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Unit information: Populism in 2020/21

Unit name Populism
Unit code POLI30039
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Wyatt
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit investigates the growing salience of populist ideas, populist parties and movements in contemporary politics. The unit will survey the development of populism in selected cases in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Students will probe and debate the recent growth of populist politics in pursuit of explanations. They will also be asked to consider other ways of understanding populism, including interpretive and anthropological approaches to the phenomena. The wider literature on populism will be introduced and it will be read alongside case material. Students will thus be able to critically assess the validity of the conceptual literature on populism.

The unit aims are:

- To introduce students to different approaches to studying populism
- To illustrate different ways of understanding populism through explanation and interpretation
- To develop student’s knowledge of specific populist parties, populist leaders and movements
- To help students develop their advanced writing and presentation skills

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate a clear understanding of key theoretical and comparative literature on populism
2. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of populist politics in selected cases
3. critically assess the extent of, and limits to, strategies based on populist appeals in selected cases
4. integrate empirical evidence into theoretically and conceptually grounded arguments
5. judge the validity of different conceptual approaches to the study of populism
6. interpret populist ideologies and strategies in relation to ‘everyday politics’ and cultural context

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Summative essay 1 – 2000 words (25% weighting - assesses learning outcomes 1 - 5)
Summative essay 2 – 2500 words (75% weighting - assesses all learning outcomes)

Reading and References

Robert Barr (2009), ‘Populists, Outsiders and Anti-Establishment Politics’, Party Politics, 15/1, pp.29-48

Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo & Pierre Ostiguy (eds) (2017), The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Benjamin Moffitt (2016), The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

Francisco Panizza (ed) (2005), Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London, Verso.

Matthijs Rooduijn (2014), ‘The Nucleus of Populism: In Search of the Lowest Common Denominator’, Government and Opposition, 49/4, pp.573-599

Andrew Wyatt (2013), ‘Populism and Politics in Contemporary Tamil Nadu’, Contemporary South Asia, 21/4, pp.365-381.