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Photo:Women’s March on Washington – 1/21/17,” by Molly Adams licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue is modified from the original.

Holzleithner, Elisabeth. “Reactionary Gender Constructions in Illiberal Political Thinking.” Politics and Governance 10, no. 4 (2022): 6-15.


Theories of the state, its functions, limits, and legitimacy have been overwhelmingly “liberal” in the past few decades, in a very broad sense of the term. Such theories are inherently open to a diversity of genders, sexual orientations, and ways of living together because they place equal freedom and the right to prosper according to one’s own ideas front and centre. Illiberal political thinking is of a completely different stock. This article focuses on the role of gender and sexuality in such approaches. Both gender and sexuality are pivotal for illiberalism’s defence of an order that is supposed to overcome Western‐style liberal democracy. In contrast to the liberals’ and their like‐minded critics’ quest for social justice in societies that are traversed by structures of oppression and domination, illiberal political thinking offers an utterly different brand of autocratic rule that keeps conventional hierarchies intact. It only takes note of advanced gender theories to either ridicule them or condemn them as a supposed threat to social cohesion. This article exposes illiberal approaches to gender and sexuality, considering the roots and focus of the former on the dichotomy of public/private and illiberals’ aversion to equality and human rights.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.