Global Populism: Conference 2017

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Global Populisms: A Threat to Democracy?

November 3-4, 2017 Conference | Stanford University
Conference Overview
  • Conference Overview
  • Conference Program
  • Conference Memos
  • Conference Logistics

Conference Overview

In the upcoming conference, “Global Populisms: A Threat to Democracy?” we will focus on the following critical issues:

Conceptualizing the threat. How much of a threat to democracy is populism? Where, when, and how?  What is the nature of this threat, and how can it be stopped? How do we conceive of populism, and how useful have these conceptualizations been? 

How do populisms arise and succeed? What are the historical and comparative perspectives on the recent rise of populism? What are the different factors that produced populism in each setting?  Equally importantly, why have populist parties arisen in some countries but not others? 

Populism in America. The United States has had a long history of populist rhetoric, populist movements, and populist entrepreneurs. How unique is it?   A historical perspective here is critical in two ways: first, it helps us to identify useful historical analogies. Second, it emphasizes the study of the societal, economic, and political mechanisms and processes that together make for a coherent narrative of the rise of illiberal threats.

Is there a “populist international”? To what extent do we see international linkages, whether emanating from Russia or from regional coordination, in the recent rise of populism? The emergence of an “illiberal international” anchored in Moscow appears to have won many allies throughout Europe and the United States, yet the connections between these politicians and parties are not clear. Do these movements share a common ideology, or are their affinities superficial and ephemeral?

Constructing economic threats. What is the role of the changing labor markets?  How are fiscal and economic problems constructed politically, and by whom? How does immigration, technology, shifts in industrial production, and international trade contribute to the rise of populism? How does the EU or other regional organizations contribute to the rise of populism or hamper its growth? 

Conference Program


8:45-10:30  Panel 1: Populism as a Threat — Chaired by Anna Grzymala-Busse

  • Sheri BermanProfessor of Political Science, Barnard College | Columbia University, "Populism Is a Symptom Rather Than a Cause: The Decline of the Center-left and Rise of Threats to Liberal Democracy"
  • John CareyProfessor of Government, Dartmouth College, "The Health of American Democracy: Comparing Perceptions of Experts and the American Public"
  • Larry DiamondSenior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute and Hoover Institution, Stanford University, "When Does Populism Become a Threat to Democracy?"
  • Niall FergusonSenior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, "Populism: Content and Form”
  • Rick PerlsteinJournalist and bestselling author, "Why Populism Should Not Be an Epithet"

— 10:30-10:45: Coffee break —

10:45-12:30  Panel 2: American Populism — Chaired by Didi Kuo

  • Julia AzariAssociate Professor of Political Science, Marquette University, "The Political Geography of American Populism” 
  • David KennedyDonald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus, Stanford University, “The Paradoxes of American Populism”
  • Kirk HawkinsAssociate Professor of Political Science, Brigham Young University, "Populism in Comparative Perspective: America and the 2016 Presidential Election”
  • Rob Mickey, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, “Anti-anti Populism, or: The Threat of Populism to U.S. Democracy Is Exaggerated”
  • Rick ValellyClaude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College, “The Populist Scare of the 1890s -- And the Aftermath that Changed American Populism"

— 12:30-1:30: Lunch —

1:30-3:15  Panel 3: Comparative Perspectives  — Chaired by Matthias Matthijs

  • Anna Grzymala-BusseMichelle and Kevin Douglas Professor of International Studies and Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute, “Populism and the Erosion of Democracy in Poland and Hungary”
  • Steve Levitsky, Professor of Government, Harvard University, “Populism and Competitive Authoritarianism”
  • Kenneth Roberts, Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government, Cornell University, "Bipolar Disorders: Varieties of Capitalism and Populist Out-flanking on the Left and Right”
  • Milada VachudovaAssociate Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, "From Competition to Polarization: How Populists Change Party Systems to Concentrate Power”
  • Julie Lynch, University of Pennsylvania, “Populism, Partisan Convergence, and Redistribution in Western Europe”

— 3:15-3:30: Coffee break —

3:30-5:00  Panel 4: International Linkages  — Chaired by Michael McFaul

  • Valerie BunceAaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and Professor of Government, Cornell University, "The Putin Regime, Populism Promotion, and the 2016 US Presidential Election"
  • Francis FukuyamaOlivier-Nomellini Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University "Populism and Identity"
  • Kathleen McNamaraProfessor of Government and Foreign Service, Georgetown University, "When the Banal Becomes Political: the EU in the Age of Populism”
  • Kathryn StonerSenior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute and Hoover Institution, Stanford University,  "Vladimir Putin’s Populism, Russia’s Revival, and Liberalism Lost"
  • Lucan WayProfessor, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, "Is Russia a Threat to Western Democracy? Russian Intervention in Foreign Elections, 1991-2017"



 9:00-11:00  Panel 5: Inequality, Investment and Economic Strain — Chaired by Francis Fukuyama

  • Kathy CramerProfessor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin — Madison, "The Views of Populists: What Trump Voters’ Perspectives and Perceptions of Trump Voters Tell Us about the Threat of Populism to U.S. Democracy"
  • Didi Kuo, Research Scholar, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University, “Parties, Policy Convergence and the Challenges of Finance Capitalism”
  • Margaret LeviProfessor of Political Science, Stanford University, "Labor Unions as Critical Intermediate Associations”
  • Pia MalaneySenior Economist, Institute for New Economic Thinking, "Economic Nationalism as a Driving Force of Populism in the U.S.”
  • Kenneth ScheveProfessor of Political Science and Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University "The Economic Origins of Authoritarian Values: Evidence from Local Trade Shocks in the United Kingdom”

— 11-1 pm Lunch and concluding discussion —

  • All participants: "Where to Take the Study of Populism?"

Conference Memos

Use the following links to access to conference memos:

Conference Logistics

The conference will take place in the 2nd floor conference room of Encina Hall at Stanford University. 

(650) 725-7007
  • Street address. 616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Getting around campus. View searchable Stanford map for parking, building locations, places to eat, other sites of interest.
  • Contact for participants. For questions regarding conference logistics, please contact Anya Shkurko at

 Contact the Global Populisms Project at:"