Minireviews: Cas Mudde, Alfred Bester

Cas Mudde - Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe (2007)

Cas Mudde – Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe (2007)

I’m not convinced by Mudde’s classification system. He identifies radical right parties partly by features, such as populism, that may actually be consequences of the political landscape. (Ie. an army that finds itself in a good defensive position, is likely to defend, but this reflects the landscape, more than the army. Same with populism: It reflects a relative position as an outsider.) And some features he identifies with the “radical right” exist in parties of all types, such as their typology of enemies. The radical right itself, for instance, is the “within the state, within the nation” enemy of the mainstream parties, in the same way that the political elite is to the radical right.

Recommended: Strongly. Partly for what it reveals about the difficulty of classifying political parties from different countries, and partly for the specifics about these parties, which provide what is usually missing in discussions of the radical right: Perspective. (Amusingly, Norway’s supposedly radical right Progress Party is excluded for being too moderate.)

Alfred Bester – Who He? (1953)

Bester wrote two of the greatest SF novels of all time, but this isn’t one of them. It’s a mainstream novel, and, although less interesting, in its best sections it gives you the same feeling of sitting in the backseat of a manic driver’s car.

Read: 165 pages.

Recommended: No. It starts electric, like a non-absurd Steve Aylett novel, but goes flat, aiming towards an obvious multiple personalities gimmick.

2 Responses to Minireviews: Cas Mudde, Alfred Bester

  1. Hogne Øian says:

    It might seem like you hve omit an important point made by Mudde. As far as I can see, he sorts out nativism (ethnic nationalism), authoritarianism and populism as the main characteristics of the radical right. At the same time these dimensions are deeply rooted in European political tradition. While you would find aspects nativism, authoritarianism and populism in political discourses embraced by different political parties and perspectives, the radical right position is arrived at by the cultivation of it to the extreme. But perhaps Mudde accentuated this argument stronger in more recent writings, compared to the 2007-book?

  2. I did omit a lot – the gimmick of this blog is to limit posts to 256 words, so I do more of a quick sketch than a thoroguh review. 😉

    You’re right, and I’m not saying that I disagree with his entire methodology, but that I would have preferred another approach that looks at nativism, authoritarianism and populism as components you can build a party from, and it’s more interesting to look at the components, than at the particular combination many parties use them in at this particular moment in time.

    Populism, from my point of view, is just an approach outsider parties take when they want to attack the establishment: They try to gather as many opposition views as possible, to storm the castle. Any neglected outsider view can take this approach, it has very little to do with the authoritarian nativists as such.

    Authoritarianism, of course, shows up all over the political spectrum, especially at the extremes.

    Nativism is the one component that is most essentially rightist, but mostly because of how it is defined, as something to do with ethnicity. Do you know Orwell’s definition of nationalism? He took something that is usually associated with ethnicity, and applied it to the Catholic Church, the Communist Party, etc. That’s interesting. I don’t think there’s much essentially different between ethnic chauvinism and working class chauvinism, just as there’s not much essentially different between prejudices about foreigners, and prejudices about people who believe in other religions, or believe in different ideologies.

    If you take a step back like that, it makes more sense to me to analyze these parties in terms of how they’ve assembled components that all parties make use of in some form. There is a difference between social democrats and authoritarian nativists. But I think you need to focus on the underlying components to understand that difference.

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