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The Framing of Right-Wing Populism: Intricacies of 'Populist' Narratives, Emotions, and Resonance

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Abstract

In order to embrace the complexities and ambivalences that constitute the global and multifaceted phenomenon of populism, this contribution proposes a), a shift of scholarly attention to the particularities of framing political issues in populist practice, and b), the facilitation of micropolitical approaches in researching these framing practices and their responses. Using the Alternative for Germany’s framing of the ‘returning wolves’ debate in Eastern Germany as an example, this contribution offers a situated approach to understanding right-wing populism, and provides insights into framing techniques that serve to cause affective resonance with people who, supposedly, feel left behind.

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Die Spuren des Hirsche reissenden Wolfes M64 führen im Frühling 2016 ins Lötschental. Im Rahmen eines Feldforschungs-Kurzaufenthaltes wird deutlich, dass es auch dort bei der Wolfsdebatte um mehr als ein Raubtier geht. Naturschutz, Heimat, die Walliser Identität – vieles steht auf dem Spiel. Der Aufsatz wirft einzelne Schlaglichter auf das Lötschental und seinen Umgang mit dem Wolf M64.
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Sociology has long shied away from the problem of populism. This may be due to suspicion about the concept or uncertainty about how to fit populist cases into broader comparative matrices. Such caution is warranted: the existing interdisciplinary literature has been plagued by conceptual confusion and disagreement. But given the recent resurgence of populist politics in Latin America and elsewhere, sociology can no longer afford to sidestep such analytical challenges. This article moves toward a political sociology of populism by identifying past theoretical deficiencies and proposing a new, practice-based approach that is not beholden to pejorative common sense understandings. This approach conceptualizes populism as a mode of political practice—as populist mobilization. Its utility is demonstrated through an application to mid-twentieth-century Latin American politics. The article concludes by sketching an agenda for future research on populist mobilization in Latin America and beyond.
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Populism, understood as an appeal to ‘the people’ against both the established structure of power and the dominant ideas and values, should not be dismissed as a pathological form of politics of no interest to the political theorist, for its democratic pretensions raise important issues. Adapting Michael Oakeshott's distinction between ‘the politics of faith’ and ‘the politics of scepticism’, the paper offers an analysis of democracy in terms of two opposing faces, one ‘pragmatic’ and the other ‘redemptive’, and argues that it is the inescapable tension between them that makes populism a perennial possibility.
Deutscher Bundestag: Parlamentsfernsehen
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K. Hilse, 'Wolfsmanagement und -monitoring', Deutscher Bundestag: Parlamentsfernsehen. [Video file] (21 February 2019), URL: www.bundestag. de/mediathek?videoid=7328919#url=L21lZGlhdGhla292ZXJsYXk/dmlkZW 9pZD03MzI4OTE5JnZpZGVvaWQ9NzMyODkxOSZ2aWRlb2lkPTczMjg5 MTk=&mod=mediathek [Accessed 24 November 2019], cited in Pates and Leser (2021); translation by the authors.
Blue Party campaign event on the topic of wolves
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K. Muster, Blue Party campaign event on the topic of wolves, Wittichenau (Saxony), January 23, 2019.
Parteipräferenz und Einkommen. Die AfD -eine Partei der Besserverdiener? IW-Kurzbericht 19
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Bergmann, K., Diermeier, M., & Niehues, J. (2016). Parteipräferenz und Einkommen. Die AfD -eine Partei der Besserverdiener? IW-Kurzbericht 19. Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft Köln.
The emotional underpinnings of radical right populist mobilization: Explaining the protracted success of radical right-wing populist parties
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Betz, H.-G. (2020). The emotional underpinnings of radical right populist mobilization: Explaining the protracted success of radical right-wing populist parties. CARR Research Insight 2020.2. London, UK: Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right.
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Democracy's paradox: Populism and its contemporary crisis
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Herzfeld, M. (2019). How populism works. In B. Kapferer & D. Theodossopoulos (Eds.), Democracy's paradox: Populism and its contemporary crisis (pp. 122-138). Berghahn.
Alternative für Deutschland
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Lengfeld, H. (2017). Die "Alternative für Deutschland": Eine Partei für Modernisierungsverlierer? Kölner Zeitschrift Für Soziologie, 38, 379-399.
The mana of mass society
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Populism: A very short introduction
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Mudde, C., & Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2017). Populism: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.
Identity politics, populism and the far right
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Pelinka, A. (2018). Identity politics, populism and the far right. In R. Wodak & B. Forchtner (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of language and politics (pp. 618-629). Routledge.
A reluctant right-wing social movement: On the 'good sense' of Swedish hunters
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Stückrad, J. (2010). "Ich schimpfe nicht, ich sage nur die Wahrheit": Eine Ethnographie des Unmuts am Beispiel der Bewohner des Elbe-Elster-Kreises, Brandenburg. Ludwig. von Essen, E., & Allen, M. (2017). A reluctant right-wing social movement: On the 'good sense' of Swedish hunters. Journal of Rural Studies, 50, 139-147.