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Populism, Ideology and Discourse in the Global South

Kenneth Roberts

Kenneth Roberts is the Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government at Cornell University and a Faculty Fellow of the Democratic Threats and Resilience Initiative at Cornell’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. His teaching and research interests lie at the intersection of political parties, social movements, populism, and crises of democratic representation in Latin America and beyond. He received my Ph.D. from Stanford University. He has been a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Chile and the Universidad Carlos III-Instituto Juan March in Spain. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre on Social Movement Studies at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, Italy, and a Greenleaf Distinguished Visiting Chair at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.
He is the author of Changing Course in Latin America: Party Systems in the Neoliberal Era (Cambridge University Press) and Deepening Democracy? The Modern Left and Social Movements in Chile and Peru (Stanford University Press). He has also co-edited Democratic Resilience: Can the United States Withstand Rising Polarization? (Cambridge University Press) and The Resurgence of the Latin American Left (Johns Hopkins University Press). Currently, he is co-authoring a book with Santiago Anria on polarization and democracy in contemporary Latin America, co-editing a volume on global challenges to democracy, and co-editing a special issue of a journal on political polarization in Latin America.

Most recent and relevant publications:

Roberts, K. M. (2022). Populism and polarization in comparative perspective: Constitutive, spatial and institutional dimensions. Government and Opposition, 57(4), 680-702.

Kenneth M. Roberts (2019), Bipolar Disorders:  Varieties of Capitalism and Populist Outflanking on the Left and Right. Polity 51, 4 (2019): 641-653.

Kenneth M. Roberts (2014), Changing Course in Latin America: Party Systems in the Neoliberal Era (New York:  Cambridge University Press)

As a steering committee member of your hub, how do you perceive the general topic in relation to your hub?

I believe this project offers a unique opportunity to examine why populism is on the rise in many parts of the world, and what this means for democratic governance.  By focusing on both the supply and demand sides of populism, we can address some of the central questions facing democratic regimes around the world today: why traditional party systems and forms of political representation appear to be in crisis, why populism has emerged as a primary alternative, and why populist alternatives take such diverse forms in different national and regional contexts.  Much remains to be learned about the social, economic and institutional contexts in which different types of populism thrive.  Similarly, there is a need for research on the societal grievances that are channeled into populist movements and the reasons why voters support populist figures in democratic arenas, even when they engage in illiberal or autocratic practices. In addressing these critical concerns, the Populism Hub has much to offer the wider Democracy and Development initiative, particularly in helping to identify the multiple political forms of dissatisfaction with democratic performance and development prospects, and in shedding new light on the failures of representation that exacerbate political grievances and pose potential threats to democracy itself.

How do you relate to other hubs?

The different regional hubs involved in this international project can facilitate a range of scholarly exchanges and collaborations that advance research and teaching on these themes.  Examples include opportunities for faculty and research fellows to visit different hubs, organize research workshops, collaborate on research and writing, co-teach short courses, provide methods training, and co-develop curriculum materials.