The Study of The Far Right: Moving Beyond the New Challenger Paradigm (joint with the Italian Politics Specialist Group)

Town Hall - Mandela Room (Reception Room B)
Time Slot: 
Monday 30th March 09:30 - 11:00
Panel Chair: 
  • Dr Umut Korkut (Glasgow Caledonian University)
Panel Members: 
  • Dr Cas Mudde (University of Georgia)

There is little doubt that the far right is the best-studied party family within political science. Since the start of the third wave of far right politics in postwar Europe in the early 1980s more articles and books have been written on far right parties than on all other party families combined. As some far right parties have become established within their national political system, it is time to review the academic literature on the topic. While much progress has been made since the original historical studies of ‘neo-fascism’, particularly since scholars like Hans-Georg Betz, Piero Ignazi and Herbert Kitschelt infused the field with insights from the Green parties literature in the 1990s, more recent studies have often reinvented the wheel, missing some of the most important transformations within the far right.

This lecture will critically assess the main insights of the last three decades of scholarship on the far right and will identify some crucial new avenues of research. I will argue that we have to go beyond the comfort zone of detached quantitative electoral studies of the same problematic data sources (e.g. Eurobarometer, WVS) and descriptive qualitative historical studies of the same parties (e.g. BNP, FN, NPD). We need to break new ground in terms of data and organizations, which will require direct observation rather than indirect analysis. We also need to ask novel questions and focus more on different topics (e.g. gender, religion, socialization). Most importantly, we need a paradigmatic shift, in which the far right party is no longer seen as a new outsider-challenger but as an institutionalized and integrated competitor. Many far right parties are decades old, have survived their founder-leader, and sometimes even government responsibility. They are to be studied from the perspective of established political parties and not as new ‘niche’ parties or, even worse, in complete isolation.