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Populism and Democracy (Sarah de Lange & Roula Nezi)

May 31, 2021 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Speakers: Sarah De Lange (University of Amsterdam) and Roula Nezi (University of Surrey)

Populism and democracy have a love-hate relationship. While the emphasis of popular sovereignty in populism can be said to be inherently democratic, its anti-pluralist message seems at odds with a liberal understanding of democracy. In this session of the Populism Seminar our speakers will discuss pressing questions on the relationship between populism and (liberal) democracy.

Note: Registration closes 10 minutes before the start of the session.


Sarah de LangeThe populist radical right and academic freedom: promoting pluralism or constraining academic freedom?

Across the world populist radical right parties are increasingly focusing on (higher) education as an area of contestation. Populist radical right efforts to curtail academic freedom in countries such as Brazil, Hungary, Poland and Turkey have been extensively documented, and have condemned by international institutions, such as However, about the approach taken to academic freedom by the populist radical right in Western Europe less is known.  This presentation explores the approach taken to academic freedom and higher education by populist radical right parties in Western Europe along three dimensions:

  • Programmatic: (How do populist radical right parties discuss academic freedom and higher education in their electoral manifestos, and what kinds of policy reforms do they propose?)
  • Parliamentary: (How do populist radical right parties discuss academic freedom and higher education in the parliamentary arena, and how do they vote on reform proposals?)
  • Extraparliamentary: (What kinds of extra-parliamentary strategies (e.g. suing scholars, reporting points for left-wing teachers) do populist radical right parties employ to curtail academic freedom?)

The preliminary exploration attempts to identify relevant patterns in approached taken by populist radical right parties across Western Europe, and present potential explanations for such patterns. It will also discuss what populist radical right parties approaches towards academic freedom can tell us about their relationship to liberal democracy.

Roula Nezi: The People and the Nation: Conceptions of Nationhood and the Support for Radical Parties in Europe (with Carsten Wegscheider, Uni Salzburg)

Voters and parties hold different views on who belongs to the nation and to Europe. Previous research suggests that radical left parties promote social and cultural diversity while radical right parties are seen as exclusionary and focus on the ethnic homogeneity of the nation. Despite the centrality of national identity, especially for the radical right parties, we know relatively little about voters’ self-understanding of nationalism and Europeanism and how it affects their level of support for radical parties.  By employing a multilevel latent class analysis and regression models on individual level data across 19 European countries we demonstrate that inclusionary and exclusionary conceptions of nationhood are related to the support for radical left and radical right parties, respectively. Our results thus make important contribution to the study of nationalism as well as to the study of voting behaviour in a comparative European perspective.


May 31, 2021
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


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