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The European Union and Beyond

Contemporary Radicalism, Populism and Extremism: Mobilization, Formations and Consequences

Comparative Politics
European Politics
Section Number
Section Chair
Michael Minkenberg
Europa-Universität Viadrina
Section Co-Chair
Manuela Caiani
Scuola Normale Superiore

As radicalism, from populist to extremist parties and movements, is gaining visibility in many liberal democracies in Europe and in North America, this Section will try to understand the growing strength and social support of radical, populist and extremist parties and groups by exploring the causes, patterns, interaction and consequences of these phenomena.

To address the key factors contributing to the rise of radicalism, populism and extremism both on the left and right ends of the political spectrum, the Section pursues a multi-faceted approach. A detailed analysis of the entire field of these actors serves to investigate the various organizational and ideological patterns in which they emerge. A central focus lies on examining how the recent economic, political and immigration crises of the EU have affected the diffusion (i.e. emergence) or consolidation of varieties of radicalism, populism and extremism (right-wing and left-wing) in Europe, and how they compare to such changes in North America. The general hypothesis supporting the Panels dealing with this issue is that long-lasting changes of Western parties and party systems as well as regime change in Eastern Europe has offered specific opportunities for radical organizations, whereas recent crises have provided a specific opportunity for their consolidation. Tied to this point is also the question whether we can still assume a difference between such right- and left-wing actors (from parties to movements) in Western democracies as compared to those in Eastern Europe. These long-lasting and more recent developments have also had the potential to influence the operational patterns of all forms of political actors, from social movements to political parties, leading at times to their transformation from one type of organization to another or to blurred boundaries between them.

The Section will consider the broader context in which these right and left actors operate: specificities of party systems, phenomena such as party de-alignment, potential legacy effects, demand- and supply-side factors explaining mobilization and formation, and the interaction between radical, populist, and extremist parties on the one and respective movements on the other hand, but also mediating elements like civil society organizations, the EU and international actors. In line with this perspective, the Section wants to shed further light on the formation of these actors, i.e. the different articulations of populist/radical/extreme activity across different arenas, incl. their cross-fertilization (diffusion).

The effects of contemporary radicalism, populism and extremism are also central to the section. Panels will address this by looking not only at potential policy changes, but also at interactions with and impact on other actors (mainstream political actors, state institutions, civil society) within the political system. The Section thereby explores the consequences of these developments on the democratic quality of the political system (e.g. radicalization of the political mainstream, convergence of radical, populist and extremist views on the left and right, the polarization of party systems), governance, policy-making and political discourse. More precisely, the Section seeks to offer answers to the question of whether and to what degree these parties and movements contribute to a transformation in the core characteristics of liberal democracies and market economies e.g. through an impact on the status and rights of ethnic and social minorities, gender equality, the rise of political violence, etc.

The Section welcomes different theoretical and conceptual approaches, whether novel or well-established, quantitative or qualitative, in order to improve our understanding about how various actors and forms of radicalism, populism and extremism operate in and impact contemporary democracies. Reflecting on the extent to which categories of radicalism, populism and extremism are becoming blurred, attempts at better conceptualizing the current phenomena will be addressed.

The Section is open to various sub-disciplines, with different methodological and empirical approaches and with scopes ranging from single case studies to comparative Papers. To strengthen exchange among the various fields and approaches, the Section welcomes interdisciplinary and mixed-method takes on radicalisms, populism and extremism across Europe and in North America.

Panels may focus on but are not limited to: conceptual approaches in studying radicalism, populism, extremism and its impact; interaction among mainstream and radical parties; shifting boundaries between movements and parties; agenda setting of radical left and radical right actors; impact on public opinion; policy impact of radical right actors on minority, asylum and immigration legislation; inclusive and exclusive radical, populist and extremist organizations in time of crisis; the interplay of economic and political crises and radical, populist and extremist groups; the EU and radical populism; political violence and vigilantism; etc.

Panel List

Code Title Details
P038Built to Bend? Populist and Radical Parties' Influence in the Multi-Level Political Arena View Panel Details
P078Conceptual Approaches in the Study of the Radical Right and its Impact View Panel Details
P089Contemporary Radicalism Between Offline and Online Mobilization View Panel Details
P147Europe, the European Union, and Opposition from Radical Left and Radical Right 'Populists' View Panel Details
P158Explaining the Rising Mobilization and Support for the Radical Right and Populism View Panel Details
P163Far Right ‘Movement Parties’ in Europe View Panel Details
P249Left-Wing Populism in Southern and Western Europe View Panel Details
P262Measuring Populism from Political Text: (Thin) Ideology, Rhetoric, Discourse Quality, Civility and Linguistic Style View Panel Details
P351Populism as an Individual-Level Construct Amongst People and Elites View Panel Details
P352Populist Attitudes: Theoretical Considerations and Empirical Insights View Panel Details
P369Radical Right Impact in Eastern Europe: Agenda-Setting and Policy Effects View Panel Details
P370Radicalism and Immigration: Strategies and Consequences View Panel Details
P406Roundtable: The Ideational Approach to Populism View Panel Details
P416Social Movements and Policy Outcomes: How Right-Wing Grassroots Groups Influence Foreign Policy View Panel Details
P520What About the Five Star Movement? Systemic Causes and Effects of the M5S Rise View Panel Details
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