2019-2022 Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence for Comparative Populism


The University of Wisconsin-Madison Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence for Comparative Populism will provide a new focal point in research and teaching for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. The Center’s goal is to illuminate the widespread phenomenon of populism—as one of the primary political, economic, and social challenges of our time. It will offer comparison across space, time, and disciplinary boundaries, using a broad range of methodological approaches.

Comparison across space involves explicit and careful attention being paid to similarities and differences in populism in different countries and different world regions. How do populists in various European countries resemble one another and compare to populists elsewhere? What similarities might we detect between populists on the political right and the political left? What structural and institutional factors facilitate or stymie the rise of populism?
Comparison across time allows for lessons from the past to be applied to the present and future. Do populist movements in the past differ from those we observe today? Does today’s right-wing populists’ marriage of populist and nativist messages resemble their messaging in previous eras? Did the same factors contribute to the rise of populists in the past that are associated with their current success?

Comparison across disciplines helps us understand the many different facets of populism. For example, sociologists will contribute by examining populism through the lenses of social movements, identity, or race; political scientists by investigating populist parties, their electoral success, and the mediating impact of political institutions; scholars in mass communication by analyzing populist messaging and the use of social media; public health researchers by considering debates on gender and reproductive rights; cultural linguists by investigating populist rhetoric and discourse; and public policy scholars by linking populist political programs to questions of social policy and the future of the welfare state.

The Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence for Comparative Populism is uniquely suited to addressing questions such as these because of the excellence of its faculty and existing structures for collaboration. For example, members of its European Studies community have already teamed up with leading scholars of American politics to investigate the local roots of populist politics in the state of Wisconsin. Building on Professor Kathy Cramer’s seminal book on “The Politics of Resentment,” they have developed an ambitious project to investigate growing political polarization and fragmentation and the extent to which they have been driven by talk radio, local news, social media, and political campaigns. The project has received substantial funding from UW-Madison, indicative of a significant institutional commitment to the topic (see research.wisc.edu/funding/uw2020/round-4-projects/communication-political-democratic-crisis). The Center will also partner extensively with Wisconsin’s Elections Research Center (see elections.wisc.edu).


Laia Balcells

Populists and the Pandemic edited by Nils Ringe, Director of the Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence for Comparative Populism

Nils Ringe Workshop: “Populists and the Pandemic: How Populists Around the World Responded to Covid-19” with addresses by Jan-Werner Mueller & Pippa Norris 

2022 La Follette Forum: Adam Posen discusses Covid-19 and the US Economy and Daniel Ziblatt talks about the Future of American Democracy

Nils Ringe disusses his book “The Language(s) of Politics: Impact of Multilingual Policy-Making in the EU” with the European Parlimentary Research Service

Christian Odendahl, “COVID, inflation, and the economic recovery: What next for the Eurozone?” featuring Professor Mark Copelovitch, Mar. 2, 2022

Anne Applebaum, “The Cold War Leadership of Pope John Paul II”, Feb. 18, 2022

Mart Laar, “Cold War Leadership: The Estonian Experience”, Feb. 18, 2022

Robert Braun, Comparative Politics Colloquium: “Bloodlines: National Border Crossings and Antisemitism in Weimar Germany”, Feb. 17, 2022

Mariel Barnes, Comparative Politics Colloquium: “The Politics of Domestic Violence”, Feb. 10, 2022

Nadia Urbinati, “A Populist Democracy”, Dec. 9, 2021

“Is the (Left) Populist Movement Over?”, Nov. 18, 2021

Professor Nils Ringe, Undergraduate Workshop: “Democracy Under Threat: The Global Rise of Populism and Authoritarianism”, Nov. 10, 2021

Inken Von Borzyskowski, International Relations Colloquium, Nov. 2, 2021 

Dr. Constanze Stelzenmüller, “Making Sense of the Unprecedented 2021 German Elections”, Oct. 13, 2021

“Can Ranked-Choice Voting Work in Wisconsin?” Panel, Oct. 7, 2021

Executive Vice President Dombrovskis, “Trade, Technology, and the Transatlantic Relationship” Fireside Chat, Sept. 30, 2021

Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, “The European Union’s New Path Forward on Climate” Fireside Chat, Sept. 23, 2021

Democratic Socialism in Global Perspective Conference

Populism and the Pandemic Virtual Lecture Series

Teacher Professional Development Workshop: Teaching Cyber-Capabilities and Accelerating Global Change, March 13 & 20, 2021

Global Impact of COVID-19 and the German Response with Professor Nils Ringe, May 2020

Teacher Workshop: “Your Digital Personality” with Visiting Law Scholar Ekaterina Libova,  May 2020

Visit from European Union Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis, Feb 17, 2020

 Fracturing Democracy: The Erosion of Civil Society in a Shifting Communication Ecology Conference, February 2020

 Fracturing Democracy Report 

Fracturing Democracy: Detailed Program  

2020 Comparative Politics Colloquium

2019 Comparative Politics Colloquium