Jean Monnet Course: EU Law in Political Context: How Populism Threatens Rule of Law & Democracy

Course content

This course is part of the activities organised by Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law & Politics and, hence, is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.


Populism has become one of the most prevalent and contentious phenomena in contemporary legal and political debates. In this regard, populist leaders, political parties and social movements attracted the attention of policy-makers and scholars across the world when they started affecting not only authoritarian and democratic regimes in South-America, but also in European and North-American democracies (e.g. Germany, France, Spain, UK, US, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, among others). Populism, due to its specific nature and its core-features – such as anti-elitism, anti-pluralism, popular sovereignty – poses a major challenge to existing national and international political and legal systems by contesting the foundations of representative democracy and the values of liberal constitutionalism.

This course enables students to critically discuss populism: What it is and what its consequences are for the rule of law, democracy and European integration. By combining different disciplines and knowledge, students will develop a deep understanding of the dynamics that shape the relations between populism, constitutionalism, democracy, and European and international organizations. Accordingly, the course will expose students to current approaches and theories on populism to provide an analytical framework that enables them to address important questions such as: How should we conceptualize Populism? What are its constitutional, legal and political foundations? Is there one true 'populism' or a variety of distinct 'populisms'? Does populism inevitably threaten the rule of law in the European Union and its constitutive democracies, or do other factors abate its impact? Why do populists oppose international law and transnational organizations, like the EU? How do populist leaders, compared to other democratic leaders, react to the current global and European crises like migration, climate change, and disease pandemics? how can political and legal institutions and civil society organizations respond to populist threats?


The course complements' students legal training in comparative constitutional law, European and international law, and legal institutions with the most recent developments in the study of populism from the disciplines of law and political science, by offering new insights about how populist actors affect the functioning of democratic states, legal systems and international organizations like the European Union. This knowledge creates synergies with other social sciences perspectives (e.g. history, anthropology, sociology, etc.) available in the Faculty of Law or any other Faculty at the University of Copenhagen.


Finally, the course will combine traditional didactical methods (lectures and case-law studies) with innovative interdisciplinary and research-based techniques, such as in-class usage of role playing games, experimental methods and simulations; digital learning through online lectures and group discussions, as well as research-based techniques (e.g. peer-feedback, presentations, writing of research and policy papers and blogposts).


This course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World, see 'Remarks' below.” (under “content”)

Learning outcome

This course will contribute to the students’ competence profile in the following terms.

A) In terms of knowledge, they will be learn and understand the phenomenon of Populism and its legal and political implications.


B) Within this framework, the students in terms of skills will be able:

  • To apply this knowledge and analyze concepts and theories to account for the relationship between populism and national and intentional law and politics;
  • To identify the central issues and challenges in the debate of populism.
  • To articulate and develop coherent debates and arguments on the topic;
  • To work independently with different forms of academic reasoning and collaborate with other peers in the development of these capabilities and skills in the framework of groups’ presentations, essays and discussions.


C) Finally, based upon this knowledge and skills, the student will analyze, contrast and evaluate the definitions, causes of populism and its effect on Rule of Law and Democracy. As a result, the student will be able:

  • To critically reflect upon the concept of populism as a legal-political phenomenon and to evaluate the role and impact on legal and democratic rules and on European and international organizations.
  • To develop students’ competencies to analyze populism from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • To enable the student to carry out independent research on the topic of populism.
  • To improve students’ understanding of the interaction of populism with legal and political systems, affecting their skills to engage in national and international academic, policy and public debates on the topic.

Knowledge and interest in international and constitutional law is recommended.

Proficient level in English

Please observe, this course is part of iCourts Excellence Programme (iEP) – International Law and Courts in a Global World. Students who sign up for the iEP become iCourts Student Fellows and will get a unique opportunity to become part of the research environment of iCourts – the only centre of excellence in law in Denmark. The iEP is open to all Danish and foreign BA and MA students at the Faculty. All iCourts courses may be taken individually but only students who complete a total of at least 45 ECTS courses offered by the centre or 30 ECTS of such courses plus write their MA-thesis with an iCourts Supervisor will receive a certificate confirming their participation in the iEP. Read more about the programme here: https:/​/​​icourts/​education/​excellence-programme/​

Continuous feedback during the course
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Individual written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 171,25
  • Seminar
  • 35
  • English
  • 206,25


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Bachelor choice

1 semester

  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law: No tuition fee
  2. Professionals: Please visit our website  
Please see timetable for teaching time
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator
  • Shai Dothan   (11-7d726b73386e797e726b784a747f7c38757f386e75)
Saved on the 28-04-2022

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students