For several decades now, populism and political extremism have been prominent political phenomena and have attracted wide scholarly attention. Initially, political research was mainly concerned with understanding the emergence and the potential challenges of populism and political extremism in contemporary democracies. Now, after an intensive research tradition of more than thirty years, scholars are investigating persistence, resilience and consolidation of these initially marginal phenomena. Populism and political extremism are often interpreted as a result of the shortcomings of the current political system/s, as they provide a continuous and inherent set of challenges to the functioning of contemporary European democracies. Numerous parties that represent such positions have both consolidated on an organisational (internal) and representational (external) level. The prominence and spread of such ideas throughout the vast majority of European electorates and democracies has been unmistakable.
While most research has been oriented around the challenges, far right parties (and movements) provide to traditional (established) politics, recent scholarship seems to have taken a particular interest in populism, both as a phenomenon and as a challenge to traditional politics.
Despite this, large-scale consensus remains generally absent, and this both on a conceptual and an empirical level. First, most divergent opinions still exist when scholarship addresses who the contemporary voices of populism and political extremism are and what exactly their messages are. Second, different views emerge when research touches upon the notion of ‘impact’ or ‘influence’, and particularly the extent or degree thereof. Third, even though scholars agree on the challenging nature of these phenomena as such, little convergence exists around how challenges are defined and to what extent (if at all) they change today’s politics. Populism and political extremism affect politics through different channels, either adopting ‘mainstream’ features or promoting change in traditional political agents/processes. This invites further research, nourished by distinct paths and approaches, to broaden the overall understanding of these dynamics of change and persistence.
This Section combines different conceptual, theoretical, methodological and empirical approaches in order to examine the multifaceted and persistent impact populism and political extremism have on the different layers of European democracies. This includes – but is not restricted to – research on (i) conceptual/methodological debates surrounding populism and political extremism, (ii) the internal and external (supply-side) components of parties and partisan actors, (iii) individual and contextual determinants of support for populism and political extremism, (iv) on- and off-line discourses by populist and politically extremist actors, (v) direct or indirect paths towards political (policy) influence, and (vi) old and new patterns of mobilisation.
This Section will bring together several substantive and methodological research traditions from various disciplines, with a particular interest in those who seek to bridge some of these thematic areas. At the same time, this section seeks to harmonise and unify different analytical focuses. More specifically, we provide a comprehensive analysis by including (i) comparative contributions including – but limited to – CEE and West European countries, (ii) supply- and demand-side dynamics, (iii) national and supranational levels of analysis, and (iv) dynamics within and beyond the electoral arenas. We do not favour any specific methodological approach over any other, but this Section particularly promotes mixed-method, comparative and innovative approaches.
The Section is strongly endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Extremism and Democracy. The following colleagues have already proposed Panels for the Section:
o Tamed, Radical or Professionalised? Populists and Power in the 21st Century.
o Radical voices: To what extent do the left and the right share similarities?
o Populist and extremist parties in party competition and elections.
o The populist politics of Euroscepticism amidst the European crisis
o Individual and contextual determinants of support for populism and political extremism.
o Policy influence and policy change – how populism and political extremism affects daily politics
Patterns of mobilisation beyond the electoral arena.
A final roundtable will discuss the recent methodological trends and challenges in today’s research traditions to study populism and political extremism.
Steven M. Van Hauwaert is a post-doctoral researcher and F.S.R. Fellow at the Institut de Sciences Politiques Louvain-Europe, Université Catholique de Louvain. He received his PhD from Sciences Po Paris (2013) and has previously held positions as an adjunct lecturer and research fellow at Sciences Po Paris, an NU Fellow at Northwestern University and a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher at the University of Vienna. His dissertation research focused on the trans-national diffusion patterns between West-European far right parties. His wider research interests relate to political parties and party systems, political behaviour, populism and political extremism. Currently, his academic contributions have appeared, or are forthcoming, in a number of edited volumes and the journals Electoral Studies, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics, Government and Opposition, and the Journal of Future Studies. He is also the co-author of the forthcoming book “The current state of affairs: Far right parties in Western Europe” (Palgrave).
Caterina Froio is a post-doctoral researcher and adjunct lecturer at the Centre d’Etudes Europeennes of Sciences Po Paris. She received her PhD from the European University Institute (2015) and has previously held positions as a visiting fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Paris II. Her wider research interests focus on party mandates, agenda-setting dynamics and far right contentious politics. Her current research is concerned with questions relating to agenda-setting dynamics and far right mobilization in comparative perspective. Caterina’s research has appeared, or is forthcoming, in edited volumes and the journals Party Politics, French Politics, International Journal of Conflict and Violence, Gouvernance & Action Publique, and the Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies. Her most recent publications include a co-authored book on the neofascist organization CasaPound (Bonanno).