Course Description


Patterson, Russell

Populism – the rejection of elites by the masses – is a global phenomenon of great political significance. Recent events – from the election of Donald Trump to the rise of right-wing authoritarian political figures across much of Europe – have raised serious practical and theoretical questions about populism and whether it threatens democratic institutions.


This class seeks to understand populism as a global phenomenon, and to examine how law and populism interact. Laws and institutions undergird much of what has been raised in populist critiques. Consider, for example, the opposition to free trade agreements by both left- and right-wing populists, or complaints raised about the design and structure of the EU’s institutions in debates over Brexit. Others have suggested that populism may, in part, be driven by a belief that laws, norms, and institutions have been captured by elites and are thus no longer truly democratic. If so, law may have a major role to play in responding to populist movements. Readings will be drawn from a wide range of sources, including law, economics, history, and political theory.