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Varieties of Exclusion: The European Far Right and Gender and Sexuality Politics

by Aaron Irion

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When the Covid-19 pandemic unleashed havoc on the global economy in the early 2020s, followed by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there was a sense among some academics and pundits that we were witnessing a paradigm shift, the last nail in the coffin of the so-called “end of history,” and the effects which it wrought. But some years removed from the height of that pandemic we can comfortably say that if any shift has occurred, it has moved us closer to an interregnum than a new frontier, while moving liberal democracies closer to the brink than they have been in years. Facing the hard constraints of inflation, low growth, and war on its doorstep, the contours of European politics in 2024 have seemingly inched back towards the material questions that dominated much of the last century, and away from the post-material concerns that characterized the last thirty-odd years.

Thus, while hard constraints have increasingly been placed on the continent, European politics continue to be circumscribed in large part by a pervasive post-materiality, bounding them within sociocultural strictures. As Minkenberg and Végh recently noted, identity politics—a key expression of this phenomenon—today “constitutes a mainstream phenomenon rivaling the historical centrality of socioeconomic issues.” This is true in Western Europe, where identity politics was not so long ago a “niche phenomenon,” and it is even more true in Central and Eastern Europe today, where it is the “central rationale of the interaction between the radical right and the political mainstream.” That is to say, the post-material political climate is hegemonic across the continent.

The goal of this project was to map that terrain, focusing on the posture of many of these reactionary forces—those which we have, largely following Pirro, labeled “far right”—and the ways in which they contest issues in this domain. Here, we survey each European country, trace the origins and contours of its legal landscape as it pertains to women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, and chronicle the far-right forces in the country and how they position themselves vis-à-vis these rights. Each brief can be read in a stand-alone fashion, but observed collectively one sees patterns that extend across borders.