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Electronic Newsletter of the ECPR-SG on Extremism and Democracy

e-Extreme

December 2011 Volume 12 Number 4


e-Extreme

Volume 12, No. 4, December 2011

Managing Editor Mark Pitchford King’s College, London Email: mark.pitchford@kcl.ac.uk Co-editors Sarah de Lange University of Amsterdam, Netherlands Email: s.l.delange@uva.nl Matthijs Rooduijn University of Amsterdam, Netherlands Email: m.rooduijn@uva.nl

The e-Extreme is the newsletter of the ECPR Standing Group on Extremism and Democracy and is published quarterly. For any enquiries about the newsletter, and inquiries regardibook reviews, please contact the managing editor, Mark Pitchford. Copyright Š 2011 by the ECPR Standing Group on Extremism and Democracy All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, electronic, photocopying, or otherwise, without permission in writing from the ECPR Standing Group on Extremism and Democracy.

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Table of Contents

Standing Group Announcements ……………………………………………………………. 4 Book Reviews .……………………………………………………………………………………. 5 Publications Alerts …………………………………………………………………….............. 7

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Standing Group Announcements

Visit the website Please do visit our website for details of forthcoming conferences and workshops: www.extremism-and-democracy.com Also, remember that the website contains a database which enables members to browse and search for other members by research interests, as well as by name. If you would like to update your own details please just email us at: info@extremism-and-democracy.com Please also do encourage colleagues and PhD students to join the Standing Group.

Keep us informed! Please keep us informed of any upcoming conferences or workshops you are organizing, and of any publication or funding opportunities that would be of interest to Standing Group members. We will post all details on our website. Similarly, if you would like to write a report on a conference or workshop that you have organized and have this included in our newsletter, please do let us know. Please also tell us of any recent publications of interest to Standing Group members so that we may include them in the ‘publications alert’ section of our newsletter, and please get in touch if you would like to see a particular book (including your own) reviewed in e-Extreme, or if you would like to review a specific book yourself. Finally, if you would like to get involved in the production of the newsletter, the development of our website, or any of the other activities of the Standing Group then please do contact us. We are always very keen to involve more members in the running of the Standing Group! Email us at: info@extremism-and-democracy.com

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Book Reviews Political Extremes: A Conceptual History from Antiquity to the Present By Uwe Backes (London: Routledge, 2010), 298 p., ISBN 978-0415473521 Reviewed by Tjitske Akkerman

University of Amsterdam The concept of extremism has come widely into use in the twentieth century. It has acquired exceptional political importance as a battle term used to stigmatize a confusing variety of politicians, parties or movements as anti-democratic. Conceptual clarification of a term that has acquired so much weight in struggles for political legitimacy is evidently not only of academic interest. Yet, surprisingly few scholars have focused on extremism as a generic political term. The German political scientist Uwe Backes is a notable exception. His latest book Political extremes: A conceptual history from antiquity to the present is the culmination of more than twenty years of extensive research. In many respects, his conceptual history of extremism is an outstanding work. The book is not only ambitious in its time-span, but Backes also has explored a vast wilderness of literature, magazines and newspapers in some ten languages. His pioneering work implied raking through many (undigitized) political publications and digging up interesting historical trajectories of the term. The main part of his research is devoted to the twentieth century, but Backes also discovered fertile ground beyond modern history. In his former work, he had presented extremism as a modern term with a history not going further back than German liberalism between the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. In this book, however, the author follows a more ancient track leading him far back in time to the concept of ‘extremes’ in the work of Aristotle and the ancient doctrine of the mixed constitution. This new perspective adds much to our understanding of the concept of extremism. The idea of extremes is central to Aristotle’s ethics of moderation and his political ideal of a mixed constitution. Aristotle connected his ethical doctrine with the political ideal of the politeia, a mixed constitutional government that combined the rule of the many (democracy) and the few (oligarchy). The Aristotelian doctrine lingers on in modern democratic thought, but has been adapted to fit the emergence of political parties and the coming into use of a left –right topography after the French Revolution. Backes describes the history of this complex doctrine from Antiquity to the nineteenth century in not more than two chapters, and it is clear that more work is still to be done to bridge the gap between the classical and modern ideas. Backes’ approach is firmly rooted in the historical tradition of the German volumes ‘Gechichtliche Grundbegriffe’ inaugurated by Brunner, Konze and Koselleck. This approach characteristically focuses on the historical lineage of a basic concept rather than on the development of political discourses or on the history of ideas in historical context. In the main part of the book Backes does not narrowly follow this approach, but keeps an open eye to the complexity of the vocabulary in which the term ‘extremism’ is embedded. In the part about the doctrine of the mixed constitution, however, the focus on terminology leaves little room for the complex terminology of the doctrine as a whole. The focus of the book is on the ‘age of extremes’. The concept of extremism, which had already been in use in the USA during the Civil War, found far-reaching application after 1917 as a pejorative term for the political project of the Bolsheviks. While the term was spread through the English, French, German and Italian press, it was almost exclusively applied to the extreme left. After the March on Rome it was extended to include the extreme right. The term was not only used as a liberal stigma term for those who questioned the

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constitutional consensus, but the extreme right took it up as honorary nickname and identified itself as an extreme in a positive sense. The National Socialists saw themselves as representing the extreme virtuous and courageous part of mankind fighting against the extreme evil part. Hitler’s hate for the bourgeoisie found its expression in the hate for the moderate class that would subjugate to the winner rather than put up resistance. With National Socialism the extremist as saviour had arrived on the political stage. After 1945, extremism became of academic interest in the USA and scientific debates spread from there to Western Europe. In Western Germany it found its way in the terminology of ‘militant democracy’. The American constitutional law only acknowledges extremism as ‘a clear and present danger’, restricting it to attempts of a violent elimination of the constitutional order. The Germans took another path by including endeavours hostile to the constitution, independent of their relevance for criminal law. Backes builds on this German tradition in his last chapter, in which he provides a typology and definition of extremism. His typology makes clear that violence is not necessarily a defining characteristic of political extremism. As he points out, the political behaviour of the NSDAP in the beginning of the 1930s shows that extremist ideology and the practice of violence do not necessarily go hand in hand. Outlining the scientific discussion in the second half of the twentieth century, Backes describes the subjugation of extremism to the dominating discourse of totalitarianism by philosophers like Hannah Arendt; the contrast set up between pluralism and extremism by social scientists like Shils and Lipset; the distinction between radicalism and extremism made by social scientists like Klingemann/Pappi, Kaase and Mudde; and the efforts to distinguish left from rightwing extremism by law philosopher Bobbio. This chapter provides the groundwork for a final attempt by the author to classify the heterogeneous extremism terms and to provide a definition. The historical overview has made clear that the classical principles of government by law and government for the common good have remained essential throughout time to prevent excesses of power. In addition to these classical values, modern democratic thought has turned the spotlights on the principles of pluralism and self-determination. In the last chapter, the author also outlines an interesting typology based on the important observation that extremism has two forms: it can take an anti-democratic and an anti-constitutional form. The former undermines civil equality, the latter civil liberty. Communist and anarchist movements can be radically egalitarian and democratic, but become extremist when they oppose the constitutional state. On the other hand, there are movements that are anti-egalitarian, but respect the constitutional state. These movements endorse the principle of slavery, apartheid, or ethnic discrimination on a constitutional basis. The most extreme forms of extremism combine both dimensions. National Socialists, for instance, combined national racism with the totalitarian state. Overall, this last chapter is essential reading for anyone trying to get a theoretical grip on the phenomenon of political extremism. Backes has written a book that is not only politically highly relevant, but also sheds new light on the subject. Detailed historical work, an original historical perspective and a sophisticated theoretical overview makes this book essential reading for scholars of varying disciplinary background.

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Publications Alert

Bjorgo, T. (2011) “Dreams and Disillusionment: Engagement in and Disengagement from Militant Extremist Groups”. Crime Law and Social Change, 55, 277-285. Bos, L., van der Brug, W. & de Vreese, C. (2011) “How the Media Shape Perceptions of Right-Wing Populist Leaders”. Political Communication, 28, 182-206. Caiani, M. & della Porta, D. (2011) “The Elitist Populism of the Extreme Right: A Frame Analysis of Extreme Right-wing Discourses in Italy and Germany”. Acta Politica, 46, 180-202. Ceobanu, A. M. (2011) “Usual Suspects? Public Views about Immigrants' Impact on Crime in European Countries”. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 52, 114-131. Cutts, D., Ford, R. & Goodwin, M. J. (2011) “Anti-immigrant, Politically Disaffected or still Racist after all? Examining the Attitudinal Drivers of Extreme Right Support in Britain in the 2009 European Elections”. European Journal of Political Research, 50, 418-440. Luther, K. R. (2011) “Of Goals and Own Goals: A Case Study of Right-wing Populist Party Strategy for and during Incumbency”. Party Politics, 17, 453-470. Richards, A. (2011) “The Problem with 'Radicalization': The Remit of 'Prevent' and the Need to Refocus on Terrorism in the UK”. International Affairs, 87, 143-152. Rydgren, J. (2011) “A Legacy of 'Uncivicness'? Social Capital and Radical Right-wing Populist Voting in Eastern Europe”. Acta Politica, 46, 132-157. Shekhovtsov, A. (2011) “The Creeping Resurgence of the Ukrainian Radical Right? The Case of the Freedom Party”. Europe-Asia Studies, 63, 203-228. Siedler, T. (2011) “Parental Unemployment and Young People's Extreme Right-wing Party Affinity: Evidence from Panel Data”. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A (Statistics in Society), 174, 737-758. Stevens, D. (2011) “Reasons to be Fearful, One, Two, Three: The 'Preventing Violent Extremism' Agenda”. British Journal of Politics & International Relations, 13, 165-188. van Spanje, J. (2011) “The Wrong and the Right: A Comparative Analysis of 'Anti-Immigration' and 'Far Right' Parties”. Government and Opposition, 46, 293-320.

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Volume 12, No. 4

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