Reconciling national and supranational identities: civilizationism in European far-right discourse

2022, Perspectives on Politics

How do European far-right parties reconcile their longstanding nationalism with their allegiance to European “civilization”? While certainly not contradictory, simultaneously adopting national and supranational identities requires considerable discursive maneuvering to articulate clearly. I argue the far right negotiates the boundaries between its national and supranational identities through two discursive mechanisms, abstraction and embedding, which present civilizationism as nonthreatening to, and partially constituted by, nationalism. Specifically, abstraction links European civilization to general features of a shared heritage, while embedding connects civilization to elements of the nationalist repertoire. I demonstrate the far right’s monopolization of civilizational discourse and use of these twin mechanisms through quantitative and qualitative analyses of more than 1,000 party manifestos and more than 650,000 tweets. These findings contribute to the growing scholarly literature that treats civilizations as supranational “imagined communities” and has implications for the study of nationalism, civilizationism, and the far right.