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Reactionary Internationalism: the philosophy of the New Right

  • Pablo de Orellana (a1) and Nicholas Michelsen (a1)


What does the New Right want from international relations? In this article, we argue that the philosophy of the New Right is not reducible to a negation of internationalism. The New Right coalesce around a conceptualisation of the international driven by analytics and critiques of specific subjects, norms and practices, that should be treated as a distinct international theoretical offering. We refer to this vision as Reactionary Internationalism. This article examines and locates this vision within the intellectual history of nationalism and internationalism by drawing on poststructuralist approaches to intellectual history and drawing evidence from a discourse analysis of recent Lega, Front National, Brexit, and Trump campaigns. We find that, rather than advocating for the end of internationalism, the New Right seeks to reconstitute its normative architecture on the basis of inequality among identities. This entails dismantling liberal economic and rights-based norms and reframing them around transactionalism and power grounded on identity. Reactionary Internationalism emerges as a distinct philosophy that identifies a hegemonic normative bind and advocates its unravelling so as to liberate subjects understood as defined by their birth-cultural identity.

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25 ‘Trump, and American decline’, The New York Times (2018); ‘Trump's dangerous global retreat’, The New York Times (2018).

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27 Zaslove, ‘Closing the door?’.

28 Verbeek and Zaslove, ‘The impact of populist radical right parties on foreign policy’.

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31 Wight, Martin, ‘An anatomy of international thought’, Review of International Studies, 13:3 (1987), p. 225.

32 Love, Nancy S., ‘Back to the future: Trendy fascism, the Trump effect, and the Alt-Right’, New Political Science, 39:2 (2017), pp. 263–8.

33 The White House, ‘President Trump Speech to UN General Assembly’, available at: {} accessed 8 November 2018.

34 Kuehl, ‘Concepts of internationalism in history’, p. 6.

35 MacKay, Joseph and LaRoche, Christopher David, ‘Why is there no reactionary international theory?’, International Studies Quarterly, 62:2 (2018, pp. 234–44.

36 Rosenfeld, ‘Fascism as action through time’.

37 Sluga, Glenda, Internationalism in the Age of Nationalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

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39 Frost, Melvyn, Global Ethics: Anarchy, Freedom and International Relations (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2008).

40 Specifically Foucauldian discourse analysis, as opposed to CDA à la Fairclough, N., ‘Critical discourse analysis as a method in social scientific research’, in Modak, Ruth and Meyer, Michael (eds), Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis (London: Sage, 2001), pp. 121–38.

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42 Leave.EU, ‘Jacob Rees-Mogg Calls on Brexit Britain to Learn from @realDonaldTrump’, available at: {} accessed 7 August 2018.

43 BBC News, ‘Bannon Plan for Europe Populist “Supergroup” Sparks Alarm’ (2018).

44 LBC, ‘Bannon: “Jacob Rees-Mogg Is One Of The Best Conservative Thinkers Globally”’ (2018).

45 Berbuir, Lewandowsky, and Siri, ‘The AfD and its sympathisers’.

46 Zubrzycki, Geneviève, The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

47 Glied, Viktor and Pap, Norbert, ‘The “Christian Fortress of Hungary”’, Yearbook of Polish European Studies, 19 (2016), pp. 133–49; Haraszti, Miklós, ‘Behind Viktor Orbán's war on refugees in Hungary’, New Perspectives Quarterly, 32:4 (2015), pp. 3740.

48 Schmitt, Carl, The Nomos of the Earth: In the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum (New York: Telos Press, 2003).

49 Theresa May's attacks on Human Rights and desire to allocate rights by political choice or identity are a good example; see BBC News, ‘May Wants Human Rights Act Axed’ (2011); BBC News, ‘Theresa May Had Plan to “Deprioritise” Illegal Migrant Pupils’ (2016).

50 Bashford, Alison, ‘Nation, empire, globe: the spaces of population debate in the interwar years’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49:1 (2007), pp. 170201; Parker, Geoffrey, ‘Ratzel, the French School and the birth of alternative geopolitics’, Political Geography, 19:8 (2000), pp. 957–69; Tunander, Ola, ‘Swedish-German geopolitics for a new century: Rudolf Kjellén's “The State as a Living Organism’’, Review of International Studies, 27:3 (2001), pp. 451–63.

51 This was a core concept in fascism, Kemalism, national socialism and Francoism; Evola, Giulio, ‘Sul problema della razza dello spirito’, Vita Italiana, 347 (1942); Ferraresi, Franco, ‘Julius Evola: Tradition, reaction and the radical right’, European Journal of Sociology, 28:1 (1987), pp. 107–51.

52 Gentile, Giovanni and Mussolini, Benito, ‘La dottrina del fascismo’, Enciclopedia Italiana (1932); de Grazia, V., Consenso e cultura di massa nell'Italia fascista: L'organizzazione del dopolavoro (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1981).

53 de Benoist, Alain and Champetier, Charles, ‘Manifesto: the French New Right in the year 2000’, Telos, 115:spring (1999), pp. 117–44; ‘Alain de Benoist en “soutien critique‘ à Marine Le Pen’.

54 de Benoist, Alain, Nous et les autres: Problèmatique de l'identité (Paris: Editions Krisis, 2007).

55 de Benoist, Alain, Charles Maurras et l'action française – une bibliographie (Niherne: Association Anthinea, 2002).

56 Arendt, Hannah, ‘From the Dreyfus affair to France today’, Jewish Social Studies, 4:3 (1942), pp. 195240; Charles, Maurras, Votre bel Aujourd'hui (Paris: Arthème Fayard, 1953); Rioux, Jean-Pierre, ‘Maurice Barrès: “ma soumission à mon innéité”’, 1900: Revue d'histoire intellectuelle, 11:1 (1993), pp. 101–06.

57 Maurice Barrès, Scènes et doctrines du nationalisme (1902); Les traits éternels de la France (1917); Étude pour la protection des ouvriers français: contre les étrangers (1893).

58 See, for example in Gentile's use of Mazzini's ‘national determination’ frame; Viroli, Maurizio, As If God Existed: Religion and Liberty in the History of Italy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), p. 176; Mazzini, Giuseppe, A Cosmopolitanism of Nations: Giuseppe Mazzini's Writings on Democracy, Nation Building, and International Relations, eds Recchia, Stefano and Urbinati, Nadia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); Mazzini, Giuseppe, Dei doveri dell'uomo (Milano: Classici Moderni, 2010).

59 See conclusion in de Benoist, Nous et les autres.

60 ‘Theresa May commits Tories to cutting net migration to the UK to the tens of thousands’, The Telegraph (2017).

61 BBC News, ‘Italy Says “No” to Migrant-Saving NGOs’ (2018); de Benoist, Alain, Les démons du bien (Paris: Pierre-Guillaume de Roux Editions, 2013); de Benoist, Alain, Au-delà des droits de l'homme (Paris: Pierre-Guillaume de Roux, 2016).

62 Friedman, Milton, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Hayek, F. A., Individualism and Economic Order (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Mundell, R. A., International Economics (London: Macmillan, 1968).

63 Harvey, David, ‘Neoliberalism as creative destruction’, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 88:2 (2006), pp. 145–58.

64 BBC News, ‘Trump Calls Koch Brothers “A Total Joke”’ (2018).

65 Hayek, Individualism and Economic Order, pp. 6–9.

66 ‘Michael Gove: “The Facts of Life Say Leave”’, available at: {/michael_gove_the_facts_of_life_say_leave} accessed 9 October 2017).

67 Scott, James, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999).

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69 Brown, Wendy, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution (New York: Zone Books – MIT, 2017).

70 Wight, ‘An anatomy of international thought’.

71 Slobodian, Quinn, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018); Quinn Slobodian, ‘Opinion | Trump, populists and the rise of right-wing globalization’, The New York Times (2018).

72 Castells, Manuel, The Power of Identity (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), p. 30.

73 Front National (FN), ‘Les 144 engagements présidentiels du Front National’, available at: {} accessed 10 August 2018; Lega, ‘Programma- Elezioni 2018’, available at: {} accessed 10 August 2018.

74 Laclau, Ernesto, ‘Fascism and ideology’, ARGUMENT, 21:September (1979), pp. 667–77; Sapelli, Giulio, La cooperazione e il fascismo: organizzazione delle masse e dominazione burocratica (Lega nazionale cooperative e mutue, 1976).

75 Taylor, Richard, ‘A medium for the masses: Agitation in the Soviet civil war’, Soviet Studies, 22:4 (1971), pp. 562–74.

76 Moran, Daniel and Waldron, Arthur, The People in Arms: Military Myth and National Mobilization Since the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

77 BBC News, ‘Bannon Plan for Europe Populist “Supergroup” Sparks Alarm’; Alain de Benoist, Droite-gauche, c'est fini! Le moment populiste (Paris: Pierre-Guillaume de Roux, 2017).

78 Nagle, Kill All Normies, p. 28.

79 For a preposterous example, see BBC News, ‘Johnson Burka Probe is “Show Trial”’ (2018).

80 Huntington, S. P., The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Pocket Books, 1997); Huntington, S. P., Who Are We? (London: Simon & Schuster, 2005).

81 These ideas featured in the 1992 and 1996 presidential bids of Patrick Buchanan and drew on work by paleoconservative Samuel T. Francis. See Lowndes, Joseph E., From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008).

82 See Said, Edward, ‘The clash of ignorance’, The Nation, 22:10 (2001), p. 3.

83 Katherine Griffiths [Banking Editor], ‘Don't talk down Britain, bank is warned’, The Times (2016); Michael Gove, ‘Soviet-style control freaks are a threat to our independence’, The Times (2016).

84 ‘The advantages of controlled immigration’ in Vote Leave, ‘Gove and Raab: EU Membership Makes Us Less Safe’, available at: {/gove_and_raab_eu_membership_makes_us_less_safe} accessed 9 October 2017.

85 Gove, Michael, Celsius 7/7 (London: Phoenix, 2007).

86 Vote Leave, ‘Statement by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Gisela Stuart: “Restoring Public Trust in Immigration Policy”’, available at: {/restoring_public_trust_in_immigration_policy_a_points_based_non_discriminatory_immigration_system} accessed 11 August 2018.

87 Vote Leave, ‘Rt Hon Liam Fox MP: “Memories of Green? The Cost of Uncontrolled Migration”’, available at: {/rt_hon_liam_fox_mp_memories_of_green_the_cost_of_uncontrolled_migration} accessed 11 August 2018; ‘Statement by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart on NHS Funding’, available at: {/statement_by_michael_gove_boris_johnson_and_gisela_stuart_on_nhs_funding} accessed 9 October 2017.

88 ‘Unwise monkeys: Cameron, Brown and Major branded bananas by Brexit-backing Priti Patel’, The Sun (2016).

89 Arron Banks, ‘Proof that British people support stronger borders, says Aaron Banks, Leave.EU’, The Express (2015).

90 ‘Leave.EU Response to the Westminster Terror Attacks’, available at: {} accessed 10 October 2017.

91 Nigel Farage, ‘The little people have had enough – not just here, but in America too’, The Telegraph (2016).

92 Gove, Celsius 7/7, p. 137.

93 Marine Le Pen, ‘Marine Le Pen: “Mes 10 mesures immédiates”’, available at: {} accessed 12 August 2018.

94 Marine Le Pen, ‘La France face au défi terroriste – Discours’, available at: {} accessed 12 August 2018.

95 Front National, ‘Les 144 engagements présidentiels du Front National’, available at: {} accessed 10 August 2018.

96 Marine Le Pen, ‘L'Afrique: notre première priorité internationale’, available at: {} accessed 12 August 2018; Tom Tancredo Richard Sabell, ‘Tancredo: Dump Columbus Day for White Guilt Day?’, available at: {} accessed 12 August 2018.

97 Chris Tomlinson, ‘Paris Generation Identitaire Leader: “This is the Last Election We Have” to Make Powerful Solutions for France's Future’, available at: {} accessed 13 August 2018.

98 Génération Identitaire, ‘Qui sommes-nous?’, available at: {} accessed 9 October 2017.

99 ‘Communiqués’, available at: {} accessed 13 August 2018.

100 Lega, ‘Programma- Elezioni 2018’.

101 La Repubblica, ‘Lega, scandalo a Pontida: parcheggi rosa solo per donne etero e comunitarie’ (2017); ‘Lega Nord Flash – Lega Nord – Salvini Premier’, available at: {} accessed 11 August 2018.

102 ‘Salvini: “Sui rom non mollo, prima gli italiani”’, Corriere della Sera, available at: {} accessed 16 August 2018.

103 Bruno Loverà, ‘I confini dell'odio – Il nazionalismo etnico e la nuova destra europea’, available at: {} accessed 11 August 2018; Paul Piccone, ‘La crisi del liberalismo e l'ascesa del populismo federale’, Trasgressioni, ix:1 (1994).

104 Vittorio Malagutti, ‘Sovranisti d’assalto, ecco la rete che unisce leghisti e Cinquestelle’, L'Espresso, available at: {} accessed 13 August 2018; Matteo Andriola, ‘Nuova destra: Alain de Benoist e Matteo Salvini’, Paginauno, available at: {} accessed 10 August 2018. On Lega’s series of shifts over the last decades, see Verbeek, Bertjan and Zaslove, Andrej, ‘Italy: a case of mutating populism?’, Democratization, 23:2 (2016), pp. 304–23.

105 ‘Lorenzo Fontana: “Aboliamo la Legge Mancino”’, L’Huffington Post, available at: {} accessed 12 August 2018.

106 QuotidianoNet, ‘Ponte Morandi Genova, UE e Salvini’, available at: {} accessed 15 August 2018.

107 Evola, Giulio, Rivolta contro il mondo moderno (Milano: Hoepli, 1934).

108 A structure that Curtis Yarvin, the key thinker of the NeoReaction movement, termed ‘The Cathedral’ in ‘The Cathedral Compilation’, available at: {} accessed 13 August 2018.

109 See use of Red Pill in reddit, ‘r/The_Donald’, available at: {} accessed 17 August 2018.

110 de Benoist, Au-delà des droits de l'homme; de Benoist and Champetier, ‘Manifesto’.

111 ‘“White Civil Rights Rally” Approved For D.C. In August’, available at: {} accessed 13 August 2018.

112 Nick Land, ‘The Dark Enlightenment’ (2012).

113 Ibid.

114 de Benoist and Champetier, ‘Manifesto’.

115 Ibid.

116 Yarvin, ‘The Cathedral Compilation’.

117 See ‘Trade Deal’ in ‘A Framework For Taking Back Control and Establishing a New UK-EU Deal after 23 June’, available at: {/a_framework_for_taking_back_control_and_establishing_a_new_uk_eu_deal_after_23_june} accessed 9 October 2017.

118 Michael Gove, ‘“Nation States as Vessels For Our Values” in Gove and Raab: EU Membership Makes Us Less Safe’, available at: {/gove_and_raab_eu_membership_makes_us_less_safe} accessed 10 August 2018.

119 ‘Occultures’, in Nick Land, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987–2007, eds Ray Brassier and Robin Mackay (Falmouth, UK and New York, NY: Urbanomic, 2011); Land, Nick, ‘Teleoplexy: Notes on acceleration’, in Mackay, Robin and Avanessian, Armen (eds), #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader (Falmouth, UK: Urbanomic, 2014).

120 ‘Donald Trump's New Pitch: “I'm So Rich I Can't Be Bought”’, available at: {} accessed 13 August 2018.

121 Lee Anderson, Terry and Hill, Peter Jensen, An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West (Bozeman: Montana State University, 1978); Cowen, Tyler, ‘Rejoinder to David Friedman on the economics of anarchy’, Economics & Philosophy, 10:2 (1994), pp. 329–32.

122 Peter Thiel, ‘The Education of a Libertarian’, available at: {} accessed 26 August 2018;, ‘The Strange Politics of Peter Thiel, Donald Trump's Most Unlikely Supporter’ (2016).

123 Land, ‘The Dark Enlightenment’.

124 Brown, Undoing the Demos, p. 202.

125 Land, ‘The Dark Enlightenment’.

126 FN, ‘Le Vrai Macron’, available at: {} accessed 14 August 2018.

127 BBC News, ‘Nafta: “Single Worst Deal Ever Approved”’, available at: {} accessed 14 August 2018; Lega, ‘Programma- Elezioni 2018’; Gove, ‘Soviet-style control freaks are a threat to our independence’.

128 BBC News, ‘May Wants Human Rights Act Axed'; BBC News, ‘Trump's UN “Hate Speech” Criticised’ (2017).

129 This is a key part of the ‘practices and relations’ that ‘mediate validity’ in Claudia Aradau and Jef Huysmans, ‘Assembling credibility: Knowledge, method and critique in times of “post-truth”’, Security Dialogue (2018).

130 Oliver, J. Eric and Wood, Thomas J., ‘Conspiracy theories and the paranoid style(s) of mass opinion’, American Journal of Political Science, 58:4 (2014), pp. 952–66.

131 Finnemore, Martha and Sikkink, Kathryn, ‘International norm dynamics and political change’, International Organization, 52:4 (1998), pp. 887917.

132 Frost, Mervyn, Ethics in International Relations: A Constitutive Theory (Cambeidge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Frost, Global Ethics.

133 POLITICO, ‘Trump's 2018 UN Speech’ (2018).

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