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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Populism: Pathology or Panacea? (PLIT10114)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to introduce students to one of the most complex and challenging phenomena in contemporary politics: populism. We will analyse existing theorizations of populism; the major justifications and criticisms of it, some comparative case studies, and will conclude with examining the causes of populist politics.
Course description This course aims to introduce students to one of the most complex and challenging phenomena in contemporary politics: populism. We shall approach populism from four different directions which will match the four key sections of the course: (1) conceptually, we will survey and assess various theorizations of populism including the notions of populism as a discourse, ideology and political style; (2) analytically, we will explore both justifications and condemnations of populism; (3) comparatively, we will examine various regional contexts in which populism has gained traction, paying attention to both left-wing and right-wing movements and parties; and (4) critically, we will probe the causes of populist politics and the means by which it proceeds.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who lack the compulsory pre-requisites but have completed comparable courses should contact the Course Organiser to confirm if they are eligible to take this course.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Section for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 85 %, Practical Exam 15 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Tutorial participation 15%
Essay 1 2000 words 40%
Essay 2 2500 words 45%

Essay 1 involves a response to a question from a pre-set list (topics to be decided ; they will change annually). Essay 2 will involve students discussing an example of populist politics from the recent past that can be examined with the theoretical resources we have developed in this course. This means that students cannot simply recount "what has happened", but will have to make use of the empirical, normative and critical tools acquired during the semester. Students may select an event about which they have read on the news or may choose to work on a topic that has affected them more directly, perhaps as members of a political movement or such like. More guidance on this will be provided during the course. The tutorials (Practical Examination) will be assessed by marking students' participation (see above). Further, all students will be asked to submit weekly definitions of key concepts, which will not be marked but serve as conceptual cornerstones of the coursework.
Feedback Essays will be returned with feedback within 15 working days of submission.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. understand different conceptualizations of populism
  2. comprehend various justificatory and critical perspectives on populism
  3. grasp the complexity of regional varieties of populist movements and parties
  4. reflect on the historical and social causes that explain the rise of populist politics
  5. contribute to discussions about how polities and citizens may respond to populism
Reading List
Kaltwasser, Cristóbal Rovira, Paul Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo and Pierre Ostiguy, The Oxford Handbook of Populism. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Laclau, Ernesto. On Populist Reason. London/New York: Verso, 2005.
March, Luke. Radical Left Parties in Europe. New York: Routledge, 2011.
Mudde, Cas. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Mudde, Cas, and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. Populism: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Müller, Jan-Werner. What Is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.
Panizza, Francisco, ed. Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. London/New York: Verso, 2005.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students should have strengthened their skills in:
- analysing evidence and using this to develop and support a line of argument,
- presenting and discussing information orally
-synthesizing theoretical knowledge and applying to real-world cases

KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Luke March
Tel: (0131 6)50 4241
Course secretaryMs Agata Lebiedzinska
Tel: (01316) 515197
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