THE RADICAL RIGHT IN SWITZERLAND. CONTINUITY AND CHANGE, 1945-2000


the-radical-right-in-switzerland

Damir Skenderovic

Publisher: BERGHAHN

 

There has been a tendency amongst scholars to view Switzerland as a unique case, and comparative scholarship on the radical right has therefore shown little interest in the country. Yet, as the author convincingly argues, there is little justification for maintaining the notion of Swiss exceptionalism, and excluding the Swiss radical right from cross-national research. His book presents the first comprehensive study of the development of the radical right in Switzerland since the end of the Second World War and therefore fills a significant gap in our knowledge.

 

It examines the role that parties and political entrepreneurs of the populist right, intellectuals and publications of the New Right, as well as propagandists and militant groups of the extreme right assume in Swiss politics and society. The author shows that post-war Switzerland has had an electorally and discursively important radical right since the 1960s that has exhibited continuity and persistence in its organizations and activities. 

Recently, this has resulted in the consolidation of a diverse Swiss radical right that is now established at various levels within the political and public arena.

 

Damir Skenderovic is Associate Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Fribourg. Previously, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for European Studies at New York University. His recent publications focus on the radical right, identity politics, migration, and 1968 in Western Europe, with a particular emphasis on Switzerland.

 

PRESS REVIEW :

 

“…an exemplary analysis of the development of the radical Right within a national framework…The study impresses also beyond  its valuable substantive results with its structure, its familiarity with  contemporary developments and personalities but also its empirical basis. One wishes that comparable analyses were available for more European societies.” 

  • Swiss Political Science Review

 

“This is a necessary and illuminating book which puts Switzerland into a comparative perspective and conveys new and groundbreaking insights in a hitherto underdeveloped research field…I hope that Skenderovic’s brilliantly written and persuasively argued book will have a deep impact on the historiography and the political analysis of Switzerland.” 

  • Prof. Dr. Jakob Tanner, Professor of History at Zurich University

 

“The Swiss case has been largely ignored in the large Anglophone academic literature which has appeared on the radical right. [This] meticulous and wide-ranging study … more than fills this gap… It is a ‘must read’ for those interested in both the radical right and the demise of Swiss political consensus.” 

  • Roger Eatwell, Professor of Comparative European Politics & Dean of Faculty, University of Bath

 

“This book is an intellectual tour de force, an important achievement, and a real breakthrough in the study of Swiss politics. It argues forcefully that Switzerland should be analyzed as part of Europe. It places the development of the Swiss radical right in a comparative framework that nevertheless emphasizes the dynamics of Swiss politics that have supported its emergence. Skenderovic also argues that the radical right has moved Swiss politics into a more contentious mode, an important change for the Swiss system, but one that has brought the political system closer to those of the rest of Europe.”  

  • Martin A. Schain, Professor of Politics at New York University

 

“With this important book, Damir Skenderovic deconstructs the myth of Swiss exceptionalism, as far as the European radical right is concerned. More importantly, his thorough analysis of the various ideological and organizational faces of the Swiss radical right underscores the importance to expand the usual focus of party and electoral research, by including non-party phenomena, such as sub-cultural milieus and far right media, and their interaction with parties and voters. The book demonstrates that the contemporary Swiss radical right was not just the beneficiary of favorable circumstances, but that it was heavily involved in bringing these circumstances about. With such a nuanced and actor-oriented approach, the book sets new standards for future single-country as well as comparative case studies of the radical right”. 

  • Michael Minkenberg Max Weber Chair for German and European Studies at New York University

 

“This book is a very rich and important contribution to radical right studies, in which Skenderovic convincingly demonstrates the relevance of agency in the success story of Switzerland’s radical right over time.” 

  • Acta Politica

 

 

EXCERPTS :

 

Introduction

The Concept of the Radical Right

An array of varied terms is employed to define political parties and groups whose ideology, program, discourse and policies locate them on the right margin of the political spectrum. Considering the diversity of the right, it also important to distinguish and demarcate the radical right from other right-wing currents such as conservatism or traditionalism. On the other hand, one must bear in mind that a number of political and intellectual currents are rather difficult to categorise as being part of the radical right, since some of their ideological and political characteristics reflect right-wing orientations, while others lean more to the left.

 

Success Conditions and Organisational Variation in Switzerland

The radical right plays a significant role in Swiss politics and has been characterised by a remarkable continuity that extends throughout the postwar era. As in most Western European democracies, the Swiss radical right has evolved in a variety of organisational formations which can best be captured by the concepts developed above, of political family and collective actor. In order to explain the persistence of the Swiss radical right, it is necessary to examine variables identified by the comparative literature, which focus on the contextual factors including national traditions, socioeconomic changes, political institutions and discursive and cultural opportunities.

 

An Early Precursor

The Movement against Overforeignization in the 1960s and 1970s

The first expression of radical right-wing populist parties in postwar Switzerland was the Movement against Overforeignization which made its appearance on the political stage in the early 1960s. When the movement emerged, its numerous and constant anti-immigrant campaigns were unique in Europe. Together with the Poujadist movement, a shortlived populist movement from the mid 1950s in France, it represents in many ways the political precursor to today’s radical right-wing populism in Western Europe.

 

Outsiders in the Party System

Fringe Parties in the 1980s and 1990s

The decline and disappearance of some parties from the Movement against Overforeignization did not bring an end to the presence of parties of the radical right in the Swiss party system. On the contrary, from the mid 1980s on, a new phase of radical right-wing populism began, bearing witness to the organisational persistence of the already existing parties and to the emergence of new parties. However, they continued to act as fringe parties at the margin of the Swiss party system and to be perceived as pariah parties by most of the established parties.

 

Entering the Mainstream

The Emergence of the New SVP in the 1990s

Up until the early 1990s, radical right-wing parties remained at the margins of the Swiss party system. This situation changed radically in the 1990s, with the transformation of the Swiss People’s Party, a fundamental change which allowed a radical right-wing populist party to enter the mainstream of Swiss politics.

 

A Supplier of Ideology

The New Right in the German-speaking Part of Switzerland

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, most intellectuals are traditionally more engaged in academia and culture and the world of ideas and aesthetics than in politics and public affairs. One reason is that the political and public culture in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is somewhat marked by anti-intellectualism, and intellectuals receive little recognition from the public.

 

An Intellectual Elite

The New Right in the French-speaking Part of Switzerland

The radical right in the French-speaking part of Switzerland has traditionally been characterised by the influential role of its intellectuals and the strong affinity for reflection developed by French theorists and authors. During the interwar period, a number of intellectuals felt that a political climate that was critical of liberalism and democracy suited their efforts to promote authoritarian and anti-democratic visions of politics and society.

 

At the Margins of Society and Politics

The Subculture of the Extreme Right

Since the end of the Second World War, the extreme right in Western Europe has transformed itself from a small underground scene into a larger, diversified subculture. While the extreme right is not ideologically homogenous, most variants of its worldview feature blunt versions of racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and nationalism. They are also characterised by anti-democratic conceptions of the political system.

 

Radical Right In Switzerland, The H/C

Author: Damir Skenderovic

Publisher: BERGHAHN

ISBN: 1845455800 (1-845-45580-0)

ISBN-13: 9781845455804 (978-1-845-45580-4)

Format: HARDBACK

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