• Analysis
  • Understanding the Rise of the Radical Right: Dimensions of a Generalized Culture of Insecurity

  • By Mario Candeias | 22 Nov 18 | Posted under: Contemporary Capitalism , Labour , Rightist Movements
  • It is a time of monsters. The organic crisis of the old neoliberal project has also brought forth the rise of a new radical right. But what are the reasons behind this? Many different explanations exist, most of which are valuable in certain aspects. This text aims to gain a deeper understanding of their specific relationships with one another.

    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 are acting quite similar, with less fortune, but unlike the others, they are established representatives of authoritarian elite right-wing conservatism. They all have an anti-establishment discourse in common, although they have strong capital faction backing them.   

    Please find the full text on the right (pdf).

    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’ PVV or the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the Austrian FPÖ and Italy’s Lega—both operating from a position of government, and very different form that the Five-Star-Movement. So, 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 which 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.

    The following will draw on a research project conducted with the University of Stendal, a small town in eastern Germany and former stronghold of Die Linke that has now become a stronghold of  the AfD. We also draw on our experience from the hundreds of door-to-door conversations and our pilot project in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

    Although the Alternative für Deutschland is certainly not a workers’ party, when we look at its constituency and electorate, it appears they receive a significant degree of support from workers and poor people. The French sociologist Didier Eribon calls this electoral decision an “act of self-defence”—to have a voice, to be heard in political discourse even when it is only a “negative self-affirmation”. This is true of our experience, as well. Betrayed by Social Democracy and disappointed by the powerlessness of the left, they turn to a new powerful narrative: the defence of hard-working men, of our nation, our culture, against the Other—Islam, refugees, globalization, gays and lesbians, the moralizing ’68 elite in government, etc.

    This phenomenon is nothing new and well-documented. But why has it gained such momentum? Explanations often pose the dilemma of: is it the social question, or racism? In the words of Stuart Hall, we can say that “the problem is not if economic structures are relevant for racial divisions, but how they are connected” (Hall 1980, 92).


    translated by Corinna Trogisch;

    This text is an edited version of: “Den Aufstieg der radikalen Rechten begreifen. Wie hängen unterschiedliche Erklärungsmuster zusammen? Dimensionen einer verallgemeinerten Kultur der Unsicherheit”, in: Rechtspopulismus, radikale Rechte, Faschisierung, ed. by M.Candeias, Berlin 2018, 33-60, online: www.rosalux.de/publikation/id/39174/


    We recommend: Giuseppe Cugnata, Raymon Allal, Which social spaces for far-right parties? A comparative electoral analysis in France and Germany

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