The Far Right Today by Cas Mudde

The Blurb On The Back:

The far right is back with a vengeance.  After several decades at the political margins, far-right politics has again taken center stage.  Three of the world’s largest democracies – Brazil, India, and the United States – now have a radical right leader, while far-right parties continue to increase their profile and support within Europe.

In this timely book, leading global expert on political extremism Cas Mudde provides a concise overview of the fourth wave of postwar far-right politics, exploring its history, ideology, organisation, causes, and consequences, as well as the responses available to civil society, party, and state actors to challenge its ideas and influence.  What defines this current far-right renaissance, Mudde argues, is its mainstreaming and normalisation within the contemporary political landscape.  Challenging orthodox thinking on the relationship between conventional and far-right politics, Mudde offers a complex and insightful picture of one of the key political challenges of our time.

You can order The Far Right Today by Cas Mudde from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Cas Mudde is Professor of International Affairs at the University of Georgia and a Professor at the University of Oslo’s Centre for Research on Extremism.  This whistle stop tour of far-right politics and populism since 2000 is essential for anyone concerned at the direction the world is going in and does a fantastic job of summarising the various players, the differences and the similarities between organisations, groups, movements and activists.

Mudde has been studying the far right for over 30 years and clearly knows the subject well – certainly well enough to admit when he doesn’t have the answers on how to combat it, which I appreciated.  There are a lot of different groups and players mentioned throughout the books but Mudde includes a glossary of acronyms at the beginning, which helps you to keep them straight and there’s also a chronology and index and an excellent further reading section for anyone who wants to follow up on the topic.

The book begins with a history of far right groups since World War II, which provides an interesting context to the current situation before moving onto ideologies and issues, organisational structures, membership and mobilisation and then the causes and consequences the recent rise.  It concludes by examining the response of democracies to the rise of the far right, the role of gender and then offers 12 characteristics of the fourth wave.

The most frightening thing about the book is a point that Mudde makes towards the end, which is how the far right/populist right has been able to transform the mainstream political debate into a focus on those socio-cultural issues that play to its strengths.  He is particularly good at summarising how this has come to happen, setting out contributing factors such as how the media have helped to amplify populist parties as they pursue eyeballs and clicks but also how opposition parties are happy to use populist talking points against the ruling party when it suits them. 

The book is global at scope, rather than focusing purely on western Europe and the US, so there is consideration here of Bolsonaro in Brazil and the BJP in India and Mudde is also good at emphasising how populism is a national/regional phenomenon that needs to be analysed through local and national conditions.  I did wish that he went a little more in depth in terms of ways of combating it – specifically more detail on how to promote and strengthen liberal democracy – but all in all I thought this was a really informative read that reinforces how much danger democracy is currently in.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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