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Patrick Sawer

В рубрике «Паспорт республиканца» участники рассказывают о себе — о своём пути в науку, успехах и провалах и о том, зачем им всё это нужно.

About experience of studying abroad

I've lived abroad now since 2012 when after graduating from my undergraduate program I decided to leave the United States to study and teach English in Paris. In 2015, I made the move to Moscow in order to spend a year teaching here but ended up staying long-term and enrolling in HSE.

About the subject of the NIRS paper

The topic of my master's thesis, and the subject of the manuscript that I submitted for the NIRS competition, involves the relationship between populist radical right politicians and conspiratorial ideation, what Hofstadter called the "paranoid style" of politics. In my research, I argue that emphasizing conspiracy theories in one's political rhetoric can have beneficial electoral outcomes for the populist candidate. In the NIRS paper, I used quantitative methods to analyze state-level data from the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, and for my master's thesis, I added a second section involving survey data.

About advantages of academic career 

Well, I would not say that I have a career in academia yet, but given how well the current year went in the "Politics, Economics, Philosophy" program, I would like to give it a try and see how it goes. I've taken a liking to research work since I've started as I feel that I have the opportunity to be creative in my work and constantly learn new things about the world.

What do your parents think about career in science?

My parents don't mind so much. My whole family works in education, so they have a lot of respect for the profession, but I think they are still skeptical about where I will finally land after graduation.

How to explain parent your research topic?

If they asked, I think it would be relatively easy for them to understand as it is a common subject in American politics nowadays. Most likely they could write any number of papers on it themselves.

About populism sentiment nowadays

We are currently living through what Chantal Mouffe calls a "Populist Moment". Democratic regimes around the world are feeling a surge in populist sentiment which has resulted in populist parties of either the left, right, or neoliberal variety either winning power, entering into a coalition with mainstream parties, or forming a significant political opposition. 

This inevitably raises a number of questions that researchers have been investigating since the beginning of this "wave" in the 80s and 90s; what effect does populism have on democracy, what factors lead to its rise, and how best to respond to it?

About beneficial and problematic aspects of populism 

I would not say that populism is necessarily dangerous. 

In certain contexts, it can be a corrective to democracy. For example, in countries where certain issues deemed important by a large part of the voting population are absent from the national political discourse, populists can render the political system more responsive to the people by politicizing certain issues and mobilizing excluded segments of the population.

That being said, the problematic aspect of populism is its relationship to liberal democracy and often is responsible for the erosion of certain institutions associated with political liberalism; minority rights, separation of powers, rights to alternative sources of information, etc.

This is a consequence of the Manichean outlook in populism which considers elites to be corrupt or evil, and fundamentally at odds with "the people". 

In unconsolidated democracies, populism can lead to a transition to semi-autocratic regimes as is currently the case with Fidesz in Hungary.

About education in the US and Russia 

I've only studied in each country once and the degrees were all very different in subject matter, but in my opinion, there generally isn't much of a difference.

What friends think about Russia

In general, my friends don't think too much about me being abroad. Americans don't tend to be interested in places outside of the United States very often.

Of course, a few family members were worried about me coming here given the political situation between the US and Russia, which does sometimes cause problems, but I think they've come to realize that there are a lot of opportunities for me here that I would not be able to have in the US.

About plans and dreams 

I am currently waiting for responses from doctoral schools, so hopefully, if all goes well, I will be preparing for my doctoral degree in the near future.

While I think everyone in academia wishes for their research to be influential or paradigm-setting, this is rarely the case. For my part, I would just be happy to see my research or lecturing make a positive difference in the world at one time or another.