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Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right. The New Cultural Conflict in Western Europe

SBornschier's picture

Publication Type:



The Social Logic of Politics, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, p.246 (2010)




attitudes, cleavages, elections, France, Germany, liberal democracy, party strategies, Right-wing populist parties, Switzerland


Over the last two decades, right-wing populist parties in Western Europe have gained sizable vote shares and power, much to the fascination and consternation of political observers. Meshing traditionalism and communitarian ideals, right-wing populist parties have come to represent a polar normative ideal to the New Left in Western Europe. Studying these parties in a dynamic perspective, this book develops a theory that integrates the role of political conflict around both established cleavages and party strategies regarding new divisions to explain the varying fortunes of the populist right.
Combining data from election campaigns and opinion surveys, "Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right" explains the emergence of the Front National in France and the transformation of the Swiss People's Party to right-wing populism. Where the populist right has made a breakthrough, a new cultural cleavage has formed. On the other hand, when established parties succeed in averting the entry of a right-wing populist competitor, the new cultural conflict presents itself in tempered form, as demonstrated in the case of Germany.