From January 28-30, BYU had the opportunity to host an international conference on the causes of populism under the tutelage of Professor Kirk Hawkins of the political science department. Sponsored by the department, Kennedy Center, Wheatley Institution, and Latin American Studies Association, the conference brought together some of the best minds on populism to discuss its root causes and how it spreads. Members of Team Populism, a group of international scholars studying the causes and diffusion of populism as a political discourse, met for the first time in a conference at the BYU London Centre in May 2015.
This conference is the second of the Team Populism conferences and focused on the causes of populism. The conference’s keynote address was a Wheatley-sponsored lecture given by Cas Mudde, an associate professor of political science at the University of Georgia. Professor Mudde spoke on the topic: “Why Should We Study Populism?” and laid out his basic arguments about the importance of studying democracy because of its potential corrective and threatening effects on liberal democracy. Despite a last-minute rescheduling due to a flight cancellation, the address was well attended. Professor Mudde delivered a convincing address on the importance of studying populism because of its effects on democracy, with the power to ultimately turn a liberal democracy into an illiberal democracy.