The French secular hypocrisy: the extreme right, the Republic and the battle for hegemony

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While the left and extreme left have gained support during the crisis, there is no doubt that it is the extreme right which has seen its fortunes improved the most dramatically in many European liberal democracies. Yet their success was not limited to their electoral rise and a more long-lasting victory has taken place in the ideological field, where the discourse of the extreme right occupies now a prominent place in the mainstream liberal democratic agenda. It is therefore no longer surprising to see extreme right leaders such as Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen being invited to give talks in prestigious universities across the globe or appear on prime time television, even outside of electoral campaigns. Increasingly, their ideas are seen in the media and within the ranks of mainstream parties as ‘common sense’, or at least acceptable.
The growing acceptance of this ‘common sense’ is the result of very carefully crafted strategies put in place by extreme right thinkers since the 1980s. For over three decades now, in order to change perceptions and renew extreme right-wing ideology, New Right thinktanks such as the French GRECE believed it was necessary to borrow the tactics of the left, and more specifically the Gramscian concept of hegemony: cultural power must precede political power. This article will demonstrate the impact these ideas have had on the Front National in particular, and how this change has originated in the association of populist rhetoric with the neo-racist stigmatisation of an ‘Other’. While France will be used as a case study, it will be argued that similar strategies have been adopted successfully by many parties in Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-413
Number of pages23
JournalPatterns of Prejudice
Issue number4
Early online date17 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2015


  • extreme right
  • crisis
  • austerity
  • Front national
  • mainstreaming
  • racism


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