400814 :Politics and Society in Comparative Perspective

General info

Instruction language English
Type of Instruction Lectures and Seminars (Lecture schedule)
Type of exams Written exam and paper (Examination schedule)
Course load:6 ECTS credits
Blackboard InfoLink to Blackboard (When you see 'Guest are not allowed in this course', please login at Blackboard itself)


prof. dr. P.H.J. Achterberg (Coordinator)

dr. K. Abts


This course aims to:

  • Familiarize students with comparative research on politics and society in general, and populism in particular in Western European countries
  • Investigate theoretically populism as an ideology, discourse and style, as well as its relationship with democracy
  • Analyze and theoretically explain relations between politics and society in general, and populism in particular
  • Let students formulate their own research ideas, and carry them out in a small scale paper.


Many Western countries have witnessed the rise of so-called Populist Radical Right Parties and Movements over the last few decades. It is important to note that this populist phenomenon stretches further than 'just' the rise of populist parties in these nations - the trend towards populism is also noticeable in the norms and values in everyday life, and in communicative styles used by other political actors. This course will offer a comprehensive overview of the theoretical and empirical perspectives pertaining politics and society in general and the phenomenon of populism in particular. In the course, on many occasion, a comparative perspective - that is, comparing groups, times or nations - will be used to clarify theoretical and empirical issues. During the classes, we investigate theoretically the concept of populism by defining it as an ideology, a discourse and/or a political style as well as disentangle the relationship between populism and democracy. In our cross-national approach, different variants of populism across the world – especially the comparison of left wing and right wing populism in Western Europe and Latin America – are compared. Besides, we connect the populist Zeitgeist with general theories about cleavage theory by investigating whether or not and how voting behavior is still related to social structure in terms of social class and religious affiliation. In essence, we will disentangle the causes of populist voting primarily focusing on social developments, such as the impact of immigration, unemployment or accelerating social change as well as connecting it to anti-immigrant feelings, political cynicism, anomie, or relative deprivation. Last but not least, the course is also oriented to general changes in political communication at the level of agenda-setting, priming and framing.


The course is based on 13 meetings in the form of seminars. Students are expected to prepare themselves by reading all assigned literature in advance. During the seminars the students are invited to discuss aspects of the literature, to think about new avenues for empirical research with respect to the research they have read. While every student is asked to read all assigned literature, and prepare questions to the questions above, every meeting one or more students are appointed to take the lead in a particular session. These students are expected to turn in their answers (on paper and via email) on pre-defined questions to the lecturers. These answers – formulated in the format of a paper written individually – will be graded, and will constitute a part of the final grade of this course.

The weekly meetings require a lot of active involvement by students in terms of a lot of do-it-yourself preparation in this course.

The final grade is a weighted average of a paper (35%) and the written final exam (65%)


Compulsory Reading

  1. to be announced on blackboard.

Compulsory for