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Far-right politics

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Far-right politics is right-wing politics that is further on the right of the left-right spectrum than the standard political right. Since these are relative terms, there is no universal agreement on their application.

Far-right politics often involves a focus on tradition, real or imagined, as opposed to policies and customs that are regarded as reflective of modernism. Many far-right ideologies have a disregard or disdain for egalitarianism, even if they do not always express overt support for social hierarchy, elements of social conservatism and opposition to most forms of liberalism and socialism.

Right-wing populism, a political ideology that often combines laissez-faire capitalism, nationalism, ethnocentrism and anti-elitism, is often described as far-right.[1][2] Right-wing populism often involves appeals to the "common man" and opposition to immigration.[3][4]

The term is also used to describe ideologies such as Nazism,[5] neo-Nazism, fascism, neo-fascism and other ideologies or organizations that feature extreme nationalist, chauvinist, xenophobic, racist, or reactionary views,[6] which can lead to oppression and violence against groups of people based on their supposed inferiority, or their perceived threat to the nation, state[7] or ultraconservative traditional social institutions.[8]


Far-right politics includes but is not limited to aspects of authoritarianism, anti-communism, and nativism.[9] Claims that superior people should have greater rights than inferior people are sometimes associated with the far right.[10] The far right has historically favoured an elitist society based on its belief in the legitimacy of the rule of a supposed superior minority over the inferior masses.[11] However, right-wing populist ideologies which are described by some commentators as "far-right" often use appeals to the "common man" as opposed to the appeals of the elites.[3] Far-right politics sometimes involves anti-immigration and anti-integration stances towards groups that are deemed inferior and undesirable.[12] Concerning the socio-cultural dimension of nationality, culture and migration, one far-right position is the view that certain ethnic, racial or religious groups should stay separate, and it is based on the belief that the interests of one's own group should be prioritised.[13]

Some aspects of fascist ideology have been identified with right wing political parties; in particular, the fascist idea that superior persons should dominate society while undesirable elements should be purged, which in the case of Nazism resulted in genocide.[14] Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform in London, has distinguished between right-wing nationalist parties which are often described as "far-right", such as the National Front in France, and fascism.[4]

One issue is whether parties should be labelled "radical" or "extreme",[15] a distinction that is made by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany when determining whether or not a party should be banned. Another question is what the label "right" implies when it is applied to the extreme right, given the fact that many parties which were originally labeled right-wing extremist tended to advance neoliberal and free market agendas as late as the 1980s but now advocate economic policies which are more traditionally associated with the left, such as anti-globalisation, nationalization and protectionism. One approach, drawing on the writings of Norberto Bobbio, argues that attitudes towards equality are what distinguish the left from the right and they therefore allow these parties to be positioned on the right of the political spectrum. There is also debate about how appropriate the labels fascist or neo-Fascist are. According to Cas Mudde, "the labels Neo-Nazi and to a lesser extent neo-Fascism are now used exclusively for parties and groups that explicitly state a desire to restore the Third Reich or quote historical National Socialism as their ideological influence".[15]

Proponents of the horseshoe theory interpretation of the left-right spectrum identify the far-left and the far-right as having more in common with each other as extremists than each of them has with moderate centrists.[16]

The Hard Right in the United States

In the United States, the term hard right and Alt-right have been used to describe groups such as the Tea Party movement and the Patriot movement.[17][18] The term has also been used to describe ideologies such as Paleoconservatism, Dominion Theology and White nationalism.[19]


The German political scientist Klaus von Beyme describes three historical phases in the development of far-right parties in Western Europe after World War II.[13][20]

From 1945 to the mid-1950s, far-right parties were marginalised, and their ideologies were discredited due to the recent existence and defeat of Nazism. Thus in the years immediately following World War II, the main objective of far-right parties was survival; achieving any political impact at all, was largely not expected.

From the mid-1950s to the 1970s, the so-called "populist protest phase" emerged with sporadic electoral success. During this period, far-right parties drew to them charismatic leaders whose profound mistrust of the political establishment led to an "us-versus-them" mind set: "us" being the nation's citizenry, "them" being the politicians and bureaucrats who were then in office; beginning in the 1980s, the electoral successes of far-right political candidates made it possible for far-right political parties to revitalize anti-immigration as a mainstream issue.

Nature of support

Jens Rydgren describes a number of theories as to why individuals support far-right political parties, and the academic literature on this topic distinguishes between demand-side theories that have changed the "interests, emotions, attitudes and preferences of voters" and supply-side theories which focus on the programmes of parties, their organisation and the opportunity structures within individual political systems.[21] The most common demand-side theories are the social breakdown thesis, the relative deprivation thesis, the modernisation losers thesis and the ethnic competition thesis.[22] The rise of far-right political parties has also been viewed as a rejection of post-materialist values on the part of some voters. This theory which is known as the reverse post-material thesis blames both left-wing and progressive parties for embracing a post-material agenda (including feminism and environmentalism) that alienates traditional working class voters.[citation needed] Another study argues that individuals who join far-right parties determine whether those parties develop into major political players or whether they remain marginalized.[23]

Early academic studies adopted psychoanalytical explanations for the far-right's support. For example, the 1933 publication The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich argued the theory that fascists came to power in Germany as a result of sexual repression. For some far-right political parties in Western Europe, the issue of immigration has become the dominant issue among them, so much so that some scholars refer to these parties as "anti-immigrant" parties.[24]

Right-wing terrorism

Right-wing terrorism is terrorism motivated by a variety of far right ideologies and beliefs, including anti-communism, neo-fascism, neo-Nazism, racism, xenophobia and opposition to immigration. This type of terrorism has been sporadic, with little or no international cooperation.[25] Modern right-wing terrorism first appeared in western Europe in the 1980s and it first appeared in Eastern Europe following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[26]

Right-wing terrorists aim to overthrow governments and replace them with nationalist or fascist-oriented governments.[25] The core of this movement includes neo-fascist skinheads, far right hooligans, youth sympathisers and intellectual guides who believe that the state must rid itself of foreign elements in order to protect rightful citizens.[26] However, they usually lack a rigid ideology.[26]



  • Arzheimer, Kai. "The Extreme Right Bibliography (Online Reference Database)". Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  • Carlisle, Rodney P. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Politics: The Left and the Right, Volume 2: The Right. Thousand Oaks, California, USA; London, England, UK; New Delhi, India: Sage Publications. 
  • Hainsworth, Paul (2000). The Politics of the Extreme Right: From the Margins to the Mainstream. Pinter. 
  • Kundnani, A. Blind Spot? Security Narratives and Far-Right Violence in Europe (International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, 2012)
  • Merkl, Peter H.; Weinberg, Leonard. Right-wing Extremism in the Twenty-first Century. Frank Cass Publishers. 
  • Hilliard, Robert L.; Keith, Michael C. (1999). Waves of Rancor: Tuning in the Radical Right. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe Inc. 
  • Parsons, Craig; Smeedling, Timothy M. (2006). Immigration and the transformation of Europe. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Woshinsky, Oliver H. (2008). Explaining Politics: Culture, Institutions, and Political Behavior. Routledge. 

See also


  1. ^ Ware, Alan (1996). Political Parties and Party Systems. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-878076-2.
  2. ^ Norris, Pippa (2005). Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-84914-2.
  3. ^ a b Betz and Immerfall, pp. 4–5
  4. ^ a b Baker, Peter (2016-05-28). "Rise of Donald Trump Tracks Growing Debate Over Global Fascism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-06-07. 
  5. ^ Historical Exhibition Presented by the German Bundestag
  6. ^ Carlisle, Rodney P., ed., The Encyclopedia of Politics: The Left and the Right, Volume 2: The Right (Thousand Oaks, California, United States; London, England; New Delhi, India: Sage Publications, 2005) p. 693.
  7. ^ Hilliard, Robert L. and Michael C. Keith, Waves of Rancor: Tuning in the Radical Right (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1999) p. 38.
  8. ^ Peter Davies; Derek Lynch (2002). The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far Right. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-21494-0. Retrieved 19 August 2011. In addition, conservative Christians often endorsed far-right remines as the lesser of two evils, especially when confronted with militant atheism in the USSR. 
  9. ^ Hilliard, Robert L. and Michael C. Keith, Waves of Rancor: Tuning in the Radical Right (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1999, p. 43
  10. ^ Oliver H. Woshinsky. Explaining Politics: Culture, Institutions, and Political Behavior. (Oxon, England; New York City, United States: Routledge, 2008) p. 155.
  11. ^ Oliver H. Woshinsky. Explaining Politics: Culture, Institutions, and Political Behavior. (Oxon, England; New York City, United States: Routledge, 2008) p. 154.
  12. ^ Parsons, Craig and Timothy M. Smeeding, Immigration and the transformation of Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2006) p. 18.
  13. ^ a b Widfeldt, Anders, "A fourth phase of the extreme right? Nordic immigration-critical parties in a comparative context". In: NORDEUROPAforum (2010:1/2), 7–31,
  14. ^ Woshinsky, Oliver H., Explaining Politics: Culture, Institutions, and Political Behavior (Oxon, England; New York City, United States: Routledge, 2008) p. 156.
  15. ^ a b Mudde, Cas (2002). The Ideology of the Extreme Right. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-6446-3. , p. 12]
  16. ^ William Safire. Safire's Political Dictionary. Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008. p. 385.
  17. ^ Gilbert, Doug. "U.S. Hard Right Being Bolstered by the Mainstream - Political Research Associates". 
  18. ^ Wills, Garry. "The Triumph of the Hard Right". 
  19. ^ "Untitled Document". 
  20. ^ Klaus von Beyme: "Right-wing extremism in post-war Europe". In: West European Politics 11 (1988:2), 2–18.
  21. ^ Rydgren, J. (2007) The Sociology of the Radical Right, Annual Review of Sociology, pp. 241–63
  22. ^ Rydgren, J. (2007) The Sociology of the Radical Right, Annual Review of Sociology, p. 247
  23. ^ Art, David (2011). Inside the Radical Right. New York: Cambridge University Press. 
  24. ^ Allen, Trevor J. (8 July 2015). "All in the party family? Comparing far right voters in Western and Post-Communist Europe". Party Politics. ISSN 1354-0688. doi:10.1177/1354068815593457. 
  25. ^ a b Aubrey, Stefan M. The New Dimension of International Terrorism. p. 45. Zurich: vdf Hochschulverlag AG, 2004. ISBN 3-7281-2949-6
  26. ^ a b c Moghadam, Assaf. The Roots of Terrorism. pp. 57–58. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-7910-8307-1
  27. ^ "Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists". The Daily Telegraph. 11 August 2014.
  28. ^ "German TV Shows Nazi Symbols on the Helmets of Ukrainian Soldiers". NBC News.