Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right

The New Cultural Conflict in Western Europe

Simon Bornschier
Book Cover

HC: $71.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-0192-2
Publication: Apr 10

Ebook: $71.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-0194-6

260 pages
6 x 9
28 tables, 35 figures, 1 halftone

A comparative study of how historical cleavages and party strategies interact to shape the fortunes of the populist right in Western Europe

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Since the 1990s, right-wing populist parties in Western Europe have gained sizable vote shares and power, much to the fascination and consternation of political observers. Meshing traditionalism and communitarian ideals, right-wing populist parties have come to represent a polar normative ideal to the New Left in Western Europe. In his dynamic study Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right, Simon Bornschier applies a cultural as well as a political dimension to analyze the parties of both the right and left in six countries. He develops a theory that integrates the role of political conflict around both established cleavages and party strategies regarding new divisions to explain the varying fortunes of the populist right. Combining innovative data from election campaigns and opinion surveys, Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right explains the emergence of the Front National in France and the transformation of the Swiss People's Party to right-wing populism. Where the populist right has made a breakthrough, a new cultural cleavage has formed. When established parties succeed in averting the entry of a right-wing populist competitor, however, the new cultural conflict presents itself in tempered form, as demonstrated in the case of Germany.


"Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right is a powerful book on an interesting and important topic. Bornschier posits that populist right parties emerge and succeed due, in part, to the evolving preferences of citizens and the responses of the new parties themselves and also the responses of established parties on both the right and left. His analysis of party positions and vote choice in France, Germany, and Switzerland shows that the model works well in explaining why the new parties have fared better in some countries than others. This book is a real breakthrough in the study of electoral change."Christopher Wlezien, coeditor of Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties

"Bornschier’s line of argument in Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right is original, and his methods employed for the empirical analyses are very sophisticated. This book provides excellent research, and readers can follow the author's arguments and interpretations without difficulty."Dieter Ohr, Free University, Berlin

"Empirically rich, methodologically sophisticated, and theoretically compelling, Bornschier's book not only settles some outstanding debates in the literature but also frames important questions about the basic dividing lines of European politics." Political Science Quarterly

"Bornschier has produced a very well researched and written book on an important topic." West European Politics

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables Preface Introduction: A Dynamic Perspective on Cleavages and the Populist Right PART I Putting Right-Wing Populist Parties in Context 1. The New Cultural Conflict and the Populist Right in Western Europe 2. The Extreme-Right-Wing Populist Party Family PART II New Political Divides and Historical Cleavages 3. From Structure to Culture and Back: The Perpetuation and Transformation of Historical Cleavages 4. Research Design and Methods PART III The New Cultural Cleavage and the Populist Right in France, Switzerland, and Germany 5. France: The Reshaping of Cultural Confl icts and the Rise of the Front National 6. Switzerland: The Transformation of the Swiss People’s Party 7. Germany: A Constricted Ideological Space and the Failure of the Extreme Right Conclusion: The Redefinition of Cultural Conflicts and the Transformation of Western European Party Systems Appendix A: Issue Positions and Issue Salience in the Campaign Data Appendix B: Datasets Used for the Demand-Side Analyses Appendix C: Operationalization of Issue Categories on the Demand Side References Index

About the Author(s)

Simon Bornschier is a Senior Researcher at the University of Zurich and co-author of W est European Politics in the Age of Globalization.


In the Series

  • The Social Logic of Politics edited by Scott D. McClurg (formerly edited by Alan S. Zuckerman)

    The Social Logic of Politics Series, edited by Scott D. McClurg (formerly edited by Alan S. Zuckerman), directs attention to several related clusters of research in the social sciences. At the core is a theoretical principle: individuals make political decisions, like other choices, by taking into account cues from other persons. Studies move from individuals to groups to large scale collectivities. Usually examining micro-politics-voting and other forms of political participation; the place of politics in households, the family, the friendship unit, and the neighborhood- this research also studies how broader political and social contexts influence and are influenced by these micro-processes. It includes as well "small group behavior" in political institutions, such as exchanges of cues in legislatures and patron-client relations in bureaucratic agencies and political parties. Books in The Social Logic of Politics Series will apply research techniques that run the gamut of contemporary political science, sociology, communications, and geography.