Right-wing politics are political positions or activities that view some forms of social hierarchy or social inequality as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically justifying this position on the basis of natural law or tradition. Within the right-wing spectrum, views differ on whether hierarchy and inequality stem from traditional social differences or from competition in market economies. In Europe’s history, there have been strong collectivist right-wing movements, such as in the social Catholic Right that has exhibited hostility to all forms of liberalism, including economic liberalism, and has historically advocated for paternalist class harmony involving an organic-hierarchical society where workers are protected while hierarchy of classes remain. The term “right wing” has been used to refer to a number of different political positions through history. The political terms Right and Left were coined during the French Revolution (1789–99), and referred to where politicians sat in the French parliament; those who sat to the right of the chair of the parliamentary president were broadly supportive of the institutions of the monarchist Ancien Régime. The original Right in France was formed as a reaction against the Left, and comprised those politicians supporting hierarchy, tradition, and clericalism. The use of the expression la droite (the right) became prominent in France after the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, when le droit was applied to describe the Ultra-royalists. In English-speaking countries it was not until the 20th century that people applied the terms “right” and “left” to their own politics. From the 1830s to the 1880s, there was a shift in the Western world of social class structure and the economy, moving away from nobility and aristocracy, and moving towards the bourgeoisie and capitalism. This general economic shift towards capitalism affected centre right movements such as the British Conservative Party that responded by becoming supportive of capitalism.
Although the term ‘right-wing’ originally designated Traditional Conservatives and Reactionaries, it has also been used to describe Neo-Conservatives, Nationalists, Racial Supremacists, Christian Democrats, Religious Fundamentalists and Classical Liberals.
Far-right politics or extreme-right politics are right-wing politics to the right of the mainstream centre right on the traditional left-right spectrum. They often involve a focus on tradition as opposed to policies and customs that are regarded as reflective of modernism. They tend to include disregard or disdain for egalitarianism, if not overt support for social inequality and social hierarchy, elements of social conservatism and opposition to most forms of liberalism and socialism. The terms are commonly used to describe fascism, neo-fascism and other ideologies or organizations that feature extreme nationalist, chauvinist, xenophobic, racist or reactionary views. Some far-right movements, such as the Nazis, have pursued oppression and genocide against groups of people on the basis of their alleged inferiority or their alleged threat to the nation or state.
Especially historically in United States politics, the Radical Right is a political preference that leans toward extreme Conservatism and Anti-Socialism. The term was first used by social scientists in the 1950s regarding small groups such as the John Birch Society in the United States and since has been used for similar groups worldwide. The term “Radical” was applied to the groups because they sought to make Fundamental (hence radical) changes in institutions and remove from political life persons and institutions that threatened their values or economic interests. They were called “Right-Wing” primarily because of their opposition to both Socialism and Communism and their Ultra-Conservative or Reactionary tendencies which limited new access to power and status.
Neoconservatism is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s. Many of its adherents rose to political fame during the Republican presidential administrations of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Neoconservatives peaked in influence during the presidency of George W. Bush, when they played a major role in promoting and planning the invasion of Iraq. Prominent neoconservatives in the Bush administration included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, and Paul Bremer. The term “neoconservative” refers to those who made the ideological journey from the anti-Stalinist left to the camp of American conservatism. Neoconservatives frequently advocate the “assertive” promotion of democracy and promotion of “American national interest” in international affairs including by means of military force. The movement had its intellectual roots in the Jewish monthly review magazine Commentary. C. Bradley Thompson, a professor at Clemson University, claims that most influential neoconservatives refer explicitly to the theoretical ideas in the philosophy of Leo Strauss (1899–1973). The neoconservative movement sprouted in the 1960s in response to the counter-culture movement. It was later bolstered by disillusioned liberal intellectuals of the 1970s. Neoconservatives believe in a diplomatic foreign policy, stimulating economic growth by lowering taxes and finding alternative ways to deliver public welfare services. Culturally, neoconservatives tend to identify with traditional conservatives, but stop short of providing guidance on social issues. Irving Kristol, co-founder of Encounter magazine is largely credited with founding the neoconservative movement.
Paleoconservatism (sometimes shortened to paleocon) is a conservative political philosophy found primarily in the United States stressing tradition, limited government, civil society, anti-colonialism and anti-federalism, along with religious, regional, national and Western identity. Paleoconservatives in the 21st century often highlight their points of disagreement with neoconservatives, especially regarding issues such as military interventionism, illegal immigration and large amounts of legal immigration, multiculturalism, affirmative action, and foreign aid, to which they are opposed. They also criticize social welfare and social democracy, which some refer to as the “therapeutic managerial state“, the “welfare-warfare state” or “polite totalitarianism”. They see themselves as the legitimate heirs to the American conservative tradition. Paul Gottfried is credited with coining the term in the 1980s. He says the term originally referred to various Americans, such as conservative and traditionalist Catholics and agrarian Southerners, who turned to anticommunism during the Cold War. Paleoconservatism is closely linked with distributism. Paleoconservative thought has developed within the pages of the Rockford Institute’s Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. Pat Buchanan was heavily influenced by its articles and helped create another paleocon publication, The American Conservative. Its concerns overlap those of the Old Right that opposed the New Deal in the 1930s and 1940s as well as American social conservatism of the late 20th century expressed, for example, in the book Single Issues by Joseph Sobran. As the name suggests, paleoconservatives emphasize a connection with the past. Like neoconservatives, paleoconservatives tend to be family-oriented, religious-minded and opposed to the vulgarity permeating modern culture. They are also opposed to mass immigration and believe in the complete withdrawal of US military troops from foreign countries. Paleoconservatives claim author Russell Kirk as their own, as well as political ideologues Edmund Burke and William F. Buckley Jr. Paleoconservatives believe they are the true heirs to the US conservative movement and are critical of other “brands” of conservatism.
From the 1990s parties that have been described as radical right became established in the legislatures of various democracies including Canada, Norway, France, Israel, Russia, Romania and Chile, and had entered coalition governments in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Italy. However there is little consensus about the reasons for this. Some of these parties had historic roots, such as the National Alliance, formed as the Italian Social Movement in 1946, the French National Front, founded in 1972, and the Freedom Party of Austria, an existing party that moved sharply right after 1986. Typically new right-wing parties, such as the French Poujadists, the U.S. Reform Party and the Dutch Pim Fortuyn List enjoyed short-lived prominence. The main support for these parties comes from both the self-employed, skilled and unskilled labor, with support coming predominantly from males. However, scholars are divided on whether these parties are radical right, since they differ from the groups described in earlier studies of the radical right. They are more often described as populist.
Studies of the radical right in the United States and right-wing populism in Europe have tended to be conducted independently, with very few comparisons made. European analyses have tended to use comparisons with fascism, while studies of the American radical right have stressed American exceptionalism. The U.S. studies have paid attention to the consequences of slavery, the profusion of religious denominations and a history of immigration and saw fascism as uniquely European. Although the term ‘Radical Right’ was American in origin, it has been consciously adopted by some European social scientists. Conversely the term ‘Right-Wing Extremism’ which is European in origin, has been adopted by some American social scientists.
Since the European right-wing groups in existence immediately following the war had roots in fascism they were normally called ‘Neo-Fascist’. But as new right-wing groups emerged with no connection to historical fascism, the use of the term “right-wing extremism” came to be more widely used. Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg argued that the radical right in the U.S. and right-wing populism in Europe were the same phenomenon that existed throughout the Western world. They identified the core attributes as contained in Extremism, Behaviour and Beliefs. As extremists, they see no moral ambiguity and demonize the enemy, sometimes connecting them to conspiracy theories such as the New World Order. Most politicians are seen as traitors or cowards. Given this worldview, there is a tendency to use methods outside democratic norms, although this is not always the case. The main core belief is inequality, which often takes the form of opposition to immigration or racism. They do not see this New Right as having any connection with the historic Right, which had been concerned with protecting the status quo. They also see the cooperation of the American and European forms and their mutual influence on each other, as evidence of their existence as a single phenomenon.
Daniel Bell argues that the ideology of the radical right is, “its readiness to jettison constitutional processes and to suspend liberties, to condone Communist methods in the fighting of Communism.” Historian Richard Hofstader agrees that Communist-style methods are often emulated: “The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through ‘front’ groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy.” He also quotes Barry Goldwater: “I would suggest that we analyse and copy the strategy of the enemy; theirs has worked and ours has not.”
One-nation conservatism (also known as One-Nationism, or Tory Democracy) is a form of British political conservatism that views society as organic and values paternalism and pragmatism. The phrase ‘One-Nation Tory’ originated with Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881), who served as the chief Conservative spokesman and became Conservative Prime Minister in February 1868. One-nation conservatism was first conceived by the Conservative British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who presented his political philosophy in two novels – Sybil, Or The Two Nations and Coningsby – published in 1845 and 1844 respectively. Disraeli’s conservatism proposed a paternalistic society with the social classes intact but with the working class receiving support from the establishment. He emphasised the importance of social obligation rather than the individualism that pervaded his society. Disraeli warned that Britain would become divided into two ‘nations’, of the rich and poor, as a result of increased industrialisation and inequality. Concerned at this division, he supported measures to improve the lives of the people to provide social support and protect the working classes. Disraeli justified his ideas by his belief in an organic society in which the different classes have natural obligations to one another. He saw society as naturally hierarchical and emphasised the obligation of those at the top to those below. This was based in the feudal concept of noblesse oblige, which asserted that the aristocracy had an obligation to be generous and honourable; to Disraeli, this implied that government should be paternalistic. Unlike the New Right, one-nation conservatism takes a pragmatic and non-ideological approach to politics and accepts the need for flexible policies; one-nation conservatives have often sought compromise with their ideological opponents for the sake of social stability. Disraeli justified his views pragmatically by arguing that, should the ruling class become indifferent to the suffering of the people, society would become unstable and social revolution would become a possibility. He devised it to appeal to working class men as a solution to worsening divisions in society. As a political philosophy, one-nation conservatism reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically, and that members within them have obligations towards each other. There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of the upper classes to those classes below them. The ideology featured heavily during Disraeli’s terms in government, during which considerable social reforms were passed. Towards the end of the 19th century, the party moved away from paternalism in favour of free market capitalism, but fears of extremism during the interwar period caused the revival of one-nation conservatism. The philosophy continued to be held by the party throughout the post-war consensus until the rise of the New Right, which attributed the country’s social and economic troubles to one-nation conservatism. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, named Disraeli as his favourite Conservative and some commentators and MPs have suggested that Cameron’s ideology contains an element of one-nationism. In his 2012 Conference Speech, Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, sought to claim the phrase and apply it to Labour.
Fiscal conservatism is a politico-economic philosophy with regard to fiscal policy and the advocating of fiscal responsibility. Fiscal conservatives advocate the avoidance of deficit spending, the reduction of overall government spending and national debt, and ensuring balanced budgets. Fiscal conservatives would also support pay-as-you-go financial policies. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes, and other conservative policies are also often, but not necessarily, associated with fiscal conservatism. The key principle of Fiscal conservatism is the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt. Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, argued that a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer:
“…[I]t is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor’s security, expressed or implied…[T]he public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large.”
Fiscal conservatism in the UK was arguably most popular during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, who, after a number of years of deficit spending under the previous Labour government, advocated spending cuts and selective tax increases to balance the budget. However, despite being elected in 1979, Britain’s budget was not balanced until 1988. In 2010, as a result of the deterioration in the UK’s public finances, according to fiscal conservatives caused by another spate of deficit spending under the previous Labour government, the Late-2000s recession and by the European sovereign debt crisis, the Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition embarked on an austerity programme – featuring a combination of spending cuts and tax rises – in an attempt to halve the deficit, and completely eliminate the structural deficit over the five-year parliament.
Libertarians and Constitutionalists are natural fiscal conservatives due to their desire to reduce government spending, pay off the national debt and shrink the size and scope of government. Nevertheless, the Republican Party is most often credited with creating the fiscal conservative ideal, despite the big-spending tendencies of the most recent GOP administrations. Fiscal conservatives seek to deregulate the economy and lower taxes. Fiscal conservative politics has little or nothing to do with social issues, and it is therefore not uncommon for other conservatives to identify themselves as fiscal conservatives.
The Libertarian Party is an American national political party that reflects, represents and promotes the ideas and philosophies of libertarianism (freedom as a political end) and free-market, laissez-faire capitalism (no government interference in economy). The Libertarian Party was formed in Colorado Springs in the home of David F. Nolan on 11th December 1971. The founding of the party was prompted in part due to concerns about the Vietnam War, conscription and the end of the gold standard. Although there is not an explicitly-labeled ‘left’ or ‘right’ designation of the party, many members, such as 2012 presidential nominee Gary Johnson, state that they are more Socially Liberal than the Democrats, but more Fiscally Conservative than the Republicans. The party has generally promoted a Classical Liberal platform, in contrast to the Social Liberal and Progressive platform of the Democrats and the more Conservative platform of the Republicans. Current policy positions include lowering taxes, allowing people to opt-out of Social Security, abolishing welfare, ending the prohibition of illegal drugs (especially Cannabis) and supporting gun ownership.
In the 30 states where voters can register by party, there are a combined total of 330,811 voters registered under the party. By this count the Libertarian Party is the third-largest party by membership in the United States and it is the third-largest political party in the United States in terms of the popular vote in the country’s elections and number of candidates run per election. Due to this, it has been labelled by some as the United States’ third-largest political party. It is also identified by many as the fastest growing political party in the United States. Hundreds of Libertarian candidates have been elected or appointed to public office and thousands have run for office under the Libertarian banner. The Libertarian Party has many firsts to its credit, such as being the party under which the first electoral vote was cast for a woman in a United States presidential election, due to a faithless elector. The party has also seen electoral success in state legislative races. Three Libertarians were elected in Alaska between 1978 and 1984, with another four elected in New Hampshire in 1992.
Centre-right politics, also referred to as moderate-right politics, are politics that lean to the right of the left-right political spectrum, but are closer to the centre than other right-wing variants. From the 1780s to the 1880s, there was a shift in the Western world of social class structure and the economy, moving away from the nobility and mercantilism, and moving towards the bourgeoisie and capitalism. This general economic shift towards capitalism affected centre-right movements such as the British Conservative Party that responded by becoming supportive of capitalism. The International Democrat Union, an alliance of centre-right political parties, including the British Conservative Party, the Republican Party of the United States, the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Australia, Christian democratic parties, amongst others across the world, is committed to the principles that “democratic societies provide individuals throughout the world with the best conditions for political liberty, personal freedom, equality of opportunity and economic development under the rule of law; and therefore being committed to advancing the social and political values on which democratic societies are founded, including the basic personal freedoms and human rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; in particular, the right of free speech, organisation, assembly and non-violent dissent; the right to free elections and the freedom to organise effective parliamentary opposition to government; the right to a free and independent media; the right to religious belief; equality before the law; and individual opportunity and prosperity.”
New Right is used in several countries as a descriptive term for various policies or groups that are right-wing. It has also been used to describe the emergence of Eastern European parties after the collapse of the Soviet Union and systems using Soviet-style communism. Use of the term New Right in the United Kingdom is rather ambiguous and very different. There is National Anarchism in which perhaps most prominent figure today is an author, writer, and musician Troy Southgate; there are also independent New Right thinkers such as Alex Kurtagić and artists such as New Right chairman Jonathan Bowden. Another example of the new right (which is different from above mentioned New Right) is used today in connection with post modern neoliberal capitalist politics. New Right ideas were developed in the early eighties and took a distinctive view of elements of society such as family, education, crime and deviance. In the United Kingdom, the term New Right more specifically refers to a strand of Conservatism that the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan influenced. Thatcher’s style of New Right ideology, known as Thatcherism, was heavily influenced by the work of Friedrich Hayek (in particular the book The Road to Serfdom). They were ideologically committed to neo-liberalism as well as being socially conservative. Key policies included deregulation of business, a dismantling of the welfare state, privatization of nationalized industries and restructuring of the national workforce in order to increase industrial and economic flexibility in an increasingly global market. Similar policies were continued by the subsequent Conservative government under John Major and the mark of the New Right is evident in the New Labour government, first under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown. Influential figures include: Enoch Powell (indirectly) greatly influenced Margaret Thatcher’s Economic policy. Conservative MPs include Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister; John Redwood MP; John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe – New Right theorists who spoke about education in their book Politics, Markets and America’s Schools.
Politically, cultural conservatism is often confused with Social Conservatism. In the U.S. the term often incorrectly describes members of the religious right, because the two share ideologies on social issues. Christian Conservatives tend to like being described as Cultural Conservatives, because it implies that America is a Christian nation. True cultural conservatives worry less about religion in government and more about using politics to prevent fundamental changes to culture. The goal of cultural conservatives is to preserve and maintain the Traditional and Cultural way-of-life both at home and abroad.
Social conservatives adhere strictly to a Moral ideology based on Family-Values and Religious Traditions. For social conservatives, Christianity – often Evangelical Christianity – guides all political positions on social issues. Social conservatives are mostly right-wing and hold firmly to a Pro-Life, Pro-Family and Pro-Religion agenda. Thus, abortion and gay rights are often lightning rod issues for social conservatives. Social conservatives are the most recognized group of Conservatives in the U.S. due to their strong ties to the Republican Party.
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Blogs, Databases, Libraries, Archives.
Conservative Party Archive, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.