In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Populism in Latin America

  • Introduction
  • Concept
  • Cases
  • Subtypes and Themes
  • Measurement: Political Elites
  • Measurement: Mass Attitudes
  • Consequences for Economic Performance
  • Consequences for Democracy
  • Populism in the United States

Political Science Populism in Latin America
Kirk Hawkins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0262


Donald Trump’s victory in the US 2016 presidential election awakened many US scholars to the existence of populism. However, the study of populism is old news for political scientists in Latin America and other regions. Since at least the 1960s, scholars in these regions have dealt with key conceptual, methodological, and theoretical issues in the study of populism, covering instances of populism that have appeared since the inception of liberal, representative democracy in the late 18th century. This wealth of scholarship is an aid to mainstream scholars in the United States and other wealthy democracies as they grapple with the impact of populist forces, providing them with tools for measuring populism and for studying its causes and consequences. However, there are also lessons for scholars in regions that have studied populism much longer. This is especially true for Latin America. Senior Latin Americanists who engage with populism have a tendency to rely on older approaches and methods that have not withstood empirical tests in other regions. Some researchers are unaware that comparative, cross-regional scholarship has arrived at a rough consensus about the nature of populist ideas, and that the cross-regional study of populist discourse has moved beyond the anti-positivist bent of some early work. Thus, this bibliography walks a fine line between highlighting the foundational work of earlier scholars, particularly those studying Latin America, while introducing current Latin Americanists to the work being done outside the region. A concluding section highlights the unique scholarly contributions to the study of populism in the United States, contributions that provide an important touchstone to Latin Americanists, not to mention mainstream scholars in the United States.

General Overviews

Populism is as old as democracy, and there are numerous studies of populism stretching back to the 1960s in Latin America, when the concept first became a defined topic of study. However, any list of general overviews confronts the fact that there are overviews of populism—broad studies that describe movements in key historical periods—and overviews of the study of populism—handbooks and volumes that not only describe cases but also lay out the contours of competing conceptual, methodological, and theoretical approaches.

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