Why do right-wing populist leaders routinely resort to religious appeals? How should the religious symbolism in populist politics be interpreted? To address these questions, this study shifts attention to symbolic, ritualistic and emotive mobilization by populism through insights from cultural sociology and ‘sacralization of politics’. Populists in power sacralize the political arena by attributing nominally secular entities such as the nation, the state and the leader ‘religious’ traits as objects of loyalty and faith. By creating a syncretic amalgamation of the secular and religious domains, they perpetuate the dichotomy between the people and the powerful enemy, despite changing boundaries of both categories. Using the case of Turkey as illustration, the study examines three features of sacralized politics: (1) mission led by a sacrosanct leader, (2) consecration of elect community/the nation, and (3) performance politics that substitutes democratic participation. The findings suggest that beyond the instrumental use of religious tropes for political gain, right-wing populists rally support by selectively evoking the ‘cultural toolkit’ available to them. They also construct a specific group identity by evoking collective memory. Researchers should pay more attention to populists’ embeddedness in cultural structures in which religion remains a powerful pillar and resonate well with their audiences.

Fuzzy Borders between Populism and Sacralized Politics: Mission, Leader, Community and Performance in ‘New’ Turkey

Yabanci B.
2020

Abstract

Why do right-wing populist leaders routinely resort to religious appeals? How should the religious symbolism in populist politics be interpreted? To address these questions, this study shifts attention to symbolic, ritualistic and emotive mobilization by populism through insights from cultural sociology and ‘sacralization of politics’. Populists in power sacralize the political arena by attributing nominally secular entities such as the nation, the state and the leader ‘religious’ traits as objects of loyalty and faith. By creating a syncretic amalgamation of the secular and religious domains, they perpetuate the dichotomy between the people and the powerful enemy, despite changing boundaries of both categories. Using the case of Turkey as illustration, the study examines three features of sacralized politics: (1) mission led by a sacrosanct leader, (2) consecration of elect community/the nation, and (3) performance politics that substitutes democratic participation. The findings suggest that beyond the instrumental use of religious tropes for political gain, right-wing populists rally support by selectively evoking the ‘cultural toolkit’ available to them. They also construct a specific group identity by evoking collective memory. Researchers should pay more attention to populists’ embeddedness in cultural structures in which religion remains a powerful pillar and resonate well with their audiences.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3725020
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