In This Review

The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis
The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis
By Herbert Kitschelt
University of Michigan Press, 1996, 332 pp

Having previously studied European social democracy, the political scientist Herbert Kitschelt now applies his erudite and systematic mind to the new radical right. He focuses not on "simple class conceptions and related occupational distinctions," but on "the process of political preference formation in advanced capitalism" and the "demand" for rightist parties. On the supply side, he finds that the radical right is successful when "convergence of Social Democratic and Moderate Conservative parties, together with an extended period of government participation by the moderate conservatives . . . creates the electoral opening for the authoritarian right that induces voters to abandon their loyalty to established conservative parties." He carefully distinguishes the new right from fascism: the former advocates the free market and is "the offspring of the postindustrialization of advanced capitalist economies," while the latter "originated in the problems of rapidly industrializing societies with weak democratic institutions . . . and severe economic crises." The theoretical chapters, with their batteries of hypotheses and dense analysis, are difficult, but after 90 pages of social science prose there are informative case studies of France, Scandinavia, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Britain. On the whole, political opportunity in the "electoral market" proves superior to other theories, as Kitschelt points out repeatedly.