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Forgas, Joseph P., William D. Crano, and Klaus Fiedler, eds. The Psychology of Populism: The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy. Routledge, 2021.


The recent rise of populist politics represent a major challenge for liberal democracies. This important book explores the psychological reasons for the rise of populism, featuring contributions from leading international researchers in the fields of psychology and political science.

Unlike liberal democracy based on the Enlightenment values of individual freedom, autonomy and rationality, both right-wing and left-wing populism offer collectivist, autocratic formulations reminiscent of the evolutionary history and tribal instincts of our species. The book offers a comprehensive overview of the psychology of populism, covering such phenomena as identity seeking, anger and fear, collective narcissism, grievance, norms, perceptions of powerlessness and deprivation, authoritarianism, nationalism, radicalism, propaganda and persuasion, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and the effects of globalization.

The book is divided into four parts. Part I deals with the motivational and emotional factors that attract voters to populist causes, and the human needs and values that populist movements satisfy. Part II analyzes the cognitive features of populist appeals, especially their emphasis on simplicity, epistemic certainty and moral absolutism. Part III turns to one of the defining features of populism: its offer of a powerful tribal identity and collectivist ideology that provide meaning and personal significance to its followers. Finally, in Part IV, the propaganda tactics used by populist movements are analysed, including the role of charismatic leadership, authoritarianism, and nationalism and the use of conspiracy narratives and persuasive strategies.

This is fascinating reading on a highly topical issue. The book will be of interest to students, researchers, and applied professionals in all areas of psychology and the social sciences as a textbook or reference book, and to anyone interested in the global rise of populism.

Table of contents

  • The Psychology of Populism: The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy
    Joseph P. Forgas and William D. Crano
  • Part I What Populists Want: Motivational and Emotional Factors in Populism
    • Populism and the Social Psychology of Grievance
      Peter H. Ditto, Christian G. Rodriguez
    • Socio-Psychological Analysis of the Deterioration of Democracy and the Rise of Authoritarianism: The Role of Needs, Values, and Context
      Daniel Bar-Tal, Tamir Magal
    • Beyond Populism: The Psychology of Status-Seeking and Extreme Political Discontent
      Michael Bang Petersen, Mathias Osmundsen, Alexander Bar
    • The Rise of Populism: The politics of Justice, Anger, and Grievance
      George E. Marcus
    • Collective Narcissism and the Motivational Underpinnings of the Populist Backlash
      Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Drottya Lantos, Oliver Keenan
  • Part II The Populist Mind: Cognitive Aspects of Populism
    • Psychological Perversities and Populism
      Joachim I. Krueger, David J. Grüning
    • Overconfidence in Radical Politics
      Jan-Willem van Prooijen
    • Why Populism Attracts: On the Allure of Certainty and Dignity
      Arie W. Kruglanski, Erica Molinario, Gilda Sensales
    • A Non-Populist Perspective on Populism in Psychological Science
      Klaus Fiedler
  • Part Part III The Tribal Call
    • Self-Uncertainty and Populism: Why We Endorse Populist Ideologies, Identify With Populist Groups, and Support Populist Leaders
      Michael A. Hogg, Oluf Gøtzsche-Astrup
    • When Populism Triumphs: From Democracy to Autocracy
      Joseph P. Forgas, Dorottya Lantos
    • Populism in Power: The Tribal Challenge
      Péter Krekó
    • The Rise of Populism in the USA: Nationalism, Race, and American Party Politics
      Leonie Huddy, Alessandro Del Ponte
    • Threat, Tightness, and the Evolutionary Appeal of Populist Leaders
      Michele J. Gelfand, Rebecca Lorente
  • Part Part IV Populist Narratives and Propaganda
    • Social Psychological Contributions to the Study of Populism: Minority Influence and Leadership Processes in the Rise and Fall of Populist Movements
      William D. Crano, Amber M. Gaffney
    • Value Framing and Support for Populist Propaganda
      Joel Cooper, Joseph Avery
    • Rapid Social Change and the Emergence of Populism
      Robin R. Vallacher, Eli Fennell
    • Authoritarianism, Education, and Support for Right-Wing Populism
      Stanley Feldman

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.