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Project Seminar: The Populist and Radical Right and Its Impact on Democracy – Comparative Perspectives

Prof. Dr. Michael Minkenberg

MASS Zentralmodul/MASS „Politik und Kultur“/MASS „Migration, Ethnizität, Ethnozentrismus“/ MES Politik
6/9 ECTS
Wednesday: 11:15 - 12:45 Uhr
Beginning: 10.04.19
Room: AM 202

This research oriented seminar explores the question of impact by the populist and radical right in established democracies in Europe and beyond; it applies a clear focus on how these groups and parties affect the quality and functioning of democracy, rather than affecting other actors or particular policies. To accomplish this research goal, the seminar is organized in three parts. Part I begins by laying the conceptual foundations of what we understand by populism and the radical right, based on a thorough discussion of relevant literature, and then moves on to address concepts of democracy (definitions and types) and how they might be affected by populism and the radical right. Part I concludes by clarifying how to measure impact empirically. Part II identifies levels and kinds of impact and applies these insights to a macro-level comparative perspective. This part focuses on empirical evidence of democratic backsliding or the emergence of deficiencies and its possible relationship to the rise of populism and the radical right over the last 20-30 years. This is done by connecting the literature on indicators of democratic quality (Freedom House, Vanhanen and others) in large-n and quantitative comparisons with the role of populism and the radical right in the political process across many countries, in Western Europe, in Eastern Europe, in non-European democracies. Part III is organized as a workshop on June 27 and 28 where students present brief country case research papers (10-15 pp.). The countries to be covered are classified according to the strength and role of the radical right: classical cases of the radical right in opposition and a cordon sanitaire (France, Belgium), the special case of Germany, the radical right in government in Western Europe (Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy) and in Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) as well as the case of the United States with a radicalization of an establishment party and finally a populist government.

Brigitte Geissel u.a.,“Measuring the quality of democracy: Introduction” In Int. Pol. Sc. Review 37 (2016), S. 571-579; Cas Mudde, “Three decades of populist radical right parties in Western Europe: So what?” In: Europ. J of Pol. Research Bd. 52 (2013), S. 1-19;  Michael Minkenberg, “Political Opportunity Structures and the Mobilization of Anti-Immigration Actors:  Modeling Effects on Immigrant Political Incorporation.” In J. Hochschild et al. (eds.), Outsiders No More? Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation. (Oxford Univ. Press), pp. 241-253.

Prerequisites for Participation:
Very good English language proficiency (active/passive); relevant basic political/social science competence (BA in sociology, political science or similar)..


  • Regular Attendance (incl. occasional small homework assignments) plus 10-15 pp. research paper on a country case at the workshop June 27-28 (100 % for 6 ECTS or 50 % for 9 ECTS).
  • Regular Attendance (incl. occasional small homework assignments) plus 10-15 pp. research paper on a country case at the workshop June 27-28 plus full research paper by Sep. 30 (100 % for 9 ECTS).