Political Science Far-Right Parties in Europe
Antonis A. Ellinas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 February 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0165


The rise of far-right parties is one of the most interesting developments in modern European party systems. No other party family has managed to make such important electoral inroads across so many countries in such a short period of time. Since the 1980s far-right parties have managed to consolidate a sizable presence in most western European and in some central and eastern European countries. Although these parties display notable differences, and notwithstanding their contested definition, they tend to share an exclusivist and nationalist worldview that challenges the pluralistic nature of modern European societies and polities. Because of its historical legacy, the electoral ascendance of the Far Right has raised scholarly eyebrows and generated a voluminous literature seeking to explain the phenomenon. Combining a wide array of both qualitative and quantitative evidence and distinct methodological tools, this literature has sought to advance understanding of the factors affecting voter support for these parties. Analyses vary, depending on the emphasis they place on how voters and parties behave in various sociopolitical and institutional contexts.

General Overviews

Since the mid-1990s there have been hundreds of academic books, scholarly articles, and doctoral dissertations on the rise of the Far Right. Earlier work, such as von Beyme 1988, sought to delineate the postwar trajectory of far-right parties and to trace their historical links to interwar extremism. Subsequent work has systematically examined possible explanations for the rise of far-right parties. Owing to the geographical spread of the phenomenon, it was naturally viewed by scholars such as Betz 1994 as a symptom of postindustrial development. Even among postindustrial western European democracies, though, far-right parties have had varied electoral performance. This variation has encouraged the consideration of the domestic political and institutional contexts affecting the success and failure of far-right parties. Kitschelt with McGann 1995 analyzes how the transformation of the competitive space in postindustrial democracies provided opportunities for the rise of these parties, attributing their relative success to a “winning” combination of ethnocentric with neoliberal appeals—the latter receiving considerable criticism in later works on the Far Right. The domestic political factors influencing the rise of far-right parties are thoroughly analyzed in monographs and edited volumes such as Hainsworth 2008, Ignazi 2003, and Merkl and Weinberg 2003, which look at the historical trajectory, ideological positioning, organizational infrastructure, and voter profile of various country cases. Domestic factors are also analyzed in the thematically structured monographs Norris 2005 and Mudde 2007, which explore, among others, variation in programmatic positioning, electoral institutions, organizational capacity, and leadership charisma.

  • Betz, H. Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1994.

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    A comprehensive overview of the rise of radical-right-wing populism in western Europe and a thematically structured account of the phenomenon, with an emphasis on broad socioeconomic factors.

  • Beyme, K. von. “Right-Wing Extremism in Post-War Europe.” West European Politics 11.2 (1988): 1–18.

    DOI: 10.1080/01402388808424678Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    One of the first efforts to trace the trajectory of the Far Right in postwar Europe, delineating “three waves of development” of right-wing extremism.

  • Hainsworth, P. The Extreme Right in Western Europe. London: Routledge, 2008.

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    Offers a concise overview of the concept, varying trajectories, policies, electorate, and impact of extreme-right parties. Can be used for introductory undergraduate courses on European politics and political extremism.

  • Ignazi, P. Extreme Right Parties in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1093/0198293259.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Comprehensive historical overview of the evolution of extreme-right parties in western Europe. Links phenomenon with value change in postindustrial societies.

  • Kitschelt, H., with A. McGann. The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

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    A systematic analysis of demand- and supply-side factors affecting support for radical-right parties in western Europe. Argues that successful radical-right parties put forth a winning formula combining ethnocentrism and neoliberalism.

  • Merkl, P. H., and L. Weinberg, eds. Right-Wing Extremism in the Twenty-First Century. London: Cass, 2003.

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    An overview of the main theories, trends, and developments in right-wing extremism, combining theoretical overviews and cross-country and country-specific analyses.

  • Mudde, C. The Populist Radical Right in Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511492037Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The most comprehensive overview of the literature on populist radical-right parties in western and eastern Europe. Can be used as a textbook for advanced undergraduate courses on the radical Right.

  • Norris, P. Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511615955Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Thoroughly reviews and statistically examines various explanations for the varied performance of radical-right parties in Europe and elsewhere. Can be used as a textbook for advanced undergraduate courses on the radical Right.

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