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Photo: “Protesting against PRI“, by Gabriel Saldana, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Aslanidis, Paris. “Is populism an ideology? A refutation and a new perspective.” Political Studies 64, no. 1_suppl (2016): 88-104.


The dominant theoretical paradigm originating in the work of Cas Mudde conceives of populism as a thin-centered ideology that focuses on the antagonism between people and elites against the backdrop of popular sovereignty. While this framework has contributed significantly to an improved scientific analysis of populism, it is argued in this article that its ideological connotations are ill-conceived both conceptually and methodologically, and that its normative implications and failure to acknowledge the graded nature of populist behavior hinder the further evolution of the field of populism studies. Combining insights from the work of Ernesto Laclau and the proponents of frame theory, the article suggests dropping the ideological clause and simply conceiving populism as a discursive frame. The article contends that frame analysis reveals a strong fit between discursive elements and cognitive features of populism, furnishing solid methodological foundations to conduct empirical research and encouraging cooperation with neighboring fields of social science.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.