‘We are now in a fourth wave of postwar far right politics’

Voxeurop: How did you become so interested in radical movements and the far-right?

Cas Mudde: I grew up in the Netherlands in the 1970s/1980s and fascism and the Second World War were omnipresent in our history education and political discussions. This was amplified with the electoral breakthrough of the misnamed Centrumpartij (Center Party, CP )in 1982. Although the radical right party gained only 0.67 percent of the vote, they got one seat in parliament and it led to endless counterdemonstrations and debates on how to stop “fascism.” I was fascinated by this disproportionate response and the irrational fear of the far right at that time.

Why did you felt the need for a book like The Far Right Today, and what does it say that is actually new on this topic?

The main reason was growing frustration with the use of populism as a synonym for far right. While populism is a useful term, it is broader than the far right and the far right is broader than populism. The core of the far right is nativism, not populism, and the two shouldn’t be conflated. Nativism distinguishes on the basis of ethnicity, populism on the basis of moralism. Nativism is against ethnic minorities, populism against elites. 

Although the main aim of the book is to provide an accessible overview of the contemporary far right, there are some new ideas in it, most notably that we are now in a fourth wave of postwar far-right politics, which is characterised by the mainstreaming and normalisation of far right actors and ideas.

Is there a difference between the far right and the radical right?

Yes. The far right encompasses both the extreme right and the radical right. While the extreme right rejects democracy as such, i.e. popular sovereignty and majority rule, the…

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