Closed project

Perpignan social laboratory

A winning project of the "Populism and democracy" theme

The Perpignan social laboratory project is the 2021 laureate of the "Populism and democracy" theme of the Emerging Research call for projects.

Analysis of the the National Rally victory in the municipal elections of Perpignan in 2020 as a meeting on the electoral market, between a renewed populist offer and a populist demand shaped by the transformations of the territory since the municipal election of 1959.

Porteur du projet

Emmanuel Negrier

Director of research in political science, and director of CEPEL (Center for Political and Social Studies), Montpellier University. He is the PLS coordinator. He directs the collection "Cultural policies" of the Grenoble University Press with Philippe Teillet

Team members

Nicolas Lebourg

Associate researcher at CEPEL Montpellier University. He is specialized in the far right. Member of the steering committee of the VIORAMIL program (Violence and militant radicalizations in France) of the National Research Agency, and researcher of the History of fascism in Europe and Eurasia program, Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, George-Washington University.

David Giband

University professor in urban planning at Perpignan Via Domitia (UPVD) University and researcher at UMR ART-DEV 5281 CNRS - Actors, Resources, Territories in Development. Urban issues specialist

Nicolas Marty

Professor at the Universities of Contemporary History at Perpignan Via Domitia (UPVD) University, and researcher at the Center for Research on Societies and Environments in the Mediterranean (CRESEM)

Kevin Mary

Lecturer in geography at Perpignan Via Domitia (UPVD) University
Member of UMR ART-DEV 5281 CNRS - Actors, Resources, Territories in Development. Migration specialist

Dominique Sistach

Lecturer in public law at Perpignan Via Domitia (UPVD) University
Researcher at the Center for Economic and Development Law (CDED)

Aurélie Delage

Lecturer in land use planning and town planning at Perpigan Via Domitia (UPVD) University
Researcher at UMR ART-DEV 5281 CNRS - Actors, Resources, Territories in Development

Populism and democracy

Beyond its historical and geographical avatars, the notion of populism is generally defined on the basis of the threefold principle of anti-elitism, the belief in a homogeneous people and the preference for an unmediated popular sovereignty. (Akkerman, Mudde et Zaslove 2014 ; Schulz et al. 2017).

Parties meeting these criteria have now become established in both young and consolidated democracies. By 2019, they were involved in the governments of eleven European countries, with one in four voters having voted for a populist party in the last major national election (Timbro Authoritarian Populism Index, 2019). Populist parties thrive as the gap between democratic aspirations and the often disappointing workings of liberal democracies widens (Rooduijn, van der Brug et de Lange 2016 ; Rosanvallon 2000). By putting forward a radical demand for popular sovereignty, populist parties appeal primarily to an electorate that is dissatisfied with representative democracy, and even questions the very principle of representation as an effective means of translating the will of the people into political decisions.

Populism can thus be seen as both a threat and an opportunity for democracy. Exclusive populism - often associated with the radical right since it limits the people to those born in the country and readily combines with xenophobic elements - can undermine democracy and lead to illiberal democratic regimes through its anti-pluralist component, by privileging an organic conception of the people that leads to the rejection of the rule of law, minority rights or the separation of powers. (Urbinati 1998).

On the other hand, a more inclusive populism - typically associated with the radical left, since it combines populist markers with left-wing ideological markers such as a better distribution of wealth - can deepen democracy by pushing political elites to take better account of popular demands. It can also empower social democratic parties and associative organizations with consensual narratives, which can increase the electoral participation of the working class and even unify their grievances (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2013) by constructing the people as a political subject (Laclau 2002).


Published at 19 November 2021