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Outsiders in politics: an overview




outsiders, populism, political discourse, political parties, narrative review


Introduction: What is a political outsider and what is the relevance of this phenomenon in the contemporary political scenario? While the political success of individuals who build their careers outside established parties is not a novel phenomenon, it has become increasingly widespread since the 2010s, both in Brazil and in Europe. Materials and methods: Through a review of the specialized Political Science literature on the subject, we sought to establish the baselines for a conceptual definition of the political outsider and address how the phenomenon has been empirically analyzed. Results: Conceptually speaking, two dimensions proved to be essential for identifying outsiders: party affiliation and professional occupation. The first verifies the individual’s position in relation to the party system, whether they gained political prominence within or outside established parties, while the second identifies whether the individual had an occupation within the arena of institutional politics prior to running in an election. As for the empirical analyses of outsiders in politics, we found a lack of conceptual rigor in most of the reviewed studies when classifying certain political actors as outsiders. Discussion: Some conceptual and methodological challenges remain when striving to study the phenomenon, such as how to extend the concept to presidential candidates or to studies about outsiders in parliaments. Another issue is how to circumscribe the phenomenon among other correlated phenomena, such as the rise of populist leaders and/or parties and, above all, the electoral discourse of outsiders: while this is not an essential trait of the outsider, the anti-establishment rhetoric is almost invariably present through a denial of both traditional politics as well as career politicians.


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How to Cite

Picussa, R., & Codato, A. (2022). Outsiders in politics: an overview. In SciELO Preprints.


Human Sciences


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