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By Manuela Caiani

Even though the term ‘extreme right’ is widely used among scholars, there is lack of a clear definition. Mudde has found 26 different ways of defining the extreme right in the literature. Some scholars define right-wing extremism using two criteria: anti-constitutionalism and anti-democratic values (this is the reason why is called extremist), and a rejection of the principle of fundamental human equality (this is the reason why it is called right-wing). Others prefer the label ‘radical right’ in order to describe those political parties and non-party organizations that are located towards one pole on the standard ideological left– right scale. Different labels such as ‘far right’ (Ellinas, 2007), ‘extreme right’ (Caiani et al., 2012; Arzheimer, 2012) and ‘populist radical right’ (Mudde, 2007) are used interchangeably by scholars to refer to the same organizations.

Despite the still-open debate on conceptual definition and terminology, this party family is defined in the literature by certain common ideological attributes, such as nationalism, exclusionism, xenophobia, the quest for a strong state, welfare chauvinism, revisionism and traditional ethics, and is usually associated, empirically, with various political parties in Europe, such as the Austrian Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, the French Front national, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, and the German NPD.

Recently, scholars have tended to define the (new) extreme right, pointing to a shift at stake from ‘old’ fascism to ‘new populism’ in its core ideology and identity. The ‘old’ extreme right, referring to fascism, has been identified with ultranationalism, the myth of decadence, the myth of rebirth (anti-democracy) and conspiracy theories. Today, populism is considered as one of the four main traits that characterize the common ideological core of the new extreme right. This interpretation is however controversial according to other commentators who see in it the risk of an “unintended form of ‘democratic legitimisation’ of modern xenophobia and neo-fascism” (e.g., Mammone, 2009).

Related References

Arzheimer, Kai. 2009. “Contextual Factors and the Extreme Right Vote in Western Europe, 1980–2002.” American Journal of Political Science 53 (2): 259–75.
Caiani, Manuela, and Donatella della Porta. 2011. “The Elitist Populism of the Extreme Right: A Frame Analysis of Extreme Right-Wing Discourses in Italy and Germany.” Acta Politica 46 (2): 180–202.
Caiani, Manuela, Donatella della Porta, and Claudius Wagemann, eds. 2012. Mobilizing on the Extreme Right: Germany, Italy, and the United States. Oxford University Press.
Carter, Elisabeth. 2011. The Radical Right in Western Europe: Success or Failure? Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Eatwell, Roger. 2003. “Ten Theories of the Extreme Right.” In Right-Wing Extremism in the Twenty-First Century, 45–70. London: Routledge.
Ellinas, Antonis A. 2010. The Media and the Far Right in Western Europe: Playing the Nationalist Card. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kriesi, Hanspeter, and Takis Pappas, eds. 2015. European Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession. Colchester: ECPR Press.
Mammone, Andrea. 2009. “The Eternal Return? Faux Populism and Contemporarization of Neo-Fascism across Britain, France and Italy.” Journal of Contemporary European Studies 17 (2): 171–92.
Mudde, Cas. 2007. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Norris, Pippa. 2005. Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cite this entry as:

Caiani, Manuela. 2022. ‘Extreme Right’. In Populisms and Emotions Glossary, edited by Cristiano Gianolla and Maíra Magalhães Lopes. Available atário