SubjectsSubjects(version: 861)
Course, academic year 2019/2020
Sociological theories of populism - JSM579
Title: Sociological theories of populism
Czech title: Sociologické teorie populismu
Guaranteed by: Department of Sociology (23-KS)
Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Actual: from 2019
Semester: winter
Points: 8
E-Credits: 8
Examination process: winter s.:
Hours per week, examination: winter s.:1/1 Ex [hours/week]
Capacity: 25 / 25 (45)
Min. number of students: unlimited
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
Guarantor: Mgr. Tomáš Dvořák, Ph.D.
Teacher(s): Mgr. Tomáš Dvořák, Ph.D.
Last update: doc. PhDr. Dino Numerato, Ph.D. (07.10.2018)
This course provides an introduction to the main sociological theories of populism. The populist political phenomenon is analyzed from the point of view of the social dynamics of democracy and not only, as is the case with political science, from the point of view of institutional structures. The objective of this course, which is divided into lectures and seminars, is to provide the student with a sociological perspective on the transformations of democracy due to the pressure of populism. In the first part the main general theories will be analyzed (Germani, Laclau, Canovan), in the second part the contemporary theories of populism (Weyland, Mudde etc.) and in the third part the most paradigmatic cases of populism, such as Latin American, Italian, European, will be discussed. Finally, we will discuss forms of populism related to the modernization of society such as television populism, media populism or web-populism.
Course completion requirements
Last update: doc. PhDr. Dino Numerato, Ph.D. (07.10.2018)

Courses credits: 8 ECTS

Type of completion: Exam (Zk) (final essay evaluation) 

Assessment methods

Final essay (around 3000 words long) – 100 points max


Grading system

91 % and more =>          A

81-90 %            =>         B

71-80 %            =>         C

61-70 %            =>         D

51-60 %            =>         E

0-50 %              =>          F (failed)

Last update: doc. Mgr. Martin Hájek, Ph.D. (03.12.2019)

Teaching methods: Lectures and seminars. Participation in seminars is compulsory. Only one absence is tolerated, but it is advisable to contact me beforehand.



Lectures: Thursday 11.00 -12.20 (J3019)


Week 1 (11 October): Course introduction 

This introductory lecture will provide a brief overview of the course. The utility of sociological perspective for the understanding of contemporary populism will be demonstrated on several timely examples. 


Week 2 (18 October): Lecture 1: Main theoretical approaches and conceptual frameworks 

This lecture will discuss the first academic reflections of populism from sociological point of view. This lecture will provide an overview of main sociological theories used to understand the contemporary populism and its developments, in particular, the theories as follows: classical populism, neo-populism or contemporary populism.


Manuel Anselmi, Populism. An Introduction. Routledge, 2017, (Introduction and Chapter 1)


Week 3 (25 October):  Lecture 2: Classical theories of populism: Gino Germani and National populism in Latin America.

This lecture will deal with Gino Germani's theory of national populism. In particular, it will show the relationship between populism and modernization, between populism and social mobilization. The case of Argentine Peronism will be explained.

Literature: Manuel Anselmi, Populism. An Introduction. Routledge, 2017, (Chapter 2)


Week 4 (1 November): Seminar 1 Media populism and web-populism.

With the help of an expert, we will discuss the topic of media populism and web-populism. We will explain how social networks are used by populists.

Literature: Mazzoleni, G. (2008). Populism and the media. In D. Albertazzi & D. McDonnell (Eds.), Twenty-first century populism: The spectre of Western European democracy (pp. 49– 64). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.


Week 5 (8 November): Lecture 5: The contemporary debate on populism. In this lecture, we will analyze the contemporary debate on neopopulisms. We will examine the three main approaches: populism as an ideology, populism as a strategy and populism as a discursive style.


Gidron N, Bonikowski B. Varieties of Populism: Literature Review and Research Agenda, in Weatherhead Working Paper Series, No. 13-0004 ; 2013.


Week 6 (15 November): Lecture 6: Constitutional Populism and penal populism.

Two types of populism will be discussed, relating to the subject of justice and legal systems.


Paul Blokker, Constitutional Populism, a chapter from Routledge Handbook of Global Populism.


Week 7 (22 November): Lecture 7:  The theories of Margaret Canovan and Ernesto Laclau.

In this lecture, we will discuss the theories of Ernesto Laclau and Margaret Canovan, which are among the most important general theories on populism. In particular, we will explain how Laclau's thought was fundamental for the development of the Latin American left. On the other hand, we will underline how Margaret Canovan contributed to the development of an analytical theory of populism.


Manuel Anselmi, Populism. An Introduction. Routledge, 2017, (Chapter 5)


Week 8 (29 November): Lecture 8:  Latin American Populism.

The main social and political aspects of contemporary Latin American populism will be explained.

Literature: Carlos de la Torre, Populism and Nationalism in Latin America, Public, 24(3):1-16 · July 2017


 Week 9 (6 December): Seminar 2: Venezuelan Populism.

The case of Venezuelan populism from its inception to the present day will be addressed.

Literature: Manuel Anselmi, Populism and Quality of Democracy. Italy and Venezuela in Comparative Perspective, Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa, Il Mulino, 1/2015, January-April, pp. 35-54.


Week 10 (13 December): Lecture 10: European Populism.

The main types of European populism and their basic characteristics will be discussed.

Literature: THOMAS GREVEN, The Rise of Right-wing Populism in Europe and the United States.A Comparative Perspective, working paper.


Week 11 (20 December): Lecture 11: Italian Populism.

We will deal with the case of Italian populism, which is particularly paradigmatic.

Literature: Marco Tarchi (2015) Italy: the promised land of populism?, Contemporary Italian Politics, 7:3, 273-285,


Week 12. (10 January): Lecture 12:  Conclusions.


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