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The Radical Right in Switzerland

The Radical Right in Switzerland: Continuity and Change, 1945-2000

Damir Skenderovic
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 470
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  • Book Info
    The Radical Right in Switzerland
    Book Description:

    There has been a tendency amongst scholars to view Switzerland as a unique case, and comparative scholarship on the radical right has therefore shown little interest in the country. Yet, as the author convincingly argues, there is little justification for maintaining the notion of Swiss exceptionalism, and excluding the Swiss radical right from cross-national research. His book presents the first comprehensive study of the development of the radical right in Switzerland since the end of the Second World War and therefore fills a significant gap in our knowledge. It examines the role that parties and political entrepreneurs of the populist right, intellectuals and publications of the New Right, as well as propagandists and militant groups of the extreme right assume in Swiss politics and society. The author shows that post-war Switzerland has had an electorally and discursively important radical right since the 1960s that has exhibited continuity and persistence in its organizations and activities. Recently, this has resulted in the consolidation of a diverse Swiss radical right that is now established at various levels within the political and public arena.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-948-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In a recent book on Swiss politics, Clive Church points out that Switzerland has largely been neglected by English language social science research and that the country is seen as a‘cas à part,divorced from the European norms domestically, just as it stands outside the EU’.¹ This assessment is even more accurate when it comes to research on the political history of postwar Switzerland. Historians and political scientists have looked into certain distinct institutions of the Swiss political system, such as direct democracy and federalism, and have studied some of the political actors, such as the new social movements,...

  7. 1 The Concept of the Radical Right
    (pp. 13-38)

    An array of varied terms is employed to define political parties and groups whose ideology, program, discourse and policies locate them on the right margin of the political spectrum. In the literature we find labels such ‘radical right’, ‘extreme right’, ‘neo-fascist’, or ‘far right’, as well as ‘national-populism’, ‘right-wing populism’, ‘radical right-wing populism’, or ‘new populism’. While distinct parties or groups are scrutinised and categorised according to identical definitional criteria, they are often differently labelled.¹ Despite this variety in terminology, most authors continue to agree on the indispensability of using the concepts of ‘right’ and ‘right-wing’ as analytical tools in...

  8. 2 Success Conditions and Organisational Variation in Switzerland
    (pp. 39-56)

    The radical right plays a significant role in Swiss politics and has been characterised by a remarkable continuity that extends throughout the postwar era. As in most Western European democracies, the Swiss radical right has evolved in a variety of organisational formations which can best be captured by the concepts developed above, of political family and collective actor. In order to explain the persistence of the Swiss radical right, it is necessary to examine variables identified by the comparative literature, which focus on the contextual factors including national traditions, socioeconomic changes, political institutions and discursive and cultural opportunities. They are...

  9. 3 An Early Precursor: The Movement against Overforeignization in the 1960s and 1970s
    (pp. 57-76)

    The first expression of radical right-wing populist parties in postwar Switzerland was the Movement against Overforeignization which made its appearance on the political stage in the early 1960s. When the movement emerged, its numerous and constant anti-immigrant campaigns were unique in Europe. Together with the Poujadist movement, a shortlived populist movement from the mid 1950s in France, it represents in many ways the political precursor to today’s radical right-wing populism in Western Europe.¹ Although leading figures of the Movement against Overforeignization had already been active in the Front Movement of the 1930s, they conspicuously avoided making reference to this interwar...

  10. 4 Outsiders in the Party System: Fringe Parties in the 1980s and 1990s
    (pp. 77-122)

    The decline and disappearance of some parties from the Movement against Overforeignization did not bring an end to the presence of parties of the radical right in the Swiss party system. On the contrary, from the mid 1980s on, a new phase of radical right-wing populism began, bearing witness to the organisational persistence of the already existing parties and to the emergence of new parties. However, they continued to act as fringe parties at the margin of the Swiss party system and to be perceived as pariah parties by most of the established parties. Moreover, the foundation of new parties...

  11. 5 Entering the Mainstream: The Emergence of the New SVP in the 1990s
    (pp. 123-172)

    Up until the early 1990s, radical right-wing parties remained at the margins of the Swiss party system. This situation changed radically in the 1990s, with the transformation of the Swiss People’s Party, a fundamental change which allowed a radical right-wing populist party to enter the mainstream of Swiss politics. In the history of the Swiss party system throughout the twentieth century, the SVP has long played the role of a right-wing, mainstream party that stood for marked conservative viewpoints and represented the electorate of farmers and small business people. As a member of the Federal Council since 1929 and a...

  12. 6 A Supplier of Ideology: The New Right in the German-speaking Part of Switzerland
    (pp. 173-228)

    In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, most intellectuals are traditionally more engaged in academia and culture and the world of ideas and aesthetics than in politics and public affairs. One reason is that the political and public culture in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is somewhat marked by anti-intellectualism, and intellectuals receive little recognition from the public. The rather anti-elitist climate, reinforced by the egalitarian impetus of direct democracy, brings about a situation where intellectuals whose interests and engagements focus on the sphere of ideas, theories and knowledge are regarded as being detached from the everyday life of society. As...

  13. 7 An Intellectual Elite: The New Right in the French-speaking Part of Switzerland
    (pp. 229-274)

    The radical right in the French-speaking part of Switzerland has traditionally been characterised by the influential role of its intellectuals and the strong affinity for reflection developed by French theorists and authors.¹ During the interwar period, a number of intellectuals felt that a political climate that was critical of liberalism and democracy suited their efforts to promote authoritarian and anti-democratic visions of politics and society. At the time, French theorists and authors like Charles Maurras, Léon Daudet and Maurice Barrès were well received by the radical right-wing intellectual community in the French-speaking regions of Switzerland.² Compared to their counterparts in...

  14. 8 At the Margins of Society and Politics: The Subculture of the Extreme Right
    (pp. 275-330)

    Since the end of the Second World War, the extreme right in Western Europe has transformed itself from a small underground scene into a larger, diversified subculture. While the extreme right is not ideologically homogenous, most variants of its worldview feature blunt versions of racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and nationalism. They are also characterised by anti-democratic conceptions of the political system. Until the 1970s, the extreme right was typically comprised of old fascists and National Socialists, neo-fascist groups and periodicals, and militantgroupusculesthat were sometimes terrorist-like in nature.¹ Since the 1980s, it has undergone major changes which have ultimately resulted...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 331-342)

    In this book I have shown how the history of the radical right in postwar Switzerland has been characterised by continuity in terms of ideology and by politics and persistence in terms of its organisations and activities. This has resulted in the enduring, though shifting, presence of a diverse radical right at various levels of the Swiss political and public arena. With the findings that emerged from my research, I have also tried to clear up some common misapprehensions about Swiss politics and the Swiss radical right in particular. In so doing, I have specifically challenged the long-standing notion that...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 343-424)
  17. References
    (pp. 425-452)
  18. Index
    (pp. 453-470)