This article is based on the transcript of a roundtable on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism held at the AAA Annual Meeting in 2017. The contributors explore this rise in the context of the role of affect in politics, rising socio-economic inequalities, racism and neoliberalism, and with reference to their own ethnographic research on these phenomena in Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the UK and Hungary.
Perspectives on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism in the West
Sindre Bangstad, Bjørn Enge Bertelsen and Heiko Henkel
From Consolidation to Collapse?
The presidential and legislative elections of 2007 are widely seen to have marked the end of the Far Right as a major political force in France. How could this occur only five years after Le Pen's qualification for the presidential run-off, and with his party seemingly in the ascendant? This article discusses recent fluctuations in Far Right electoral performance in France. It focuses largely on the presidential elections of 2002 and 2007, re-examining the (supposed) upswell of Far Right support in 2002 and its (supposed) subsidence in 2007. Both elections require nuanced interpretation. Both confounded poll predictions, which in 2007 failed to measure the effect of Sarkozy's hard-right campaign and, crucially, the extent to which the border between “mainstream Right” and “Far Right” had shifted since 2002. This allowed Sarkozy to drain part of Le Pen's electorate, and raises questions over the wider impact of Le Pen and the FN on the political agenda in France.
Patricia Anne Simpson
Europe has witnessed the rise of a multigenerational, populist shift to the right, characterized by the unapologetic deployment of extremist symbols, ideologies, and politics, but also by repudiations of right-wing labels associated with racism, xenophobia, and nativist entitlements. The political lexicon of far-right rhetoric derives its considerable persuasive force from mobilizing and normalizing extremist views. This article examines the intricately and translocally woven connections among representative movements, organizations, and media personalities who popularize and disseminate far-right views through social media and their own internet websites. With diatribes about the threat against Russia, the uncontainable and intolerable influx of refugees and asylum seekers, whom they blame for terrorist attacks, deteriorating family values, the loss of national German identity, and the antidemocratic politics of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the cadre of self-credentializing experts and politicians, some in alignment with Pegida, mobilize historical moments and meanings to make connections with a broad spectrum of supporters.
Beginning in the 1980s, several historians began to challenge the view that fascism was a marginal phenomenon in interwar France, a view dubbed "the immunity thesis" by one of its critics. Surveying a range of works on far-Right intellectuals and movements during the 1920s and 1930s, this article suggests that "the immunity thesis" has been increasingly challenged by a variety of historians since the mid-1990s. However, a consensus on the issue has not emerged, as a number of historians stress the need to differentiate between fascism and other forms of right-wing nationalism in the French context. At the same time, there are signs that scholars are beginning to move beyond questions of categorization and address other themes relating to the inter-war Right. These new agendas have the potential to broaden our understanding of the late Third Republic in general.
La presse frontiste face aux mouvements des « sans » dans les années 1990
This article considers the ways that elements of the far-right press in France have dealt with the emergence of groups representing marginalized people—the unemployed, undocumented workers, the badly housed—during the 1990s. The first part considers the ideological leanings of the main far-right political group—the National Front—and of its press. The final part of the article analyzes the press's discourse on marginalized people and considers the political significance of such discourse.
John P. Willerton and Martin Carrier
The April 21st defeat of Socialist party candidate Lionel Jospin in the first round of the 2002 presidential elections shockingly ended the five-year reign of arguably the most productive government in Fifth Republic France.1 The Jospin government of the Gauche Plurielle departed as surprisingly as it had come to power five years earlier, its legacy of unprecedented success in Left coalition building and far-ranging policy construction seemingly voided by Jospin’s embarrassing loss to Jean-Marie Le Pen and the Far Right.
Most explanations that have been advanced regarding the recent
successes of far-right parties in Western Europe suggest that these
parties should have also done well in Germany. With a high percapita
income and a strong export-oriented economy, Germany has
experienced large-scale immigration, a shift toward postindustrial
occupations, economic restructuring, unemployment, and social
marginalization of the poorest strata. These socioeconomic developments
have been accompanied by political responses which
should also benefit the far right: political parties have lost credibility, non-voting has increased, and ecological parties have become
established and have spurred environmental, feminist, and proimmigrant
This article uncovers the distinction between calls of the far right to address what they consider to be an imbalance in political representation in Britain and local frustrations in Higher Blackley, North Manchester, England about feeling ignored by local and national government. Exploring how voting for the far right is used strategically in an attempt to communicate political disenchantment with the Labour Party, the article explains the shift in voting patterns as a protest against Labour rather than as a statement of affiliation with the core values of the British National Party. The extent of residents' anger is revealed as they explain the “unfairness“ of politicians' general neglect of the kind of people who live in Higher Blackley. This is compounded by perceptions of the preferential and “unfair“ treatment given to people from ethnic minorities. The article explains how the labeling of residents of Higher Blackley as white working class is rejected as also being “unfair“ because it ascribes negative attributes, wholesale, to the very people who were once respected for their participation in a Labour movement of their own making. The ethnographic idea of “fairness“ is revealed in the article as the opposite of labeling/fixing and as the acknowledgement of contingency, chance, and choice.
Views of Interracial Romance in French Films and Reviews since the 1980s
This article explores French attitudes about race during and after the years of the National Front's breakthrough by looking at French films and film reviews on the topic of interracial couples. In a country in which antiracists have been reluctant to legitimize the concept of race by talking about it, but in which the far Right has made gains by proclaiming its own views on race, French film-makers in the 1980s and after broached the topic in numerous films, but they often did so in ways that avoided controversy or serious reflection on current French racism. French critics of both French and American films featuring interracial couples also sidestepped the most explosive issues, revealing a disinclination to discuss a troubling and divisive concept, but also a persistent belief that racism remained an American problem and obsession.
“L'Affaire des Quotas” and the Shattered “Image of 1998” in Twenty-First-Century France
Christopher S. Thompson
Since the mid-1990s, France's national soccer team has been given considerable significance in French debates about post-colonial immigration, national identity, republican citizenship, and the enduring legacies of French imperialism. This article explores the role played by representations of the team in those debates with a particular focus on the so-called “affaire des quotas” of 2010–2011. It argues that those representations reveal that the boundary between the purportedly inclusive civic nationalism of French republicanism according to which any person willing to embrace the duties and rights of democratic citizenship may theoretically become French, and the exclusionary ethnic nationalism of the xenophobic Front national is far less impermeable than is generally assumed in France. Indeed, race and ethnicity inform notions of French citizenship even among persons who reject the essentialist views of the Far Right.