilization: An International Journal, 21(3), pp.301–321.

9. Negative cases: why populist parties fail to success in some countries?
Although populist parties are a common phenomenon in Europe and America, some countries have not seen (yet) the rise of populist parties or movements as such. Why is it so? Is a demand-side question (no populist attitudes among voters) or a supply-side one (lack of a populist party, constraining electoral system)?

Art, D., 2007. Reacting to the Radical Right: Lessons from Germany and Austria. Party Politics, 13(3), pp.331–349.
McDonnell, D., 2008. The Republic of Ireland: The Dog That Hasn’t Barked in the Night? In D. Albertazzi & D. McDonnell, eds. Twenty-first century populism: the spectre of western European democracy. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

10. Populism as an emotional state? Anger, anxiety and the growth of populist attitudes
Populist movements have often been depicted as highly emotionally charged episodes, with anger generally believed to be one crucial driving mechanism to explain the emergence of populist attitudes. How emotions may contribute to the formation of populist attitudes and, eventually, the vote for populist parties?

Demertzis, N. (2006). Emotions and Populism. In Clarke, S. et al. (eds.). Emotion, Politics and Society. London: Palgrave Macmillan (103–22).
Rico, G. Anduiza, E. Guinjoan, M., 2017. The emotional underpinning of populist attitudes, Swiss Political Science Review, forthcoming.
Valentino, N. a. et al., 2011. Election Night’s Alright for Fighting: The Role of Emotions in Political Participation. The Journal of Politics, 73(1), pp.156–170.

11. Case presentations
Individual presentations of a (dubious) case-study of populism. Students will present their arguments on whether the subject/​party/​organisation under scrutiny is populist or not based on the theoretical tools provided in the class. Case-studies are listed in the Appendix.

12. Case presentations
Individual presentations of a (dubious) case-study of populism. Students will present their arguments on whether the subject/​party/​organisation under scrutiny is populist or not based on the theoretical tools provided in the class. Case-studies are listed in the Appendix.

Concluding block: The consequences of populism

13. Populism: a threat or an opportunity for democracy?
Populism has been considered to be one of the major challenges to contemporary democracy by some, yet others defend that this is the first and foremost a democratizing force, which will bring higher implication in politics, transparency and direct democracy. In any case, whether populism has a positive or negative impact on democracy is not only a theoretical, but also an empirical question.

Arditi, B., 2004. Populism as a Spectre of Democracy: A Response to Canovan. Political Studies, 52(1), pp.135–143.
Canovan, M., 1999. Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy. Political Studies, 47(1), pp.2–16.
Mudde, C. & Rovira Kaltwasser, C., 2012a. Populism: Corrective and threat to democracy? In C. Mudde & C. Rovira Kaltwasser, eds. Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or Corrective for Democracy?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 205–224.
Mudde, C. & Rovira Kaltwasser, C., 2012b. Populism and (liberal) democracy: a framework for analysis. In C. Mudde & C. Rovira Kaltwasser, eds. Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or Corrective for Democracy?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp. 1–26.

14. Discussion and review

The only requisite of the course is to have knowledge at the level of the bachelor programme in political science, especially statistics and methodology. Most of the readings of the course include an empirical quantitative approach to the phenomenon of populism. The students will learn how to interpret empirical findings, and they will be required to implement empirical analysis on their research paper –yet this can be either quantitative or qualitative.
The seminar is taught during the fourteen weeks of the autumn semester. Course activities combine classroom discussions of the readings, group-based exercises (some of which are aimed at supporting the development of research ideas for empirical research papers), activities to support the paper writing process and to provide feedback, and personalised assessment of the evolution of the research paper.
The assessment will be based on a classroom presentation of a (dubious) populist political actor, and the writing of a 15/20-pages research paper, where students connect their insights from the literature to empirical case studies or a small comparative analysis.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel written assignment
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

Passed/Not passed