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The Politics of Fear
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The Politics of Fear
What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean



October 2015 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Winner of the Austrian Book Prize for the 2016 German translation, in the category of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Populist right-wing politics is moving centre-stage, with some parties reaching the very top of the electoral ladder: but do we know why, and why now?

In this book Ruth Wodak traces the trajectories of such parties from the margins of the political landscape to its centre, to understand and explain how they are transforming from fringe voices to persuasive political actors who set the agenda and frame media debates. Laying bare the normalization of nationalistic, xenophobic, racist and antisemitic rhetoric, she builds a new framework for this ‘politics of fear’ that is entrenching new social divides of nation, gender and body.

The result reveals the micro-politics of right-wing populism: how discourses, genres, images and texts are performed and manipulated in both formal and also everyday contexts with profound consequences. This book is a must-read for scholars and students of linguistics, media and politics wishing to understand these dynamics that are re-shaping our political space.

 
Chapter 1: Populism and Politics: Transgressing Norms and Taboos
 
Chapter 2: Theories and Definitions: The Politics of Identity
 
Chapter 3: Protecting Borders and the People: The Politics of Exclusion
 
Chapter 4: Language and Identity: The Politics of Nationalism
 
Chapter 5: Antisemitism: The Politics of Denial
 
Chapter 6: Performance and the Media: The Politics of Charisma
 
Chapter 7: Gender and the Body Politic: The Politics of Patriarchy
 
Chapter 8: Mainstreaming: The Normalization of Exclusion

This volume is highly recommended for researchers interested in right-wing politics and gendered politics. Thus, for example, recent events (e.g. the UK Brexit Campaign, the POTUS Trump campaign, the burkini ban in France) can be investigated through the lens of the right-wing ideology, as some of its elements seem to be also pervading ‘elite’ politics, e.g. fear towards immigrants. In the last pages of her book, Wodak also leaves a clear final message with the aim of providing solutions in dismantling the politics of fear in favour of building a politics of solidarity.

Federica Formato
Journal of Gender and Power

This book is rich with examples and interesting insights regarding timely and intricate questions. It is thought-provoking and informative, full of incisive insights and sharp observations, providing a meticulous analysis of the rise of right-wing parties. It is a must-read for scholars and students of linguistics, media, and politics wishing to understand these dynamics that are shaping and reshaping our political space in this age of immigration and transition.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor
Critical Policy Studies

Wodak not only strives to say something about how a particular political debate takes place in a particular historical context, but also to reveal the underlying explanations of why and how linguistic forms - especially argumentation patterns and reasons - can become independent causative factors in historical change processes.
She attacks the core issues - about the rise of the European right-wing, and the normalization of xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism - both with historical-philosophical interest and with nomothetic aspirations.

Sosiologen.no - Norwegian Sociology Association

In her excellent The Politics of Fear, Ruth Wodak addresses the communications strategies of radical-right populist parties. Wodak shows how radical-right populist leaders use “calculated ambivalence,” in the form of statements that signal sympathy to neo-fascist, racist or anti-Semitic components of their coalitions without doing so openly, so that the (relatively) more moderate majority of their electorate can pretend their leaders – and they themselves by extension – are not racist.

Ben Margulies

I believe this book could be very useful in social work macro-practice courses. It could help students understand how politicians use rhetorical devices to communicate their content. It could help them understand the logical fallacies in much political rhetoric. Every social worker, who is concerned for social justice and bothered by policies being promoted by right-wing demagogues will find this analysis helpful in understanding how rhetorical devices are used to communicate often fallacious content.

Wayne C. Evens
Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics

The Politics of Fear does not only strengthen our understanding of how radical right politics work, but also formulates important lessons about how to deal with them.
The main strength and relevance of this book lies in its sharp analysis of what Wodak calls the ‘micro-politics’ of the populist radical right. Deploying the discourse-historical approach she has come to be identified with, Wodak connects the sharp microanalysis of texts with reflections on the meso and macro context. In each chapter, she supports her main arguments with a number of vignettes in which she takes a close look at particular discourse moments in Europe and the US.

Benjamin De Cleen
Journal of Language and Politics

This new book from Professor Wodak should be of interest to all who are seeking to understand the threat of political extremism in Europe today. It is rich with examples and interesting insights regarding timely and intricate questions. It is thought-provoking and informative, full of incisive insights and sharp observations, providing a meticulous analysis of the rise of right-wing parties. It is a must-read for scholars and students of linguistics, media, and politics wishing to understand these dynamics that are shaping and reshaping our political space in this age of immigration and transition.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor
Critical Policy Studies

The strength in the book lies in its multi-disciplinary nature, which combines political science, social linguistics, and semiotic approaches to examine the form, content, and historical context of right wing populist discourses. Wodak smoothly embeds the analysis of numerous vignettes within the appropriate historical context, providing the reader with an historical-contextual understanding of how such discourses are born and justified.

Elie Friedman
Critical Discourse Studies

All in all, this is an outstanding book for researchers and students of linguistics, politics and media and cultural studies. Wodak makes three valuable contributions to critical discourse studies in this book. Firstly, she explores the micro-politics of right-wing populist parties, showing in great detail how fear-evoking right-wing exclusionary agendas and ideologies are produced in everyday politics through various forms of media. Secondly, she utilizes data from different genres gathered from several countries and analyses them in a detailed and thought-provoking way. This analysis sets a good example for other discourse analysts to do sufficient linguistic analysis. Thirdly, she exposes the relationships between right-wing discourses and anti-Semitism, charisma, and gender. It’s noteworthy that gendered discourses in right wing rhetoric are highlighted in the book, as this issue has been under-researched in previous studies.

 

Qingkai Ma, Zhejiang University, P.R. China
Discourse & Communication

Wodak’s highly readable comparative study of right-wing populist rhetoric focuses on the mainstreaming strategies and anti-immigration rhetoric employed in the context of the European far right, extending to the US Tea Party and Republican anti-abortion debates. What distinguishes her insightful analysis of broadly shared trends across Europe and America is not only its geographical range, but also an innovative format that operates on two levels at once, alternating between macro-rubrics such as identity politics, exclusion, nationalism or patriarchy and their particular situative micro-contexts. Fifteen vignettes provide detailed snapshots of political situations in specific countries, ranging from Austria to Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Helga Druxes
Discourse & Society

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