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Publication date: 30 September 2020

Mathieu Hikaru Desan

The growth of the nationalist right in Europe and the United States has set off a debate over whether “economic anxiety” or “racial resentment” is at the root of this…

Abstract

The growth of the nationalist right in Europe and the United States has set off a debate over whether “economic anxiety” or “racial resentment” is at the root of this phenomenon. Examining the case of the French National Front, I suggest that this is a poor way of posing the question of the significance of class in explaining the rise of the nationalist right. Recent advances by the National Front—particularly among working-class voters—have tended to be attributed to the party's strategic pivot toward a “leftist” economic program and an embrace of the republican tradition. This in turn has been critically interpreted in two different ways. Some take the FN’s strategic pivot at face value and see the party's success as the expression of a new political cleavage between cosmopolitanism and communitarianism. Others see the National Front's embrace of republicanism as a cynical ploy hiding its true face. Both interpretations, however, point to a strategy of “republican defense” as a means to counteract the National Front. I argue that this strategy is likely to misfire and that class remains central to explaining—and countering—the rise of the National Front, albeit in a peculiar way. Working-class support for the National Front does indeed appear to be driven primarily by ethno-cultural, not class, interests, but this is itself predicated on a historical decline in the political salience of class due to the neoliberal depoliticization of the economy. I argue that it was this disarticulation of class identity that helped deliver the working-class vote to the National Front and that any strategy for combating the nationalist right must thus find new ways to articulate a class identity capable of neutralizing racist and chauvinist articulations.

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Rethinking Class and Social Difference
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83982-020-5

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Book part
Publication date: 30 September 2020

Barry Eidlin and Michael A. McCarthy

Social class has long existed in tension with other forms of social difference such as race, gender, and sexuality, both in academic and popular debate. While…

Abstract

Social class has long existed in tension with other forms of social difference such as race, gender, and sexuality, both in academic and popular debate. While Marxist-influenced class primacy perspectives gained prominence in US sociology in the 1970s, they faded from view by the 1990s, replaced by perspectives focusing on culture and institutions or on intersectional analyses of how multiple forms of social difference shape durable patterns of disempowerment and marginalization. More recently, class and capitalism have reasserted their place on the academic agenda, but continue to coexist uneasily with analyses of oppression and social difference. Here we discuss possibilities for bridging the gap between studies of class and other forms of social difference. We contend that these categories are best understood in relation to each other when situated in a larger system with its own endogenous dynamics and tendencies, namely capitalism. After providing an historical account of the fraught relationship between studies of class and other forms of social difference, we propose a theoretical model for integrating understandings of class and social difference using Wright et al.‘s concept of dynamic asymmetry. This shifts us away from discussions of which factors are most important in general toward concrete discussions of how these factors interact in particular cases and processes. We contend that class and other forms of social difference should not be studied primarily as traits embodied in individuals, but rather with respect to how these differences are organized in relation to each other within a framework shaped by the dynamics of capitalist development.

Details

Rethinking Class and Social Difference
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83982-020-5

Keywords

Content available
Book part
Publication date: 30 September 2020

Abstract

Details

Rethinking Class and Social Difference
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83982-020-5

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