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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

The Politics of the Extreme Right: From the Margins to the Mainstream
Paul Hainsworth (ed.)

London: Pinter, Continuum Publishing Group 2000
336pp. Index. Pb.: 15.99; 1-85567-459-9

This volume is particularly timely, given the concerns about a right-wing domino effect in Western Europe, that were prevalent in the wake of the accession of a coalition government in Austria that included the FPO. The case studies are well-documented analyses, rich in detail of the electoral performance and key personalities involved in each of the prominent extreme right-wing parties across Europe. As a result, this volume answers one of the complaints that Eatwell has made, namely that the political dimension has been lacking in previous analyses of such groups.

Taking each chapter on its individual merits, substantive research has been carried out, demonstrating the specific peculiarities of each party on a national stage. The only exception is the chapter on the Vlaams Blok, which offers only a microanalysis of the city of Antwerp. Yet, its greatest strength is also its biggest weakness. The volume lacks a concluding chapter, which draws on the themes expressed in most of the chapters. Without it, the reader is left to draw their own conclusions from a quite disparate collection of cases. Rather than attempting to tie them together, each emphasises its own national peculiarities, making analysis of the wider subject more difficult. Hainsworth attempts to outline some of the general themes in one chapter, but these are occasionally lost within a welter of case-specific details. As such, the volume occasionally lacks a conceptual centre.

The title of the volume is also ambiguous. What exactly is meant by the mainstream? Very few cases, save the FPO and the MSI in Italy, have made the electoral journey from the wilderness to government. While success cannot be judged solely in electoral terms, as these parties have had a significant influence on the parameters of debate (especially on immigration), electoral results are used as the main standard in most of the chapters. Perhaps Hainsworth's point concerning their status as anti-establishment parties suggests that these parties are by definition, better served by being in opposition rather than government. The examples of both the FPO and the MSI seem to suggest that the 'extremist' programme that they have promoted in opposition is rarely honoured in government.

Finally, while Hainsworth criticises the use of the term 'extreme right' in his own submission, suggesting that it is not applicable in all cases, it is used constantly throughout the rest of the book and is even contained within the title.

David Brown
Dept of Politics and International Relations

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