“The Global Rise of the Far-Right” Campus Event Commentary

Cas Mudde in 2018

Cas Mudde’s lecture on the 6th of February was a unique opportunity to learn about the problematic situation that arises the people comprising the dominant group in a society perceive themselves as oppressed by individuals belonging to some of its marginalized groups. This reversal on the self-image of people that perceive themselves as oppressed rather than as privileged within the context of society, leads to very dangerous ideologies that have accompanied mankind since its dawn: extremism and xenophobia.

Mudde, widely considered an expert in his field, provided his insight on the rise of the far-right in Europe and on a global scale. The Dutch political scientist started his lecture by highlighting that today we are facing the fourth wave of the far-right, that has too main branches. These are the extreme right, that is purely anti-democratic, and the radical right that opposes liberal democracy. The rise of these phenomena is achieved through populism, that is communicated in the basis of homonism and moralism. In other words, far-right rhetoric contrasts how deeply pure and moral are the people, as opposed to how corrupt is the elite ruling them.

For Mudde, this forth wave of the far-right is differentiated to the previous ones in quantity and significance, and its two main characteristics are heterogeneity and normalization. To begin with, the far-right movements have nowadays adjusted their ideologies in accordance to social norms, in order to become approachable by a larger portion of society. This is clearly evident in their view of masculinity, as the traditional monolithic perception has been substituted by a much more dynamic one, that reflects the prevalent views of the society it belongs to. Therefore, in some countries, the “macho” type is the paragon of masculinity while in others, that have different values and standards, a much more sensitive and emotional type is promoted as exemplary.

Also, benevolent sexism is among the ideas that find themselves in the heart of today’s far-right ideology. Women are not treated worse in the common meaning of the term. They are considered pure and fragile, so men see themselves as responsible for their protection. Men that have been raised in a clearly patriarchal environment tend to showcase intense fear for women that are better or more successful than themselves. However, the far-right brings about the revival of archaic paradigms concerning gender roles, and men derive confirmation of their masculinity from the role they adopt as guardians of females.

A second main characteristic of the “new” far-right is its normalization. Policies that some decades ago would be considered fascist and anachronistic such as stricter immigration policy and more well-guarded borders are now presented by conservative rhetoric as the result of common sense. Also, the far-right’s sureness about itself has reached such a point, that often phrases such as “all the people,” or “any thinking person” are used, to refer to ideas widely accepted among far-right voters. At the same time, these movements find increasing support from economic and political elites, and national conservatism has become a popular ideology among many politicians and modern scholars.

However, the most threatening development is the fact that the far right has become part of the mainstream in many countries. People might disagree with its extreme ideology, but in contrary to its first appearances, they no longer feel that it is something absurd or out of place. According to Mude, the normal pathology describes only a small fraction of the population that supports extreme right movements, centering around the abolition of mainstream values. But it is the radical right, described as pathological normalcy that is much more threatening, because it uses the mainstream values and ideas of society and interprets them is a radical manner. In this way, although the values presented are twisted and distorted to their extreme version, their core is familiar and accepted by the majority of society, making it is much easier to attract an audience.