April 21st, 2002, the first round of the French Presidential election, was a clap of thunder in the political landscape. Jean-Marie Le Pen, candidate of "National Front", the Far Right leading party, won a staggering 16.86 % of the votes, eliminating from the run-off the outgoing socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and opposing in the second round the incumbent President Jacques Chirac. This political earthquake was a dazzling success for the mounting Far Right parties in Europe since the 1970s. In this essay we shall adopt a comparative perspective to tackle the revival of the Far Right, considering examples and establishing similarities and differences among the Far Rights in the French Fifth Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy.
Situated on the Far Right of the political spectrum and originally opposed to the values of the democratic Revolution of 1789, this anti-mainstream political force is characterised by highly nationalist and populist stances, tough law-and-order and anti-immigration platforms and traditional moral and family values. It is widely seen as an anti-progressive party seeking to put in place a "strong government". The expression "Far Right" is normatively pejorative and can be used to picture someone as an "extremist". It is often associated with tough conservatism, racism, monarchism, fascism and reactionary politics.
[...] The social changes in the post-industrial and post-materialistic world can account for two significances of the Far Right. First the processes of modernisation and globalisation have produced both winners and losers, releasing a great deal of anxiety and resentment towards change among the electorate. Traditionally the segments of the population threatened by marginalization and social anguish have represented an electoral basis for the Far Right, the so-called petit bourgeois dreading “social demotion” by capital modernisation as it was demonstrated in the poujadiste movement in France in the 1950s. [...]
[...] In this essay I shall argue that the Far Right in the French Fifth Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy should be seen as a product of post modern politics rather than a political anachronism. This essay has been divided into three parts. Firstly I will deal with the social changes since the 1970s and their effects on the value system and the political spectrum. Secondly I will focus on the theories of Ignazi and Betz analyzing the Far Right as a feature of the politics of resentment and post modern politics among its various significances. [...]
[...] The significance of the Far Right is also related to the established parties on the left and on the right, depending on how the parties in government are effective at tackling the issues of the time. First the success of the Far Right is then linked to the failure of the conventional parties to incorporate new concerns in their platforms and manage the neo-conservative agenda. The late 1970s were marked by the breach of the Keynesian consensus, its social and economic compromises and the model of the Welfare State, announcing the neoconservative revolution on economic and law-and-order issues in America with Ronald Reagan, in the United Kingdom with Margaret Thatcher and to a lesser extent in Germany with Helmut Kohl. [...]
[...] In Germany notably the haunting memory of the rise of Nazism in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich Regime is very strong and inhibits the pull of the Far Right. The Far Right parties such as die DVU or Die Republikaner have indeed great difficulty in qualifying as acceptable parties for the political system. It is even said that a constitutional clause about non democratic parties could be invoked to ban these parties from running in the elections and having representation in regional parliaments. [...]
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