Sessione 8

The radical right & social policy(es) on the two sides of the Atlantic. Similarities and differences

(M. Jessoula)


In recent years the increased electoral relevance of populist anti-establishment parties in several European democracies has steered scholar attention to these “new” parties’ positions on redistribution, the functioning of the economy and, last but not least, the welfare state. With the exception of few recent studies on Radical Right parties, the programmatic options and welfare preferences of diverse “populist” parties – on both fringes of the political spectrum and/or at its very centre – have remained largely under-researched.

The paper analyses how the radical right parties’ discourse on the welfare state in four European countries developed over time. In particular, it considers the following countries: Italy, France, the UK and Germany. It also looks at the social policy proposals made by the Republican party in the US. The analysis is based on the content of political manifestos presented by these parties in national elections over time, since the 1990s and it looks at all the main social policy fields (from pensions, to health care and family policies).

The goal of the paper is to identify how much these parties differ with one another in relation to their approach to welfare state issues and if there is a policy field effect. In particular, the paper tries to answer the following questions:

* What are the welfare preferences of new populist parties?

* What factors do contribute shaping welfare preferences of new anti-establishment parties – e.g. i) new or well- entrenched Rokkanian cleavages; ii) political competition dynamics both among (right vs left) and within camps (right vs right).; iii) welfare state settings – i.e. universalistic vs occupational vs means-tested; iv) welfare state sectors (health care, pensions, unemployment, anti-poverty policies)?