Undergraduate Department of Government and Public Administration - CUHK

Class Code: GPAD3161
Academic Year: 2019 - 2020
Title: The Rise of Populism in Europe

Dr. James Floyd DOWNES

Period: Mo 10:30AM - 01:15PM
Location: UCA_312

This course covers a wide variety of material and is highly relevant in understanding rapid changes in Global and Comparative European Politics. To catalyze your learning, this course will provide practical and contemporary examples throughout the course. Part I of the course provides a brief historical background to European politics and sets the scene for the course. The course starts out by examining how and why the European Union was formed alongside the traditional political landscape in Europe that is largely considered as stable in terms of voting and political behavior. Important theoretical concepts are introduced in Part I of the course, in examining theoretically how contemporary 'populism' is defined and conceptualized in the 21st century political landscape. Two divergent concepts, in the form of (a) right-wing populism and (b) left-wing populism are introduced, with key examples from contemporary European politics drawn on to further enhance students' learning.
Students are then introduced to the key theoretical debates on populism in the academic literature and are allowed to make critical evaluations about how they themselves will define populism as a political ideology.
Part II of the course provides the main focus of the course, in focusing on the main causes and drivers that have led to the growth of (a) radical right-wing populism and (b) radical left-wing populism.
Three key approaches are drawn on in Part II of the course, with comparative studies, survey research (public opinion) and case studies across Western Europe and Central-Eastern Europe allowing students to understand about the diversity and variations of populism in the contemporary political landscape. Students are then introduced to an important case study in the form of the landmark 2016 Brexit vote.
Flipped classroom learning will be adopted here, with students watching and then having a critical debate based on a special documentary and discussing the role that radical right-wing populism and Euroscepticism has played in the Brexit vote and the future of the British political system. Students will also be tasked to work in groups and make group project presentations on a topic of their choice that relates to populism.
Part III of the course introduces students to critical debates and evaluations on the 'rise' of populism and just how important understanding this political phenomenon is for (a) the implications for contemporary democracy and governance in EU member states, alongside (b) how populism on the 'right' and 'left' of the political spectrum is challenging the future EU project. Students are provided with a unique learning experience, with a practical and special Data Lab session that allows them to understand the root causes of populism, through a series of applied public opinion surveys (drawing on the Eurobarometer) and data analysis.
The final part of the course also allows students to understand the wider roots that right-wing and left-wing populism has had in shaking up the contemporary political landscape. Latest articles from academic research alongside newspaper and op-ed articles will be deployed to further enhance the overall student learning experience. In particular, the 'rise' of populist parties on the left and right will be linked to the electoral decline of mainstream social democratic parties in Europe.
Students will also be provided with a Special Guest Lecture, with a key speaker (European expert) from the Europe Asia Policy Centre for Comparative Research (EAP) coming in to share their own personal experiences, in outlining the role that populism has played in challenging the governance of the European Union and its key institutions. This session will also allow students to further their understanding of how the European Union works and most importantly allow students to ask questions from the guest speaker and further enhance their overall learning experience in an interactive setting. Students are also encouraged to draw on their own personal backgrounds and experience, in drawing on comparisons and making links between the causes of 'populism' in the European context, to the causes of 'localism' in the Hong Kong context.
The final part of the course also revisits the premise and assumption made in Part I of the course, about the historical stability of the European political landscape by outlining how 'a new form of politics' now exists in European politics. Stability and patterns of partisan alignment have now been replaced by instability and widespread patterns of electoral volatility. Thus, by the end of the course students will able to trace the historical evolution of European Politics and most importantly, the challenges that a number of contemporary European Union (EU) countries are facing in terms of their governance amidst the 'rise' of populist radical right and left-wing parties alike in the 21st century.