The Emotional Life of Populism

How Fear, Disgust, Resentment, and Love Undermine Democracy


Eva Illouz with Avital Sicron

Publisher Van Leer Institute Press & Hakibbutz Hameuchad
Language Hebrew
Year of Publication 2024
Series Theory in Context Series

In many places worldwide, democracy is currently under attack by nationalist populism. The weakening of the Left, the rule of a political leader with authoritarian leanings, increasing polarization between political camps, weakening of the mechanisms of law enforcement and other professional bodies—all these are part of the same phenomenon. As in other countries, the same question arises in Israel: Why do political elements that have no qualms about harming the wellbeing and rights of citizens achieve such broad support?

“The Emotional Life of Populism: How Fear, Disgust, Resentment, and Love Undermine Democracy,” begins with the assumption that to answer this question one must focus on emotions, because only emotions are capable of causing human beings to ignore the facts and overlook personal interests. Four main emotions lie at the heart of the populist narrative: fear, disgust, resentment, and unconditional love of country. These emotions are not unique to Israel, and they are used by populist parties and leaders throughout the world. Each chapter of this book examines one of the four emotions and points to the historical factors that have strengthened its grip on the Israeli public, how it is used by political elements, and the ways in which it serves populism and erodes democratic values in Israel and worldwide. The book presents a unique perspective on populism in Israel, and is likely to interest anyone seeking an in-depth understanding of the Israeli political arena and the factors underlying populism’s success throughout the world.

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