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Radical right-wing parties in Europe

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What’s populism got to do with it?

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Abstract

In this paper I discuss, critically, the literature on populism and the extent to which it applies to the contemporary radical right-wing parties in Europe. These parties are often – and increasingly – referred to as populist parties. I argue that it is misleading to label these parties ‘populist parties’, since populism is not the most pertinent feature of this party family. These parties are mainly defined by ethnic nationalism, and not a populist ideology. In their discourse they are primarily preoccupied with questions pertaining to national identity and national security – and their ‘negative’ doubles immigration, multiculturalism, Islamist threat – and they consistently pit ‘the people’ mainly against elites that they view as responsible for a cultural and political threat against their idealized image of their nation state. The ethnic nationalism of European radical right-wing parties is more important for their discourse and tends to influence the populist elements.

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