Wednesday, May 31, 2023
logo economy journal
< view full issue: Nationalism and far right (I)
Sergio Gómez Moyano

The not-us of the Far Right and nationalism

Professor of Political Systems and Comparative Politics of the Universitat Abat Oliba CEU

The Far Right and nationalism, although they are different realities, have common attitudes. Both divide the world into two: us and the rest. 


Without a doubt, the identity of "us" is a determining aspect. Sociology teaches that the acquisition of a collective social identity is the guarantee of action and success of a group. The collective identity emerges as a group self-definition. This is, as the definition that the group makes of itself. This is what the "us" denotes. This does not mean that there is not some type of objective element that all the members of the group consider as their own. 

The idea of a nation would not make sense if there were no ethnic group, language or land with which a human group can be identified as different from the others. 

The great exaltation of these differences and the clearest demarcation of them has to be found in the Europe of Romanticism. For example, the German nationalist movement, founded principally on a common linguistic heritage, enjoyed its moment of greatest effervescence after the Napoleonic invasion. This movement led to the unification of Germany, although not all the countries of the time that spoke in German wanted to join this project. Austria, without further ado, stayed out of its own volition. A place where you can meet face to deal the ideas that inspired this nationalist movement, which can be found in the discourses to the German nation of Fichte, delivered between 1807 and 1808.

The emergence of nineteenth-century nationalisms led to immersing themselves in history and search for identity roots in the Middle Ages or even earlier. 

In the case of Germany, it reached as far back as the Roman Tacitus (55-120 AD), in whose work Germania wanted to understand that there was already a German nation, which constitutes a blatant anachronism. However, any method is valid to justify the cause itself. Even Hitler used this work to strengthen the principles of superiority of the Aryan race.

The Ultra-Right groups that are booming in Europe also refer to an "us" to stand themselves apart from the rest. The Far Right also needs an identity discourse. and this is hunted for in race, religion or language. The European Far Right is usually white, anti-globalist, Christian and a user of a language entrenched in the land itself, meaning Latin, Germanic, Slavic, and so on. In short, they usually reinforce the idea of recovering or at least not losing the values of the land itself.


All these axes of right-wing thinking can be argued for provided they really constitute a tendency on which an identity can be built; but it is not the objective of this article to position ourselves in this sense, rather to try to elucidate the reason for the rise of these movements. Simply, we should take note of the idea that this usually enshrines, for example that Christianity is purely ideological, in the sense that the concept in itself is upheld, and that it is not there as an excuse or counterweight to Islam.

Modern sociologists like to say that these types of groups are classified as reactive or resistant social movements; that is to say, those who seek to resolve the conflict with the changing environment by referring to the past and hyper-affirming traditional values. On the other hand, these same sociologists emphasize the existence of new pro-active or innovative social movements. These are what resolve the conflict between identity and difference with a flight forward to the future. Diversity is resolved in the inception of another society, of another human being. They aspire to transform the general model of social relations between people. 

The rise of nationalism and the Far Right does not come from a supposed improvement in their identity discourses, but in the problem that arouses that diversity is not part of us, This is, that which constitutes the not-us.

The western attitude of constant criticism of itself has led our culture to illustrious discoveries and great social improvements. For example, although we might think, that Marx's ideas fail in their primary analysis, there is no doubt that the social movements he provoked helped many workers improve their living conditions. Therefore, without disregarding the great achievements of our civilization, the process of postmodern social thought can be perceived as a continuous and inexorable disintegration of our society, an increasingly acute helplessness in response to globalisation.

Feminism is a global social movement that emerged in our Western cultural environment, which seems to want to blur the differences between the masculine and the feminine; despite the fact that we should acknowledge the merit of having improved the living conditions of millions of women. 

The movement for the rights of the LGTBI community also seems to want to dissolve another difference: biological and sexual, so that we human beings do not have to resolve their identity using these two concepts. However, that does not in any way take away that thanks to this there are many homosexuals who can feel that their safety is not in danger. The green or ecologist movement, perhaps in its most radical aspect, wants to blur the barrier that separates the human from the rest of the planet's beings. and this does not diminish the great work of people who manage to make humanity aware of the need for sustainability.


At the level of the actual facts -it is enough to look at the population censuses-, the population of our European countries has been modified in its composition until breaking the pre-existing social balances. Cultural factors have come into play that were not previously taken into account such as massive Muslim immigration, for example. The great European capitals have Islamic culture huge ghettos, a religion that Europe basically got to know because it fought an armed fight against it. and now co-habits with it.

The tide of majority opinion, or at least politically correct one, is of the opinion that immigration has to be accepted, either by an illustrated tradition of tolerance and solidarity, or by the feeling of guilt for colonization. 

Therefore we have to welcome foreigners, even if they are of such a nature that they contradict the values on which the society that welcomes them is based. This also dissolves the boundaries between what the general public believed they used to be, and what they no longer are, because the environment in which they live has changed too much.

On the other hand, in the minds of these people it is easy to relate to the Islamist attacks, which they see on television or have suffered in their own cities, with their Muslim neighbours.

In short, it is easy to think that the world in which we live is dissolving and that a new era is looming on the horizon. If there is a boom in the Far Right, it is because there is a greater perception of threat in the face of this perception of dissolution.

Nor is it trivial to think that this increasing tide of the Far Right started with the economic crisis. It is easy to perceive those who come from abroad as those who strip the locals of wealth, wealth that is becoming scarce because of a crisis that for the profane is difficult to understand but that hits you in your pocket.

Another cause of this flood of the far right is found in a vote of punishment for the traditional ruling elites. 

This vote of discontent is reflected in the Far Right-wing parties and other Left-Wing populisms, such as the case of Podemos in Spain or Syriza in Greece. Moreover, it is linked to the perception of the ineffectiveness of traditional parties in response to this situation of dissolution, and can even be perceived as the cause of it. The one who is suffering the most is the social democratic family, formed by parties that alternated in power with conservatives and have retreated to minor party levels or have almost disappeared, as in France.

In my view, both nationalism and the Far Right are attempts at a solution, each with its sentinel, of a conflict caused by a changing world that cannot be controlled, that gets away from us and due to its uncertainty, frightens us.



Ronda Universitat 12, 7ª Planta -08007 Barcelona
Tlf (34) 93 301 05 12
Inscrita en el Registro Mercantil de Barcelona al tomo 39.480,
folio 12, hoja B347324, Inscripcion 1




Aviso legal - Política de Cookies - Política de Privacidad - Configuración de cookies