Future research

The central message of this book is that hybrid strategies of organization, mobilization and communication can explain the high-profile visibility of extreme-right actors, or the lack thereof. The themes that have guided the empirical analysis also have important implications for future research. Beyond specialists of the far right and experts of Italian politics, this volume offers insight into the study of political parties and social movements in general, and how to advance the methods employed in research on far-right politics.

To begin with, the results offer a plea for greater interdisciplinary dialogue between the study of political parties and social movements. In particular, our empirical analysis calls for a more nuanced reading of the distinction between movements and parties. Long appraised as separate entities in the respective literatures, the study of the interconnections between contentious and party politics can help understand the developments of the contemporary far right, and its impact on large-scale processes of social and political change (Hutter et al. 2018). We believe that the conceptualization of ‘movement parties’ (Kitschelt 2006), could help acknowledge the interconnections between far-right actors primarily seeking office positions, and grassroots groups accessing the public sphere mainly with informal means (Pirro and Castelli Gattinara 2018).

Our study of CasaPound also resonates with the increasing sociological interest over political parties, and with the growing demand for political science research on collective action and citizen protest (Hutter and Vliegenthart 2018). This seems rather compelling in the study of far-right politics at large, and with the rise of anti-austerity political actors stemming from grassroots activism and engaging in the institutional arena, such as the Movimento 5 Stelle in Italy and Podemos in Spain (Mosca and Quaranta 2017). Further research should highlight whether hybrid features and movement—party configurations may be transitory or be partly reconsidered if no longer rewarding in electoral terms. In this respect, the approach advanced in this enquiry can help understand the persistence of far-right parties and their ‘normalization’ in established democracies. The issue of ‘restyling’ of far-right ideologies and practices, in fact, has broad implications that go beyond the specific case of CasaPound, and which question the transformations of successful radical right parties in Europe.

This book has also made important contributions as regards research strategies and methodologies in studying far-right politics. The enquiry sought to reinstate the role of agency in determining far-right actors’ own fortunes, by placing internal supply-side factors at the core of the analysis. In the vast research corpus on the populist radical right these elements have been deployed predominantly as independent variables explaining electoral performance (Betz and Immerfall 1998; Carter 2005), rather than as objects of enquiry in themselves. Through its internal supply-side approach, the book advanced a framework for the analysis of far-right ideology, leadership and internal structure, and illustrated how these factors crucially define the nature of CPI’s mobilization in the streets, participation in elections and visibility in the public sphere.

The interactive analytical framework and the triangulation of different methods and data proved to be particularly helpful to analyse the electoral and non-electoral engagement of CasaPound. In this respect, this study can be listed as one of the first efforts to tackle the issues at the core of the ideology of non- party actors on the far right (Castelli Gattinara and Pirro 2018), and among the very few studies that look at the far right from the inside (see in particular Art 2011). By integrating official and unofficial data, semi-structured interviews and ‘internalist’ methods of data collection, as well as material produced for internal and external audiences, this study lay the ground for future research on the organization and strategies of right-wing parties and movements.

Overall, the theoretical, empirical and methodological insights of this volume might therefore advance avenues for future research, broadening the study of non-electoral far-right politics beyond the specific case of Italy and CasaPound, and extending the analysis of hybridization strategies comparatively.

Last thoughts

As political circumstances change, so do extreme-right politics. This simple, core statement of the book refutes simplistic understandings that still characterize most accounts of this phenomenon. With this study, we wished to advance knowledge on important continuities and changes in the contemporary extreme right.

In this respect, Cas Mudde has lately spoken of a widening chasm between far-right parties and politics (Mudde 2016), which is evidence of how nativist ideals have come to resonate across political arenas as much as across the wider public. Indeed, a variegated network of extreme- and radical right groups engaging in grassroots extra-parliamentary politics has been at the core of a new wave of xenophobic and social unrest, in the wake of the EU migration policy crisis (BenCek and Strasheim 2016; Castelli Gattinara 2018). Even though far- right collective actors like PEGIDA, CasaPound, the Identitarians or the English Defence League have not enjoyed the electoral support that established political parties like the Front National (recently Rassemblement National) or Lega Nord have, they are nonetheless contributing to the ongoing redefinition of liberal democratic values through their unconventional practices.

The notion of hybridization can help make sense of these changes. At a time when the role of ideologies in politics and the related modes of participation are rapidly changing, it is all the more important to understand the balance between continuity and change in far-right politics. Acknowledging continuity means that the contemporary extreme right will not simply reiterate its inter-war manifestations and outmoded styles. Acknowledging change means recognizing that the extreme right has not renounced some of its original features.

The political, social and cultural impacts of these developments represent one of the most pressing challenges in contemporary politics, in Europe and beyond. We maintain that only an in-depth comprehension of the internal workings, organization and strategies of contemporary extreme-right collective actors can improve our understanding of the mechanisms of cultural and value change that they have triggered. The observations included in this volume about CasaPound will thus hopefully serve as a first step for further research into the multiple electoral and non-electoral manifestations of far-right politics that may follow. Through hybridization the far right may adapt to liberal democracy, with the goal of radicalizing mainstream ideas and audiences.


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