Understanding the Rise of the Radical Right

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1693 ... October 25, 2018
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Understanding the Rise of the Radical Right

Mario Candeias

It is the time of monsters. The organic crisis of the old neoliberal project has also brought forth the rise of a new radical right. Yet these monsters are quite different from one another: we have strong men like Trump, Kurz and Macron -- political entrepreneurs shaping a new authoritarianism from positions of governance. Theresa May and Boris Johnson act quite similar, with less success, but unlike the others they are established representatives of authoritarian elite right-wing conservatism. They all share an anti-establishment discourse, although they have strong capital factions backing them.

The authoritarian-nationalistic regimes in Poland and Hungary (or Turkey) are distinct, and are in turn different from the radical right like the Front... National, Geert Wilders’s PVV or the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the Austrian FPÖ and Italy’s Lega -- both operating from a position of government. Very different from them, in turn, is the Five Star Movement. How can we understand these formations’ differences and commonalities? This question must be addressed to identify specific tactics and counter-strategies in the concrete countries (see Wiegel 2018).

Here, I will try to tease out a more fundamental question: how can we understand the reasons behind the rise of the radical right? Many different explanations exist, most of which are valuable in explaining certain aspects. But they exist in parallel at best, sometimes even in conflict with one another. So is there a specific relation that we could flesh out theoretically?

Beyond empirical detail, only a few attempts at systematic and subject-orientated research have been undertaken. Rarely are these conducted with recourse to or for the further refinement of critical theory. Of course, the phenomenon is extremely heterogeneous and highly dynamic and thus eludes simple explanation. It must be seen in the framework of a crisis and concrete transformation of the mode of production and living. Why has this phenomenon gained so much importance now, and not ten years ago? In fact, it was already there. I will thus seek to elaborate the concept of a generalized culture of insecurity, including highly distinct but intertwined dimensions in the context of an organic crisis of the old neoliberal project -- insecurity in the field of work, family, territory and homeland, one’s own perspectives and history, gender identity or mode of living.

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