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Latin American Populism in the 21st Century



Populism in Latin America has been the subject to scholarly attention since the 1930s. The phenomenon, however, spread globally, and the term currently describes political leadership in Europe, the U.S., Latin America, and Russia. Not surprisingly, research became increasingly comparative, and literature moved to a shared concept of the phenomenon, in which populism is understood as a set of ideas that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic camps: “the pure people” versus “the corrupt elite.” It argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people.

This course will provide a deeper understanding of populism in theory and practice, focusing on the Latin American Populism of the twenty-first century. It will address not only the causes and consequences of the emergence of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador but also the recent rise of populist leaders on the right side of the political spectrum, such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. The lectures will address the concepts of populism from an historic perspective, provide tools for the analysis of populist discourse, discuss the ambivalent relationship between populism and democracy, compare the phenomenon in Europe and Latin America, and debate the relationship between social media and populist forces in the region.

Course objectives

By the end of this seminar students will be able to do the following:

1. Use empirical and theoretical knowledge to outline the concepts of populism, and compare this phenomenon in Latin America and Western Europe.
2. Analyze the contemporary populist forces Latin America and discuss their distinctive features.
3. Critically discuss the ambivalent relationship between populism and democracy along with its causes and responses.
4. Formulate a research question and develop research paper.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load: 280 hours
Seminars: 28 hours
Studying the literature and preparing the presentation: 110 hours
Written assignments and final paper: 142 hours

Assessment method

The weight for each of these assessments is as follows:
1. 20% — active participation in the course
2. 30% — presentation
3. 10% — paper proposal
4. 40% — final assignment


Blackboard is used mainly for organizational purposes

Reading list



See general information on Year 3.