How to assess populist discourse through three current approaches, Mario E. Poblete


There are several disputes on what populism is, but currently there is probably greater controversy over how to measure it. If we focus on populism as discourse, we can see that there is little ontological consensus. Here, the resolution of epistemological controversies is much less auspicious. In fact, types of methodological approaches and techniques differ substantively. This review article analyses three perspectives on populism, which are representative of three contemporary efforts to assess populism as discourse: first, the poststructuralist approach based on Laclau’s theory; second, a mixed approach based on positivism, but employing hermeneutic techniques of textual analysis known as holistic grading; and third, content analysis, which is the most classical of these approaches, and the most quantitative, being based on counting phrases within texts. In spite of these differences, the approaches are in certain agreement: they employ a similar concept of populism, they accept that populism as discourse is triggered by certain structural factors and they identify the presence of a leader to catalyse populist discourse.

Published online: 07 May 2015, in the Journal of Political Ideologies, DOI: 10.1080/13569317.2015.1034465,