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Breaching the social contract: crises of democratic representation and patterns of extreme right-wing party support

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Publication details

JournalGovernment and opposition
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Sep 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2016
DatePublished (current) - Jan 2018
Issue number1
Number of pages50
Pages (from-to)26-50
Early online date12/02/16
Original languageEnglish


Why has the extreme right Greek Golden Dawn, a party with clear links to fascism experienced a rise defying all theories that claim that such a party is unlikely to win in post-WWII Europe? And, if we accept that economic crisis is an explanation for this, why has such a phenomenon not occurred in other countries that have similar conducive conditions, such as Portugal and Spain? This article addresses this puzzle by (a) carrying out a controlled comparison of Greece, Portugal and Spain and (b) showing that the rise of the extreme right is not a question of intensity of economic crisis. Rather it is the nature of the crisis, i.e. economic versus overall crisis of democratic representation that facilitates the rise of the extreme right. We argue that extreme right parties are more likely to experience an increase in their support when economic crisis culminates into an overall crisis of democratic representation. Economic crisis is likely to become a political crisis when severe issues of governability impact upon the ability of the state to fulfil its social contract obligations. This breach of the social contract is accompanied by declining levels of trust in state institutions, resulting in party system collapse.

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