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    The New Politics of Resentment

    Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe

    Hans-George Betz

    In the decades following the second world war, the liberal democracies of western Europeenjoyed a remarkable degree of social and political stability. Sustained economic growth,

    growing individual affluence, and the expansion and perfection of the welfare state eachcontributed o a social and political climate conducive to political stability while erodingsupport or extremist solutions on both the left and right. However, stability and consensuswere only short-lived. The resurgence of ideological and political turbulence in the late1960s, rising social conflicts in the early 1970s, and the spread of mass protest by new socialmovements in the 1980s were symptoms of a profound transformation f West Europeanpolitics. Its contours are becoming visible in the early 1990s.

    Crucial to this transformation was the political climate of the 1980s. It was marked bydisenchantment with the major social and political institutions and profound distrust n theirworkings, the weakening and decomposition of electoral alignments, and increased political

    fragmentationnd electoral



    emerged, promoted bynew social

    actors outside and often against the established political channels. Growing awareness ofenvironmental degradation generated rising ecological protest; advances in general welfareled to demands for social equality and greater opportunities or political participation romwomen and minorities.

    It was expected that these conflicts would benefit the left, even if the demands ofstudents, women, and minorities were not necessarily compatible with those of thetraditional eft. Indeed, the 1980s saw a significant fragmentation of the left. Distancingthemselves from what they considered the growth-oriented "old politics" of socialists andsocial democrats, left-libertarian parties established themselves in a number of advancedWest European democracies.' Yet despite significant electoral gains, the left-libertarianproject appears to have fallen short of the expectations of both supporters and detractors.However, the stagnation and partial exhaustion of several left-libertarian parties-forexample, in Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland--have not automatically benefitedthe traditional parties. Instead, West European party systems have increasingly come underheavy pressure from a radical populist right.

    Radical right-wing populist parties are radical in their rejection of the establishedsociocultural and sociopolitical system and their advocacy of individual achievement, a freemarketplace, and a drastic reduction of the role of the state. They are right-wing in theirrejection of individual and social equality, in their opposition to the social integration ofmarginalized groups, and in their appeal to xenophobia, if not overt racism. They are

    populist in their instrumentalization f sentiments of anxiety and disenchantment and theirappeal to the common man and his allegedly superior common sense. In short, they tend to


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    Comparative Politics July 1993

    combine a classic liberal position on the individual and the economy with the sociopoliticalagenda of the extreme and intellectual new right, and they deliver this amalgam to those

    disenchanted with their individual ife chances and the political system.

    The Recent Success of the Radical Populist Right

    During the past several years, radical right-wing populist parties have been able to multiplyboth votes and parliamentary representation. The Austrian FPO (Freedom Party) is aprominent example. Owing to a number of political blunders, the party had virtually ceasedto exist as a relevant political force in Austrian politics in the mid 1980s. However, electoralfortune returned after the young charismatic and populist Jorg Haider was elected to the

    chair of the party in 1986. In the following general election the party received more than 9percent of the vote and eighteen seats in parliament. It almost doubled its electoral supportin 1990, receiving thirty-three parliamentary eats. Finally, in the 1991 regional election inVienna the party received 22.6 percent of the vote and became the second largest party inVienna.

    Even more dramatic has been the success story of the Lega Lombarda. Founded in theearly 1980s by Umberto Bossi, the party scored 3 percent in the 1987 national election inLombardy. This gave Bossi a seat in the Italian senate. After that the Lega advanced rapidlyin Lombardy. t won 8.1 percent in the European elections, followed by 18.9 percent n the1990 regional elections. After the Lega Lombarda united with other leagues to form theLega Nord/Lega Lombarda, the party received 24.4 percent of the vote in the 1991 localelection in Brescia. The general election of April 1992 confirmed the Lega's prominentposition in northern taly. With 20.5 percent n Lombardy, 17.3 percent overall in the North,and 8.7 percent nationally, it became the fourth largest party in Italy.

    Similarly, the Front National, founded in 1972 by right-wing radicals, has establisheditself in the French party system. Under Jean-Marie Le Pen it emerged from virtually zero inthe 1981 general election to 9.6 percent of the vote in 1988. In the presidential elections LePen even gained more than 14 percent of the vote. However, the regional elections of March1992 showed that the advance of the Front National might have reached its limits. With13.9 percent of the vote, the party remained considerably below its own expectations.

    Impressive, if less dramatic, have been the recent developments n Switzerland, Belgium,and Sweden. In Switzerland, the Autopartei (Automobile Party), founded in 1985,succeeded in increasing its parliamentary epresentation rom two seats in 1987 to ten seatsin 1991. In Belgium, the Vlaams Blok, founded in 1978 as a Flemish regionalist party,increased its parliamentary epresentation rom two seats in 1987 to twelve seats in 1991.Finally, in Sweden, the Ny Demokrati New Democracy) party, founded in 1990, gained 6.8percent of the vote in the 1991 general elections and twenty-five sets in parliament.

    Sweden has not been the only Scandinavian democracy with a significant radicalright-wing presence. In fact, the Danish and Norwegian Progress parties have been amongthe established radical right-wing populist parties in western democracies. Founded in theearly 1970s by charismatic newcomers to politics as antitax and anti-welfare-state protest

    parties, they initially did rather well at the polls, yet lost much of their support n the early1980s. However, by the end of the 1980s the political fortunes of both parties began to


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    Hans-Georg Betz

    improve. In the 1988 general elections, the Danish party received 9 percent of the vote,almost twice as much as in 1987. One year later the Norwegian party became, with 13

    percent of the vote, Norway's third argest party.The electoral history of the German Republikaner has been similar. Led by a formertelevision talk show host, the party emerged in the early 1989 elections in Berlin, where itreceived 7.5 percent of the vote, followed by 7.1 percent in the European elections.However, the collapse of East Germany and quick reunification eft it without much of itsprogram or electoral support. In the first all-German elections of 1990 the Republikanerscored a mere 2.1 percent of the vote. After a number of leading party figures defected fromthe party, the Republikaner seemed to be at an end. However, the state election inBaden-Wiirttemberg n April 1992, in which the Republikaner eceived almost 12 percent ofthe vote, showed that the party might still represent a strong challenge to the political systemof unified

    Germany.This short survey of the rise of radical right-wing populist parties shows the degree towhich these parties have penetrated West European politics. Often led by charismatic andtelegenic leaders, they have successfully mobilized a considerable portion of the WestEuropean electorate. In what follows, we will examine why radical right-wing populistparties have been able to make such significant gains at the polls. We will explore whetherthe rise of the radical populist right reflects merely temporary resentment and single issueprotest or whether it represents a response to structural problems of advanced westerndemocracies. An analysis of the program and social basis of these parties shows that theirsuccess depends on two factors: their ability to mobilize resentment and protest and theircapability to offer a future-oriented program that confronts the challenge posed by theeconomic, social, and cultural ransformation f advanced West European democracies.

    Racism Revisited

    It has become commonplace to attribute he growing appeal of radical right-wing populismto the recent explosion of hostility towards immigrants in much of western Europe.According to a 1989 study on racism and xenophobia, between 11 and 14 percent of thepopulation in the European Communities was troubled by the presence of people of othernationality, race, or religion. Among the citizens of the EC, Belgians, Germans, French,

    and Danes were particularly ensitive about mmigrants. Overall, 5 percent of the populationof the member states considered immigrants the most important problem facing theirrespective countries.2 A number of reasons explains this hostility. For one, there is growingconcern about the dramatic increase in the number of refugees and illegal immigrantslooking for a better life in western Europe. During the 1980s, the number of politicalrefugees in western Europe grew from some 75,000 in 1983 to almost 320,000 in 1989.3Since 1989, these numbers have dramatically ncreased. Switzerland alone counted 41,000refugees in 1991, and Germany more than 250,000. In addition, Germany had to deal witha growing number of ethnic German resettlers from eastern Europe and the former SovietUnion. As a result, the question of how to reduce, if not stop, the influx of refugees hasbecome one of the most important



    Europe.Not only the sheer numbers but also the changing composition of refugee and immigrant


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    Comparative Politics July 1993

    populations has contributed to the xenophobic upswell. Whereas in the past the largemajority of foreigners n western Europe were other West Europeans or Turks, the majority

    of recent arrivals comes from the Third World. As a result, in many West Europeancountries the proportion of West European oreigners has remained fairly stable, while thenon-European opulation has increased. One of the first to experience this trend was France.In 1968, roughly two million European mmigrants ived in France, and 650,000 Africans,95 percent of whom were from the Maghreb. By 1982, the number of Africans was almostas large (1.57 million, 90 percent from the Maghreb) as the number of Europeans (1.75million).4

    By the late 1980s, developments in the rest of western Europe started o resemble thoseearlier in France. In Denmark, for example, between 1982 and 1991 the number offoreigners from Scandinavia and the EC countries ncreased slightly from 46,000 to 51,000.

    At the same time the number of Africans and Asians increased rom 19,000 to over 45,000.In 1991, almost 50 percent of all registered foreigners in Italy and more than 40 percent ofall refugees in Switzerland were from Asia and Africa.5 As a result, West Europeancountries are confronted with a sizable number of non-Europeans, whose physical differencemakes an impression far beyond their number. This has contributed o the perception thatEurope is being "invaded" by alien traditions, culture, and religion.6

    Against the background of a growing influx and increasing visibility of non-Europeans,the success of radical right-wing populist parties marks the revival of racism in westernEurope. The success of the Front National in the European elections of 1984 and thegrowing electoral success of other radical populist right-wing parties in the late 1980s showthat the growing presence of a non-European opulation has evoked anxiety and resentment.The radical populist right has been particularly astute in translating hese sentiments intopolitical gains without couching them in outright racist terms. Instead, they have echoedthose critics of the West European refugee policy who have focused public attention on thegrowing financial burden hat refugees impose on the host countries.' The central argumentis that the vast majority of refugees only claim to be political refugees. In reality they aredriven by economic motives. This hurts West European ocieties twice. Immigrants not onlyburden social services with new expenditures, but they also take away scarce jobs from thenative unemployed.8 Therefore, illegal immigration and "asylum tourism" should bestopped. Instead of "privileging" foreign immigrants, West European governments shouldgive preference in regard to employment, housing, and social assistance to natives and

    Europeans.9 As the German Republikaner put it succinctly: "Eliminate unemployment: Stopimmigration " 0

    The situation of foreign workers in advanced West European democracies shows thatthese claims and demands are seriously flawed. In most of these countries, the vast majorityof the immigrant labor force has low levels of education and performs unskilled orsemiskilled labor which the indigenous population increasingly refuses to do. In 1989 inAustria, 61 percent of foreigners and 84 percent of Turkish guest workers had no more thancompulsory education, compared o 28 percent of the Austrian work force. As a result, themajority held low level positions.1' The situation was similar in Germany and in France,where immigrant workers had lower levels of education and fewer chances to advance from

    unskilled to qualified positions and were considerably more at risk to lose their jobs thanFrench workers.12


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    Hans-Georg Betz

    Not only is the degree to which immigrant workers deprive natives of job opportunitiesrather questionable. It is also open to discussion whether they represent a burden or not

    rather a net gain for West European societies. Generally, immigrant workers have madesignificant contributions to these societies. Recruited to fill vacant positions during theperiod of high economic growth, they played a vital part in laying the foundation foraffluence and prosperity n western Europe. Furthermore, mmigrant workers represent notonly a work force but also consumers, taxpayers, and contributors o social security andpension systems.'3

    Particularly the latter aspect assumes increasing importance for Western Europeansocieties. Because of falling birth rates, much of western Europe is experiencing asignificant shift in the age pyramid. This is expected to have serious consequences both forthe labor market and the social security systems. Population statistics show that in order to

    keep the labor force stable and to guarantee ocial security for a growing older generation tmight be necessary to recruit more foreign labor. Thus, the French have projected thatbetween 2000 and 2039 they might have to recruit between 165,000 and 315,000 newimmigrants annually to prevent a decline in the active population.14

    The Front National, the Vlaams Blok, and the FPO were among the first parties to drawa connection between falling birth rates and foreign immigration. In their propagandapamphlets the Front National graphically connects rising immigration, an increase in thenumber of mosques, and "empty cradles" to drive home their message that there is "a greatrisk that we will no longer be able to pay our pensions and, above all, that we will seedisappear our thousand-year old identity and the French people itself." Immigration"threatens he survival of the French nation, the

    securityof its


    integrityof its

    patrimony, ts culture, its language.""5 These words and images appeal to diffuse sentimentsof anxiety and growing general insecurity over the fact that in the future western Europe'swell-being might increasingly depend on non-Europeans whose growing numbers threatenits cultural and national dentity. Umberto Bossi makes this quite clear when he accuses theestablished parties of wanting to transform Italy into a "multiracial [multirazziale],multiethnic, and multireligious society" which "comes closer to hell than to paradise."16

    Its success at the polls shows that the radical populist right has become the champion ofgrowing resentment and hostility towards foreigners. Against the prospects of a futuremulticultural, multiethnic European society, right-wing populist parties have successfullypromoted themselves as the advocates and guardians of an exclusive national culture. Thisculture is firmly grounded in national identity and a closely circumscribed Europeantradition. Xenophobia has proven to be such a powerful political issue that even theScandinavian Progress parties have increasingly resorted to mobilizing antiforeignersentiments in order to revive their political fortunes.17 However, it would be wrong toattribute he appeal of the radical populist right exclusively to its antiimmigrant program.Success at the polls depends on more than the mobilization of xenophobia.

    The Neo-Liberal Agenda

    What distinguishes most radical right-wing populist parties from the established parties isnot only their militant attacks on immigrants but also their pronounced neo-liberal program.


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    Although varying in emphasis and importance, radical right-wing populist parties havetended to hold strong antistatist positions. They find articulation n a sharp criticism of highlevels of taxation, of the bureaucratic tate in general, and of welfare outlays. Some of theseparties--in particular he two Progress parties--trace their origin to the tax-welfare backlashof the 1970s. Others, such as the New Democracy party, have emerged out of the morerecent crisis of the welfare state. Their critique of the interventionist tate fuses resentmentagainst the state, the bureaucracy, and politicians with a populist appeal to freedom anddemocracy. This appeal is pronounced not only in the case of the two Progress parties, butalso in those of the Lega, the New Democracy party, and particularly he FPO and theAutopartei, which promotes itself as the champion of "Freedom Prosperity -Joy ofLife. "18

    The resulting political program marks a revival of radical liberalism. It calls for a

    reduction of some taxes and the abolition of others, a drastic curtailing of the role of the statein the economy and large-scale privatization of the public sector including the statecontrolled media, a general deregulation of the private sector, and a restructuring andstreamlining of the public sector. The main beneficiaries of these measures should be smalland medium-sized enterprises which are expected to play a central role in the furtherdevelopment of advanced western societies, particularly ince new technologies allow themto compete effectively with larger enterprises.19

    However, the radical populist right's neo-liberal program s only secondarily an economicprogram. Primarily, t is a political weapon against the established political institutions andtheir alleged monopolization of political power which hampers economic progress and



    opponentis the

    bureaucratic,centralized state which is

    living off the work of the productive forces in society. Bossi has put this most poignantlywhen he declares that the political battle in Italy is between Rome and Milan, between "thecapital of parasitism and clientelism, which is Rome, and the capital of the economy, whichis Milan."20 From this perspective, Le Pen's appeal to create "50 million proprietors" n a"popular apitalism" takes on an almost revolutionary pirit.21 t would not only loosen thestate's grip on power, but also guarantee that decisions are made from an economic andprofit-oriented, hus efficiency-conscious perspective rather han on the basis of political andelectoral considerations.

    The radical populist right's hostility to the state is equaled by its hostility to theestablished political parties. Particularly Umberto Bossi but also Jean-Marie Le Pen and J6rgHaider have skilfully translated popular disaffection with the established parties intopoignant attacks against the palazzo, against corruption and inefficiency, and against the"arrogance" of the classe politique which refuses to listen to the views of the commonperson. Against that Bossi boldly asserts that only with him Italy will have "honesty,cleanness, transparency, and above all TRUE DEMOCRACY." Under his guidance theItalians will recover "everything of which they have been shamefully robbed" during fortyyears of rule by the political establishment.22 Similarly, Jean-Marie Le Pen charges thepolitical establishment with having led France into a deep crisis, which threatens thecountry's existence, its prosperity, and its freedom.23

    The established political parties are accused of having constructed, o the detriment of the

    average citizen, an all-encompassing system sustained by interventionism, clientelism, andfavoritism.24 t is against this "system" that the radical populist right goes on the offensive.


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    Hans-Georg Betz

    Behind its strategy is the expectation that the relationship between voters and parties isprofoundly changing, that voters no longer "function" according to the demands of partypolitics. The radical right addresses its appeal for political support to the emerging"working, sovereign citizen, who carries responsibility for family and occupation and whocan judge for himself."25

    The radical populist right's rise to political prominence has come in the wake of aprofound and diffuse disaffection and disenchantment with the established political partiesthroughout western Europe. According to a study from 1989, almost half of the Italianpublic and 35 percent of the French hought he established parties were absolutely ncapableof representing hem on the major issues; 33 percent of the French public thought that thepolitical parties were most responsible for the ills affecting French society.26 In 1991, morethan half of the Italian public held the political parties incapable of resolving Italy's

    institutional and economic crisis; 44 percent thought political parties contributed ittle tofacilitate participation n Italian society.27Undoubtedly, the general malaise towards politics and political parties and a growing

    crisis of political representation has benefited radical right-wing populist parties.28 Byappealing to lingering sentiments of powerlessness, to widespread alienation from thepolitical process, and to growing resentment against the prevailing political system, radicalpopulist right-wing parties present themselves as the true "antiparty parties." Regionalstudies on the Lega, the Republikaner, and the FPO show that these parties successfullyattracted nd mobilized voters who abstained rom voting in previous elections.29 Accordingto Italian surveys, protest against the established parties was an important motive in votingfor the Lega Lombarda, subordinate only to the desire to express a general discontent with"Rome," symbol of the inefficiency of the Italian bureaucracy. 0Survey data from Germanyshow that in 1989, at the height of support for the Republikaner, only 11 percent of itssupporters rusted the political parties, and 26 percent the government (as compared to 73percent of the supporters of the established center-right parties). For 80 percent ofRepublikaner upporters politics had failed in important areas.31

    These findings suggest that an explanation of the radical populist right's success has to gobeyond xenophobia. Its success can be explained in part as a protest against the establishedpolitical parties and their politics. However, these populist right parties represent more thanmere vehicles of protest. Behind their seemingly incoherent programs and contradictorypositions stand concrete political objectives. Their antiimmigrant positions only appear to

    contradict heir neo-liberal program. From a liberal position, unemployment problems stemnot from immigrants but from too much state intervention. "Provided he proper ncentives... immigrants nvariably prove to be net contributors o an economy. "32 However, only theNew Democracy party has drawn the consequences. It demands that all immigrants,including temporary oreign workers and refugees, be allowed to work in Sweden.33

    The other parties either consider xenophobia oo potent a political weapon to be sacrificedto programmatic oherence or hold it compatible with their neo-liberal program. This is onlypossible if their promotion of a neo-liberal program s part of a larger strategy o combat whatparticularly he Front National and the Lega consider the main threats o the very existenceof the nation or a particular egion. These threats stem not only from a loss of national or

    regional identity, but also from global economic competition which threatens o exacerbatedomestic economic problems and to marginalize ndividual West European countries. The


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    radical populist right's programmatic mixture of xenophobia and neo-liberalism might thusbe seen as a response to current global changes which produce winners and losers. It is an

    attempt o meet the global challenge by promoting ndividual nitiative and entrepreneurshipwhile at the same time eliminating whatever might hamper nitiative, drain resources, andthus impede competitiveness.34 The resulting ideology might be characterized asneo-isolationism n a future "fortress Europe."35 This might explain why radical right-wingpopulist parties have done particularly well in some of the most prosperous regions ofwestern Europe (Lombardy, Flanders, Bavaria, Baden-Wtirttemberg), where there isgrowing resentment not only against immigrants but also against fellow countrymen romless advanced regions (for example, southern taly, Wallonia, and perhaps even former EastGermany), both seen as a drain on resources.

    If this notion of threat partly explains the seemingly contradictory nature of the radical

    populist right's program,a second

    explanation appears equally plausible. Accordingto this

    explanation, different programmatic ositions appeal to different constituencies. In fact, theelectoral success of the radical populist right can be attributed o the particular mixture of itsprogram. This program combines a populist mobilization of resentment with a seeminglyfuture-oriented response to the challenge of a profound social, cultural, and politicaltransformation of advanced western societies. This transformation has variously beendescribed as the coming of an information, consumer, or postindustrial ociety.36 Behindthese formulations s the assumption that the present accelerated process of technologicalmodernization, particularly n the communication and information ector, has led to nothingless than revolutionary hanges in the social structure of western democracies.

    The Social Costs of Accelerated Modernization

    Central o this process are two developments: on the one hand, a shift from modern massproduction and mass consumption to what has been defined as a new regime of flexibleaccumulation, that is, the production of highly specialized, customized products throughflexible manufacturing ystems supervised by a highly skilled work force; on the other hand,a renewed acceleration of the shift from the secondary to the tertiary sector. As a result ofboth the diffusion of high tech production ystems and the expansion of highly qualified obsin organization and management, research and development, and consulting, there is a

    growing demand or higher evels of formal education, higher skills, and longer training. Atthe same time there is a marked decrease in unskilled and semiskilled jobs in production,cleaning, transportation, nd sales. The result is a growing bifurcation of labor markets.

    The social space of the advanced postindustrial ocieties is similarly characterized y theemergence of a "two-thirds society:" on the one hand, an affluent, well-educated, andsecure new middle class of employees, civil servants, and new professionals and a"polyvalent" blue collar work force employed in the "postfordist" actory; on the other, anincreasingly marginalized ector of unskilled and semiskilled workers, young people withoutcomplete formal education and training, and the growing mass of the long-termunemployed. They represent a readily identifiable underclass of the permanently

    unemployed, underemployed, or marginally employed who are quickly turning into thelosers of the accelerated modernization process.37


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    Hans-Georg Betz

    Finally, the cultural sphere is characterized by the dominance of consumption, thefragmentation f taste cultures, and individuality n choice and in life style, made possibleby the new production regime.38 In this view, the high standard of living and high level ofsocial security characteristic f advanced western democracies have led to the dissipation ofclass distinctions and subcultural class identities. The result has been a process of"individualization" f life styles, which give rise to a new system of social diversificationand stratification.39 y rewarding ndividual effort, self-promotion and self-advertisement,and the ability to design one's own existence, it reinforces the trend towards socialbifurcation.

    Both the rise and political success of left-libertarian s well as radical right-wing populistparties have been attributed to the broad transformation of advanced West Europeandemocracies. One side has been the radical populist right as a response of modernization

    losers to deprivation and marginalization.40 thers have argued that these parties represent aresponse to a broader ransformation f the political culture of advanced democracies: theradical populist right occupies one pole on a new axis of conflict over social values. Itrepresents a largely materialist reaction to the postmaterialist aspirations of the libertarianleft and the libertarian eft's promotion of environmental ssues, new concepts of morality,new ways of political participation, nd vision of a multicultural ociety. The reaction to thisagenda has been an increased emphasis on "old politics": sustained economic growth,technological progress, economic stability, a tough stand on questions of law and order, anda return o traditional moral values.41

    Neither interpretation ufficiently explains the ambiguities and paradoxes represented bythe radical

    populist right.One of their most serious deficits is that

    theysee the radical

    populist right largely as representing "reactions against change, rather han change in a new

    direction.'"42 However, the radical populist right's central programmatic ositions are onlyreactionary in the sense of the desire to impede or prevent change) as far as they refer toimmigrants and refugees: instead of accepting growing ethnic and cultural heterogeneitythey seek to return to an ethnically and culturally homogeneous past. Their neo-liberalstance, on the other hand, explicitly anticipates, supports, and endorses radical change andthus hardly appeals to those threatened by these changes. Rather han seeking to return o thecomprehensive corporatist and welfare-state-oriented policies of the past, they embracesocial individualization and fragmentation as a basis for their political programs. In whatfollows, we will argue that one possible explanation of the ambiguities of this program s theparticular ocial basis to which the radical populist right appeals for support: an alliancebetween losers and winners of the present acceleration of the modernization process.

    The Social Basis of Political Resentment

    Studies of the social basis of support or various radical right-wing populist parties show thatthese parties attract voters across the social spectrum. However, in a number of casespolitical support is concentrated n particular social groups. An exemplary case is theNorwegian Progress Party. In the 1989 elections, blue collar workers and white collar

    workers were overrepresented, and public white collar workers were underrepresentedamong its voters. Its supporters were predominantly male, and a considerable proportion


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    Comparative Politics July 1993

    was under thirty years of age. A majority of its voters had low and medium incomes.43Similarly n Austria, in the 1990 elections the FPO did particularly well among workers and

    employees, but also among pensioners. As in the Norwegian case, the party's voters werepredominantly male, and a considerable portion was under thirty.44 Although a large portionof the supporters of the Front National are from the traditional middle and lower middleclass, the party has also been able to attract a considerable proportion of working classvoters. As a result of the overrepresentation f "farmers, artisans, and small shopkeepers aswell as higher level employees and the self-employed, Le Pen's voters resemble those ofGaullism and liberalism; as a result of the overrepresentation f medium and lower levelemployees, workers, and the unemployed, they resemble those of socialism andcommunism. 45

    The Lega, the Republikaner, and the Vlaams Blok deviate somewhat rom the Norwegian,

    Austrian, and French cases. Unlike the latter, the Lega has attracted a considerable numberof young supporters who distinguish themselves by their high levels of educational andoccupational status.46 The typical leghista has been described as a relatively young,well-educated male "who tends to occupy a medium-high professional position and has anincome that s higher than the national or regional average. "47 However, recent studies showthat with growing support rom working class voters the Lega increasingly resembles otherradical right-wing populist parties.48 The Republikaner and the Vlaams Blok are even moreblue collar parties. At the height of their electoral appeal the Republikaner attracted asegment of German society that was characterized by lower levels of education, particularlyamong younger voters, and blue collar working class status. In Bavaria and


    party's strongholds,unskilled and semiskilled workers

    and,to a

    lesser degree, qualified workers were particularly attracted o the Republikaner.49 inally,the voters of the Vlaams Blok are characterized by low levels of education and blue collarstatus. Often they are former socialist voters "disappointed by the promises of growth madeduring their youth."50

    This brief survey of the social basis of the radical populist right shows that those partieswhich have been most successful at the polls have forged an electoral alliance betweensegments of the working class and segments of the new middle class. This might havesomething to do with the particular mixture of their program. Surveys show that there is aclose relationship between levels of education and occupational status, on the one hand, andviews on immigrants, on the other. In Austria, for example, a considerably arger proportionof those with primary degrees than college entrance and university degrees considerslimiting the number of immigrants an "extraordinarily mportant" question. So do more ofthe self-employed, unskilled and semiskilled workers, and skilled workers and pensionerscompared to employees, civil servants, or students.51 In addition, foreign blue collarworkers, who often are Maghrebins and Turks, tend to be concentrated n working classareas.52 ncreasingly, foreigners have also moved into the suburban areas surrounding argecities like Paris characterized by low rent housing, a high concentration of workers, a highproportion of young people without complete education, and high levels of youthunemployment.53 As Nonna Mayer and others have shown, it is in these working class areasthat the Front National has attracted onsiderable political support.54

    One might suspect that right-wing radical parties direct their xenophobic message to thosesocial groups which have to compete with non-European mmigrants. The resulting climate


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    Hans-Georg Betz

    of insecurity, particularly among unskilled or semiskilled workers and unemployed youthwithout complete education, is one of the potential breeding grounds of xenophobia and

    radical right-wing populist support.55 However, an exclusive focus on marginalized groupsis hardly enough to increase a party's support at the polls. Only by appealing o segments ofthe new middle class and thus broadening their electoral base have parties like theNorwegian Progress Party, the Lega, and the FPO become a serious threat o the establishedparties.

    It appears hat these parties attract a considerable portion of the private sector segment ofthe new middle class, particularly nonmanual employees. 56By contrast, the public sectorsegment of the new middle class is underrepresented. his can be explained n terms of theseparties' vigorous support of the market against state intervention and their critique of theinefficiencies of the welfare state. Portions of the new middle class might also be attracted

    at least to some of these parties by their liberal position on questions of individual morality,individualism, and self-determination.57 Even in the case of the Front National,authoritarian ositions that touch upon individual morality, such as abortion, find no clearmajorities.58 A recent study of the Lega even finds postmaterialists with high tolerancetowards foreign immigrants among its supporters.59

    These examples show that the radical populist right appeals as much to the modernizationwinners within advanced western democracies as to those segments threatened bymarginalization. If one looks at their neo-liberal program, it appears that these partiesattempt to appeal particularly o emerging groups which accept the market as the ultimatearbiter over individual life chances and which, as a result of their relative high level ofeducation, are well-prepared to

    playthe game of individual effort, self-promotion, and

    self-advertisement. To these groups the new populist leaders like Haider and Bossiincreasingly try to appeal.6

    A Postmodern Right?

    In this essay we have argued that the recent political success of radical right-wing populistparties is a result of the particular lectoral alliance they have been able to forge. Radicalright-wing populism represents itself as an at first sight paradoxical coalition of ratherheterogeneous social groups. On the one hand, it appeals to the losers of the modernization

    and individualization process marginalized blue collar workers, young people with lowerlevels of education, and the unemployed. As French and German studies have shown, thesegroups tend to live in the anonymous housing projects on the periphery of metropolitan reaswhich are increasingly becoming the homes of newly arriving mmigrants. They are drivenby diffuse fears of encirclement and invasion and by growing resentment over the fact thatthey have been abandoned by the rest of society and can not escape. Disappointed by theleft-wing parties' failure to address their plight and ambiguous positions on immigration,they vote for the radical populist right out of general frustration and resentment.

    Radical right-wing populist parties also appeal to groups which belong to the winners ofthe accelerated modernization process and benefit from the individualization process which

    it has set in motion. Particularly nteresting are the so-called "new professionals," definedas young men and women who have created their own jobs. One might assume that this


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    Comparative Politics July 1993

    trend is particularly pronounced in advanced western democracies with large studentpopulations and diminishing ob prospects n the public sector. Thus, Italy in the 1980s saw

    the rise of more than 160 new professions with more than 275,000 people employed.61 t hasbeen argued that due to the "determination f their market position" young highly educatedpeople may be frustrated nd politically restless and therefore support new political parties.The expectation has been that they would support left-libertarian parties.62 However, thegrowing appeal of parties such as the FPO and the Lega to young people suggests that thesegroups might be an important lectoral reservoir or the radical populist right.63

    Ideologically, the radical populist right is still a right-wing phenomenon, althoughconsiderably different from the traditional extreme right. In its liberal commitment toindividual effort but also autonomy and its adaptation o a thanging cultural and politicalclimate it resembles the libertarian eft. However, whereas the libertarian eft is committed

    to equality, the radical populist right's antiforeigner positions as well as its economicprogram start from the assumption of basic inequality. Not everyone has the same abilities;the indigenous population should come first and should get the jobs and basic welfareprovisions. This programmatic mixture might partly explain why the radicai populist righthas been so successful. Its antiforeigner program poses little threat to new middle classvoters, nor does its neo-liberal program pose a threat o its working class supporters. htfact,unemployed youth and marginalized blue collar workers might harbor resentments imilar tothose of the private sector segment of the new middle class. For both, the opponents arepoliticians, unions, and the state, which protect the interests of established, organizedgroups while preventing outsiders rom marketing hemselves even if they are eager to work.

    The rise and success of radicalright-wing populism

    in westernEurope

    can thus beinterpreted as the result of the increasing social and cultural fragmentation anddifferentiation of advanced western societies. Both developments are a consequence of thegeneral individualization process of postindustrial ociety, which is gradually destroying thebasis of the great all-encompassing projects of modem politics.64 In a social, cultural, andpolitical climate characterized y fluidity and insecurity, radical right-wing populism appealsto the new ego-centrism which prevails throughout he advanced western world and whichfinds expression as much in the picture of the "fortress Europe" and the renewed outburstsof nationalist separatism as in the hostility towards foreigners and the denunciation of thewelfare state. If this is correct, then radical right-wing populist parties are symptoms as wellas distasteful by-products of the general turbulence of the present age.


    Funds for this research were provided n part by the Bradley Institute or Democracy and Public Values, MarquetteUniversity, and the Marquette University committee on research. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers andthe editor for their helpful comments.

    1. Herbert Kitschelt, "Left-Libertarian Parties: Explaining Innovation in Competitive Party Systems," WorldPolitics, 40 (1988), 229.

    2. Commission of the European Communities, Racism and Xenophobia, Eurobarometer pecial (Brussels: 1989),pp. 6, 58-60.

    3. Daten und Fakten zur Auslandersituation, Mitteilungen der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung iir die Integrationder ausliandischen Arbeitnehmer und ihrer Familienangeh6rigen Bonn: 1990), p. 31; Andr6 Lebon, Regard sur


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    Hans-Georg Betz

    l'immigration et la prdsence 6trangbre en France 1989/1990 (Paris: La Documentation Franqaise, 1990), p. 76;Reinhard Eichwalder, "Lebensbedingungen uslindischer Staatsbiirger n Osterreich," Statistische Nachrichten, 46

    (1991), 166.4. Michble Tribalat, "La population 6trangbre n France, Regards sur l'Actualitd, 118 (February 1986), 34-35.5. "Udenlandske tatsborgere g personer odt i udlandet pr. 1. januar 1991, samt udenlandske vandringer 1990,"

    Danmarks Statistik, 12 (1991), 5; Bundesamt ftir Fliichtlinge, Asylstatistik 1991 (Bern: 1992), p. 9; ISPES, RapportoItalia '91 (Rome: Vallecchi Editori, 1991), p. 471.

    6. Commission of the European Communities, p. 40.7. Jan Werner, Die Invasion der Armen (Mainz-Munich: V. Hase & Koehler, 1992); Rudolf Wassermann,

    "Plaidoyer uir eine neue Asyl- und Auslainderpolitik," us Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Feb. 21, 1992, pp. 13-20.8. Vlaams Blok, "Zegen wat u denkt" (Deurne: no date), p. 7.9. Le Front National c'est vous (Paris: no date), p. 8; Autopartei, Parteiprogramm 1991), pp. 8-9; Umberto Bossi

    with Daniele Vimercati, Vento dal Nord-La mia Lega, la mia vita, (Milan: Kupfer & Sperling, 1992), pp. 143-150;FPO, Heimat-Suche Vienna: FBW-Dokumentation, 1991).

    10. DieRepublikaner,

    "Sozialstaat retten:Asylbetriiger

    ausweisenArbeitslosigkeit beseitigen: Einwanderungstoppen Verbrechen beknimpfen: uslindische Straftfiter bschieben ", flyer, 1991.

    11. Eichwalder, p. 172.12. Guy Desplanques and Nicole Tabard, "La localisation de la population 6trangbre," Economie et Statistique, 242

    (April 1991), 51-61; Eric Maurin, "Les 6trangers: Une main-d'oeuvre A art?," 242 (April 1991), 39-50; Daten undFakten zur Auslandersitation, p. 22; Regine Erichsen, "Zurtickkehren der bleiben? Zur wirtschaftlichen Situation vonAuslindern in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland," Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, June 10, 1988, p. 19.

    13. Erichsen, p. 23.14. Didier Blanchet and Olivier Marchand, "Au-delA de I'an 2000, s'adapter A une pOnurie de main-d'oeuvre,"

    Economie et Statistique, 243 (May 1991), 63; for Germany, see Bernd Hof, "Arbeitskrliftebedarf er Wirtschaft,Arbeitsmarktchancen iir Zuwanderer," Bonn: mimeo, 1991).

    15. Le Front National c'est vous , p. 6; Andreas Milzer, Jdrg Der Eisbrecher (Klagenfurt: Suxxes, 1990), p. 170;for Belgium, see Fr6d6ric Larsen, "En Belgique, l'extreme droite s'installe dans les coulisses du pouvoir," Le Monde

    Diplomatique, 39 (February 1992), 8-9.16. Bossi with Vimercati, p. 148; in a similar vein, M61zer, p. 170; on the political use of xenophobia by the Lega,

    see Daniele Vimercati, I lombardi alla nuova crociata (Milan: Mursia, 1990), ch. 18.17. Tor Bjorklund, "The 1987 Norwegian Local Elections: A Protest Election with a Swing to the Right,"

    Scandinavian Political Studies, 11 (1988), 216-217; Ole Borre, "Some Results from the Danish 1987 Election,"Scandinavian Political Studies, 10 (1987), 347.

    18. Autopartei, p. 1; for the FPO, see M61zer; or the Lega, see Giulio Savelli, Che cosa vuole la Lega (Milan:Longanesi, 1992).

    19. Bossi with Vimercati, p. 68; interview with Umberto Bossi, La Repubblica, Mar. 20, 1992, p. 8; interview withUmberto Bossi, II Sabato, Nov. 16, 1991, p. 21.

    20. Bossi with Vimercati, p. 170; see also Vittorio Moioli, Il tarlo delle leghe (Trezzo sull' Adda: Comedit2000,1991).21. Le Pen, Pour la France (Paris: dlition Albatros), p. 65.22. Umberto Bossi in Lega Nord Centro Sud, Mar. 1-7, 1992, pp. 1-2.23. Le Front National c'est vous , p. 4.24. Savelli, pp. 10-17.25. Autopartei, "Freiheit--Wohlstand--Lebensfreude Unsere 10 politischen Leitlinien," 1991.26. Eurobarometer 989, cited in Roberto Biorcio, "La Lega come attore politico: Dal federalismo al populismo

    regionalista," in Renato Mannheimer, ed., La Lega Lombarda Milan: Feltrinelli, 1991), p. 43; L'Express, Nov. 10,1989, p. 46.27. Corriere della Sera, Nov. 30, 1991, p. 12; Panorama, Dec. 8, 1991, p. 42.28. Hugues Portelli, "La crise de la representation politique," Regards sur l'Actuialitd, 164 (September-October

    1990), 3-10.29. Hans-Walter Kreiler, "Die Europawahl am 18. Juni in Miinchen," Miinchener Statistik (June 1989), 362; Horst

    W. Schmollinger, "Die Wahl zum Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin am 29. Januar 1989," Zeitschrift ftir

    Parlamentsfragen, 20 (October 1989), 319; Franz Birk, Ernst Gehmacher, and Giinther Ogris, "Parteienlandschaftandert sich?," Zukunft, 11 (1988), 14; Vittorio Moioli, I nuovi razzismi (Rome: Edizioni Associate, 1990).


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    Comparative Politics July 1993

    30. Renato Mannheimer, "Chi vota Lega e perch6?," in Mannheimer, ed., pp. 144-145.31. EMNID, "Zeitgeschichte," March 1989, Table 7; Hans-Joachim Veen, " 'Programm' und 'Wihler' der

    Republikaner-Etablierung noch offen," Eichholzbrief, 4 (1989), 62.32. Seth Lipsky, "Le Pen: He's on the Right, but He's Wrong," The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 29, 1988, p. 24.33. Ny Demokrati, Partiprogram, p. IX.34. See Molzer, p. 169.35. See Brigitte Busch, "Mauerbau und Rassismus rund um die 'Festung Europa': Osterreichs Fremdenpolitik m

    auslinderfeindlichen Harmonisierungstrend," n Gero Fischer and Peter Gstettner, ed., "Am Kdrntner Wesen kiinntediese Republik genesen" (Klagenfurt: Drava, 1990), pp. 50-67.

    36. Daniel Bell, The Coming of Postindustrial Society (New York: Basic Books, 1973); Mike Featherstone,Consumer Culture and Postmodernism (Newbury Park: Sage, 1991); Scott Lash, Sociology of Postmodernism

    (London: Routledge, 1990).37. Ehrenfried Natter and Alois Riedlsperger, eds., Zweidrittelgesellschaft Vienna: Europaverlag, 1988).38. Charles Jencks, What Is Postmodernism? New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987), p. 49.39. Featherstone,

    p.86; Ulrich Beck, "Jenseits von Stand und Klasse," Merkur, 38 (June 1984), 485-497; Kenneth

    J. Gergen, The Saturated Self (New York: Basic Books, 1991).40. Gerhard Paul, "Die 'Republikaner': Profile einer neuen Partei," Gewerkschaftliche Monatshefte, 40 (September

    1989), 544-548. For France, see Jean-Marie Vincent, "Pourquoi 'extrbme-droite," Les Temps Modernes, 41 (April1985), 1773-1779).41. Michael Minkenberg and Ronald Inglehart, "Neoconservatism and Value Change in the USA: Tendencies in the

    Mass Public of a Postindustrial Society," in John R. Gibbins, ed., Contemporary Political Culture (Newbury Park:Sage, 1989), pp. 82, 91; Russell J. Dalton, Citizen Politics in Western Democracies (Chatham: Chatham House,1988), ch. 7.42. Ronald Inglehart, Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p.

    11.43. Henry Valen, Bernt Aardal, and Gunnar Vogt, Endring og Kontinuitet: Stortingvalget 1989 (Oslo: Central

    Bureau of Statistics, 1990), Table 6.7.

    44. Fritz Plasser and Peter A. Ulram, "Abstieg oder letzte Chance der OVP?," Osterreichische Monatshefte, 7(1990), pp. 6-15.

    45. Roland Hdhne, "Die Renaissance des Rechtsextremismus n Frankreich," Politische Vierteljahresschrift, 31(1990), 84-85. See also Pascal Perrineau, "Le Front national et les 61lections: 'exception pr6sidentielle et la rbgle16glislative," Revue Politique et Parlementaire, 90 (July-August 1988), 37; Nonna Mayer, "Le Front National," inBilan: Politique de la France (Paris: Hachette, 1991), p. 116.

    46. Mannheimer, pp. 126-129.47. Vincenzo Cesareo, Marco Lombardi, and Giancarlo Rovati, Localismo politico: Il caso Lega Lombarda Varese:

    Comitato Regionale Lombardo Democrazia Cristiana, 1989), p. 5.48. Mannheimer, p. 128.49. Dieter Roth, "Sind die Republikaner die fiinfte Partei?," Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Oct. 5, 1989, pp.

    13-14; Max Kaase and Wolfgang G. Gibowski, "Die Ausgangslage fuir die Bundestagswahl am 2. Dezember 1990,"in Max Kaase and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, eds., Wahlen und Wdhler: Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagwahl 1987(Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1990), pp. 762-764; for the 1992 election, see Matthias Jung and Dieter Roth, "DerStimmzettel als Denkzettel," Die Zeit, Apr. 10, 1992, p. 3.

    50. Christian Vandermotten nd Jean Vanlaer, "Immigration t vote d'extr8me-droite n Europe occidentale et enBelgique" (Brussels: mimeo, Universit6 Libre de Bruxelles, 1991), p. 5; Larsen, p. 8.

    51. SWS-Rundschau, 0 (1990), 570; SWS-Rundschau, 1 (1991), 148.52. For France, see Desplanques and Tabard.53. Marc Ambroise-Rendu, "Le 'mal des banlieues' s'6tend," Le Monde, Aug. 8, 1991, p. 20; Frangois Dubet,

    Immigrations: Qu'en savons-nous? (Paris: La Documentation Franqaise, 1989), pp. 71-72.54. Nonna Mayer, "Le vote FN de Passy A Barb6s (1984-1988)," in Nonna Mayer and Pascal Perrineau, eds., Le

    Front National a ddcouvert Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1989), pp. 249-267;Franqois-R6gis Navarre, "Clichy: Du rouge au noir," L'Express, Feb. 23, 1990, p. 33. For Germany, see EikeHennig, Die Republikaner m Schatten Deutschlands (Frankfurt .M.: Suhrkamp, 1991), pp. 150-151, 214.

    55. Jorgen Goul Andersen and Tor Bjorklund, "Structural Changes and New Cleavages," Acta Sociologica, 33(1990), 204.


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    56. Ibid., p. 204.57. Ibid., p. 207.58. Le Point,


    1990, pp.40-41.

    59. Ilvo Diamanti, "Una tipologia dei simpatizzanti della Lega," in Mannheimer, ed., p. 169.60. FPO, Perspektive Freiheit (Vienna: Freiheitliches Bildungswerk, 1991), p. 46.61. XXIV Rapporto Censis/1990 sulla situazione sociale del paese (Rome: Franco Angeli, 1990), p. 125.62. Kitschelt, p. 229.63. For empirical evidence, see Moiloli, Il tarlo delle leghe, pp. 306-320.64. Zygmunt Bauman, "Living without an Alternative," Political Quarterly, 62 (1991), 35-44.


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