Defining Terms Round 2: Radical Right vs. Extreme Right

By Christine Collins

Another week, another set of definitions to consider. Castelli Gattinara draws together terms from other academics to establish a minimum definition of far/radical right based on the centrality of three factors: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. 

Nativism places the needs of ‘real’ citizens above those of immigrants. They hold a homogeneous view of the nation, viewing foreign people and ideas as a threat to the collective whole 

Authoritarianism refers to a strictly ordered society based on ‘law and order’ 

Populism divides societies into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups: ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’ 

Throughout the readings, I was constantly checking my understanding of the radical right vs. the extreme right, terms I have used interchangeably throughout my life and throughout this course. This harkened back to our fine combing of the differences between fascism and right-wing populism from Week 2. Of relevance to this week’s themes, the Matthews article made the distinction that Trump is not a fascist because he doesn’t want to overthrow the democratic system. 

This consideration of democracy and its place in society linked to Castelli Gattinara, in that he distinguishes the ‘extreme’ from ‘radical’ far right actors. Both see the end goal as authoritarianism.  However, Castelli Gattinara emphasizes those under the radical category deem it reasonable and even necessary to step beyond basic political reforms to achieve their goals. In other works, extreme right wing actors are ideologically opposed to democracy. 

One contrast I saw in the readings pitted Beauchamp and Castelli Gattinara’s ideas on the Othering used by right wing groups. As defined by El-Tayeb and Wekkers, Othering Is the act of grouping people who do not fit the ideals of a social group and, as a result, looking to that group as inferior. For Beauchamp, radical right wing ideology is a race game, grouping the Muslim, foreign threat as the outsiders in Europe. Castelli Gattinara offers a different perspective, considering the Other less biological and more cultural. For him, far right groups Other immigrants on the basis of their supposed unshared values on gender equality, free speech and secularism. 

I’d challenge this belief there has been a shift from biological to cultural racism. In my view, while “differing values” is a justification right-wing groups will give for their Othering, at the end of the day, European exceptionalism is first-and-foremost linked to race. Beauchamp addresses this to some degree in his discussion on Eastern Europeans, recognizing how some, but not all, are accepted by Westerners. I’d argue we saw the act of Othering play out when comparing the two most recent refugee crises in Europe: displaced Yugoslavians were resettled into Western European countries, while migrants coming from Muslim-majority countries have experienced much weaker integration today. While these differing welcomes may be as a result of cultural differences, I believe that race and a lack of shared skin colour is a far more convincing explanation.  

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