The Social Liberal Party: A Left Populist Strategy

Magnus Bøye

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis analyzes the communication of The Social Liberal Party in Denmark (Radikale Venstre) in the theoretical framework of Ernesto Laclaus within his conception of populism. Laclau believes that populism should be seen as a political logic rather than an ideology whereas populism will always be present in a political strategy to a greater or lesser extent. The thesis is based on a discourse analysis of the party’s communication during the 2015 and 2019 general elections, with an emphasis on possible populist characteristics of the communication. The objective of the analysis is furthermore to identify possible developments in communication form the election in 2015 to the election in 2019. The thesis also consists of a further analysis section, which is tasked with analyzing the results of the discourse analysis through Chantal Mouffe’s theoretical work on a ‘left populism’, and thus whether left-populist strategies can be identified in The Social Liberal Party’s communication in 2019. These observations are further corroborated through two interviews where I seek to obtain information on how two leading actors in The Social Liberal Party observe and comprehend the party’s communication. The discourse analysis demonstrates a significant change in the party’s communication between 2015 and 2019 elections, with the populist characteristics emerging in a strong presence in 2019. This change is apparent in equivalent articulations, antagonistic logic and the construction of a popular pole in the communication. The left-wing populist strategies are identified by looking at the content of communication rather than the form in which it is presented. Whereas the analysis argues that The Social Liberal party’s communication in 2019 can be identified as containing left-populist strategies, which emerges in the articulation of a strong confrontation between the unsatisfied ‘people’, which is represented by The Social Liberal Party, and ‘the establishment’. It is furthermore identified in which The Social Liberal Party articulate a demand for change which is specifically formulated as ‘a new direction’. Thus, the thesis concludes, briefly summarized, how a strong populist articulation can be identified in the communication of The Social Liberal Party which is reflected in left-populist strategies.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages81