Critical Research on Populism: Nine Rules of Engagement

Benjamin De Cleen, Jason Glynos, Aurelien Mondon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (SciVal)
239 Downloads (Pure)


This article formulates precise questions and ‘rules of engagement’ designed to advance our understanding of the role populism can and should play in the present political conjuncture, with potentially significant implications for critical management and organization studies and beyond. Drawing on the work of Ernesto Laclau and others working within the post-Marxist discourse-theory tradition, we defend a concept of populism understood as a form of reason that centres around a claim to represent ‘the people’, discursively constructed as an underdog in opposition to an illegitimate ‘elite’. A formal discursive approach to populism brings with it important advantages. For example, it establishes that a populist logic can be invoked to further very different political goals, from radical left to right, or from progressive to regressive. It sharpens too our grasp of important issues that are otherwise conflated and obfuscated. For instance, it helps us separate out the nativist and populist dimensions in the discourses of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Trump or the Front National (FN). Our approach to populism, however, also points to the need to engage with the rhetoric about populism, a largely ignored area of critical research. In approaching populism as a signifier, not only as a concept, we stress the added need to focus on the uses of the term ‘populism’ itself: how it is invoked, by whom and to what purpose and effect. This, we argue, requires that we pay more systematic attention to anti-populism and ‘populist hype’, and reflect upon academia’s own relation to populism and anti-populism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-661
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • Anti-populism
  • Populism
  • Political logic
  • populist hype
  • Laclau
  • Discourse theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Critical Research on Populism: Nine Rules of Engagement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this