The many faces of authenticity in populist rhetoric


  • Ana-Maria Hojbotă American-Romanian Coalition for Human and Equal Rights
  • Daniel Nica University of Bucharest
  • Cristina Maria Bostan-Tofan “Gh. Zane” Institute of Economic and Social Researches


populism, authenticity, ideology, social identity, political leadership


This study delves into authenticity's multifaceted role within populist discourse, revealing its intricate connection to some particular psychological motivations and politi­cal functions. Populism wields authenticity as a versatile tool, intertwining diverse meanings to serve various normative, persuasive, regulatory, and purportedly emanci­patory functions. It juxtaposes authenticity against the perceived inauthenticity of elites, framing the former as a virtue and the latter as a vice. Distinct dimensions of authenticity emerge, including rejecting political correctness, validating instinctual feelings, and fos­tering genuine connections with the “people.” Authenticity's portrayal of leaders is pivotal in populist discourse, focusing on consistency, intimacy, ordinariness, and immediacy. This performative authenticity aligns with specific ideologies, normalizing extreme views, legitimizing illiberal leaders, marginalizing opponents, and redefining acceptable be­haviors. Beyond immediate impact, authenticity becomes a numbing and emboldening device, eroding prosocial norms while valuing antisocial acts. This intricate interplay creates a syndrome of meanings, reinforcing one another and infusing allure. The narra­tive resonates deeply with supporters, cultivating partisan attachment and trust by e­voking the strongest moral conviction and shared identity. Exploring authenticity in populist discourse unveils the complex interplay of psychological, philosophical, social, and political factors. This investigation underscores authenticity's nuanced role in shaping ideologies, reflecting and influencing societal perceptions, values, and behaviors.

Author Biographies

Ana-Maria Hojbotă, American-Romanian Coalition for Human and Equal Rights

American-Romanian Coalition for Human and Equal Rights, Romania


Daniel Nica, University of Bucharest

University of Bucharest, Romania

Cristina Maria Bostan-Tofan, “Gh. Zane” Institute of Economic and Social Researches

“Gh. Zane” Institute of Economic and Social Researches, Romania






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