In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Populism and Global Politics

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • The Concept of Populism
  • Theorizing Populism and Foreign Policy
  • Populist Foreign Policy in Europe
  • Populism and Foreign Policy outside “The West”
  • Transnational Politics of Populism
  • Populism in Comparative Perspective
  • Trump and Populism in American Foreign Policy
  • Populism and the Liberal International Order
  • Brexit, Populism, and Global Politics

International Relations Populism and Global Politics
Benjamin Martill
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0284


The rise of populist movements and parties the world over in recent years has spurred much academic interest in the subject. Waves of rising insurgent parties and movements across Europe and Asia, the association of the Brexit vote with populism, and the election of Donald Trump as US president on an anti-establishment ticket have all raised the salience of populism in the discipline. While populism was often (but not always) considered a matter for scholars of domestic political processes, the seemingly coordinated rise of such movements in recent years, the extent of engagement between self-declared populist actors across borders, and the observance of a number of commonalities in the foreign policy positions of populist leaders and parties—most notably among populist radical right parties—has led to a greater interest in the topic by scholars of international and global politics. Scholars are increasingly motivated to ask about the international sources of rising populism, the reach of populist actors outside a country’s borders, the transnational linkages between populist parties, and the implications of populism for the future of the liberal international order. The time seems ripe, then, to offer an overview of populism in global politics as a field of study. This bibliography showcases works on populism (and allied concepts) that have an explicitly international angle, including those on the global determinants of populism, comparisons between movements, the foreign policies of populist parties, and transnational engagement between populist actors. Brexit and Donald Trump are considered also given their prominence in the debate on populism, but generally speaking individual cases are not the subject of this resource. The bibliography draws on literature from within political science, principally from the sub-disciplines of comparative politics and international relations, and from related fields of study. The study of populism and global politics lies astride this important disciplinary boundary, and many of the works contained herein discuss the reasons for this divide, and the problems associated with it. Only recently have sustained efforts been made to bridge this disciplinary divide, and the study of populism and global politics is thus continually evolving.

General Overviews

There is a burgeoning literature on populism, and it is not possible to do justice to all the general works on the topic in this section. Nevertheless, a number of key works are easily identifiable. A brief and very recent overview of the subject is proffered in Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017. The early contribution of Taggart 2000 fulfils a similar function but in slightly greater detail and with a more historical focus, although the volume is now somewhat dated compared to others on the market. The most comprehensive overview is offered in Kaltwasser, et al. 2017 by multiple experts in the field. Useful and wide-ranging edited volumes can also be found in Panizza 2005, Mény and Surel 2002, and de la Torre 2015. These volumes offer helpful overviews of concepts, actors, and regions, with contributions from notable populism scholars, with the latter volume the most comprehensive and up-to-date. A number of thinkers associated with populism have published their own monographs in which may be found a comprehensive statement of their own approach—along with an introduction to key debates—and the most useful are Moffitt 2016, Mudde 2009, and van Kessel 2015. A number of volumes focus more on populist radical right parties than left populism, and a useful corrective may be found in March 2011, which focuses specifically on the radical left.

  • de la Torre, C., ed. The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015.

    A recent collection with contributions from the big names in the study of populism. Roughly half the volume is dedicated to theorizing populism as a concept while the remaining chapters deal with cases and actors, with the Global South particularly well represented.

  • Kaltwasser, C. R., P. Taggart, P. O. Espejo, and P. Ostiguy, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Populism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    One of the most comprehensive and up-to-date volumes. The chapters cover a wide variety of conceptual and theoretical issues and there are distinct contributions on different regions and themes—including populism and foreign policy—by well-known scholars.

  • March, L. Radical Left Parties in Europe. London: Routledge, 2011.

    Not a volume on populism per se, but a helpful corrective to works on populist radical right parties, with a wide-ranging discussion of their leftist counterparts and a specific chapter on radical left populism.

  • Mény, Y., and Y. Surel, eds. Democracies and the Populist Challenge. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

    Collection of essays on the relationship between populism and democracy. Especially useful for those initial chapters which tackle thorny questions on the place of populism within democratic norms. The remainder of the volume offers an overview of cases and actors similar to the other volumes listed here.

  • Moffitt, B. The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    A helpful overview which covers many of the conceptual debates surrounding populism while also putting forward the author’s own view of the concept as a distinct political style. The volume examines—in so doing—how populism relates to “the people,” leaders, the media, and democracy.

  • Mudde, C. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    Remarkably wide-ranging monograph on European populist parties of the right by the leading scholar on the topic (who had been studying populism long before it became a buzzword). Offers the reader a systematic exposition of party positions and determinants of populist support. Students of global politics will find the globalization chapter especially relevant.

  • Mudde, C., and C. R. Kaltwasser. Populism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1093/actrade/9780190234874.001.0001

    A self-consciously brief overview of the main examples of populism of various types that summarizes a number of controversies, without the space to flesh these out or situate them fully within the literature. A helpful first-read for students new to populism that sets out some of the main issues.

  • Panizza, F., ed. Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. London: Verso, 2005.

    An early edited volume which is nonetheless remarkably comprehensive, covering populist movements on the left and right in a number of regions, and featuring contributions from noted authors, especially those working on discursive approaches.

  • Taggart, P. Populism. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2000.

    A concise but helpful early work by a leading scholar of populism which draws lessons from a number of empirical cases (the United States, Canada, Russia, and Latin America) to consider the characteristics of populism and to understand its relationship with democracy. The volume discusses cases from the 19th century to the post–Cold War world and is thus notable for its historical depth as much as its empirically informed discussion.

  • van Kessel, S. Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent? Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

    Detailed volume focused on Europe, but of broader relevance given the breadth of conceptual discussion. Covers populist parties in the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom (before the Brexit vote).

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