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Photo: “Viktor Orbán adressing the House of Commons – 2015.09.21 (1)“, by Elekes Andor, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Krekó, Péter. “Populism in Power: The Tribal Challenge.” In The Psychology of Populism The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy, 1–23. Routledge, 2021.


“Populism” is a useful term in political science to label a “thin” ideology and a related rhetorical style that can be highly useful in opposition to acquire power. Populist attitudes can change though when populists gain power, for two reasons. First, when getting in government, they often lose their anti-elitist appeal, as they become the elites themselves. Second, populists in
power make much greater effort to create and strengthen their own elites, rather than help the poor. In this article, we analyze the attitudes of voters of populist parties in government. Our studies in Hungary and Poland showed that voters of so-called populist parties (Fidesz and Pis) are, in fact, less anti-elitist and less people-centric than voters of opposition parties that are not labeled as populist by the social science literature. Based on the existing components of populist attitudes, we can put together a different concept. This article suggests the term “political tribalism”, and defines it as the combination of Manichean Worldview that defines politics as the ultimate war between the “good” and the “evil”, Anti-pluralism, and Authoritarianism that empowers the leader of the tribe via unconditional trust. Tribalist leaders, while talking about the “people” as a homogenous concept, are using divisive social identity categories and strategies, fueling antagonisms and hostility between political ingroups and outgroups. The
nature of tribalism, its cures and possible future avenues of research are discussed.

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.