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The Radical Right in Switzerland: Continuity and Change, 1945-2000

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The Radical Right in Switzerland

Continuity and Change, 1945-2000

Damir Skenderovic

470 pages, 4 figures, 26 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-580-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2009)

eISBN 978-1-84545-948-2 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Skenderovic has nevertheless produced a tremendously informative study, convincingly showing that Switzerland deserves a place in comparative studies of European right-wing politics. scholars will find his detailed descriptions of the diverse players on the Swiss radical right very helpful, and the book offers an excellent foundation for further research.” • German Studies Review

“…an exemplary analysis of the development of the radical Right within a national framework… The study impresses also beyond its valuable substantive results with its structure, its familiarity with  contemporary developments and personalities but also its empirical basis. One wishes that comparable analyses were available for more European societies.” • Swiss Political Science Review

“This is a necessary and illuminating book which puts Switzerland into a comparative perspective and conveys new and groundbreaking insights in a hitherto underdeveloped research field… I hope that Skenderovic's brilliantly written and persuasively argued book will have a deep impact on the historiography and the political analysis of Switzerland.” • Prof. Dr. Jakob Tanner, Professor of History at Zurich University

“The Swiss case has been largely ignored in the large Anglophone academic literature which has appeared on the radical right. [This] meticulous and wide-ranging study… more than fills this gap… It is a 'must read' for those interested in both the radical right and the demise of Swiss political consensus.” • Roger Eatwell, Professor of Comparative European Politics & Dean of Faculty, University of Bath

“This book is an intellectual tour de force, an important achievement, and a real breakthrough in the study of Swiss politics. It argues forcefully that Switzerland should be analyzed as part of Europe. It places the development of the Swiss radical right in a comparative framework that nevertheless emphasizes the dynamics of Swiss politics that have supported its emergence. Skenderovic also argues that the radical right has moved Swiss politics into a more contentious mode, an important change for the Swiss system, but one that has brought the political system closer to those of the rest of Europe.” • Martin A. Schain, Professor of Politics at New York University

“With this important book, Damir Skenderovic deconstructs the myth of Swiss exceptionalism, as far as the European radical right is concerned. More importantly, his thorough analysis of the various ideological and organizational faces of the Swiss radical right underscores the importance to expand the usual focus of party and electoral research, by including non-party phenomena, such as sub-cultural milieus and far right media, and their interaction with parties and voters. The book demonstrates that the contemporary Swiss radical right was not just the beneficiary of favorable circumstances, but that it was heavily involved in bringing these circumstances about. With such a nuanced and actor-oriented approach, the book sets new standards for future single-country as well as comparative case studies of the radical right”. • Michael Minkenberg Max Weber Chair for German and European Studies at New York University

“This book is a very rich and important contribution to radical right studies, in which Skenderovic convincingly demonstrates the relevance of agency in the success story of Switzerland’s radical right over time.” • Acta Politica


There has been a tendency amongst scholars to view Switzerland as a unique case, and comparative scholarship on the radical right has therefore shown little interest in the country. Yet, as the author convincingly argues, there is little justification for maintaining the notion of Swiss exceptionalism, and excluding the Swiss radical right from cross-national research. His book presents the first comprehensive study of the development of the radical right in Switzerland since the end of the Second World War and therefore fills a significant gap in our knowledge. It examines the role that parties and political entrepreneurs of the populist right, intellectuals and publications of the New Right, as well as propagandists and militant groups of the extreme right assume in Swiss politics and society. The author shows that post-war Switzerland has had an electorally and discursively important radical right since the 1960s that has exhibited continuity and persistence in its organizations and activities. Recently, this has resulted in the consolidation of a diverse Swiss radical right that is now established at various levels within the political and public arena.

Damir Skenderovic is Associate Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Fribourg. Previously, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for European Studies at New York University. His recent publications focus on the radical right, identity politics, migration, and 1968 in Western Europe, with a particular emphasis on Switzerland.

Subject: 20th Century History
Area: Europe


List of Figures
List of Tables


  • Recent Challenges in Swiss Politics and Society
  • The Swiss Radical Right:
  • Underrated in Academic Research
  • An Actor-oriented Approach
  • Main Arguments and Structure of the Book
  • Acknowledgments

Chapter 1. The Concept of the Radical Right

  • Distinctions and Boundaries
  • The Ideology and Politics of Exclusionism
  • A Political Family and a Collective Actor

Chapter 2. Success Conditions and Organisational Variation in Switzerland

  • National Traditions: The Front Movement in the 1930s
  • Social Changes and the Support for the Radical Right
  • The Openness of the Swiss Political System
  • National Identity, Swiss Exceptionalism and Fears of ‘Overforeignization’
  • The Political Family of the Radical Right in Switzerland

Chapter 3. An Early Precursor: The Movement against Overforeignization in the 1960s and 1970s

  • A Divided Movement of Fringe Parties
  • The Power of Direct Democracy
  • Populist Strategy and Exclusionist Ideology

Chapter 4. Outsiders in the Party System: Fringe Parties in the 1980s and 1990s

  • The Swiss Democrats: Survivors of the Movement against Overforeignization
  • The Swiss Democratic Union: A Fundamentalist Party and its Exclusionist Worldview
  • The Car Party/Freedom Party: Rise and Fall of a New Radical Right-wing Populist Party
  • The Lega dei Ticinesi: A Regionalist, Anti-establishment Party

Chapter 5. Entering the Mainstream: The Emergence of the New SVP in the 1990s

  • The Old SVP: The History of a Right-wing, Mainstream Party
  • Towards the New SVP: The Process of Structural Transformation
  • The Extraordinary Electoral Rise of the New SVP
  • Political and Ideological Radicalisation
  • Reasons for the Success of the New SVP

Chapter 6. A Supplier of Ideology: The New Right in the German-speaking Part of Switzerland

  • The Neoconservatives: Renewing Conservatism and Approaching the New Right
  • The Ecologists: A Right-wing Version of Environmentalism
  • The Neo-nationalists: For the Defence of Swiss Exceptionalism

Chapter 7. An Intellectual Elite: The New Right in the French-speaking Part of Switzerland

  • The Counter-revolutionaries: Contesting Pluralistic and Parliamentarian Democracy
  • The Integrists: Catholicism and Politics
  • The Nouvelle Droite: Importing the French Legacy

Chapter 8. At the Margins of Society and Politics: The Subculture of the Extreme Right

  • Ideologues and Propagandists: Disseminating Thought and Ideas
  • Combative and Violent Groups: Emergence and Consolidation since the Mid 1980s
  • Between Distance and Proximity: Linkages with Political Parties


  • The Process of Normalisation
  • The Radical Right as a Collective Actor: Linkages and Collaborations
  • The Radical Right as a Political Family: Ideology and Intellectual Agenda
  • The 1990s and Beyond


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