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The Politics of Fear
What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean
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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.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Ruth Wodak's work is distinguished by its capacity to address the theme in a manner transferable to different countries, in a way that circles the general characteristics as well as the contextual elements. Moreover, the author brings to attention populist rhetoric among current right-wing parties, by giving examples from the United States and European countries. -- Rachele Raus * http://journals.openedition.org/aad/2552 * Politics of Fear is a modern book that - in both an Austrian and International context - conveys a highly topical and discursive analysis of right-wing populism -- Tim Corbett Wodak's new book addresses the emerging phenomenon of the rise of far right parties' popularity that is sweeping a series of countries around the world. Her work provides an insightful contribution to the understanding of the discursive and social mechanisms of extremist right-wing ideologies and politics.
The book is a compelling and inspiring work that addresses one of the most worrisome trends of our times. Wodak's academic prominence in the field is once again demonstrated in her latest work that came just when it was needed the most
? -- Dimitra Dimitrakopoulou 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Ruth Wodak's The Politics of Fear provides a vital contribution to our understanding of the current right-wing resurgence in Europe - coming just when this is needed most. Its urgent and impressive (if disturbing) analysis of how language is employed to move forward ideologies of exclusion will be of great interest to migration scholars and anyone interested in populist discourses; racism and xenophobia; or the politics of the far right in Europe. -- Dr Emma L Briant Wodak takes us through the stages that led to the normalisation of nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-refugee political and public discourse in the UK, Europe and the US. With such discourses playing on and with our fears, Wodak argues, we must stop being so damn scared and finally come to understand the "rhetorical traps" being set by right-wing ideologues. With the recent re-emergence of the "politics of terror", her clearly written antidote could not be more timely. -- Aniko Horvath, postdoctoral research associate in the School of Social Science and Public Policy, King's College London In this very timely book, Ruth Wodak uncovers the ideological and rhetorical strategies of the contemporary radical right. The clever design of vignettes permits Wodak to dig deeply into carefully selected case studies, thereby providing details to the overall themes that are outlined in the book. This should be required reading for everyone interested in what is going on today in European politics and beyond. -- Jens Rydgren The Politics of Fear is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the rise of right wing populist parties across Europe. It combines a rich overview of politics with penetrating language analysis. Through examination of texts from a range of media - including cartoons, posters and facebook postings - Ruth Wodak raises our awareness of the full range of populist rhetorical strategies. The author who is a renowned authority in the field enhances the accessibility of this elegantly crafted account through 15 `vignettes': case studies of specific instances of right wing populist discourse. -- Jonathan Charteris-Black 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 With an assured hand, Ruth Wodak takes readers into the darker corners of right-wing populism today. Complimenting her analysis of exclusionary discourse and ideology are a series of isolated key statements by leading ideologues, as well as 15 localised vignettes revealing the diverse ways in which far right parties aim to gain legitimation through scapegoating, faux-authenticity, and oftentimes hypocritical hostility to elites. The result is a finely balanced study; one that is both accessible and scholarly rigorous. The Politics of Fear's shrewd discussion of a resurgent nationalism, xenophobia and chauvinism in diverse European and American context is timely, wide-ranging and highly recommended. -- Prof. Matthew Feldman European right wing populist parties insistently claim their 'normality' and have become so common place that many are tempted to believe them. In this context, with her trademark rigour and precision, Wodak gives us a fascinating insight into what makes their discourse so unique and so different from their rivals. Her compelling analysis of the linguistic construction of scapegoats and of the 'arrogance of ignorance' will influence our understanding of right wing extremism for a long time to come. -- Michael Bruter Ruth Wodak's timely new book is both politically and intellectually important. Using close linguistic analysis and impressively deep political insight, Wodak takes apart the strategies, rhetoric and half-truths of today's right-wing populists. All who are disturbed by current political trends in Europe and America should read The Politics of Fear. -- Michael Billig This is an outstanding book. Ruth Wodak has managed to address a very wide range of countries, right-wing parties and political genres, but without sacrificing detailed and rigorous analysis. Vital reading, for students and scholars of politics and critical discourse analysis. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. -- John Richardson Professor Wodak's new book 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