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The Politics of Fear

The Politics of Fear
The Shameless Normalization of Far-Right Discourse

Second Edition
  • Ruth Wodak - Lancaster University, UK, University of Lancaster, UK

October 2020 | 360 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Far-right populist politics have arrived in the mainstream. 

We are now witnessing the shameless normalization of a political discourse built around nationalism, xenophobia, racism, sexism, antisemitism and Islamophobia. But what does this change mean? What caused it? And how does far-right populist discourse work? 

The Politics of Fear traces the trajectory of far-right politics from the margins of the political landscape to its very centre. It explores the social and historical mechanisms at play, and expertly ties these to the “micro-politics” of far-right language and discourse. 

From speeches to cartoons to social media posts, Ruth Wodak systematically analyzes the texts and images used by these groups, laying bare the strategies, rhetoric and half-truths the far-right employ. The revised second edition of this best-selling book includes:
  • A range of vignettes analyzing specific instances of far-right discourse in detail.
  • Expanded discussion of the “normalization” of far-right discourse.
  • A new chapter exploring the challenges to liberal democracy.
  • An updated glossary of far-right parties and movements.
  • More discussion of the impact of social media on the rise of the far-right.

Critical, analytical and impassioned, The Politics of Fear is essential reading for anyone looking to understand how far-right and populist politics have moved into the mainstream, and what we can do about it. 

Populism and Politics: Transgressing Norms and Taboos
Theories and Definitions: The Politics of Identity
Protecting Borders and the People: The Politics of Exclusion
Language and Identity: The Politics of Nationalism
Antisemitism: The Politics of Denial
Performance and the Media: The Politics of Charisma
Gender and the Body Politic: The Politics of Patriarchy
‘Illiberal Democracy’ and Neo-Authoritarianism: Shameless Normalization of Far-right Populism
Mainstreaming Far-right Populism
Glossary of Far-right Populist Parties

A masterwork. Ruth Wodak analyses and explains how far-right populist parties use fear in their political discourses and provides a template for future studies of far-right populism.

Professor Cas Mudde
The University of Georgia

Through sharp and lucid analysis based on a wealth of examples and case studies, the second edition of Ruth Wodak’s masterly The Politics of Fear provides readers from all backgrounds with the essential tools to fully grasp the threat the far right poses and the role the mainstream has played in its rise.

Dr Aurelien Mondon
University of Bath

The first edition of The Politics of Fear was an important book but this revised edition is even more important. Ruth Wodak shows how shamelessly successful right-wing populism has become, as it takes ideas from the far right and makes them appear as the new normal. Wodak analyses this dangerous, divisive politics with sustained brilliance.

Michael Billig
Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences at Loughborough University

Given international developments, the new edition of this classic study of the discourses of the extreme right is more relevant even than the first edition, in which Ruth Wodak continues a long and eminent trajectory of research on racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and patriarchy. This specific book is especially timely because it describes and explains in great detail the discursive and social mechanisms of the growing influence of extremist right-wing ideologies, policies and politics in Europe. This is Critical Discourse Analysis at its best.

Teun A. van Dijk
Professor at Pompeu Fabra University, and Director of The Centre of Discourse Studies

The Politics of Fear is sadly more timely than ever. Ruth Wodak’s critical analysis provides clear insights as to why and how in a world that benefits from the free flow of goods, ideas and people, exclusionary nationalism and populism are gaining ground. 

Professor Anna Triandafyllidou
Ryerson University

An ambitious and unflinching scholarly analysis of the discursive world of right-wing populist movements in Europe. At a time when such movements have rapidly and dramatically shifted from the periphery to the parliament, Wodak’s clear-eyed analysis has never been more urgent or important. Understanding the symbols, myths and languages deployed by such movements is key to interpreting their widespread popularity and their narrow, and often hostile, vision of Europe’s future. 

Associate Professor Benjamin Isakhan
Deakin University

In a masterful synthesis, Ruth Wodak combines argumentation theory, rhetorical and discourse-historical analysis to the resurgent discourses of right-wing populism, racism, sexism and xenophobia in Europe and the US. A highly topical insight into and inditement of the politics of fear and exclusionism.

Andreas Musolff
University of East Anglia

One of the most respected and influential discourse analysts of our time offers a thorough characterization of far-right populism and its political strategies. Wodak explains the processes that have led to the rise of what she calls “shameless normalization” with examples from all over the world: from political speeches, to tweets, to posters. An essential reading for all interested in the intersections between discourse, politics and social life in our post-digital societies.

Anna De Fina
Professor at Georgetown University

A must read for those interested in intersectionality in far-right populist discourse. It covers the politics of racialization, gender, nationalism, populism and authoritarianism, unites their intersections within the framework of a discursively constructed far-right populist ideology, and traces how this ideology challenges the traditional script of liberal democracy.

Özgür Özvatan
Humboldt University of Berlin
Journal of Language and Politics

Wodak’s rich and detailed descriptions of right-wing populist rhetoric and identification of its key tropes, continuities, frames, strategies, and topoi make this book indispensable for any discourse-based approach to the topic. It is certainly possible to theorise the current conjuncture differently, but the depth of her engagement with far-right politicians and their utterances across national contexts and time frames is profoundly valuable.

Scott Burnett
University of Gothenburg
Language in Society

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