Crisis, division and ideology: a comparative study of populist radical right parties in Australia and the Netherlands

PhD Thesis


Octavia Bryant. (2019). Crisis, division and ideology: a comparative study of populist radical right parties in Australia and the Netherlands [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University Faculty of Education and Arts https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8vyq8
AuthorsOctavia Bryant
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy
Abstract

In the contemporary political era, ‘populist’ parties have experienced a heightened degree of electoral prominence and success throughout a great number of Western liberal democracies. In particular, populist radical right parties have been especially successful, increasing their support and rising from the political fringes to holding positions of power. As these parties settle into being a permanent fixture of contemporary politics, it is necessary to better understand how they function. Specifically, the thesis contends that the role populism plays within populist radical right parties is not sufficiently understood. As such, this thesis asks, to what extent are so-called ‘populist’ parties actually populist? What role does populism play in the facilitation of these parties’ broader ideological agendas? And to what degree do these agendas differ between parties in different Western liberal democratic contexts?

Situated in the fields of political theory and comparative politics, the thesis explores these questions by examining populist radical parties from the supply-side. It does so from a multi-typological perspective, defining populism as a thin-centred ideology and a discourse, which in-groups and out-groups between the ‘people’ and the ‘elite’, and propagates themes of crisis. Following in the ideational tradition, these features necessarily function alongside a ‘host’ ideology. Using a mixed quantitative content and qualitative research method, the thesis examines the extent to which these features are present and the role that they play in facilitating agendas in two populist radical right parties, operating in different Western liberal democracies: in Australia, One Nation (ON) and in the Netherlands, the Party for Freedom (PVV).

The analysis found that both ON and the PVV were most prominently nativist, rather than populist. This was evidenced by the predominant ethno-cultural process of in-grouping and out-grouping, between a Judeo-Christian ‘people’ and a minority ethnic ‘other,’ and the high frequency of nativist policies in their policy documents. But while their nativism was the primary focus of the parties, the populist dimensions of the parties should not be underplayed and should be considered significant and fundamental to the parties’ overall agenda. Specifically, it found that themes of crisis, as a constituent feature of populism, were quantitatively and qualitatively significant for each party, and that themes of crisis facilitated each parties’ core, nativist political goals. In examining the supply-side presence of crisis in the case studies, the analysis was able to develop a greater appreciation for populism’s overall role in the parties that are most commonly associated with the term. The empirical examination of crisis from the supply-side is the first of its kind, and supports the theory that crisis is not merely a demand-side, external trigger for the populist radical right, but sits at the centre of the antagonistic relationship between the ‘people’, the ‘elite’ and the ‘other’. The findings also suggest that populist radical right parties will modulate their key agendas, depending on political context and issue salience. For example, where the PVV generally conformed to received wisdom of the populist radical right party family, motivated primarily by post-materialist concerns, ON tended to balance their post-materialist focus with material issues. It also found that ON was comparatively more populist than the PVV, in part because of this balancing of material and post-material matters.

The overarching aim of this thesis is to forge a greater understanding of populist radical right parties, arguably the most prominent and successful populist party family of the contemporary era. Through this analysis, the thesis provides a fresh perspective on these parties and the role that populism plays within them.

Year2019
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8vyq8
Page range1-268
Final version
File Access Level
Open
Publication process dates
Deposited29 Apr 2021
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