CANCELLED - Technocratic politics vs. populism: the crisis of democracy and how to solve it

Course content

It took the dramatic rise of populist parties and movements across the Western hemisphere to generate even modest academic interest in the fact that democratic politics have for a long time been co-opted and challenged by an altogether different regime: that of technocracy. In this way, technocracy has gradually entered academic and public debate through the backdoor, that is to say as an explanation for the mounting populist challenge. The course dives deeper into the current democratic crisis produced by this interplay between technocracy and populism. Correspondingly, the course will be divided into three parts. 1) An analysis of technocracy, including the transition from the old technocracy to the more recent form of technocratic politics 2) An analysis of populism as an essentially anti-technocratic movement, although in the context of rivalling explanations 3) a discussion of pitfalls and possible solutions in the current struggle to save democracy from the unfortunate tango of technocracy and populism. The course will primarily focus on Europe (EU and national level) and the U.S.


Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


SRM students has priority

Learning outcome


Students will be able to

  • Identify and define key problems in the current interplay between technocracy and populism
  • Critically discuss key theories and claims about the implications of technocracy and populism for democracy



Students will be able to

  • Analyse current challenges to democracy
  • Critically assess and debate potential solutions to current democratic challenges
  • Compare and reflect on different national and regional experiences with technocracy and populism



Students will be able to

  • Structure and conduct self-directed analysis of democratic challenges and problems
  • Combine different theories and data required for comprehensive analysis of democratic challenges

The course is lecture-based, but will require active student participation and involvement in discussions throughout.



- Bertsou, Eri and Giulia Pastorella. 2017. “Technocratic Attitudes: A Citizens’ Perspective of Expert Decision-Making”. West European Politics 40(2): 430-58.


- Bickerton, Christopher, and Carlo Invernizzi Accetti. 2017. "Populism and technocracy: opposites or complements?"  Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 20 (2):186-206.


- Caramani, Daniele. 2017. “Will Versus Reason: The Populist and Technocratic Forms of Representation and Their Critique to Party Government’, American Political Science Review.

- Centeno, Miguel Ángel. 1993. “The New Leviathan: The Dynamics and Limits of Technocracy.” Theory and Society 22(3): 307−35. 

- Costa Pinto A., Cotta M., Tavares de Almeida, P. (eds.) (2018) Technocratic Ministers and Political Leadership in European Democracies. London Palgrave.


- Crouch, Colin. 2011. The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. Cambridge: Polity. 

- Fischer, Frank. 1990. Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage. 

- Fischer, Frank. 2009. Democracy and Expertise. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

- Habermas, Jürgen (2015). The Lure of Technocracy. Cambridge: Polity Press. 

- Hay, Colin. 2007. Why We Hate Politics. Cambridge: Polity


- McDonnell, Duncan and Marco Valbruzzi. 2014. “Defining and Classifying Technocrat-Led and Technocratic Government.” European Journal of Political Research 53(4): 654−71. 


- Müller, Jan-Werner. 2016. What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press


- Mudde, Cas. 2004. “The Populist Zeitgeist.” Government and Opposition 39(3): 541-563.

- Putnam, Robert. 1977. "Elite Transformation in Advanced Industrial Societies: An Empirical Assessment of the Theory of Technocracy."  Comparative Political Studies 10 (3):383-412.


- Radaelli, Claudio. 1999. Technocracy in the European Union, London, Longman, 1999.

- Sanchez-Cuenca, Ignacio. 2017. “From a Deficit of Democracy to a Technocratic Order: The Post-Crisis Debate on Europe.”

- Schmidt, Vivienne. 2011. “Can Technocratic Government Be Democratic?” Telos 23. 

- Stoker, Gerry. 2017. "When Governance Meets Populism : An Emerging Crisis ?" International Conference on Public Policy Singapore.


- Urbinati, Nadia. 2014. Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth, and the People. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Synopsis with oral examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28