India, the US, Brazil … a study of the journey of far-right populists from the fringes to the heart of the world’s democracies
Thu 12 Dec 2019
Back in 2012, the political scientist Cas Mudde wrote a lecture he planned to deliver in Antwerp entitled: “Three decades of populist radical right parties in western Europe: so what?”. Unexpectedly struck down by a short-term illness, Mudde, a professor at the University of Georgia, was unable to board his transatlantic flight and never gave the speech. Had he done so, he might have been asked whether the decades he dedicated to studying the extreme rightwing fringes of democratic politics had been worth it. The lecture, later published in a journal, stressed that populist radical right parties had only had a limited impact in elections, and warned they were receiving “disproportionate” attention from scholars like himself. He described them as only a “relatively minor nuisance in west European democracies”.
Seven years later, few commentators call the populist radical right a mere nuisance. Mudde has since become one of the world’s most in-demand political scientists, as well as a Guardian columnist, widely regarded as the leading expert on the rise of nationalist, reactionary and far-right populism.