Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2012

Political Leadership and Democratic Change

Lecturer: Professor Dr. Takis S. Pappas,
Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies,
University of Macedonia, Greece, and
Department of Political and Social Sciences,
European University Institute, Florence, Italy.

Main disciplines: Political Science, Sociology
Dates: 23 - 27 July 2012
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 25 participants


This course focuses on the political nature, mechanics, and concrete outcomes of leadership in pluralist political systems with a particular emphasis on modern and contemporary European politics. Borrowing from political science, sociology, cultural anthropology, and international relation studies, the course seeks to familiarize students with the significance of leadership (i.e., agency) in complex political and institutional environments (i.e., structure), and in various cultural settings; the logics of leadership choices in crisis and non-crisis settings, as well as the interdependencies among several leadership choices; and the (whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’) outcomes political leadership may have for the democracies we live in today.

The course is both theoretical and empirical in scope. It is divided into five sections, each of them consisting of two lectures. The first section is about the main dimensions of scholarship on political leadership, and also sets the boundary between democratic and non-democratic leaderships. The next three sections are about the most important of political leadership’s manifestations as they examine leaders as decision-takers in diverse situations; symbol makers; saviors; and visionaries. The fifth, and last, section begins with the debate about the ‘presidentialization of politics’ and concludes with the even hotter debate about the state of leadership in Europe, and the world. What does all this mean for contemporary liberal democracy?

Besides the necessary theoretical and comparative empirical analysis required by such a course, the lectures will be supported by concrete historical cases of leadership action taken from several country and time contexts. 

Students are expected to write an essay of about 6,000 words within eight (8) weeks after the course to receive a certificate and earn credit for a PhD program. Fulfilling this requirement gives you 10 ECTS points. Please, note that consultation with the lecturer prior to deciding about your essay topic is highly recommended.

Readings for course preparation
In preparation of the course, students are advised to consult one of the following books:

  • Jean Blondel, Political Leadership: Towards a General Analysis, London: Sage, 1987
  • Robert Elgie, Political Leadership in Liberal Democracies, London: Macmillan, 1995
  • Ludger Helms, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Chancellors: Executive Leadership in Western Democracies, London: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005
  • Jones D. Bryan (ed.), Leadership and Politics: New Perspectives in Political Science, Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas

To get to the heart of the matter, you should read at least one of the following (both make for a nice summer reading): 

  • David Fromkin, Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? New York: Vintage, 2004
  • John Lukacs, Five Days in London. May 1940, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985

Lastly, whether you have done so in the past or not, it is recommended that you (re)read Machiavelli’s The Prince.


Lecture Outline
(* means required reading; all the rest is optional)

Lecture 1: Dimensions of political leadership
(a) What is political leadership, and why study it, particularly in Europe? (b) Main approaches to the study of leadership: psychological, or ‘traitist’; organizational, or ‘situationist’; and cultural. (c) Agency vs. institutions vs. structures. (d) Personalities and leadership styles. (e) The cultural parameters of political leadership.


  • *Peele, Gillian, “Leadership and Politics: A Case for a Closer Relationship?” Leadership 1 (2005), 187-204.
  • *Edinger, Lewis, “Approaches to the Comparative Analysis of Political Leadership,” Review of Politics 52 (1990), 509-523.
  • *Wildavsky, Aaron, “A Cultural Theory of Leadership,” in Aaron Wildavsky (ed.), Cultural Analysis: Politics, Public Law and Administration, pp. 253-282, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2006 [1989].
  • *Greenstein, Fred, “Can Personality and Politics Be Studied Systematically?” Political Psychology 13:1 (1992), 105-128.
  • Fiorina, Morris P. and Kenneth S. Shepsle, “Formal Theories of Leadership: Agents, Agenda Setters, and Entrepreneurs”, in Bryan D. Jones (ed.), Leadership and Politics: New Perspectives in Political Science, pp. 17-40, Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 1989.
  • Blondel, Jean, Political Leadership, London: Sage, 1987 (“Introduction”, pp. 1-9 and Ch. 1: “What Is Political Leadership and How Can It Be Assessed?” pp. 10-35).
  • Keohane, Nannerl O., “On Leadership,” Perspectives on Politics 3:4 (2005), 705-722.
  • Daloz, Jean-Pascal, “Reflections on the Comparative Study of Political Leadership,” in H. Baldersheim and J.-P. Daloz (eds), Political Leadership in a Global Age; The Experiences of France and Norway, pp. 17-33, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003.
  • Kaarbo, Juliet, “Prime Minister Leadership Styles in Foreign Policy Decision-Making: A Framework for Research,” Political Psychology 18:3 (1997), 553-581.

Lecture 2: Leadership in democratic and non-democratic settings
(a) Schumpeter’s canonical perception of representative democracy as leadership competition. (b) Parliamentary versus presidential democracy: how do leaderships differ in them? (c) Veto players and other institutional constraints in the exercise of leadership. (d) Three variants of non-democratic leadership: authoritarian, totalitarian, ‘sultanistic’. (e) ‘Extraordinary’ leadership in democracy.


  • *Mackie, Gerry, “Schumpeter’s Leadership Democracy,” Political Theory 37:1 (2009), 128-153.
  • *Lijphart, Arendt (ed.), Parliamentary versus Presidential Government, Oxford: Oxford University Press (“Introduction”, pp. 1-29).
  • *Kalyvas, Andreas, Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary: Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Hannah Arendt, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008 Ch. 1 “The Extraordinary and Political Theory,” pp. 1-15).
  • Tsembelis, George, Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002 (Chs. 1 and 2 on “Individual Veto Players” and “Collective Veto Players” respectively, pp. 19-64).
  • Helmke, Gretchen and Steven Levitsky. “Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda,” Perspectives on Politics 2:4 (2004), 725-740.
  • Linz, Juan J. and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996 (Ch. 3 on “Modern Nondemocratic Regimes”, pp. 38-54).
  • Milgram, Stanley, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, New York: Perennial Classics, 2004.

Lecture 3: Leaders as decision-makers in critical situations
(a) What is a “critical” situation in democracy? (b) How determining can be pre-existing structures and the outside environment in decision-making? (c) Foresight and political gambling. (d) Case studies: Gorbachev applies perestroika; Eastern Europe's leaders face regime change and democratization.


  • *Zolberg, Aristide, “Moments of Madness,” Politics and Society vol. 2, (1972), 183–207.
  • *Beslauer, George, Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 (Ch. 11, “Explaining Leaders’ Choices, 1985-1999”, pp. 231-261).
  • *Ishiyama, John T., “Communist Parties in Transition: Structures, Leaders, and Processes of Democratization in Eastern Europe,” Comparative Politics 27:2 (1995), 147-166.
  • Kuran, Timur, “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989”, World Politics 44:1 (1991), 7-48.
  • Welsh, Helga A. “Political Transition Processes in Central and Eastern Europe”, Comparative Politics 26:4 (1994), 379-394.

Lecture 4: Leaders as decision-makers in crisis situations
(a) What is a “crisis” situation in democracy? (b) The role of time, timing, thin institutional structures, power vacuums, and limited information. (c) Political leadership and strategic games; (d) Case studies: Political leaders and crisis escalation before WWI; Churchill determines Britain’s entry into WWII; the Arab-Israeli conflict seen from the Egyptian and the Israeli sides.


  • *Gross Stein, Janice, “Calculation, Miscalculation, and Conventional Deterrence I: The View from Cairo”, pp. 34-59, in Robert Jervis, Richard Ned Lebow, and Janice Gross Stein (eds.), Psychology and Deterrence, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.
  • *Gross Stein, Janice, “Calculation, Miscalculation, and Conventional Deterrence II: The View from Jerusalem”, pp. 60-88, in Jervis et al., Psychology and Deterrence.
  • Kershaw, Ian, Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World 1940-1941, London: Penguin, 2008 (Ch. 1, “London, Spring 1940. Great Britain Decides to Fight On”, pp. 11-53). If interested in a more substantial analysis of the same theme, consult John Lukacs, Five Days in London: May 1940, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Fromkin, David, Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? New York: Vintage, 2005.

Lecture 5: Leaders as symbolists I: The politics of symbolic action
(a) Leaders as political entrepreneurs and creative symbolists. (b) What does symbolic action consist of? And how are ideologies made. (c) Passionate politics, framing processes, and building radical mass movements in democracy. (d) Achieving symbolic hegemony in democratic politics. (e) Case studies: various cases from both Europe and Latin America.


  • *Brysk, Allison, “Hearts and Minds: Bringing Symbolic Politics Back In,” Polity 27:4 (1995), 559–586.
  • *Benford, Robert D., “Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment,” Annual Review of Sociology 26:1 (2000), 611-639.
  • *Snow, David A., E. Burke Rochford, Jr., Steven K. Worden, Robert D. Benford,  “Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation,” American Sociological Review, 51:4 (1986), 464-481.
  • *Pappas, Takis S., “Political Leadership and the Emergence of Radical Mass Movements in Democracy,” Comparative Political Studies 41:8 (2008), 1117-1140.
  • Cohen, Abner, Two-Dimensional Man: An Essay on the Anthropology of Power and Symbolism in Complex Society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974.
  • Laitin, David D., Hegemony and Culture: Politics and Religious Change among the Yoruba, Chicago, IL/London: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
  • Goffman, Erving, Frame Analysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.
  • Gamson, William A. Talking Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Lecture 6: Leaders as symbolists II: Populism, nationalism and other contentious politics
(a) Political leadership, the politics of polarization, and the creation of new cleavages in society. (b) The context and mechanics of populist emergence. (c) The context and mechanics of nationalist strife. (d) Populist and nationalist leaderships compared. (e) The advent of illiberal democracy? (f) Case studies: former Yugoslavia for nationalism; contemporary Greece for populism.


  • *Aminzade, Ron, Jack A. Goldstone, and Elizabeth J. Perry (2001). “Leadership Dynamics and Dynamics of Contention,” in Ron D. Aminzade et al., Silence and Voice in the Study of Contentious Politics, pp. 126-154. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • *Aldon Morris and Suzanne Staggenborg. “Leadership in Social Movements.” In David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, and Hanspeter Kriesi (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, pp. 171-196. London: Blackwell, 2004.
  • *Pappas, Takis S., “Shared Culture, Individual Strategy and Collective Action: Explaining Slobodan Milošević’s Charismatic Rise to Power,” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 5:2 (2005), 191-212
  • *Helfant Budding, A. (1998) ‘Systemic Crisis and National Mobilization: The Case of the “Memorandum of the Serbian Academy”’ (Cultures and Nations of Central and Eastern Europe: Essays in Honor of Roman Szporluk). Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 22 (1998), 49–69.
  • Kaufman, Stuart J., Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War. Ithaca, NY/London: Cornell University Press, 2001.
  • Barker, Colin, Alan Johnson, and Michael Lavalette (eds.). Leadership and social movements. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2001.
  • Goodwin, Jeff, James M. Jasper, and Francesca Poletta (eds.). Passionate politics: Emotions and social movements. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
  • Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, and Mayer N. Zald (eds.). Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Johnston, Hank, and John A. Noakes (eds.). Frames of Protest: Social Movements and the Framing Perspective. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

Lecture 7: Populist leaders against liberal democracy?
This lecture is a continuation of the previous one, which, however, focuses specifically on political populism and how populist leaders use themes and, sometimes, practices that are inimical to liberal democracy. Case study: Silvio Berlusconi.


  • *Mény, Yves and Yves Surel, “The Constitutive Ambiguity of Populism,” in idem., Democracies and the Populist Challenge, pp. 1-21, Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002.
  • *Arditi, Benjamin, “Populism as a Spectre of Democracy,” in idem., Politics on the Edges of Liberalism: Difference, Populism, Revolution, Agitation, pp. 42-53, Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 2009.
  • *Panizza, Francisco (ed.), Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, New York: Verso, 2005 (selection of essays).
  • Pappas, Takis S., “Populism Revisited: A Framework for Analyzing its Contexts, Mechanisms, and Outcomes,” unpublished manuscript.
  • Viroli, Maurizio, The Liberty of Servants: Berlusconi’s Italy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Lecture 8: Leaders as saviors: The politics of charisma
(a) On the meaning of “political charisma” and its emergence in crisis and non-crisis situations. (b) Once again: structure, agency, and the role of culture. (c) The charismatic bond between leader and followers. (d) Personalism and political radicalism. (e) Case studies: Hitler and De Gaulle.


  • *Pappas, Takis S., “Political Charisma Revisited, and Reclaimed for Political Science,” EUI Working Paper: Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, 2011.
  • *Smith, Philip, “Culture and Charisma: Outline of a Theory,” Acta Sociologica 43:2 (2000), 101-111.
  • *Kalyvas, Andreas, “Charismatic Politics,” in idem., Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary: Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Hannah Arendt, pp. 46-64, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008
  • *Wasielewski, Patricia, “The Emotional Basis of Charisma,” Symbolic Interaction 8:2 (1985), 207-222.
  • Willner, Ann Ruth, The Spellbinders: Charismatic Political Leadership. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT/London, 1984.
  • Madsen, Douglas and Peter G. Snow, The Charismatic Bond: Political Behavior in Times of Crisis, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1991.
  • Lasswell, Harold D. Power and Personality. Viking Press, New York, 1948.
  • Kershaw, Ian, The 'Hitler Myth'. Image and Reality in the Third Reich, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Mahoney, D. J., De Gaulle: Statesmanship, Grandeur, and Modern Democracy, New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 2000.

Lecture 9: Leaders as autocrats: The ‘presidentialization’ of politics
(a) Liberal democracy and power concentration around leaders; (b) The concept of ‘presidentialization’; (c) Causes and outcomes; (d) Leadership in competitive authoritarian systems; (e) Case study: Vladimir Putin.


  • *Poguntke, Thomas and Paul Web, eds, The Presidentialisation of Politics: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005 (Ch. 1, “The Presidentailization of Politics in Democratic Societies: A Framework for Analysis,” pp. 1-25; and Ch. 15, “The Presidentialization of Contemporary Democratic Politics: Evidence, Causes, and Consequences,” pp. 336-356).
  • *Ludger, Helms, “The Presidentialisation of Political Leadership: British Notions and German Observations,” The Political Quarterly 76 (2005), 430-438.
  • *Levitsky, Steven and Lucan A. Way, “Introduction,” in idem., Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War, pp. 3-36, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Azarova, Aitalina, “Formal Institutions and Informal Politics in Russia”, in Gerd Meyer ed., Formal Institutions and Informal Politics in Central and Eastern Europe, Opladen and Farmington Hills: Barbara Budrich Publishers, 2006, 238-273.
  • Huskey, Eugene, “Putin as Patron: Cadres Policy in the Russian Transition”, in Alex Pravda ed., Leading Russia: Putin in Perspective. Essays in Honour of Archie Brown, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 161-178.
  • Shevtsova, Lilia, “Vladimir Putin's Political Choice: Towards Bureaucratic Authoritarianism”, in Pravda, Leading Russia, 229-253.

Lecture 10: A crisis of leadership? Conclusions, lessons & future research agendas
This last lecture will ask: So what? What makes leadership so important after all? How is it causally linked to contemporary liberal democracy and its future? And, from a more academic point of view, are we on the right track when studying leadership? Or, especially when taking into consideration the predicaments of liberal democratic politics, should we begin drafting a new agenda for research in the future?


  • *Alexander, Jeffrey C., “Heroes, Presidents, and Politics,” Contexts 9:4 (2010).
  • *Baylis, Thomas A., “Embattled Executives: Prime Ministerial Weakness in East Central Europe,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 40:1 (2007), 81-106.
  • *Mair, Peter, “Ruling the Void? The Hollowing of Western Democracy,” New Left Review 42 (2006), 25-51.
  • Brooker, Paul, Leadership in Democracy: From Adaptive Response to Entrepreneurial Initiative. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.


The Lecturer
Takis S. Pappas (Ph.D., Yale University) is associate professor of comparative politics in the Department of Balkan, Slavic & Oriental Studies of the University of Macedonia, Greece, and, currently, Marie Curie Fellow at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence. In the past, he has also taught at the universities of Athens; Thessaloniki; the Greek Open University; the Institut d’Études Politiques, University of Strasbourg; and Yale University. He has been a Stanley J. Seeger Visiting Research Fellow in Hellenic Studies, Princeton University; a Visiting Fellow at the Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University; a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy; and a Research Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, New York. He is the author of Making Party Democracy in Greece (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), The Charismatic Party: PASOK, Papandreou, Power (Athens: Patakis, 2009), and various articles that have appeared in such journals as Comparative Political Studies, Party Politics, West European Politics, South European Society and Politics, Southeast European and Black Sea Studies and elsewhere.

His research and teaching interests lie broadly in the field of comparative politics, and, more specifically, in the areas of party and party system politics; ‘extraordinary’ political leadership; mass movements and political radicalism; political patronage and state politics; populism; civil war conflict resolution; and radical change in pluralist systems. While at the EUI between 2011 and 2013, he will be writing a book under the tentative title “Flawed Democracy: Populism and Crisis Politics in Greece.” Two more projects will run in parallel: one about the comparative study of populism in a variety of democratic contexts and another on the role of leadership in effectuating radical change in liberal democracy.

Back to Oslo Summer School Main Page

Tags: Summer School, PhD, Sociology, Political Science, Political Leadership, Democratic Change
Published Oct. 10, 2012 1:19 PM - Last modified Oct. 10, 2012 1:54 PM