Dr Benjamin Moffitt

Associate Professor in Politics & DECRA Fellow
National School of Arts and Humanities

Dr Benjamin Moffit

Areas of expertise: populism; democratic theory; contemporary political theory; comparative politics; political communications; political representation; visual politics.

Phone: +61 3 9230 8597

Email: benjamin.moffitt@acu.edu.au

Location: ACU Melbourne Campus

ORCID ID:  0000-0003-1843-6032

Benjamin Moffitt is Associate Professor of Politics and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at the National School of Arts and Humanities, ACU (Melbourne). His research is located at the intersection of comparative politics, contemporary political theory and political communications, and focuses on contemporary populism across the globe. 

Benjamin joined ACU in 2018. Prior to this, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Uppsala University and Stockholm University, Sweden. He received his PhD from the University of Sydney in 2014, and his BA (Hons) from the University of Wollongong. He has been a visiting researcher at the WZB (Berlin Social Science Centre) and University of Toronto, and is an associate of the Sydney Democracy Network and Uppsala University's Department of Government.

Benjamin is the author of three books on populism: 'Populism' (Polity, 2020), 'Political Meritocracy and Populism: Curse or Cure?' (with Mark Chou & Octavia Bryant, Routledge, 2020), and 'The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style and Representation' (Stanford University Press, 2016), and the editor of ‘Populism in Global Perspective: A Performative and Discursive Approach’ (with Pierre Ostiguy and Francisco Panizza). He has also authored numerous articles and chapters on populism in Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe and the United States, as well as the theoretical and media-communicative dimensions of populism. These have appeared in journals including Political Studies and The International Journal of Press/Politics, and in collections such as The Oxford Handbook of Populism.

Benjamin is currently working on two major projects. The first, funded by the Australian Research Council (2019-2023), is entitled 'The Visual Politics of Populism', and comparatively examines how populists use visual media and how visual media covers populists across the globe. It aims to develop a broader theoretical understanding of the linkages between populism, aesthetics and democracy. 

The second, funded by the MM Wallenberg Foundation (2019-2022), is entitled 'Democratic Self-Defense: The Social Model', and is a collaboration with former colleagues at Uppsala University, Sofia Näsström, Paula Blomqvist and Anthoula Malkopoulou. This project examines how democracy can be defended in times of political discontent and democratic instability, with a particular focus on the role of social integration and welfare as opposed to militant or liberal approaches.

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Select publications


Moffitt, B. (2020) Populism.Cambridge: Polity.

Chou, M., Moffitt, B. & Bryant, O. (2020) Political Meritocracy and Populism: Cure or Curse?Abingdon: Routledge.

Moffitt, B. (2016) The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style and RepresentationStanford: Stanford University Press (Turkish translation with Iletsim Books released 2020).

Edited volumes

Ostiguy, P., Panizza, F. & Moffitt, B. (eds.) (2021) Populism in Global Perspective: A Performative and Discursive Approach. Abingdon: Routledge.

Journal Articles

Moffitt, B.  (2022) ‘How Do Populists Visually Represent ‘The People’? A Systematic Comparative Visual Content Analysis of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ Instagram’, International Journal of Press/Politics, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/19401612221100418

Chou, M., Moffitt, B. & Busbridge, R. (2022) ‘The Localist Turn in Populism Studies’, Swiss Political Science Review, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 129-141

Moffitt, B. (2021) ‘How Do Mainstream Parties ‘Become’ Mainstream, and Pariah Parties ‘Become’ Pariahs? Conceptualising the Processes of Mainstreaming and Pariahing in the Labelling of Political Parties’, Government and Opposition, https://doi.org/10.1017/gov.2021.5

Kefford, G., Moffitt, B. & Werner, A. ‘Populist Attitudes: Bringing Together Ideational and Communicative Approaches’ (2021) Political Studies, https://doi.org/10.1177/0032321721997741

Busbridge, R., Moffitt, B. & Thorburn, J. (2020) 'Cultural Marxism: Far-right conspiracy theory in Australia’s culture wars'Social Identities, doi: 10.1080/13504630.2020.1787822.

De Cleen, B., Moffitt, B., Panayotu, P. & Stavrakakis, Y. (2020) 'The Potentials and Difficulties of Transnational Populism: the Case of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25)Political Studies, vol. 68, no. 1, pp. 146-166.

Moffitt, B. (2018) 'The Populism/Anti-Populism Divide in Western Europe'Democratic Theory, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 1-16.

Moffitt, B. (2017) 'Liberal Illiberalism? The Reshaping of the Contemporary Populist Radical Right in Northern Europe', Politics and Governance, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 112-122.

Moffitt, B. (2017) 'Transnational Populism? Representative Claims, Media and the Difficulty of Constructing a Transnational 'People", Javnost: The Public, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 409-425.

Moffitt, B. (2015) 'How to Perform Crisis: A Model for Understanding the Key Role of Crisis in Contemporary Populism'Government and Opposition, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 189-217.

Moffitt, B. & Tormey, S. (2014) 'Rethinking Populism: Politics, Mediatisation and Political Style'Political Studies, vol. 62, no. 2, pp. 381-397 (runner-up for 2014 UK Political Science Association Harrison Prize, Chinese translation published in Foreign Theoretical Trends, 2016, No. 10, pp. 27-38).

Snow, D. & Moffitt, B. (2012) 'Straddling the Divide: Mainstream Populism and Conservatism in Howard's Australia and Harper's Canada', Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 271-292.

Book Chapters

Ostiguy, P., Panizza, F. & Moffitt, B. (2021) ‘Introduction’ in Ostiguy, P., Panizza, F. & Moffitt, B. (eds.) Populism in Global Perspective: A Performative and Discursive Approach. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 1- 18.

Ostiguy, P. & Moffitt, B. (2021) ‘Who Would Identify with an ‘Empty Signifier’? The Relational, Performative Approach to Populism’ in Ostiguy, P., Panizza, F. & Moffitt, B. (eds.) Populism in Global Perspective: A Performative and Discursive Approach. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 47-72.

Ostiguy, P., Panizza, F. & Moffitt, B. (2021) ‘Conclusions: Reflections on the Lessons Learned’ in Ostiguy, P., Panizza, F. & Moffitt, B. (eds.) Populism in Global Perspective: A Performative and Discursive Approach. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 255-274.

Moffitt, B. (2019) 'Populism & Media in Western Europe' in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Routledge International Handbook of Global Populism. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 235-248.

Moffitt, B. (2018) 'Populism 2.0, Social Media and the False Allure of 'Unmediated' Representation' in Mackert, J, Turner, B.S. & Fitzi, G. (eds.) Populism and the Crisis of Democracy, vol. 2. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 30-46.

Moffitt, B. (2019) 'Populism versus Technocracy: Performance, Passion & Aesthetics' in Cossarini, P. & Vallespin Ona, F. (eds.) Populism and Passions: Democratic Legitimacy After Austerity. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 49-64.

Moffitt, B. (2017) 'Populism in Australia and New Zealand' in Rovira Kaltwasser, C., Taggart, P., Ochoa Espejo, P. & Ostiguy, P. (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Populism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 121-139.

Moffitt, B. (2015) 'Contemporary Populism and 'The People' in the Asia-Pacific: Thaksin Shinawatra and Pauline Hanson' in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, pp. 293-316.


The Visual Politics of Populism

  • Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award, 2019-2022, $379,000

Democratic Self-Defense: The Social Model

  • Marianne & Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, 2019-2022, 4.2 million SEK ($655,000)
  • With Sofia Näsström (Uppsala University), Paula Blomqvist (Uppsala University) and Anthoula Malkopoulou (Lund University)

International journal review panel

American Political Science Review; British Journal of Political Science; Political Studies*; Perspectives on Politics; Government and Opposition*; Environmental Politics; International Journal of Communication; Nature Human Behavior; Democratization; Australian Journal of Political Science*; Social Science & Medicine; Visual Studies; International Studies Review; Review of International Studies; Acta Politica; Palgrave Communications; Canadian Journal of Political Science; Journal of Political Ideologies*; Sociological Perspectives; South European Society & Politics; Parliamentary Affairs; Philosophy East & West; Journal of Information Technology & Politics; Scandinavian Political Studies*; Journal for the Study of Radicalism; German Politics; Australian Journal of Politics & History; Democratic Theory; Journal of Political Power; Iperstoria Political Science; and Quality & Quantity (* indicates multiple reviews)

Grant agency review panel

  • Australian Research Council
  • European Research Council
  • Research Foundation, Flanders
  • National Science Centre, Poland
  • Israel Science Foundation
  • Fund for Scientific Research (FRNS), Belgium
  • EUTOPIA Science and Innovation Post-Doctoral Program

Public engagement

Benjamin is a frequent commentator in the Australian and international press, and his work has appeared or been cited in outlets such as The Economist, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Bloomberg News, The Conversation, the ABC, and the BBC World Service. In 2018, Benjamin was named one of ABC's inaugural Top 5 researchers in Humanities and the Social Sciences in Australia. A selection of his public engagement pieces can be found below:

  1. ‘The Trouble With Anti-Populism: Why the Champions of Civility Keep Losing’, The Guardian Long Read, 14 February 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/14/anti-populism-politics-why-champions-of-civility-keep-losing.
  2. ‘The Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) and the Limitations of Transnational Populism’ (with Benjamin de Cleen, Panos Panayotu and Yannis Stavrakakis), Democratic Audit UK, 3 July 2019, http://www.democraticaudit.com/2019/07/03/the-democracy-in-europe-movement-diem25-and-the-limitations-of-transnational-populism/
  3. ‘Transnational Populism? The Case of DiEM25’ (with Benjamin de Cleen, Panos Panayotu and Yannis Stavrakakis), UK Political Studies Association Blog, 23 May 2019, https://www.psa.ac.uk/psa/news/transnational-populism-case-democracy-europe-movement-diem25.
  4. ‘False necessities: Is it time to leave two-party politics behind?’ (interview with Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens), The Minefield, ABC Radio National, 27 February 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/theminefield/false-necessities:-is-it-time-to-leave-two-party-politics-behind/10808078.
  5. ‘What actually is populism? And why does it have a bad reputation?’ (with Octavia Bryant), The Conversation, 6 February 2019, https://theconversation.com/what-actually-is-populism-and-why-does-it-have-a-bad-reputation-109874.
  6. Populism and its relationship with social media’, 30 minute radio documentary produced for Future Tense, Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Company, first aired 25 November, https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/populism-and-its-relationship-with-social-media/10496534.
  7. ‘Populists are winning the social media war – aren’t they?’, ABC News, 19 October 2018, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-19/populists-and-social-media-benjamin-moffitt-top-5/10355200.
  8. ‘From Donald Trump to Pauline Hanson: populism, explained’, ABC News, 18 October 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihQNNcXg7sU.
  9. ‘Appello alla ribellione contro l’élite malvagia, maleducazione come stile politico, tentativo di provocare crisi e paure: sono le tre caratteristiche fondamentali dell’ondata populista che cresce nel mondo’ (Populism: appeal to ‘the people’ versus ‘the elite’; bad manners; and the performance of crisis, breakdown or threat’), Robinson 16 (cultural liftout), La Repubblica, 19 March 2017, p. 10.
  10. ‘What is Populism, Really?’ (podcast interview with Julie Rose), BYU Top of Mind with Julie Rose, 13 March 2017.
  11. ‘Populism and democracy: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?’, The Huffington Post, 2 November 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-conversation-global/populism-and-democracy-dr_b_12766002.html.
  12. ‘Of course Donald Trump goes low. That’s the populists’ winning style’ (with Pierre Ostiguy), The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, 20 October 2106, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/10/20/of-course-donald-trump-goes-low-thats-the-populists-winning-style/.
  13. ‘Face the facts: populism is here to stay’, The Conversation, 29 August 2016, https://theconversation.com/face-the-facts-populism-is-here-to-stay-63771.
  14. ‘The Populists Are Revolting’, The Mark News, 18 July 2016, http://www.themarknews.com/2016/07/18/the-populists-are-revolting/.
  15. ‘Why are we surprised by every populist politician? Voting for them can be a rational choice’ (interview with Jason Wilson), The Guardian, 13 May 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/13/why-are-we-surprised-by-every-populist-politician-voting-for-them-can-be-a-rational-choice.
  16. ‘Populism and democracy: friend or foe? Rising stars deepen dilemma’, The Conversation, 23 April 2015, https://theconversation.com/populism-and-democracy-friend-or-foe-rising-stars-deepen-dilemma-39695.
  17. ‘Hanson wants your votes (again) – please explain?’, ABC: The Drum, 5 June 2013, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4734308.html
  18. ‘Berlusconi, Katter and Assange: a very personal party’ (with Duncan McDonnell), The Conversation, 16 April 2013, http://theconversation.com/berlusconi-katter-and-assange-a-very-personal-party-13164
  19. ‘The legacy of Hugo Chávez and his politics of popularity’, ABC: The Drum, 6 March 2013, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4556438.html
  20. ‘The good, the bad and the ugly: Hugo Chávez and the international left’, The Conversation, 6 March 2013, http://theconversation.edu.au/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-hugo-ch-vez-and-the-international-left-12651
  21. ‘Who’s afraid of Geert Wilders? Populism and the Politics of Hate’, The Conversation, 21 February 2013, https://theconversation.edu.au/whos-afraid-of-geert-wilders-populism-and-the-politics-of-hate-12326

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