Populist Agenda-Setting: Shaping the Narrative, Framing the Debate, Captivating the ‘People’, Upending the Mainstream, Capturing Power

About the seminar

As Professor Vivien A. Schmidt argued in her article published in the Journal of European Public Policy, populism has recently become the label for a seemingly new kind of anti-system politics pushed by confrontational social movements and challenger political parties led by charismatic leaders with extremist policy agendas. What makes this populism different from previous versions is not only how successful it has been in disrupting the long-standing political practices of compromise and consensus-seeking in Europe’s liberal democracies. It is also that contemporary populists have managed to influence policy agenda-setting in liberal democracies in unprecedented ways.

In this seminar, Professor Schmidt will share and discuss with the participants her findings on how populist messages shape the policy narrative; how populist messengers frame the debate; how they use the media to captivate ‘the people;’ and why, depending on milieu, populists are able to leverage ‘the people’s’ support to upend the mainstream or capture power. The discussion will be moderated by Professor Ramona Coman. 

About Professor Vivien A. Schmidt

Vivien A. Schmidt is Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration, Professor Emerita of International Relations and Political Science, and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University, where she taught from 1998 to 2023. Professor Schmidt is currently Visiting Fellow in the Schuman Center at the European University Institute in Florence, Honorary Professor at LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, and Senior Fellow in the Zoe Institute. Professor Schmidt has published extensively on European political economy, institutions, and democracy as well as on the role of ideas and discourse in political analysis (discursive institutionalism).

Her latest book is Europe’s Crisis of Legitimacy: Governing by Rules and Ruling by Numbers in the Eurozone (Oxford, 2020) which received the Best Book Award (2021) from the American Political Science Association’s Ideas, Knowledge, Politics section and Honorable Mention for the Best Book Award (2019-2020) of the European Union Studies Association.  Recent honors and awards include decoration as Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the European Union Studies Association, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for her current project on the ‘rhetoric of discontent,’ a transatlantic investigation of populism.


RED-SPINEL analyses the changing nature of dissensus surrounding liberal democracy and its implications for EU supranational policy instruments.

It is a 36-month long, 3.2 million euro, interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral Horizon Europe project involving seven higher education institutions: Université libre de Bruxelles, Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai, HEC Paris, Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika w Toruniu and the University of Warwick. They are joined in the consortium by four non-academic partners: Peace Action, Training and Research Institute in Romania, Milieu Consulting, Magyar Helsinki Bizottság / Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Stichting Nederlands Instituut voor Internationale Betrekkingen Clingendael across eight European countries.

It was selected under the call HORIZON-CL2-2021-DEMOCRACY-01 – Grant agreement n°101061621 and it is coordinated by prof. Ramona Coman for the IEE-ULB.

Practical information

When: April 30th 2024, from 12:00 to 14:00 (a light lunch will be served at 12 and the seminar will start at 12:15)

Where: IEE-ULB | Salle Spaak | 39 avenue Franklin Roosevelt | Campus Solbosch | ULB