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The civic Zeitgeist: nationalism and liberal values in the European radical right

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Publication details

JournalNations and Nationalism
DateAccepted/In press - Jan 2013
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)107-127
Original languageEnglish


The article examines the relationship between nationalism and liberal values, and more specifically the redefinition of boundaries between national communities and others in the rhetoric of radical right parties in Europe. The aim is to examine the tension between radical right party discourse and the increasing need to shape this discourse in liberal terms. We argue that the radical right parties that successfully operate within the democratic system tend to be those best able to tailor their discourse to the liberal and civic characteristics of national identity so as to present themselves and their ideologies as the true authentic defenders of the nation's unique reputation for democracy, diversity and tolerance. Comparing the success of a number of European radical right parties ranging from the most electorally successful SVP to the more mixed BNP, FN and NPD, we show that the parties that effectively deploy the symbolic resources of national identity through a predominantly voluntaristic prism tend to be the ones that fare better within their respective political systems.

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