For a very long time, human communities have faced periodic threats such as disease, violent attacks, terrorism, economic threats, and financial crises. There is considerable research which shows that people facing threats demand that those in authority exhibit strength and a forceful commitment to protecting the. In sum, threats drive the public to demand protection. Long before the term populism became popular, the role of collectivizing emotions in driving public reactions to social events has long been a concern for democratic governance. But which emotions drive social solidarity? And as group integrity is a variable, what role do emotions play in reducing group cohesion? The emotion that connects threat to the threat response is widely claimed to be fear. The belief that fear drives the threat response is very ancient. It has long been believed that fear signals the presence of threat and increases support for strong, even authoritarian, parties, leaders, and their programs. My argument is that fear is not the sole emotion linked to threat, and that threat-induced fear is often not the principal cause of people offering submissive fidelity to authority, generally, or specifically to authoritarian programs and leaders. This standard account is largely wrong because it ignores the influence of anger as a fundamental element in the evaluation of threat and political behavior.
Bio: George E. Marcus currently is emeritus in the Department of Political Science, Williams College. George does research in Political Psychology, Political Methodology and Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior. His most central current project is 'The upcoming elections in Europe.' His focus has been in political tolerance, the role of emotions in politics, and reimagining democratic theory in light of the insights into the ancient but now archaic opposition of reason and passion provided by neuroscience.