Populist and Alt-Right Politics

  • Summer schools
  • Department of Government
  • Application code SS-IR108
  • Starting 2020
  • Short course: Closed
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

UPDATE: Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic we will no longer be offering this course in summer 2020. Please check our latest news on this situation here.

Once regarded as a symptom of political underdevelopment, populist politics are challenging the political establishment in virtually all regions of the world.  In parallel and closely associated with the expansion of populist politics there has been a surge in alt-right politics that usually articulate populism’s anti-establishment appeals to far- right ideologies based on race, ethnic and nationalist forms of identification. The two, however, should be distinguished, as there are many varieties of populism, ranging from the radical left to the extreme right. The course will characterise populism and alt-right politics, explore the causes of their rise throughout the world, discuss their relations with liberal democracy and authoritarian politics and study varieties of populism and alt-right politics in different regions of the world.

A number of important questions will be examined and addressed, including:

  • What is populism?
  • What are the causes of the rise of populism and the alt-right?
  • Is populism a threat or a corrective to democracy?
  • What are the relations between populism and alt-right politics?
  • What are the key components of alt-right ideology and identity?
  • How does the alt-right use social media and virtual communities to expand its appeal?

Session: One
Dates: 22 June – 10 July 2020
Lecturer: Professor Francisco Panizza and Dr Jonathan Hopkin



Programme details

Key facts

Level: 100 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One 1,500 word essay (worth 50% of the final grade), and one final exam on the last Friday of the third week (worth 50% of the final grade).

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

*Assessment is optional

**You will need to check with your home institution

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment



Programme structure

Specific topics include:

1. Theories and concepts of populism.

1.1 Ideational theories

1.2 Strategic theories

1.3 Performative theories

2. Causes of populism

2.1 Socio – economic

2.2 Political

2.3 Socio-cultural

3. Varieties of populism

3.1 Left- wing populism

3.2 Right-wing populism

4. Populism and democracy

4.1 Populism and liberal democracy

4.2 Populism and social movements.

4.3 Populism and nationalism.

5. Populism across regions

5.1 Populism in the USA

5.2 Populism in Europe

5.3 Populism in Asia

5.4 Populism in Latin America

6. Alt-right politics

6.1 Concepts and theories of the alt –right

6.2 The socio-economic causes of the rise of the alt-right

6.3 The alt-right’s ideology and identity politics

6.4 The alt-right, social media and virtual communities.

Course outcomes

By taking this course students are expected to:

  • Critically engage contending theories of populism and alt-right politics
  • Understand its causes and varieties
  • Combine theory and evidence to examine the relations between populism, the alt-right, liberalism and democracy
  • Compare, contrast and draw connections for the comparative analysis of populism and the alt-right in different regions of the world
  • Prepare and present high quality oral presentations that critically master the arguments and present them in a clear and balanced way
  • Work independently to plan and produce original work that draws on multiple sources.


LSE’s Department of Government is home to some of the most internationally respected experts in politics and government, producing influential research that has a global impact on policy. The Department has always been able to take advantage of its prominent position within the London School of Economics and Political Science, the largest and most important European institution specialising solely in the social sciences. The Department has a strongly cosmopolitan character and alumni can be found in the world's leading political science departments, as well as in journalism, commerce, central and local government, and non-governmental organisations globally.

The 2014 Research Assessment Exercise ranked the LSE Government and International Relations Departments' joint submission first in the UK for the percentage of its research graded world leading or internationally excellent (88%). LSE also came top in the Politics and International Studies REF panel in terms of the most research publications graded “world leading” (4*); the absolute number of top-rated research outputs. LSE’s Department of Government ranked 5th in the world in the 2018 QS World University ranking for Politics and International Studies.

On this three-week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE’s government faculty.

Reading materials

Core texts:

  • C. Rovira, P. Taggart, P. Ochoa and P. Ostiguy, eds. (2017), The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford University Press.
  • G. Evans (2019), Skin Deep: Journeys in the Divisive Science of Race, One World.
  • J. Hopkin, (2020), Anti-System Politics: The Crisis of Market Liberalism in Rich Democracies, Oxford University Press.

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Code(s) SS-IR105

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