LEEDS TAKING SOUNDINGS
A politics and culture discussion forum
The Racist and Xenophobic Right in Europe
How can we explain the recent electoral success of the populist and xenophobic right in countries including Italy, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hungary? What are the key ideological and socio-economic factors driving this phenomenon?
Speaker: Carlo Ruzza
Professor of Sociology, University of Leicester
November 17, 2010
6 pm, The Boardroom, Broadcasting Place
Woodhouse Lane, Leeds
Carlo Ruzza is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Leicester.
He is interested in ethno-nationalism and populism, and in ‘uncivil society’ organizations – such as xenophobic groups and networks. In recent years he has worked on the interaction between civil society organizations, parties and the state in policy-relevant functions. Civil society groups – both left and right – provide information to the policy process, a channel for advocacy and support for service delivery. He has explored these functions in a set of contexts, ranging from EU-level politics to right-wing parties and movements. More broadly, he is interested in changes in modes of political participation and in their related theoretical aspects, particularly the process of institutionalisation of social movements and the implications for democracy. He is the co-coordinator of the political sociology section of the European Sociological Association (www.europeanpoliticalsociology.eu ).
Selected Recent Publications
· Ruzza, C. (2010). "Italy: the Political Right and concepts of civil society." Journal of Political Ideologies 15(3): p. 259-271
· Ruzza, C. (2010). Organized Civil Society and Political Representation in the EU Arena. Civil Society and International Governance: The role of non-state actors in the EU, Africa, Asia and Middle East. D. Armstrong, V. Bello, J. Gilson and D. Spini. London, Routledge.
· Ruzza, Carlo (2009) 'Populism and Euro-scepticism: Towards Uncivil Society', Policy and Society, 28(1), pp. 87-98.
· Ruzza, Carlo and Fella, Stefano (2009) Re-Inventing the Italian Right: Territorial Politics, Populism and 'Post-Fascism', Extremism and Democracy (Routledge).
· Ruzza, Carlo and della Sala, Vincent (eds.) (2007) Governance and Civil Society in the European Union: Volume 1, Normative Dimensions; Volume 2, Exploring Policy Issues (Manchester University Press).
· Europe and Civil Society: Movement Coalitions and European Institutions (Manchester University Press). 2007
Populism and the Extreme-Right in Contemporary Europe: Causes and Manifestations
How can we explain the recent electoral success of the populist and xenophobic right in countries including Italy, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hungary? What are the key ideological and socio-economic factors driving this phenomenon? This presentation will focus on these questions and seek to answer them by examining the relation between xenophobic sentiments in parts of the European population, populism as a reaction for a perceived ineffectiveness of politics and concepts of political representation. With special reference to contemporary Italian politics, but also drawing more general implication for other European political systems, it posits a general crisis of legitimacy of mechanisms of political representation and it conceptualises the emergence and continuing relevance of populist right-wing parties as a consequence of this crisis.
It is posited that a general crisis of representation is rooted in several factors, which centrally include a perceived inadequacy of the ruling political class, worries about its ability to cope with the consequences of economic globalisation, lack of trust in its selection criteria, policy competence and representational effectiveness. A repeated set of corruption scandals that have personally affected many politicians over recent years has cast doubts on the ability of conventional political actors to represent wide sectors of the European population. Failures to prevent key crises have been identified by the wider public in several policy sectors, ranging from immigration policy to redistributive policies of the welfare state. Doubts about the effectiveness of mechanisms that ensure the proper functioning of checks and balances in democratic systems have resulted from intra-elites competition.
As a consequence, various alternatives have been explored by European publics. These include, on the one hand, increased reliance on deliberative structures involving civil society actors in decision making and service delivery structures. However, on the other hand, there is also more reliance on charismatic leaders who interpret a putatively undifferentiated ‘will of the people’ and channel it in the supposedly ailing mechanisms of democracy. Thus, in this presentation, populist politics is explored in relation to mounting anti-political sentiments and the specific features that they have acquired in different electorates. In the discussion and concluding section, the presentation identifies some common traits of recently prominent European populist leaders, and relates their political relevance to specific aspects of the crisis of representation in different