Between the Populist Left and Right: Discursive Structure and Ideological Interventions in Podemos and the National Front

  • Michael De La Caridad Ledezma


The concept of populism is famously ambiguous, posing difficulties in its application as an analytical category and empirical identifier. Much of the existing literature has focused on defining populism as either a “thin-centered” ideology, or as a discursive style. Furthermore, where typological analyses have been undertaken, they have primarily been limited to describing parties of the same ideological category, while failing to account for formal differences across the left–right ideological scale. One way to address this lacuna is by following Ernesto Laclau’s shift in emphasis toward elaborating a theory of the internal logic of populism as such. This discourse-centered approach enables us to locate the properly populist structural features of political discourse, thereby bringing into clearer view the distinct ideological elements. Using a most different case comparative method, I provide a detailed comparative case-study analysis of Podemos in Spain and the National Front (FN) in France. Drawing on close readings of party manifestos, speeches, and interviews, my analysis applies Laclau’s analytical framework in order to identify the ways in which particular manifestations of populist discourse exhibit morphological differences at the structural level when supplemented by ideologies of the left or right. I conclude that while populism provides an invariant discursive structure that serves to integrate and organize meaning, ideological differences substantially alter the conception of political antagonism, as well as particular policy content. Among others, my findings show that whereas both parties ostensibly champion democracy, the concrete proposals put forward toward this end evince a diametric opposition in the conception of participation.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael De La Caridad Ledezma
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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