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Jami, Waleed A., and Markus Kemmelmeier. “Culture and Democracy: Predicting Authoritarianism and Ethnonationalism with Social Axioms.” The Journal of Psychology 156, no. 6 (2022): 435-457.


Authoritarian leaders and parties are challenging the foundations of democracy across the world. We argue that this authoritarian upsurge is systematically linked to culturally shared beliefs about the world. Study 1 linked social axioms to authoritarianism and ethnonationalism in a US college sample. Study 2 replicated these findings with a multi-national dataset and predicted authoritarianism with country-level social axioms. Results from these two individual-level studies indicated that right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and ethnonationalism were related to reward for application, religiosity, and fate control, but low social flexibility. Left-wing authoritarianism was linked to high levels of social cynicism, and fate control, but inversely related to the other three axioms. Countries with high dynamic externality had weaker democracies, as evident in fewer civil liberties and worse political culture, and a greater prevalence of individual-level authoritarian and ethnonationalist sentiments. We discuss the implications of the relationship between authoritarianism and culture in this current democratic backsliding, and the susceptibility of different cultures to the lure of illiberalism.

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.