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

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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, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13569317.2015.1034465

European Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession, edited by Hanspeter Kriesi & Takis S Pappas

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About the Book

This volume, covering twenty-five populist parties in seventeen European states, presents the first comparative study of the impact of the Great Recession on populism.

Based on a common analytical framework, chapters offer a highly differentiated view of how the interplay between economic and political crises helped produce patterns of populist development across Europe.

Populism grew strongly in Southern and Central-Eastern Europe, particularly where an economic crisis developed in tandem with a political one. Nordic populism went also on the rise, but this region’s populist parties have been surprisingly responsible. In Western Europe, populism actually contracted during the crisis – with the exception of France.

As for the two Anglo-Saxon countries, while the UK has experienced the rise of a strong anti-European populist force, Ireland stands out as a rare case in which no such a party has risen in spite of the severity of its economic and political crises.


Published: May 2015

Publisher: ECPR Press


Book Review Symposium on Nadia Urbinati’s Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth, and the People, Lasse Thomassen, Jan Biba, Jeffrey Edward Green and John P. McCormick

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In this book review symposium, Jan Biba, Jeffrey Edward Green and John P. McCormick take on the work of democratic theorist, Nadia Urbinati. In Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth and the People, Urbinati argues for what she calls a ‘diarchic’ conception of democracy, whereby opinion and will formation must not collapse into one another (hence diarchy rather than mono-archy). This has implications for how we think about issues such as representation and pluralism. It also means that Urbinati is sceptical of populism, whether of the left or the right. The problem with populism is that opinion and will formation collapse in the figure of the people. Accordingly, for Urbinati, the people can and should be understood as a plurality, as never one with itself and only existing through representations of it. Her argument also has implications for the question of equality. As she argues, in a diarchic version of democracy, political equality is to be valued very highly, and she argues for the importance of campaign finance reform. Thus, with Urbinati’s diarchic democracy we get a conception of democracy that is liberal, pluralist and representative, but also highly critical of actually existing forms of democracy.

Published in European Political Science, Advance Online Publication, 20 March 2015, http://www.palgrave-journals.com/eps/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html#20032015

Contents of the Symposium:

(1) Lasse Thomassen, ‘Introduction: democracy disfigured’, European Political Science advance online publication 20 March 2015; doi: 10.1057/eps.2015.12, www.palgrave-journals.com/eps/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/eps201512a.html

(2) Jan Biba, ‘Ιs representative democracy without disfiguration possible?’, European Political Science advance online publication 20 March 2015; doi: 10.1057/eps.2015.13, www.palgrave-journals.com/eps/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/eps201513a.html

(3) Jeffrey Edward Green, ‘Figuring out democracy’, European Political Science advance online publication 20 March 2015; doi: 10.1057/eps.2015.14, www.palgrave-journals.com/eps/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/eps201514a.html

(4) John P. McCormick, ‘Nadia Urbinati’s polemical defence of representative democracy: populism, athenian democracy and roman republicanism’, European Political Science advance online publication 20 March 2015; doi: 10.1057/eps.2015.15, www.palgrave-journals.com/eps/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/eps201515a.html

(5) Nadia Urbinati, ‘An answer to my critics’, European Political Science advance online publication 20 March 2015; doi: 10.1057/eps.2015.16, www.palgrave-journals.com/eps/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/eps201516a.html

Populism in power: Syriza’s challenge to Europe, Yannis Stavrakakis

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Syriza has increased its domestic popularity even as it confronts deep institutional resistance to its anti-austerity agenda. Yannis Stavrakakis argues that, in voicing the ‘despair and demands’ of the Greek people, Syriza has been able to convert populism in opposition into charismatic leadership in power.

Published online: 5 MAR 2015, in Juncture, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp. 273-280 DOI: 10.1111/j.2050-5876.2015.00817.x, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2050-5876.2015.00817.x/abstract

Vox populi or vox masculini? Populism and gender in Northern Europe and South America, Cas Mudde & Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser

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Conceptually, populism has no specific relationship to gender; in fact, gender differences, like all other differences within ‘the people’, are considered secondary, if not irrelevant, to populist politics. Yet populist actors do not operate in a cultural or ideological vacuum. So perhaps it is the national culture and broader ideology used by populists that determine their gender position. To explore this argument, we compare prototypical cases of contemporary populist forces in two regions: the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom) and the Dansk Folkeparti (DF, Danish People’s Party) in Northern Europe, and the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV, United Socialist Party of Venezuela) and the Bolivian Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS, Movement for Socialism) in South America. Populists in Northern Europe are predominantly right-wing, yet mobilize within highly emancipated societies, while populists in South America are mainly left-wing and mobilize in strongly patriarchal societies. Our analysis provides a somewhat muddled picture. Although populists do not necessarily have a clear view on gender issues, the latter are clearly influenced by ideology and region. While left-wing populists tend to be relatively progressive within their traditional South American context, right-wing populists mainly defend the status quo in their progressive Northern European context. However, in absolute terms, the relatively high level of gender equality already achieved in Northern Europe is at least as advanced as the one proposed by the populists in South America.

Published online: 26 Feb 2015, in Patterns of Prejudice, DOI:10.1080/0031322X.2015.1014197, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0031322X.2015.1014197#.VPymNPmsWAU

Populist Leaders and Coterie Charisma, Duncan McDonnell

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Is the relationship between populist leaders and those in their parties always charismatic? Although many scholars of populism assume this, the attribution of ‘charisma’ is invariably based on how leaders present themselves rather than how purported followers within parties perceive them. In line with the literature on charisma, this article takes the latter approach, using interviews conducted between 2009 and 2011 with 111 elected representatives and grassroots members (i.e. ‘the coterie’) to examine how three European populist leaders regularly termed ‘charismatic’ – Silvio Berlusconi, Christoph Blocher and Umberto Bossi – were viewed within their parties. The article finds evidence of three different leadership types, with Bossi very clearly satisfying the conditions for coterie charisma, Berlusconi largely (but not entirely) fulfilling them, and Blocher only partially doing so. Finally, it presents new data showing the very damaging effects of Bossi’s subsequent downfall on his party’s organisation.

Article first published online: 13 FEB 2015, Political Studies, DOI: 10.1111/1467-9248.12195, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9248.12195/full

Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent?, Stijn van Kessel

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Populism is a concept that is currently in vogue among political commentators and is, more often than not, used pejoratively. The phenomenon of populism is typically seen as something adverse and, in the European context, routinely related to xenophobic politics. What populism exactly is and who its representatives across Europe are, however, often remains unclear. This text has two main aims: to identify populist parties in 21st-century Europe and to explain their electoral performance. It argues that populist parties should not be dismissed as dangerous pariahs out of hand but, rather, that their rise tells us something about the state of representative democracy. The study also shows that the performance of populist parties is to a large extend dependent on their own ability to present themselves as credible alternatives to the established parties.

The study has a broad scope, including populist parties of various ideological kinds – thus moving beyond examples of the ‘right’ – and covering long-established Western European countries as well as post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It presents the results of an innovative mixed-methods research project, combining a fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) of 31 European countries with three in-depth case studies of the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Published: February 2015

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


Sample Chapter: http://www.palgrave.com/resources/sample-chapters/9781137414106_sample.pdf

‘The Guardian view of Europe’s populists: left or right, they are united by a worrying xenophobia’, Guardian Editorial, The Guardian

Αναφορές διεθνών ΜΜΕ

‘In Europe’s north, insurgent populist parties blame socialism; in the south they blame capitalism. But they all blame foreigners, and that must be wrong and dangerous’


Published in The Guardian, 1/2/2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/01/guardian-view-europe-populists-left-right-united-worrying-xenophobia

The Emergence of a New Party in the Italian Party System: Rise and Fortunes of the Five Star Movement, Nicolò Conti & Vincenzo Memoli

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This article examines the fortunes of the recently created Five Star Movement, a party that at its first general election in February 2013 became the most voted for party in Italy. It explains the success of this new party through citizens’ demands, patterns of party competition and institutional rules. Building on the interplay between popular demands and party supply, the study examines the overall political stance of this party and how it fits the policy priorities of citizens. By comparing it with other parties, the article investigates how the Five Star Movement distinguished itself from its competitors. Finally, the article examines how the electoral system has limited its emergence.

Published in West European Politics, 38(3), May 2015, pp. 516-534 (online: 13 Jan 2015), DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2014.996377, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01402382.2014.996377#.VXFXUM_tmko

The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, edited by Carlos de la Torre

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From the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to the Tea Party in the United States to the campaign to elect indigenous leader Evo Morales in Bolivia, modern populist movements command international attention and compel political and social change. When citizens demand “power to the people,” they evoke corrupt politicians, imperialists, or oligarchies that have appropriated power from its legitimate owners. These stereotypical narratives belie the vague and often contradictory definitions of the concept of “the people” and the many motives of those who use populism as a political tool.

In The Promise and Perils of Populism, Carlos de la Torre assembles a group of international scholars to explore the ambiguous meanings and profound implications of grassroots movements across the globe. These trenchant essays explore how fragile political institutions allow populists to achieve power, while strong institutions confine them to the margins of political systems. Their comparative case studies illuminate how Latin American, African, and Thai populists have sought to empower marginalized groups of people, while similar groups in Australia, Europe, and the United States often exclude people whom they consider to possess different cultural values. While analyzing insurrections in Latin America, advocacy groups in the United States, Europe, and Australia, and populist parties in Asia and Africa, the contributors also pose questions and agendas for further research.

This volume on contemporary populism from a comparative perspective could not be more timely, and scholars from a variety of disciplines will find it an invaluable contribution to the literature.

Published: January 2015

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


Spain: No Country for the Populist Radical Right? Sonia Alonso & Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser

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Although there is growing research interest in populist radical right (PRR) parties in Western Europe, little attention has been paid to the case of Spain – a country where these parties are almost non-existent or irrelevant from an electoral and political point of view. In a nutshell, we maintain that in contemporary Spain there is real demand for PRR parties, but three supply-side factors are impeding their electoral breakthrough and persistence: the cleavage structure of the country, the strategy of competition of the mainstream right and the electoral system. At the same time, we postulate that at least in the case of Spain the Great Recession has not improved the electoral odds of the PRR as such but rather facilitated the emergence of leftist populist forces.

Published in South European Society and Politics, online 13 December 2014, DOI:10.1080/13608746.2014.985448, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13608746.2014.985448#.VJEsciusWAV

The Place of the People in Post-Democracy. Researching ‘Antipopulism’ and Post-Democracy in Crisis-Ridden Greece, Giorgos Katsambekis

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The aim of this article is to investigate “antipopulism” as a distinct discursive repertoire that marginalizes “the people” as the legitimizing cornerstone of democracy. After providing an account of the Greek post-democratic transition from the mid-nineties onwards, I will then delve into what could be described as the “populism/anti-populism” ideologicopolitical divide, as it manifests in the Greek political system and also on the European level during the past few years, and especially within the ongoing crisis. The main hypothesis is that “anti-populism” can be seen as a crucial aspect of post-democracy, introducing what could be described as a peculiar Ideological State Apparatus in the Althusserian sense; a way to marginalize disagreement and democratic dissensus and discipline a public sphere in an age dominated by technocratic virtue, expert knowledge and ‘consensus politics’.

Published in POSTData: Revista de Reflexión y Análisis Político, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 555-582, http://www.revistapostdata.com.ar/2014/11/the-place-of-the-people-in-post-democracy-researching-antipopulism-and-post-democracy-in-crisis-ridden-greece-giorgos-katsambekis/

A Rising Populist Star. The Emergence and Development of the PPDD in Romania, Gherghina & Miscoiu

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The 2012 legislative elections in Romania have promoted a newly emerged political actor to the parliamentary arena. One year after its official creation the People’s Party Dan Diaconescu (PPDD) has mobilised a relevant amount of electoral support, ending third as the number of seats in Parliament. This article seeks to explain the political development of this populist party until its 2012 success. It uses a qualitative analysis based on primary (manifesto, organisational structure) and secondary (media reports, surveys) data. The analysis focuses on three dimensions: institutions (political competitors and party organisation), ideology, and attitudes (of the elites and voters).

Published in Debatte: Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe, DOI:10.1080/0965156X.2014.959325, online: 06 Oct 2014, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0965156X.2014.959325#.VDpJPvl_uAU

Varieties of Populism in a Changing Global Context. The Divergent Paths of Ergoğan and Kirchnerismo, S. Erdem Aytaç & Ziya Öni

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While the literature on populism is rich on specifying the characteristics of populist movements that distinguishes them from non-populists, much less attention has been paid on distinguishing between different types of populist movements. In this article we highlight and account for divergent trajectories of populist practice in two major emerging economies—Argentina and Turkey. We stress that both the Kirchner governments of Argentina and the Erdoğan governments of Turkey closely fit to the populist pattern of rule, yet a close analysis of their policies suggests a left-wing type of populism in Argentina and a right-wing type in Turkey. Beyond identifying divergent strands of populism in two national contexts, we also explain the mix of domestic and external factors that accounts for this contrasting pattern.

Published in Comparative Politics, Volume 47, Number 1, October 2014, pp. 41-59, http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cuny/cp/2014/00000047/00000001/art00004

Populism, Persistent Republicanism and Declinism: An Empirical Analysis of Populism as a Thin Ideology, Mark Elchardus & Bram Spruyt

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Populism is usually studied by looking at the electoral and rhetorical strategies of parties considered to be populist. In contrast, this article attempts to measure the support for the core propositions of populism among voters and explain the social differences in that support. On the basis of a survey of the Dutch-speaking population of Belgium (N: 2,330) we find that this support for populism turns out not to be directly influenced by a weak or uncertain economic position, by dissatisfaction with personal life or feelings of anomie. Support for populism appears foremost as a consequence of a very negative view of the evolution of society – declinism – and of the feeling of belonging to a group of people that is unfairly treated by society.

Published in Government and Opposition (early view), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/gov.2014.27, online: 30 September 2014, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9364377&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0017257X1400027X

What can we hold against populism?, Fabio Wolkenstein

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Populist movements have become key players in European politics. These movements are readily criticized by journalists or political rivals, yet none of the common objections to populism seems to arrest their success. This article turns to normative political theory to cultivate sensitivity to problems arising from some existing arguments against populism, and to explore possible alternatives. It offers a critical reading of prototypical liberal and conservative arguments against populism, and proposes that the principles of solidarity and procedure provide good grounds for a sustainable critique of populism.

Published online before print September 24, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0191453714552211, in Philosophy Social Criticism, http://psc.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/09/23/0191453714552211.abstract

Do mainstream parties adapt to the welfare chauvinism of populist parties?, Gijs Schumacher & Kees van Kersbergen

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Populist parties increasingly take a welfare chauvinistic position. They criticize mainstream parties for cutting and slashing welfare at the expense of the ‘native’ population and to the benefit of the ‘undeserving’ immigrant. Given the electoral success of populist parties, we investigate whether and when mainstream parties ignore, attack or accommodate welfare chauvinism. Using key theories of party behaviour, we test whether mainstream parties (1) respond immediately to populist parties, (2) respond with a time lag, or (3) respond only when they lose elections or are in opposition. Our quantitative analyses of party manifestos, speeches and policies of European mainstream and populist parties (1980–2012) show that mainstream parties adapt to populist parties on welfare chauvinism, but which parties adapt and when varies significantly. In our in-depth examinations of the Dutch and Danish cases, we highlight important cross-country and cross-party differences.

Published online before print September 22, 2014, doi: 10.1177/1354068814549345, in Party Politics, http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/09/22/1354068814549345.abstract

Megatrend Global Populism? From South America to the Occupy Movement, Alejandro Pelfini

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The purpose of this paper is to analyze the continuities or the “elective affinities” between the recent populist wave (or populist come back) in South America and the current Occupy Movement in order to trace the contours of an original populism at a global scale. The article starts with a brief definition of populism, continues with a brief evaluation of the recent return of populism in South America finishing with the analysis of the main connections with the current Occupy Movement: the experience of a crisis; the claims for more democracy and the exploration of a postneoliberal political economy. In societies with obscene levels of inequality such as what exists in many South American countries, populism does not seem to be a heresy or a pathology, but a rational alternative to solve problems rooted in a failed nation building processes. Increasing indignation as a generalize perception of non-experienced levels of inequality in the concentration of resources and power at the global level is at the basis of one can call a populist moment. It has to be discussed, if this populist moment also contains an original populist movement with global contours inside.

Chapter in Alexander Lenger & Florian Schumacher (Eds) Understanding the Dynamics of Global Inequality, Springer, 2015, pp. 199-211, http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-662-44766-6_10

Populist rhetoric in politics and media: A longitudinal study of the Netherlands, Linda Bos & Kees Brants

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Many claim that populism in the Netherlands has grown over the last 10 years; that it spreads among mainstream parties; that its success has to do with the media, who pay more and more attention to populist parties and immigration issues; but that it is difficult to distinguish between political populism intended for the media and populism by the media. In a longitudinal content analysis of newspapers, television news, talk shows and party political broadcasts, covering seven elections in nearly 20 years, these claims are put to the test. The picture that emerges is far more ambiguous than publicized opinion suggests, with no clear trend but a downward one in 2012.


Published online before print September 15, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0267323114545709, in European Journal of Communication, http://ejc.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/09/12/0267323114545709.abstract

Populism, Laura Grattan

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Populism is a style of political discourse and practice that calls for the return of power to the people. The term populism derives from the Latin populus, referring both to a people, as in a political community, and to the common people, as in the masses. The populist tradition thus recalls the popular assemblies of ancient Athens and the plebeian councils of the Roman Republic. In modern politics, populism draws its force from the ideal of popular sovereignty, which holds that citizens are the fundamental source of power and authority in a legitimate political order. Populist actors and leaders claim to embody or represent the voice of the sovereign people, often dramatizing a conflict that pits the common people against elite concentrations of economic, cultural, or governmental power. Because it promises to return power to the people, and exposes fault lines in established orders, populism raises ongoing questions about the meanings, limits, and prospects of democracy.


Published in The Encyclopedia of Political Thought, Online: 15 SEP 2014, DOI: 10.1002/9781118474396.wbept0808, John Wiley & Sons, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118474396.wbept0808/abstract

Ernesto Laclau: Post-Marxism, Populism and Critique, David Howarth

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Ernesto Laclau has blazed a unique trail in political theory and philosophy since the early 1970s. In so doing, he has articulated a range of philosophical and theoretical currents into a coherent alternative to mainstream models and practices of conducting social and political science. The editors have focused on work in three key areas:

Post-Marxist Political Theory: Discourse, Hegemony, Signification

Laclau has developed an original conception of post-Marxist political theory that is grounded on a materialist theory of discourse. The latter is constructed from a range of theoretical and philosophical sources, including poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, linguistic theory and post-analytical philosophy. The centerpiece of this approach is the category of hegemony, which develops Antonio Gramsci’s seminal contribution to Marxist theory, and is in turn connected to a web of related concepts, including articulation, dislocation, the logics of equivalence and difference, political identification, myth and social imaginary. These ideas have informed a number of empirical and theoretical studies associated with the Essex School of Discourse Theory.

Analyzing Populism

A central concern of Laclau’s writings has been the question of populism, both in Latin America where hebegan his interrogation of the phenomenon (especially the experience of Peronism), and then in his engagement with the “new social movements” and socialist strategy more generally. The concept of populism becomes a general way of exploring the “primacy of politics” in society.

Critical Engagements

Laclau is first and foremost an engaged intellectual who has consistently sought to theorize contemporary events and reality, and to debate with the leading intellectual figures of the day, with respect to questions of political principle and strategy. His recent debates with Judith Butler and Slavoj Žižek in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left, published in 2011 (London: Verso), exemplify this critical ethos. He continues to elaborate his approach by challenging and articulating related approaches, and by situating his work in connection to the democratic Left.

Published: September 2014

Publisher: Routledge