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Photo: “Booths at Ethete Polling Station“, by WyoFile WyoFile, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Queiroz, Regina Maria da Cruz. “From the tyranny of the neoliberal individual to neoliberal populism.” Journal of Political Ideologies (2021): 1-22.


Neoliberalism relies on a libertarian conception of both the individual and liberty. It is grounded in a conservative understanding of the extra-social source of political order and a tendency to situate individuals in concrete groups. Crucially, it views public restrictions on individual liberty – issuing from a collective, homogeneous person (‘the people’) – as inherently despotic. Neoliberalism thus excludes the concept of ‘the people’ from its ideological corpus and prioritizes individual personal interests.

In this article, I argue that individual liberty does not prevent the political tyranny of the individual and is in fact compatible with the concept of the people. As I show, neoliberal populism retains ‘the people’ as a core concept while cloaking its members in the neoliberal conception of the individual, while liberalism understands the people as a collection of individuals who associate their personal well-being with that of others, pursued under freely willed public laws.

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.