Populist Academics: Who are They?

Prof. David Swartz

Populism is not only a political reality in many European countries and in the US but also an intellectual challenge among scholars of international relations, political science, and political sociology. Much is being written on populist leaders, movements, and parties, their origins, dynamics and implications for changing political configurations in Europe and the US. Much less attention, however, is being given to the relatively few academic scholars who support various populist expressions. Who are these academics who support Trump in the US, Le Pen in France, Orban in Hungery, etc.? They appear to be anomalies in a predominantly left/liberal-leaning professional milieu. This paper explores answers to this anomaly by studying 105 American academics who support the Trump presidency. The data are gathered from individual biographical information and public stances available on the internet. The paper addresses the following four questions: 1) What is their institutional location in American higher education? 2) Can one identify connections between their scholarship and their political stance? 3) How do they justify their support of Trump? 4) Are these individuals academic conduits of external right-wing economic and political forces seeking to disrupt and destroy the liberal academy? The study draws inspiration from Pierce Bourdieu’s field analysis to answer these questions.