The populist radical right: a pathological normalcyThe populist radical right: a pathological normalcy
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
Faculty Research SW
Extremism and democracy
West European politics. - London, 1978, currens
33(2010):6, p. 1167-1186
University of Antwerp
In recent years more and more studies have pointed to the limitations of demand-side explanations of the electoral success of populist radical right parties. They argue that supply-side factors need to be included as well. While previous authors have made these claims on the basis of purely empirical arguments, this article provides a (meta)theoretical argumentation for the importance of supply-side explanations. It takes issue with the dominant view on the populist radical right, which considers it to be alien to mainstream values in contemporary western democracies - the 'normal pathology thesis'. Instead, it argues that the populist radical right should be seen as a radical interpretation of mainstream values, or more akin to a pathological normalcy. This argument is substantiated on the basis of an empirical analysis of party ideologies and mass attitudes. The proposed paradigmatic shift has profound consequences for the way the populist radical right and western democracy relate, as well as for how the populist radical right is best studied. Most importantly, it makes demand for populist radical right politics rather an assumption than a puzzle, and turns the prime focus of research on to the political struggle over issue saliency and positions, and on to the role of populist radical right parties within these struggles.