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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

Defending or Damaging Democracy? The Establishment’s Reactions to Political Extremists in Liberal Democracies

Political Parties
Workshop Number
Workshop Directors
Joost van Spanje
University of Amsterdam
Marcia Taylor
Aarhus Universitet
Workshop Co-Director
Michael Minkenberg
Europa-Universität Viadrina

In every democratic system, there are political actors the establishment despises. Justified or not, the establishment tends to present itself as the defender of particular values important to citizens and the political order, and to portray the unwanted actors as extremist, i.e., threats to these values and the political order. In addition, it may take action against these actors, justifying it as necessary to defend such values. There are various ways in which the establishment reacts to such extremists, of which this workshop discusses four. First, systematic boycotts. Historically, cordons sanitaires have been established in Western Europe around Socialists, Fascists, Communists, and right-wing radical parties. Second, the establishment of judicial measures meant to contain extremism. Communists and right-wing radicalists have faced prosecution and bans. Recent examples include efforts to prosecute Marine Le Pen, and to ban the German NPD. Third, civil society reactions. In Cold-War Western Europe, Communists were dismissed from their jobs, and faced social sanctions. Nowadays, the establishment often turns a blind eye to antifascist violence against right-wing radicals, and facilitates mass protest against them. Fourth, mainstream media responses. Western media demonized the far left in the 1950s. Recent reactions include Swedish newspapers’ systematically ignoring Sweden Democrats, and a Dutch daily’s campaign against the Socialist Party.

Although these reactions to extremism frequently occur, their origins are relatively unknown. Why do some actors face boycotts, trials, stigma, and media hostility while others do not? We also know little about consequences of these responses. How do they affect public opinion, or extremists’ success? Answering these questions, key to maintaining the quality of democracy, requires international cooperation and comparison. This workshop brings together scholars offering fresh approaches to this understudied topic. In engaging in comparative-empirical analysis, its participants will further our understanding of causes and effects of various responses to extremists.

Paper List

Title Details
Consequences of Demonisation of Anti-Immigration Parties View Paper Details
Criminalising Populists versus Democratic Confrontation: Entrance Rules, Deliberation Rules and Institutional Arenas of Debate View Paper Details
Dealing with Populists-In-Government: A Framework for Analysis View Paper Details
Exclusionary Politics Vis-à-Vis Extremist Parties: Citizens Between Instrumental Pragmatics, Affective Reactions and Democratic Principles View Paper Details
Forestalling 'Weimar Greece': The Greek Political Establishment's Response to the Rise of the Far Right View Paper Details
Friend or Foe? The Role and Position of the Sweden Democrats, The Danish People's Party and The Progress Party in Mainstream Press Editorials View Paper Details
Ideological Die-hards and Innocents: the Establishment’s Reactions to Political Extremists in the Netherlands View Paper Details
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Appropriate ‘Em: How The Political Establishment Neutralised Extremist Challengers in Contemporary Australia Through ‘Mainstreaming’ View Paper Details
Main Right Party Responses to Radical Populist and Extremist Party Positioning in Central Europe View Paper Details
Repression Against Right-Wing Extremism in Germany: A State Willing to Defend Democracy Without Managing To? View Paper Details
Responses to the Extreme Right in Poland: The Motivations for Collaboration in the Executive Arena: Office, Policy or Vote? View Paper Details
Right-Wing Radical Organisations Between Political Repression and Social Stigma: An Internalist Approach View Paper Details
Security or Tolerance? The Proscription of Political Parties in Democratic States View Paper Details
When Is Politically Boycotting An Anti-immigration Party Effective? Results of a Survey Experiment View Paper Details
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