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Simon Bornschier



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The Extreme Right-Wing Populist Challenge and the transformation of political space in Western Europe

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In the course of the last two decades, right-wing populist parties have gained sizable vote shares in France, Switzerland, and Austria. In the Netherlands, Pim Fortuyn has succeeded in breaking into a party system whose segmentation and “pillarization” once made it an example of stability. Throughout much of the post-war period, Switzerland and Austria had also been marked by a high stability of the party alternatives. In these countries, as well as in Denmark, Norway, Italy, and Belgium, the success of new parties of the right has largely surpassed that of older parties of the extreme right, which seemed to have represented a “normal pathology” resulting from tensions created by rapid change in industrial societies (Scheuch, Klingemann 1967). Certainly, the optimism of the “golden age” of growth after World War II has given way to more gloomy feelings of malaise in the era of unemployment and austerity politics. The enduring success of right-wing populist parties, however, as well as the increasing similarity of their discourse suggest that they are more than a populist outbreak of disenchantment with electoral politics. Rather, it has become apparent that a common potential must underlie their rise.

Bijzonderheden: Paper prepared for the NCCR Workshop on Populism Aarau, 6-7 June 2008