Skip to main content

Pappas, Takis S. Populism and liberal democracy: a comparative and theoretical analysis. Oxford University Press, 2019.


Based on an original definition of modern populism as “democratic illiberalism” and many years of meticulous research, Takis Pappas marshals extraordinary empirical evidence from Argentina, Greece, Peru, Italy, Venezuela, Ecuador, Hungary, the United States, Spain, and Brazil to develop a comprehensive theory about populism. He addresses all key issues in the debate about populism and answers significant questions of great relevance for today’s liberal democracy, including: • What is modern populism and how can it be differentiated from comparable phenomena like nativism and autocracy? • Where in Latin America has populism become most successful? Where in Europe did it emerge first? Why did its rise to power in the United States come so late? • Is Trump a populist and, if so, could he be compared best with Venezuela’s Chávez, France’s Le Pens, or Turkey’s Erdoğan? • Why has populism thrived in post-authoritarian Greece but not in Spain? And why in Argentina and not in Brazil? • Can populism ever succeed without a charismatic leader? If not, what does leadership tell us about how to challenge populism? • Who are “the people” who vote for populist parties, how are these “made” into a group, and what is in their minds? • Is there a “populist blueprint” that all populists use when in power? And what are the long-term consequences of populist rule? • What does the expansion, and possibly solidification, of populism mean for the very nature and future of contemporary democracy? Populism and Liberal Democracy will change the ways the reader understands populism and imagines the prospects of liberal democracy.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Part I Populism in Theory
    • What is Populism?
    • How to Distinguish Populists from Non-Populists?
    • What Causes Populism?
  • Part II Populism in Action
    • How and Where Does Populism Thrive?
    • How do Populists Govern?
    • Who is the Populist Voter?
    • How Does Populism Endanger Democracy?

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.