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The terms far right, or extreme right, describe the broad range of political groups and ideologies usually taken to be further to the right of the mainstream center-right on the traditional left-right spectrum. Far right politics commonly involves support for social inequality and social hierarchy, elements of social conservatism and opposition to most forms of liberalism and socialism. Both terms are also used to describe Nazi and fascist movements, and other groups who hold extreme nationalist, chauvinist, xenophobic, racist, religious fundamentalist or reactionary views.[1] The most extreme right-wing movements have pursued oppression and genocide against groups of people on the basis of their alleged inferiority.[2]

Definition and terminology

Far-right politics commonly includes authoritarianism, anti-communism, and nativism.[3] Often, the term "far right" is applied to fascists and neo-Nazis,[4][5][6][7][8] and major elements of fascism have been deemed clearly far right, such as its belief that supposedly superior people have the right to dominate society while purging allegedly inferior elements, and — in the case of Nazismgenocide of people deemed to be inferior.[9] Claims that superior people should proportionally have greater rights than inferior people are sometimes associated with the far right.[10] The far right has historically favoured an elitist society based on belief of the legitimacy of the rule of a supposed superior minority over the inferior masses.[11] Far-right politics usually involves anti-immigration and anti-integration stances towards groups that are deemed inferior and undesirable.[12] Concerning the socio-cultural dimension (nationality, culture and migration), one far-right position could be the view that certain ethnic, racial or religious groups should stay separate, and that the interests of one’s own group should be prioritised.[13]

There is disagreement among academics concerning the most appropriate way of defining the ideologies of right-wing extremist parties.[14] Within this debate different scholars disagree as to the number and combination of ideological features that qualify a party as right-wing extremist as well as the different typologies used to distinguish between parties within this family. According to Christina Liang, this "academic field is especially peculiar about its terminology. Each label carries with it a specific understanding of this family of political parties as well as a particular set of assumptions regarding their origins and electoral success".[15] In an extensive survey of the literature, academic Cas Mudde found 26 definitions of right-wing extremism that contained 57 different ideological features.[16] Alongside the theoretical debate concerning the nature of these parties there is also an empirical debate concerning who speaks for right-wing extremist parties and how to measure their ideology given that many reject the right-wing extremist label being applied to them.

One issue when it comes to terminology is whether parties should be labelled "radical" or "extreme",[17] a distinction that is made by the German Federal Constitutional Court when determining whether a party can be banned. Another question is the what the label "right" implies when applied to the extreme right, given that many parties labelled as right-wing extremist tended to advance neo-liberal and free market agendas as late as the 1980s but can now advocate economic policies more traditionally associated with the left, such as anti-globalisation, nationalisation and protectionism. One approach, drawing on the writings of Norberto Bobbio, argues that attitudes towards equality are what distinguish between left and right and therefore allow these parties to be positioned on the right of the political spectrum. There is also debate about how appropriate the labels fascist or neo-fascist are. According to Cas Mudde, "the labels Neo-Nazi and to a lesser extent neo-fascism are now used exclusively for parties and groups that explicitly state a desire to restore the Third Reich or quote historical National Socialism as their ideological influence".[17]

Jurgen Falter and Siegfried Schumann define right-wing extremism with reference to ten ideological features which they believe constitutes a core extreme right ideology, including hyper-nationalism, ethnocentralism, anti-communism, anti-parliamentarianism and anti-pluralism.[18]

Cas Mudde identified five key features – nationalism, racism, xenophobia, anti-democracy and the belief in a strong state – based on the fact that they appear in 50% of the definitions of the extreme-right that he surveyed.[19] However, in later writings he revisited his earlier assessment and argued in favour of a definition based upon three features: authoritarianism, populism and nativism.

According to Elizabeth Carter, the two defining features of a right-wing extremist party are: a rejection of fundamental human equality, which she asserts is what makes the party right-wing,[20] and a rejection of the fundamental democratic values of the state, which makes it extremist.[20]

Proponents of the horseshoe theory interpretation of the left-right spectrum identify the far-left and far-right as having more in common with each other as extremists than each have towards moderate centrists.[21]


The German political scientist Klaus von Beyme describes three historical phases in the development of far right parties in Western Europe after the World War II.[13][22]

From 1945 to the mid-1950s, far right parties were marginalised, their ideologies discredited due to the recent existance and defeat of Nazism. Thus in the years immediately following World War II, the main objective of far right parties was survival; achieving any political impact at all, was largely not expected.

From the mid-1950s to the 1970s, the so-called "populist protest phase" emerged with sporadic electoral success. Far right parties during this period drew to them charismatic leaders whose profound mistrust of the political establishment led to an "us-versus-them" mind set: “us” being the nation's citizenry, “them,” the politicians and bureaucrats currently in-office; beginning in the 1980s, electoral success of far right political candidates made it possible to revitalize anti-immigration as a mainstream issue.




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