Populism and the Struggle for Recognition

Course content

In recent years, we have seen a rise in populist parties and governments around the world. Sociologists and political scientists have explained the rise of populism in terms of widespread feelings of loss of status and resentment at the disrespect displayed by the political and cultural elite. In this course, we will discuss how and to what extent populism can be seen as part of a struggle for recognition. The course will study different kinds of demand for recognition and discuss their relationship to and effect on democratic norms and practice. Thus, the course offers the tools for a conceptual and normative analysis of the moral and democratic aspects of current struggles for respect, esteem, and status. Our aim is to attain a better understanding of both populist democracy and liberal democracy. Hence, will also discuss the populist claim for recognition in relation to democratic principles, institutions, and practices such as rights, majority rule, compromise, deliberation, and constitutionalism.


The course is based on a combination of empirical, theoretical, and normative studies of populism, democracy, and recognition. The approach of the instructor is solidly based in political theory and philosophy.


Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

  • MSc in Political Science
  • MSc in Social Science
  • MSc in Security Risk Management
  • Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Bachelor and Master Programmes in Psychology
  • Master programme in Global Development


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad
  • Credit students from Danish Universities
  • Open University students
Learning outcome


  • Understanding different meanings of recognition
  • Understanding populism and its relation to recognition
  • Understanding the relation between democracy and equal respect



  • Analyze populism and democracy with philosophical concepts
  • Combine and synthesize insights from sociology, philosophy, and political theory
  • Evaluate different form of struggles in light of democratic norms



  • Critical thinking across different traditions and styles of argumentation.
  • Writing and presentation in a concise and clear manner.
  • Ability to develop a coherent argument.

This course will consist of a combination of short lectures, group work, and classroom discussions.

We will read works on populism, democracy, recognition, and respect by a number of philosophers, political theorists, sociologists, and political scientists, including Rousseau, Kant, Axel Honneth, Jan-Werner Müller, Cas Mudde, P.F. Strawson, Stephen Darwall, Arlie Hochschild, Nadia Urbinati, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, and Christian F. Rostbøll


Total number of pages: approx. 1000

The course presupposes a strong interest in political theory and philosophy as well as how they can be used to analyze contemporary politics.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Type of assessment details
Free written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

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


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester



Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Christian F. Rostbøll   (2-71804e7774813c79833c7279)
Saved on the 16-05-2023

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