Winner of the American Political Science Association's 1996 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award.
The rise of new political competitors on the radical right is a central feature of many contemporary European party systems. The first study of its kind based on a wide array of comparative survey data, The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis provides a unifying framework to explain why rightist parties are electorally powerful in some countries but not in others. The book argues that changes in social structure and the economy do not by themselves adequately explain the success of extremist parties. Instead we must look to the competitive struggles among parties, their internal organizational patterns, and their long-term ideological traditions to understand the principles governing their success.
Radical right authoritarian parties tend to emerge when moderate parties converge toward the median voter. But the success of these parties depends on the strategy employed by the right-wing political actors. Herbert Kitschelt's in-depth analysis, based on the experiences of rightist parties in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Britain, reveals that the broadest appeal is enjoyed by parties that couple a fierce commitment to free markets with authoritarian, ethnocentric—or even racist—messages. The author also shows how a country's particular political constituency or its intellectual and organizational legacies may allow right-wing parties to diverge from these norms and still find electoral success. The book concludes by exploring the interaction between the development of the welfare state, cultural pluralization through immigrants, and the growth of the extreme right.