- The European “New Right” as Radical Social Innovation
How does large-scale ideological change happen? The past decade has seen an uptick of social and political groups associated with ideas coming from the far-right end of the conventional political spectrum, to include political parties in different European countries and the newer Alt-Right movement.1 The general purpose of this article is to better understand some of the mechanisms involved in shifting public opinion from considering a set of political ideas to be extreme and off-limits, to potentially considering those same ideas as becoming more integrated into conventional discourse. We utilize the process of radical social innovation as defined in the organizational psychology and creativity literature to assess the import of the European New Right in current-day cultural trends.
Our rationale for focusing on the New Right intellectual movement, rather than the politics of established far-right parties, is twofold. First, the New Right represents an important—yet understudied—intellectual movement. Research on specific far-right parties and their tactics, as well as research on comparative far-right parties and their impact, has proliferated in the past few years, but much less research has focused on the far right as an actual intellectual and/or [End Page 65] social movement,2 rather than a cluster of random self-interested political parties. We posit that the New Right is important for study because it offers an intellectual platform for effecting shifts in ideological acceptability; as such, New Right intellectuals and ideas have received heightened attention in current political discourse, in the form of influence on regional political parties3 and in the ideas espoused by the Alt-Right movement.
Second, the distinction between the New Right as an intellectual movement and the political pragmatics of far-right parties is in fact an intentional part of the New Right’s political strategy, and one that has seemingly been bearing fruit. This strategy deliberately adopts a Gramscian metapolitical approach toward cultural change to begin to affect change in public opinion regarding key political notions (such as equality and social process) before attempting electoral success.4 In this sense, the New Right movement has intentionally remained apart from political parties and organizations, choosing to instead leverage the Internet as the medium through which to spread ideas and grow the movement. This strategy has important parallels to the New Left and the Situationist International (S.I.) in 1968, and in the current activities of the Alt-Right movement.
Numerous articles both scholarly and popular have placed heavy emphasis on financial and migrant crises as being the critical factors providing a window of opportunity for far-right political parties attempting to galvanize public support. The causal relationship therein appears to be that these crises have triggered a politics of scarcity; that these politics provide a roadmap to the far-right platform; and that voters are quick to turn their attention to the far right as a result. The logic typically underpinning this line of reasoning relies heavily on assumptions that the far right in general is a fixed target, and that public support is easily mobilized by external events. Relying on this logic alone creates a straightforward picture of potential electoral success: the awareness of political/economic/social crises by key demographics will result in an increase in far-right support.
While there has been a documented upsurge in public support of political groups identifying with the far right in European countries, there is less information providing insight on the connections made by individuals between circumstances and ideological shift—the actual psychological process that informs a shift in public opinion and/or that helps shape perceptions toward the utility of far-right platforms.5 Established research has tended to focus on how far-right political parties have been effectively promoting and advancing [End Page 66] their particular solutions to the fallout from recent societal events, such as the migrant and economic crises.6 A related and equally important question is why voters are increasingly weighing and considering these solutions now. How have the strategies and tactics of the far right further encouraged the acceptability and embrace...