Latin American Party Systems and Political Protest
Political representation is at the center of my current research. The differences in the quality of representation in Latin America are enormous, and I seek to identify the historical and contemporary determinants of these differences. The consequences of good or bad representation are alo far-reaching. Where parties mirror the preferences of their voters, left-wing populist leaders will find it difficult to rally support, and most grievances will be channeled into the electoral arena. Where the traditional parties have proven unresponsive to their voters, on the other hand, anti-establishment mobilization finds fertile ground, and political conflict is more likely to be expressed in the protest arena.
The Transformation of West European Party Systems
The political space in Western Europe has been transformed by the advent of a new cultural conflict. This conflict is, at heart, one about different conceptions of community, and is the result of two transformations: The emergence of the New Left after 1968 and the division of the right into a traditional and a New Right component. While rooted in social structure, i.e., in class location, education, and gender, structural change has by no means translated mechanically into politics. Rather, the strategies of political actors are central in determining the strength of the new cultural conflict and the degree to which the populist right has benefitted from it. The role of European integration in different party systems and in the discourse of right-wing populist parties also varies. My research in this area is also concerned with the consequences of the polarization of party systems on the evolving quality of representation since the 1970s.
Populist Mobilization Across Space and Time
How much do instances of populist mobilization across space and time have in common? Drawing on my work on right-wing populism in Western Europe and left-wing populism in Latin America, I emphasize the common role of failures of political representation in shaping populist potentials. Beyond this commonality and those related to populist ideas at the elite and mass levels, it is important to reflect upon what we gain and what we lose from sight by focusing on the commonalities between parties based on their populist appeals, when populist parties differ dramatically in terms of the substantive ideologies they adhere to. It is imperative to make research on populism cumulative by building upon prior work on specific contexts and party families.
This project grew out of my participation in Team Populism, a network of scholars from Europe and the Americas to study the causes and consequences of populism: https://populism.byu.edu