Varieties of Populism: The Latin American Experience in Comparative Perspective

A new wave of populism is on the rise worldwide, and with it the need for new models that can help us understand its different manifestations. My dissertation uses the cases of Chavismo in Venezuela, Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia (MAS), and Patria Altiva i Soberana in Ecuador (PAIS) to produce typological and causal theories that can be used to understand populism as a global phenomenon.  

Although Chavismo, MAS and PAIS belong to the same wave of left-wing populism populism that struck the region at the turn of the century they differ significantly in their support base. Whereas some have a constituency that cuts across social cleavages, others' overlap with them, reinforcing social and political divides. Based on a cross-temporal and cross-case analysis, I develop a typology of populist parties based on two characteristics of their electoral support coalition: size and scope. Size refers to the share of the electorate that supports a populist movement, which can range from small to large.  Scope refers to the extent to which supporters represent different sectors of society, which can range from narrow to broad.  Differences in the shape of populist coalitions yield four types of populism: Catch-All Populism, Polarized Populism, Minority Populism, and Niche Populism. My dissertation explains these different types based on whether or not the populist party emerges at a time of party system collapse or of party system resilience, as well as on the capacity of populist leaders to sustain a non-divisive coalition building strategy over time.