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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009

5 - It's not the economy, stupid!


Neoliberalism and right-wing populism go hand in hand.

(Butterwege 2002: 918)

All the great patriots and nationalists in Europe are merely Trojan horses of Big Business.

(Thompson 2000: 98)


The academic literature on the populist radical right puts strong emphasis on the alleged neoliberal economic program of the party family. According to numerous authors, neoliberal economics is an essential feature of the parties' ideology and success. At first sight, it is not surprising that the populist radical right is linked to neoliberal economics. After all, contemporary understanding of “the right” in (empirical) political science is first and foremost in economic terms, standing for a trust in the market over the state, i.e. neoliberal economics (see also 1.5).

Few scholars have provided substantial empirical evidence for the alleged neoliberal content of the socioeconomic programs of the populist radical right. In fact, as is so often the case in the field, the claim is just assumed to be correct and broadly accepted. However, systematic analysis does not substantiate these claims; even in their early days most populist radical right parties at best expressed neoliberal rhetoric without fronting a consistent neoliberal program. Could it be that the populist radical right parties were just trying to fit the neoliberal Zeitgeist of the 1980s? Does the populist radical right actually share a coherent and collective (socio)economic program? And, if so, is this a core feature of their ideology?

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Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe
  • Online ISBN: 9780511492037
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