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CREES Brown Bag. “Disassembling Populism (and Putting It Back Together Again).”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

Kevin Deegan-Krause, associate professor of comparative politics, Wayne State University; and CREES research associate. Sponsor: CREES.

The word “populism” is so burdened by multiple meanings and political rhetoric that it has become almost unusable, but use of the term is almost unavoidable. If we are to use “populism” productively, we need to shift our understanding of the concept from a question of core identity to a description of party appeals. This allows us to neutralize the term’s negative connotations by allowing that all parties use populist appeals to some degree. We can then address a party’s use of populist appeals by measuring its distinctly non-populist appeals, which are usually less bound up with normative judgments. A preliminary analysis using the case of Slovakia shows a relatively close empirical fit among the theoretical elements in the existing literature, and suggests two distinct categories of populist appeals: the outward-looking appeals that vary strongly with a party’s relationship to power, and inward-looking appeals that remain more stable over time. Use of these by politicians may offer clues to the origination, appeal, and longevity of populist and non-populist appeals. This approach also lends itself to innovative uses of new Web technology that allow scholars to gather, aggregate, and work with multiple party-related data sources from many countries.

Kevin Deegan-Krause is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Wayne State University. He received a Ph.D. in Government and International Studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2000. His research in comparative politics emphasizes Central European politics, democracy, political institutions and nationalism. His first book, Elected Affilinites: Democracy and Party Competition in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, was published by Stanford University Press in 2006. The Structure of Political Competition in Western Europe, co-edited with Zsolt Enyedi, appeared in 2010, published both as a Routledge Book and a special issue of West European Politics. He is the recipient of the Truman and Fulbright Scholarships as well as IREX Individual Advanced Research Grants. More information can be found at: