Savagery in right-wing populist leadership: between theatricality and political social engineering


theatricality of politics
social engineering of emotions
political leadership
right-wing populism
Donald Trump


Contemporary leadership practices in politics are full of emotions, which, on the one hand, may be a manifestation of various types of expressions or moods in the individual and collective dimension, and on the other hand, are an important source of political mobilization or an instrument enhancing effectiveness in the election competition. In this article inducing and politicizing savagery among followers – defined as an emotional social engineering strategy for articulating given goals and interests – will be treated as a populist manifestation and an expression of planned radicalization of political competition. The aim of the article is a meta theoretical reflection on the instrumentalisation of wildness in the leadership of the right-wing populist – Donald Trump. A practical rationale for discussing collective savagery in politics will be the attack on the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. This event will serve as an example to explain the political exteriorization of the confrontational Trump followers, thanks to which the right-wing populist leader not only articulated his own goals, shaped public self-presentation or theatrical political presence, but also redefined and challenged the existing rules and principles of democratic political culture.


Alexander, J. C. (2011). Performance and Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Barbalet, J. M. (1998). Emotion, Social Theory, and Social Structure: A Macrosociological Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Barbalet, J., M., & Demertzis, N. (2013). Collective Fear and Societal Change. In. N. Demertzis (Ed.), Emotions in Politics. The Affect Dimension in Political Tension (pp. 167-185). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Berezin, M. (2001). Emotions and Political Identity: Mobilizing Affection for the Polity. In. J. Goodwin, J. M. Jasper, F. Polletta (Eds.), Passionate politics: emotions and social movements (pp. 83-98). Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press. DOI:

Brown, R., & Pehrson, S. (2020). Group Processes. Dynamics within and Between Groups. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc. DOI:

Cackowski, Z. (1979). Człowiek jako podmiot działania praktycznego i poznawczego [Man as the subject of practical and cognitive activity]. Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza.

Canetti, E. (1978). Crowds and Power. New York: Continuum.

Debord, G. (1992). Society of The Spectacle. London: Rebel Press.

Fox, R. (2011). The tribal imagination: civilization and the savage mind. Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press. DOI:

Degérando, J.-M. (1969). The Observation of Savage People. Berkeley: University of California Press. DOI:

Delsol, Ch. (2003). Esej o człowieku późnej nowoczesności [An essay on a man of late modernity]. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Znak.

Diop, C. A. (1991). Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology. New York: Lawrence Hill Books.

Donaldson, S., & Kymlicka, W. (2011). Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Eatwell, R., & Goodwin, M. (2018). National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. London: Penguin Books.

Fernandez-Armesto, F. (2002). Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature. New York: A Touchstone Book.

Garside, N. (2013). Democratic Ideals and the Politicization of Nature: The Roving Life of a Feral Citizen. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Griffin, R. (2017). Interregnum or endgame? The radical right in the "post-fascist" era. In C. Mudde (Ed.), The Populist Radical Right (pp. 15-27). A reader. London & New York: Routledge.

Hall, S. (1992). The Question of Cultural Identity. In. S. Hall, D. Held, T. McGrew (Eds.), Modernity and Its Futures (pp. 273-325). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hall, S. (1997). The Work of Representation. In. S. Hall (Ed.), Representation (15-75). London: Sage.

Hall, S. (2019). Culture, the Media, and the "Ideological Effect". In. D. Morley (Ed.), Essential Essays / Stuart Hall. Foundations of Cultural Studies. Vol. 1 (pp. 298-335). Durham and London: Duke University Press. DOI:

Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D., & Platow M. J. (2011). The New Psychology of Leadership. Identity, Influence, and Power. Hove & New York: Psychology Press. DOI:

Hochschild, A., R. (1983). The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Hogg, M. A. (2001). Self-categorization and subjective uncertainty resolution: Cognitive and motivational facets of social identity and group membership. In. J. P. Forgas, K. D. Williams, L. Wheeler (Eds.), The Social Mind: Cognitive and Motivational Aspects of Interpersonal Behavior (pp. 323-349). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hogg, M. A. (2006). Social Identity Theory of Leadership. In. J. B. Ciulla, C. L. Hoyt, G. R. Goethals, D. R. Forsyth (Eds.), Leadership at The Crossroads. Vol. 1. Leadership and Psychology (pp. 62-77). Westport, Connecticut, London: Praeger Perspectives.

Kassab, H. S. (2016). The Power of Emotion in Politics, Philosophy, and Ideology. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 25-80. DOI:

Keltner, D., & Gross, J. J. (1999). Functional Accounts of Emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 13(5), 467-480. DOI:

Keltner, D., Oatley, K., & Jenkins, J. M. (2014). Understanding Emotions. Third Edition. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Production of Space. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd.

Clark, M. S., & Brissette, I. (2000). Relationship beliefs and emotion: Reciprocal effects. In. N. H. Frijda, A. S. R. Manstead, S. Bem (Eds.), Emotions and Beliefs. Feeling Infuence Thoughts (pp. 212-240). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Czapów, C., & Podgórecki, A. (1972). Socjotechnika - podstawowe pojęcia i problemy [Social engineering-basic concepts and problems]. In A. Podgórecki (Ed.), Socjotechnika. Style działania [Social engineering. Styles of action] (pp. 9-35). Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza.

Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional Contagion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Karwat, M. (2003). Polityka jako festiwal hipokryzji [Politcs as a festival of hypocrisy]. In. B. Kaczmarek (Ed.), Metafory polityki [Metaphors of politcs]. tom 2 (pp. 291-316). Warszawa: Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa.

Karwat, M. (2017). Autorytaryzm a populizm. Zarys współzależności [Authoritarianism and Populism. Morphology of Interdependence]. In. F. Pierzchalski, B. Rydliński (Eds.), Autorytarny populizm w XXI wieku. Krytyczna rekonstrukcja [Authoritarian Populism in The 21st Century. Critical Reconstruction] (pp. 15-32). Warszawa: Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa.

Kertzer, D. I. (1988). Ritual, Politics, and Power. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Kwiatkowski, S. (1974). Słowo i emocje w propagandzie [Word and emotions in propaganda]. Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza, pp. 153-155.

Pierzchalski, F. (2013). Performans somatyczny - ciało jako element aktywności politycznej [Somatic performance - body as element of political activity]. In M. Babecki, F. Pierzchalski (Eds.), Transformacje rzeczywistości. Przejawy aktywizmu w kulturze, mediach i polityce [Reality transformations. Manifestations of activism in culture, media and politics] (pp. 155-185). Kraków: Wydawnictwo Libron.

Mayer, N. (2021). Political sciences approaches to the far right. In S. D. Ashe, J. Busher, DOI:

G. Macklin, A. Winterpp (Eds.), Researching the far right. Theory, Method and Practice (pp. 17-31). London & New York: Routledge.

Morgan, L. H. (2003). Ancient Society. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Mudde, C. (2007). Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Mudde, C., & Kaltwasser, C. R. (Eds.). (2012). Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or corrective for democracy? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Nalaskowski, A. (2006). Dzikość i zdziczenie jako kontekst edukacji [Wildness and savagery as the context of education]. Kraków: Oficyna Wydawnicza "Impuls".

Niedenthal, P. M., & Ric, F. (2017). Psychology of Emotion. New York and London: Routledge. DOI:

Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2019). Cultural Backlash. Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Plamper, J. (2012). The History of Emotions. An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Podgórecki, A. (1968). Pięć funkcji socjologii [Five functions of sociology]. In A. Podgórecki (Ed.), Socjotechnika. Praktyczne zastosowania socjologii [Social engineering. Practical applications of social engineering] (pp. 9-34). Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza.

Rosanvallon, P. (2008). Counter-Democracy. Politics in an Age of Distrust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Sarmiento, D. F. (2003). Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Searle, J. R. (1998). Mind, Language and Society. Philosophy in The Real World. New York: Basic Book.

Solomon, R. C. (2003). What Is An Emotion? Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Struthers Montford, K., & Taylor, Ch. (2016). Feral Theory: Eiditor's Introduction. Feral Feminisms, 6(Fall), 5-17.

Taylor, Ch. (2004). Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham and London: Duke University Press. DOI:

Todorov, T. (2010). The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations. Cambridge: Polity Press. DOI:

Traverso, E. (2019). The New Faces of Fascism. Populism and the Far Right. London: Verso.

Turner, J. C. (1985). Social categorization and the self-concept: A social cognitive theory of group behaviour. In E. J. Lawler (Ed.), Advances in group processes: Theory and research. vol. 2 (pp. 77-122). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Oelschlaeger, M. (1991). Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Snow, D., A., & Bernatzky, C. (2019). The coterminous rise of right-wing populism and superfluous populations. In G. Fitzi, J. Mackert, B. S. Turner (Eds), Populism and the Crisis of Democracy. Volume 1: Concepts and Theory (pp. 130-146). London & New York: Routledge. DOI:

Wahl-Jorgensen, K. (2019). Shifting Emotional Regimes: Donald Trump's Angry Populism. In Emotions, Media and Politics (pp. 110-128). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Williams, R. (1977). Marxism and Literature. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press. Berezin, 2001, pp. 93-97

van Troost, D., van Stekelenburg, J., & Klandermans, B. (2013). Emotions of Protest. In N. Demertzis (Ed.), Emotions in Politics. The Affect Dimension in Political Tension (pp. 186-203). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Yoon, H. (2017). Feral Biopolitics. Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 22(2), 135-150. DOI:

Ziółkowski, J. (2013). Wrogość w stosunkach politycznych. Modelowa analiza funkcjonalna [Hostility in political relations. Model functional analysis]. Warszawa: Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa.

Ziółkowski, J. (2019). Syndrom oblężonej twierdzy [The syndrome of the besieged fortress]. Warszawa: Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa.