The ideology and actions of the far right are often portrayed as an anomaly that is the very antithesis of liberal democracy or general nationalist conceptions: in many countries the authorities, political actors and the media claim that these ‘extremists’ have nothing to do with ‘us’, with ‘our’ values, with ‘good’ patriotism or nationalism, and so on… There’s not point in denying the singularity of the far right: for example, the Nazis’ genocidal antisemitism was not the same as the prevailing forms of European antisemitism back in the early 20th c., but the two were still related and mutually reinforcing, of course.

Thus at the same time, in spite of this ‘relative autonomy’, there’s a mutual relation between the far right and the ‘mainstream’ sociopolitical order. On the one hand, the far right cannot be viewed as an anomaly coming out of nowhere: it is to a large extent an outgrowth (note how ‘outgrowth’ doesn’t imply that there’s nothing unique about it but that it comes out..) of the prevailing ideologies, political history and social relations of domination. On the other hand, the far right influences to varying degrees the society it came out of, in a kind of feedback loop or motion.

Postcolonial Racism(s)

The long and violent history of racism(s) is one of the very foundations that makes far right ideology and politics possible (in addition to the social destruction/fragmentation/alienation caused by capitalism and its crisis-prone nature, obviously). I’m focusing here on contemporary racism, and it goes without saying that so much has already been said and written on this topic. This is only a set of summary notes, with some of the key concepts as I see it now.

Following Sortir du capitalisme, I define racism as “an inegalitarian division, both material (division of capitalist labour, legal status, geopolitical power relations, discrimination, police violence) and ideological (relatively autonomous from racist relations of domination), of humanity into ‘races’.” The so-called ‘races’ are of course not real biological categories but “the products/outcomes of political, economic and ideological processes of racialization“, i.e. constructing and assigning essentialized traits/attributes to human life, based on racist ideology: it is the socially constructed process of categorization that otherizes and inferiorizes (in a word, dehumanizes) a specific group.

Importantly, racialization and capitalist social relations must be understood/defined as mutually constitutive: this is what the renewed theoretical discussion inspired (in part) by Cedric J. Robinson’s 1983 Black Marxism, has highlighted. For a very useful overview/guide, I recommend Alana Lentin’s Introduction to Racial Capitalism. This is of course part of a broader history of critical theory/literature – the Black Radical Tradition and “Critical Race Theory” – which goes all the way back to W.E.B. Du Bois. In his book Neoliberal Apartheid, Andy Clarno sums up some essential concepts and arguments (in the context of the regimes in South Africa and Palestine/Israel):

Intellectuals involved in abolitionist, antiracist, anticolonial, Third Worldist, communist, transnational feminist, and antiglobalization struggles have offered penetrating critiques of the interlocking systems of racism and capitalism. Among the most important early scholars, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, and Eric Williams stand out for demonstrating that industrial capitalism was built on a foundation of colonialism and slavery. Within American sociology, black radicals such as Du Bois, St. Claire Drake, Horace Cayton, and Oliver Cromwell Cox established a foundation for academic research on the entanglements of racism and capitalism. Beginning in the 1980s, Cedric Robinson drew on their work to articulate a theory of racial capitalism. Although debates about the relationship between racism and capitalism have not produced a unified theoretical framework, they have generated a set of powerful tools (…)

At the core of the concept of racial capitalism—as I use the term—is the recognition that racialization and capital accumulation are mutually constitutive processes that combine in dynamic, context-specific formations. The study of racial capitalism thus draws attention to the colonial conquests, imperial rule, and coercive labor regimes that have always been integral to the accumulation of capital and the formation of racialized social structures. Although there is debate about whether racism preceded or emerged alongside the capitalist world economy, capitalism consistently operates through racial projects that assign differential value to human life and labor. Yet racism cannot be reduced to an effect of capitalism; rather, processes of racial formation are relatively autonomous from and constitutive of capital accumulation. While white supremacy may intensify exploitation by devaluing Black labor, it can also generate “necropolitical” projects that equate the security of the white population with the elimination of Black, indigenous, or other devalued populations.

Analyzing racial capitalism challenges us to recognize the centrality of two crucial but often-overlooked aspects of capitalism: accumulation by dispossession and coercive labor regimes. Dispossessing people of their land and resources is not merely a precursor to capitalism but rather a constant, normal strategy of capital accumulation—from the English commons and the conquest of the Americas to the Iraqi oil fields and the privatization of public goods. In South Africa and Palestine/Israel, therefore, forcible dispossession is not merely a settler colonial strategy but also a racialized process of capital accumulation. Similarly, violent forms of labor exploitation such as slavery, sharecropping, indentured servitude, debt peonage, convict labor, and sweatshops are not aberrations but integral features of capitalism. Alongside the forcible exploitation of racially devalued populations, racial capitalist strategies often involve exclusionary efforts to reserve jobs for privileged groups. The histories of racial capitalism in South Africa and Palestine/Israel demonstrate the shifting relationship between coercive exploitation and exclusionary protection.

Moreover, racial capitalism generates complex interconnections between dispossession and exploitation. Sometimes dispossession leads directly to exploitation, as demonstrated by the enclosure of the English commons or the transatlantic slave trade. Yet dispossession can also generate abandonment, expulsion, or genocide rather than exploitation. As Saskia Sassen explains, global capitalism today operates through a “logic of expulsion” that increasingly dispossesses people of jobs, homes, lands, and welfare benefits. In much of the world, including South Africa and Palestine/Israel, neoliberal restructuring has intensified both exploitation and abandonment by producing surplus populations that exist at the margins of the capitalist economy where widespread structural unemployment exacerbates the exploitation of the precariously employed.

Andy Clarno (2017) Neoliberal Apartheid: Palestine/Israel and South Africa After 1994. University of Chicago Press, p. 8-10.

Therefore, while racism/racialization is central to capitalism, it cannot be reduced to a question of class, i.e. it is relatively autonomous from the domination of capital over labor. This is one of the theoretical/critical traps (#1 or #1+#2) that Sortir du capitalisme warns against when conceptualising racism:

  • Economic reductionism: deducing ‘races’ from the categories of capital (e.g. “surplus population”)
  • Functionalism: deducing the process of racialization based on their function “for” capital (e.g. ‘dividing’ the working class or class consciousness)
  • Idealist (or semiological) reductionism: separating ‘races’ from the real, material world by viewing it as mainly a discursive phenomenon/fact
  • Objectivism: viewing racialised groups as passive objects of racism, whereas they are rather actors (note: the point of the word ‘actor’ in social science is that it highlights agency, i.e. active subjects even if constrained by socio-economic circumstances) in an antagonistic power relation, potentially capable of abolishing themselves as a ‘race’ by abolishing the racist system itself

Another useful contribution comes from the work of Reza Zia-Ebrahimi [see the list included below], who has studied the parallel histories and processes of antisemitism and Islamophobia. He argues that we can identify three forms of racialization: biological racialization, religio-cultural racialization, and importantly – he thinks this third one has been understudied/undertheorized – conspiratorial racialization. And quite intuitively, he says that usually there’s a hybrid racialization combining elements from those three forms. For example, in a specific case of Islamophobia, he says that the “religio-cultural racism [of racist offenders/aggressors] manifests itself based on visually identifying the victim as belonging to a racialized group” (2021, p. 27, translated).

His concept of conspiratorial racialization is particularly interesting, here’s how he defines it (note: some of his examples of conspiratorial racialization include Nazi antisemitism and genocidal Serbian Islamophobia):

the essentialization of a large and arguably diverse population into a monolithic group animated by only one will, that of dominating Europe and ultimately obliterating western civilization

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi (2018), p. 6.

These conspiracy theories, far from being instrumental manifestations of racism, are an integral part of racialization strategies, because they assign behavioral traits to Jews and Muslims, in particular an innate and congenital instinct for collective conspiracy, an instinct considered (…) so fundamental to the individual’s nature that it leads him to conspire even against his will. These conspiracist viewpoints represent the ultimate stage of racialisation, since they are no longer satisfied with othering the Jewish or Muslim populations: they elevate them to the status of an existential threat to ‘Western civilisation’. This stage of racialisation is central to the justification of physical violence against them, a violence that is then presented as a legitimate defence against civilisational genocide.

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi (2021), p. 29-30. Translated.
  • Reza Zia-Ebrahimi (2021) Antisémitisme & islamophobie. Une histoire commune. Éditions Amsterdam.

His contribution is definitely useful and interesting, I’d just add that, as the genocidal Hindutva movement in India demonstrates, conspiratorial Islamophobia isn’t limited to Western racists afraid of the supposedly imminent destruction of “Western civilisation”. And examples could probably be found regarding antisemitism. The logic of his argument and conception isn’t diminished by this caveat, of course… On the other hand, the whole conspiracist dimension of racism/racialization is related to critical theories of antisemitism and racism, which I’ll briefly mention now.

A really important perspective on antisemitism and racism is the critical theories that originated in the Frankfurt School and have since developed into some crucial contributions to the theorization of racism – and especially its structural status as part of the capitalist social totality. In my article on antisemitism, I included summaries of T. Adorno’s and M. Postone’s “initial” contributions to the critical theory of antisemitism. You can read this summary in part 2 of this article by Christian Fuchs, from which I’ve selected an important passage regarding Postone’s argument:

Commodity fetishism is a form of appearance in which the abstract sociality of commodities is split-off from its concreteness: only the immediate concrete (the good one consumes, the money one holds in the hand) is taken as reality. This immediate concrete obscures the existence of the more abstract, not directly visible social relations behind the immediate phenomena.
Postone says that in the anti-Semitic ideology, the dual character of the commodity of use-value and value is “’doubled’ in the form of money (the manifest form of value) and of the commodity (the manifest form of use-value). Although the commodity as a social form embodies both value and use-value, the effect of this externalization is that the commodity appears only as its use-value dimension, as purely material. Money, on the other hand, appears as the sole repository of value, as the source and locus of the purely abstract, rather than as the externalized manifest form of the value dimension of the commodity form itself” (Postone 2003, 91).
Postone argues that modern anti-Semitism is a biologisation and naturalisation of the commodity fetish. It would be based on the “notion that the concrete is ‘natural’” and that the “natural” is “more ‘essential’ and closer to origins” (Postone 1980, 111). “Industrial capital then appears as the linear descendent of ‘natural’ artisanal labor”, “industrial production” appears as “a purely material, creative process” (Postone 1980, 110). Ideology separates industrial capital and industrial labour from the sphere of circulation, exchange and money that is seen as “parasitic” (Postone 1980, 110). In Nazi ideology, the “manifest abstract dimension is also biologized—as the Jews. The opposition of the concrete material and the abstract becomes the racial opposition of the Arians and the Jews” (Postone 1980, 112). Modern anti-Semitism is a one-sided “critique” of capitalism that sees the sphere of circulation as totality of capitalism, biologistically inscribes Jewishness into circulation and into capitalism, and excludes technology and industry—that are perceived as being productive and Aryan—from capitalism. In Nazi ideology, capitalism “appeared to be only its manifest abstract dimension, which was in turn held responsible for the economic social, and cultural changes associated with the rapid development of modern industrial capitalism” (Postone 2003, 93)
Anti-Semitism identifies the negative changes, dislocations and deterritorialisations associated with capitalism, such as urbanisation, proletarianisation, individualisation, technification, and detraditionalisation, with the abstract side of capitalism that is perceived as the powerful universality of capitalism, socialism or some other phenomenon. “Capitalism appeared to be only in its manifest abstract dimension which, in turn, was responsible for the whole range of concrete social and cultural changes associated with the rapid development of modern industrial capitalism” (Postone 1980, 112).

Although the “structural anti-semitism” argument – which the German Wertkritik has pushed most strikingly/consistently (but wasn’t what Ardono had argued) – is not sufficient on its own (to properly understand antisemitism) and has some important theoretical flaws, nobody can deny that this reconceptualisation of the relation between antisemitism and capitalism constituted a theoretical revolution. Building on from this, some authors have extended the analysis of racialization based on the critique of fetishistic forms of capitalist society beyond the case of antisemitism, while also discussing it further. It’s crucial reading! Here is what I’ve come across so far (and liked/found relevant):

And here are a few quotes from these articles, to give you a glimpse/~summary of what they’re about:

Through a dialectical synthesis of insights from Fanon and Postone, we are able to advance our understanding of racial capitalism as a global form, by showing how the pair of antisemitism and antiblack racism find their political potency in their ability to offer racial proxies for the basic structure of capitalist social relations. Following Postone (1993), I take that basic structure not to be class but rather the alienated structure of social action, under its domination by the dictate to valorise capital. This structure of alienation appears in a polarised pair of fetishes, representing abstract value and abstract labour not as two sides of the same coin, which they are, but as two separate kinds of powers. On the one hand, a denatured, abstract will that has no body, but controls other lives through hidden operations. On the other hand, a brute biological force that lacks self-governing will and is thus in need of socialising violence to make it useful to civil society. The ideological pair of antisemitism and antiblack racism gives us human proxies for these fetish forms, casting the pathologies of modernity not as the outcome of a structure of alienation, but as the powers of antisocial racial types. That is how antiblack racism is such a recurrent figment of global modernity.

Hylton White (2020), How is capitalism racial? Fanon, critical theory and the fetish of antiblackness, Social Dynamics, 46:1, 24.

In my book Alien Capital, I argue that a settler colonial ideology of romantic anticapitalism constructs Asians as the racialized embodiment of the destructive abstractions of capitalism by projecting a kind of perverse, excessive efficiency onto their bodies. Figured alternatively as cheap labor or as efficient model minorities, Asian racialization has consistently turned on notions of excessive economism. The economism of Asian racialization is rooted in the nineteenth-century temporal alignment of fungible Chinese bodies with abstract labor. White settler ideology hypostatized the concrete, pure, and organic dimensions of white labor and leisure time, while identifying capitalism solely with the abstract dimensions of the antinomy, personified by Chinese labor. In the context of railroad building, the temporal excess associated with Chinese bodies through their higher rate of exploitation was combined with the perversity connected to the nonreproductive spheres of Chinese homosocial domesticity. This rendered Chinese labor a quantitative, temporal threat to the qualitative and normative temporality of white social reproduction. The temporally excessive and fungible character of Chinese labor was the foundation on which Asians have been associated with a destructive value regime.

Similarly, before the expulsion and relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the west coast into internment camps during the Second World War, we can also observe the development of an increasingly unnatural, mechanical abstraction attributed to the Japanese. Building on Colleen Lye’s argument that Japanese Americans were associated with monopoly capital, I argue that the association of Japanese labor with the modernizing displacements of technological innovation fed the perception that Japanese labor monopolized the creation of relative surplus value. Here, Japanese labor is associated with a destructive value regime that threatened white agriculture and the fishing industry.

On the flip side of the economic abstraction tied to Asian racialization, romantic anticapitalism imagines Indigenous peoples as entirely outside of capitalism or time, inviting a white settler colonial identification with the Indigenous that Shari Huhndorf calls “going Native.” Today’s white supremacists, too, sometimes idealize Indigeneity. In an interview with New Stateman, a self-described ecofascist claimed that “the import of these non-Europeans have brought in people who do not share the same respect for nature and especially not animals. Nor do they have the connection to the soil the natives have.” In the massacres committed in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, in 2019, the gunmen similarly justified the killing of immigrants as “protecting nature.” In the frame of romantic anticapitalism, non-European immigrants represent an abstract yet existential threat that is counterpoised with the concrete purity of Indigenous peoples and their connection to land. Of course, so-called white people are not indigenous to North America either. This is one reason white settler cultural identity is so heavily invested in appropriating Indigeneity. From Dances with Wolves to Avatar, white men are not only allied with Indigenous struggles against frontier violence and resource extraction but are revealed as “true” Natives, “ironically demonstrat[ing] white superiority even as [they] go native.” This mode of going native functions to erase the history of colonial invasion and genocide by reimagining a natural affiliation to land.

It is important to recognize the racist scope of this form of romantic anticapitalism. As an illustrative example, Huhndorf offers the surprising account of the publication of The Education of Little Tree, the autobiography of a Cherokee man that garnered praise for its sensitive and “true depiction of Cherokee beliefs and ways of life.” It was eventually discovered that the identity of the author, who went by the pseudonym Forrest Carter, was none other than Asa (Ace) Earl Carter, described as a “Klu Klux Klan terrorist, right-wing radio announcer, home-grown American fascist and anti-Semite” who was the speechwriter for Governor George Wallace’s racist 1965 speech opposing desegregation. Huhndorf reveals how nativist white supremacy can literally take the racial form of the “Native.” As she explains, “going Native” ultimately “serves to regenerate white society and naturalize its power.” Through the irrationality of romantic anticapitalism, the double character of the commodity is thus externalized as an antinomy of concrete and abstract dimensions, racially manifesting as an opposition between an abstract-value dimension associated with Asians and a qualitatively concrete dimension of Indigeneity. Settler whiteness, which has no biological substance beyond the political right to exclusive possession, actively strives to form a concrete body by eliminating and replacing the Indigenous.

Iyko Day (2020) The Yellow Plague and Romantic Anticapitalism. Monthly Review, 72: 3.

The German Marxist and feminist theorist Roswitha Scholz argues that the particularly modern form of contemporary anti-Gypsyism can be traced to capitalist conditions of existence termed value production and value dissociation. Those who are identified as “gypsies” are forced to embody characteristics and ways of life that threaten the foundation upon which bourgeois society rests.

To explain Scholz’s line of reasoning we must begin with Karl Marx’s critique of political economy. According to Marx, capital should be defined as self-expanding value. A prerequisite for the accumulation of capital is the access to a commodity “whose use value possesses the quality of being a source of value“. Furthermore, this commodity must have the capacity to produce more value than it consumes. The only commodity that has this quality is, again according to Marx, labour power. Hence, a central condition for the reproduction of capitalism as a historical system is to (re)produce access to labour power. In the section “So-called primitive accumulation”, Marx analyses capitalist expansion in British society. He shows how the creation of labour power was an inherently violent process that required the establishment of the worker “free in the double sense”. On the one hand the worker must be recognized as legally free to sell his or her labour power. This means that the worker is free to sell labour power on a market without being attached to a single feudal lord or slave owner. On the other hand, workers must be “robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements”. This fundamental condition determines “rule of law” as a central form-determination of the bourgeois state. This means that the state, through the use of repression and legal measures, works to remove alternative forms of supply that threaten labour supply. It is ultimately because the state has this controlling function that it cannot accept either begging in public spaces or settlements on private property – not because of concern for those who beg in the streets or sleep in a trailer or in a tent. “The Gypsy” appears, through the stereotyped notion of a person who stands outside the labour market and the formal economy as unwilling to become “one of us” or to contribute according to the rules of the game, and is therefore portrayed as a bad role model for the “well-behaved” disciplined ideal worker that must be reproduced.

However, modern everyday life is full of activities that are encouraged despite not being part of the role ascribed to wage labour. Scholz argues that this is because total commodification would mean the collapse of a system based on general commodity production. This is why capitalist society is of necessity divided into a sphere of production, dominated by the law of value, and a reproductive sphere of value dissociation, dominated by qualities with female connotations such as care and nurture. Without the unpaid reproductive work that is carried out daily, capital would fail to reproduce labour power. In other words, the reproduction of capital requires activities based on principles opposed to those of the law of value. For this reason a crucial aim is to ensure that activities outside of value relations are adapted to serve the expansion of value, that is, to become an integral part of value production in the form of value dissociation. The function of the bourgeois state as “rule of law” must therefore, of necessity, be complemented by the function of the welfare state, i.e. a state that through various instruments links social rights and social security to activities in line with the inner logic of capital.

From the vantage point of value-dissociation the stereotype image of “the Gypsy” is one of an incomprehensible and therefore intimidating figure

Hanna Bäckström, Johan Örestig & Annika Persson (2016) The EU migrant debate as ideology: Social rights, obligations and responsibility in the capitalist welfare state. Eurozine.

The Mainstreaming of Far Right Ideology

Another important dimension of contemporary racist ideology is the general switch – both in the ‘mainstream’ and within the far right – towards a predominantly culturalist (also called ‘ethno-pluralist’ or ‘differentialist’) rather than racialist (characterized by biologism and scientism) framework. That isn’t to say that biological racialization disappeared, rather that it stopped being the main form of racism.

Indeed, specific instances and attempts of racist actors reviving so-called ‘race science’ shouldn’t be overlooked, because they’ve already had some atrocious consequences. In the U.S. particularly, some influential (racist) authors actually influenced the policy/government level in the context of the (barbaric) ‘War on Crime’ in the 80’s and 90’s. Psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein worked with political scientists James Q. Wilson (1985, Crime and Human Nature: The Definitive Study of the Causes of Crime) and Charles Murray (1994, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and and Class Structure in American Life) to make up a pseudoscientific and social darwinist argument for eliminating welfare policies, including the notion that some ‘races’ are inherently – biologically/genetically – less intelligent (in terms of IQ, a bullshit concept/measure anyway). In a 1995 piece, Jim Naureckas argued that the media had contributed to the Bell Curve‘s popularity and influence. And in the 21st century, some elements of the far right have unsurprisingly tried to recycle the classic ‘race science’ spiel, almost always bringing up the Bell Curve at some point.

Nonetheless, the racialist ideology generally remains secondary to the culturalist reframing of both far right and mainstream racism. As Nandita Sharma explained in Home Rule:

In the immediate post-WWII years, along with the discrediting of the imperial form of state power, a particular kind of racism was also rendered reprehensible. From the 1950s, the kind of racism resting on pseudoscientific typologies, the kind that normalized atrocities leading up to and including the fascist holocausts of WWII, was made anathema. People did anything to declare they were not racists. However, just as imperial states were replaced by national ones, postcolonialism was also productive of a new, largely normalized, horizontal form of racism (Taguieff 1990; Balibar 1991a). It is best to call this form of racism postcolonial racism, because it depended on ideas of distinct and separate “national cultures,” each with its own territorial claims.

Nandita Sharma (2020) Home Rule. National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants. Duke University Press, p. 279.

I don’t know if others have already made this point, but there was clearly a shared transformation of racism within both mainstream discourse/ideology and the far right during the last quarter/third of the 20th c. The postwar metamorphosis of fascist and far right ideology relied on thinkers such as Julius Evola or Maurice Bardèche, but perhaps the most influential source was what came to be known as the European New Right (ENR), which emerged in France in the late 1960s with the founding of the neofascist think tank GRECE (Groupement de Recherche et d’Études pour la Civilisation Européenne, meaning ‘Research and Study Group for European Civilization’) by various far right French figures.

The leading figure and intellectual of the GRECE and ENR was Alain de Benoist, who came to prominence in French culture during 1970s. What is less well known is the role the mainstream media and institutions played in this: de Benoist “came to the fore mainly due to his collaboration with the widely read weekly Le Figaro Magazine, and because, in 1978, the Académie Française awarded him with the Grand Prix de l’Essai (for his book Vu de droite)” [Andrea Mammone (2015) Transnational Neofascism in France and Italy, p. 158]. In fact, Louis Pauwels, who decided in 1978 to create Le Figaro Magazine as the weekly supplement to Le Figaro, recruited “many GRECE members to the project: Alain de Benoist, Patrice de Plunkett (chosen as the assistant chief editor), Jean-Claude Valla, Yves Christen, Christian Durante, Michel Marmin, Grégory Pons” [source] The GRECE continued to have major influence on the magazine until 1981 and, according “to political scientist Harvey Simmons, “from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, the doctrine of GRECE had a major impact on the ideology of the entire right” in France” [Tamir Bar-On (2016) Where Have All The Fascists Gone?, p. 38. Cited here].

There is a clear pattern of mainstream French media and institutions contributing to the rise of the far right and its ideology/talking points. Again, Le Figaro Magazine is a telling example. In October 1985, they published an article by Jean Raspail titled “Serons-nous encore français dans 30 ans?” (“Will we still be French in thirty years’ time?”), which peddles one of the foundational ideas of modern far right ideology: the myth of the “Islamization” of Europe, closely tied to (and basically another term for) the theory of the “Great replacement” which is mentioned below. Jean Raspail happens to be the author of a very famous piece of far right racist literature, which has been praised by the likes of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and Steve Bannon: the extremely racist and xenophobic novel Le Camp des saints, from 1973. And ALSO like de Benoist, Raspail was awarded a major literature prize by the Académie française (in 2003). [Reza Zia-Ebrahimi (2021), p. 125-131]

France’s mainstream media also played a similar role in the rise of the Front National (National Front, recently renamed to “Rassemblement National”), but the most recent example is Éric Zemmour, which probably embodies this pattern better than anyone.

The rise of Zemmour (…) is a media phenomenon in two ways. First, he has spent most of his professional life working for newspapers and television, where he has been able to exercise his vitriolic style and make reactionary arguments. Second, he has benefited from extraordinary media coverage of his scandalous statements. Not only was he on the cover of the conservative magazine Valeurs Actuelles five times in the first nine months of 2021, but, according to the media observatory Acrimed, he was mentioned 4,167 times in all French outlets in the month of September alone: 139 times per day.

Didier Fassin (2021, December 1) The rise of Éric Zemmour shows how far France has shifted to the right. The Guardian.

He is a particularly ugly outgrowth of the radicalization to the (far) right of French media, culture and politics as a whole in recent years. This movement rightwards has been demonstrated starkly in the behavior of the media, both its normalizing or ‘whitewashing’ of Éric Zemmour and a more general willingness to show and legitimize far right ideas or figures to a huge country-wide audience, as analyzed here by Pauline Perrenot (see also here). Perrenot argues that:

In addition to the case of Éric Zemmour, in recent years we have witnessed the trivialisation and embedding of extreme right-wing, Islamophobic or racist discourse in the mainstream media. This is particularly the case on the talk shows of news channels.

Pauline Perrenot (2020, October 6) Chaînes d’info : l’extrême droite en croisière. Acrimed.

C-News, a rightwing TV channel, has been criticized recently for willingly spreading far right notions to the French public. One of the supporters of Zemmour is Renaud Camus, the first author to articulate the “great replacement” far right theory, which is probably the most influential recent example of what Reza Zia-Ebrahimi called “conspiratorial racialization”. It is also a quintessential example of the culturalist form of racist ideology, as pointed out by Aurelien Mondon and Lara Bullens:

In an article for daily newspaper Le Journal, he wrote: “The name of France might well survive; the special character of our country would, however, be destroyed, and the people settled in our name and on our territory would be heading towards destinies contradictory to the destinies and needs of our land and our dead.”

At the time Barrès was writing, “anti-Semitism was extremely mainstream”, says Dr. Aurelien Mondon, a senior lecturer of politics at Bath University in an interview with FRANCE 24. “Barrès spoke about the idea of racial purity,” he says, which is why the theory of population replacement became so popular among the Nazis, for example. 

But after World War II, the French far right needed a new discourse to move back into the mainstream. Shifting away from biological racism towards cultural racism, the replacement theory gained ground in the 1970s and 1980s. 

“The Nouvelle Droite (New Right) and some French intellectuals were trying to find ways to move away from the margins,” Mondon says. Over the years, these ideas spread among the far right, which was becoming more and more mainstream in France, eventually paving the way for Camus to publish his book on the topic without being disregarded as too radical.

“Camus didn’t invent anything,” Mondon explains. “He put concepts together and coined the phrase, but his theory is part of a much broader context that contributed to the reshaping of the far right [in France].”

The replacement theory has made its way all around the world, becoming very popular among identitarian movements in Europe and the alt-right in the US. For Mondon, this was made possible by the way the far right adapted their stance on racism. Rather than speaking of racial or ethnic hierarchies, the discourse focussed more on cultures and cultural power. 

In a recent interview on French right-wing TV channel CNews, Camus claimed his theory wasn’t about race but about defending civilisation. “Racism is still a taboo in our societies,” Mondon explains, “Nobody wants to admit that they’re racist and nobody wants to be called a racist.” 

“The people who watch that interview and who may fall for this moral panic, this idea that they’re going to be replaced ethnographically,” he says, “don’t want to be called racist and will say they’re defending civilisation.”

In the end, this works in their favour, because “it makes people feel good about themselves while allowing them to be prejudiced and racist, all while protecting their own privilege,” according to Mondon.

Lara Bullens (2021, November 8) How France’s ‘great replacement’ theory conquered the global far right. France 24.

In the U.S., Cornell University Press – presumably a respected academic institution – published a book on anti-fascism by “paleoconservative” far right author Paul Gottfried, who (among other things) coined the phrase ‘alternative right’, helped launch the antisemitic conspiracy theory about ‘cultural Marxism’, and was Richard Spencer’s mentor.

In France, Pierre-André Taguieff – who is, weirdly enough, widely recognized as a preeminent scholar of the far right, conspiracism and populism – has not only promoted anti-leftist and anti-muslim explanations of contemporary antisemitism (the thesis of the so-called “new antisemitism”, as mentioned in this post), but was also one of the original sources of the reactionary and paranoid discourse about so-called “Islamo-leftism” (Islamogauchisme) in France. As Reza Zia-Ebrahimi has pointed out, his anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic standpoint explains why he shares many views with Bat Ye’Or, who also sees the Palestinian liberation movement – and Muslims in general – as a permanent existential threat to the state of Israel and to Jews as a whole.

Bat Ye’or, aka Gisèle Orebi, actually influenced Renaud Camus, whose now widespread and extremely dangerous “great replacement” theory was inspired by her theory of “Eurabia.” She is the theoretician of the notion of “Islamization”, which should remind you of PEGIDA, a far right European group whose name literally includes the words “against the Islamization of the Occident.” Taguieff has not only refused to make a critical analysis of her work, but “has quoted her approvingly, published her writings in publications he edited and promoted her theory of ‘Eurabia’.” In fact her 2005 pamphlet Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis is used by Zia-Ebrahimi alongside The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous antisemitic forgery from 1903, as the most explicit examples of what he calls “conspiratorial racialization”, saying that “despite some differences in format, the two texts display strikingly similar discursive dynamics in their attempt to racialize Jews and Muslims as the ultimate Other determined to destroy Us.”

Another example of both cultural ‘postcolonial’ racism and the penetration of far right ideas into and promotion by mainstream media/culture, is the legacy of anti-Arab and Islamophobic neoconservatives Bernard Lewis and Samuel P. Huntington, who are most famous for their ‘clash of civilisations‘ argument (criticized by Edward Said here). This is indistinguishable from the New Right’s language:

Racialism – a discourse steeped in scientism and biologism – has given way to a culturalist prejudice that points to a radical anthropological divide between “Judeo-Christian” Europe and Islam. “

Enzo Traverso (2015). Spectres du fascisme. Les métamorphoses des droites radicales aux XXIe siècle. Revue du Crieur, vol. 1: n°1, 112.

And indeed, in the 1990s Bernard Lewis (who shared Taguieff’s idea that the “new” antisemitism comes from the left and muslims) was saying that terrorism was a product of migration. There isn’t much of a difference between the ‘respected’ figures like Huntington and Lewis and the (initially, before the media found it would be a great idea to interview him) fringe ideologues like Renaud Camus…

Similarly, we can see this process of normalizing far right ideology and politics in the fact that a disgustingly pro-colonialist author like Niall Ferguson – author of the self-explanatory-titled Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, in which for example he minimizes the Tasmanian genocide – is considered as a respectable “historian”, at most characterized as “conservative” or “controversial” rather than far right and completely unacceptable.

Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis, Niall Ferguson, Charles Murray, Alain de Benoist, etc….. all concretely function as a bridge between the cultural and political elites’ ideological preferences and the outright nazis who want to kill and terrorize ppl


Talking about the bloody regime of Fortress Europe, Joey Ayoub hit the nail on the head:

What the EU is guilty of doing here is, in effect, a normalisation of the far-right’s desire to inflict violence against the ‘other’. When tear-gassing children becomes normalised, it won’t be long before they’ll start being killed by people who will livestream it on Facebook. We are witnessing a dark chapter in European politics and if this is not immediately stopped it will get darker.

This hostility towards the ‘other’ is best symbolised, not by the far-right, but by what is considered the centre in European politics. In what can be described as the most honest statement by a member of the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, the former leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, tweeted in April 2019 that “we need to better protect our external borders to keep our internal EU borders open”, implying that the arrival of undesirables is so threatening that it could undo decades of intra-European bridge-building.

Joey Ayoub (2020, April 2) Why Fortress Europe and the European Union can’t coexist. Byline Times.

Migrants and other racialized groups are routinely dehumanised by the mainstream culture and institutions, not (only) by the far right. For example, there’s extensive research showing that the media has played a major role in dehumanising and criminalising migrants and other minorities such as Muslims:

One of my favourite authors, Nandita Sharma, provides what is in my opinion the best general framework for making sense of the contemporary interlocked processes of racialization and territorialization, which constitute the background of both ‘mainstream’ and far right racist ideology (not only in the West but around the world). Home Rule and her other writings should be read by everyone, but here are a bunch of relevant quotes to conclude this article:

National forms of territorialization transform land, water, and air into the territory of a nationally sovereign state and, in the process, forge a naturalized link between a limited group of people and a certain place. As each nation imagines that it has its own place on earth, Nationals come to see themselves as the “people of a place.” Postcolonial racism is the ground upon which national homelands are built. The historical articulation between ideas of race and nation wherein ideas of national soil are racialized and racist ideas of blood are territorialized results in the formation of “neo-racist” practices wherein each nation, seen as comprised of different “types” of people, exists within a supposedly horizontal system of separate and sovereign nation-states (Balibar 1991a, 20). Those excluded from the heaven of national belonging in the actual places they live come to be represented as foreign bodies contaminating the national body politic. They are made into the “people out of place.”

Hostility to those who move—or who are imagined to have moved—is thus bred in the bone of the Postcolonial New World Order. In a world of nation-states, national sovereigns have the “right” to determine who their members are. By law, only Nationals have the right to enter the territory of a nation-state. Rights within national territory are formally guaranteed only for Citizens. This works to make the Migrant the quintessential Other in postcolonial practices of ruling. Migrants are made to be outside of the nation even as they live on national territory. Migrants are those people whose mobility into nation-states is regulated and restricted. Migrants are those people who are legally denied the rights of national citizenship where they live.

Through the seemingly banal operation of citizenship and immigration controls, the Postcolonial New World Order not only produces but also normalizes a racism in which political separations and segregations are seen as the natural spatial order of nationally sovereign states. In the dogma of nationalism, the believers’ new sacred duty is to enforce the national borders separating them from Migrants. Much like God’s efforts to reinforce his border between heaven and earth, the jealous guarding of the National People of their National Places is seen as a virtue, one codified in international law.3Nation-states thus mark territorial and affective borders. In so doing, they de-mand that we choose sides. Thus does nationalism become the governmentality of the Postcolonial New World Order, the separation of “national subjects” from Migrants its biopolitics, and “national self-determination” its leitmotif.

Nandita Sharma (2020) Home Rule. National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants. Duke University Press, p. 2-3.

Postcolonial Racism(s)

A world without nations and their borders is essential to realizing a world without racism(s). Just as postcolonialism did not end the social relations of colonialism, neither did it end those of racism. In the immediate post-wwiiyears, along with the discrediting of the imperial form of state power, a par-ticular kind of racism was also rendered reprehensible. From the 1950s, the kind of racism resting on pseudoscientific typologies, the kind that normal-ized atrocities leading up to and including the fascist holocausts of wwii, was made anathema. People did anything to declare they were not racists. However, just as imperial states were replaced by national ones, postcolo-nialism was also productive of a new, largely normalized, horizontal form of racism (Taguieff 1990; Balibar 1991a).

It is best to call this form of racism postcolonial racism, because it de-pended on ideas of distinct and separate “national cultures,” each with its own territorial claims. The 1955 International Court of Justice ruling in the Nottebohm case established the international jurisprudence for the distinc-tion between formal Nationals and “true” Nationals by arguing that “nation-ality is a legal bond having as its basis a social fact of attachment, a genuine connection of existence, interest and sentiments, together with the existence of reciprocal rights and duties” (in Batchelor 1998, 159–160). This became known as the legal principle of effective nationality: that formal citizenship in a nation-state is insufficient for an individual to be considered a National of it. Instead, a National must prove a meaningful connection to a state in which he or she is a citizen. Informed and mobilized by such nationalist geographies, in the Postcolonial New World Order, nation-states’ territories thus became “a space for each race” (Cohen 1997, 75). Postcolonial racism, thus, harnessed previous autochthonizing practices of “define and rule.” Nationhood became the new racist typology and Nationals the new “superior race.”

In the nationalist politics of racialized purity, migration became the route to miscegenation, which this time did not involve the feared mixing of “races” but of “nations.” The sentiment that one has lost one’s “national identity” is now a basic feature of life in the postcolonies, one eliciting a melancholic and often violent response. Assuming the nation to be unified, whole, and integrated around common national norms, Migrants, because they are from someplace else, are produced as deficient and irreducibly Other. Hence, they become a fundamental threat to nationalists of all political stripes (Schinkel 2013). The question thus ceases being whether Migrants are a problem, but what to do with this problem. Viktor Orbán, the far-right prime minister of Hungary, captured this sentiment well when he claimed that “the Hungarian man…does not want to see throngs of people pouring into his country from other cultures who are incapable of adapting and are a threat to public safety, to his job and to his livelihood” (in Traynor 2015a). Such sentiments are not the exclusive terrain of the far right but are evident in statements by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), one of the main international bodies enforcing border controls today. The IOM, arguing for more intensive management of national borders, portrays human mobility as “gradually eroding the traditional boundaries between languages, cultures, ethnic groups and nation-states” (IOM 2003, 4). Human movement thus is made into a cause, not an effect, of the rampant crises of the Postcolonial New World Order. As with all racisms, the victims of postcolonial racism are held responsible for the structural and recurring crises of postcolonialism—poverty; underemployment and unemployment; dangers of the present; in-securities of the future; feelings of being disrespected, of having no control, of not counting—nationalists have laid all this and more at the feet of those constituted as Migrants. In speaking for the “nation,” postcolonial racisms claim to be neither racist nor hierarchical but a reiteration of the “natural” spatial order of national sovereigns.

Nandita Sharma (2020) Home Rule. National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants. Duke University Press, p. 279-280.

In both Britain and France after WWII, the discourses of racism embedded within imperial practices, which had produced separated categories of Europeans and colonialized Natives and then, later, had further separated colonized Natives into binary categories of Indigenous-Natives and Migrant-Natives, was transferred to that of citizenship and immigration controls. The post-1945 movements of people from the (former or extant) colonies into Britain and France were signified as movements of Natives widely understood as constituting distinct “races” through reference to their skin color, “blood lines,” and “stock” (see R. Miles 1993, 129). In the process, it followed that “the British” or “the French” also belonged to a separate race with separate genealogies. From here, the idea that immigration imported the problems of the colonial situation (i.e., agitations for equality and freedom) quickly followed. The national autochthonization of the British or French nation thus provided the basis for the expression of postcolonial racism. Citizenship and immigration regulations and restrictions were key technologies of nation building. They were also central to turning formerly colonized Natives into Migrants. Together they produced the figure of the Migrant as a distinct—and separate—race, one often viewed not only as unassimilable but also as a danger from which the nation and its Nationals needed protection.

Nandita Sharma (2020) Home Rule. National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants. Duke University Press, p. 198

Racism was a crucial component of European colonialism. European imperial-states placed people into racialized typologies and categories, hierarchically ranking those holding imperial power as “superior” in all ways to the people whose labour created the vast wealth of empires and the people living on land incorporated into imperial territory. The categorical distinction made between “Europeans” and colonized “Natives” was a key negative duality of the racism of imperial-states. Rulers identifying as European, and later as “White” had long employed racism to elevate themselves from exploited and expropriated classes in Europe. In order to preserve imperial rule, European-ness (and, later, Whiteness) was eventually extended to working people racialized – and territorialized – as part of the imperial metropoles (see Hyslop, 1999; Miles, 1993). While this did not end their dispossession, exploitation, or denigration, ideas of White supremacy did give Whitened workers certain powers and privileges over workers categorized as the Natives of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The separation of the “White working class” from all other working people was critical to the continuation of imperial rule, as it profoundly weakened opposition to imperialism, capitalism, and racism. So too was the separation of various colonized people from one another. As Cedric Robinson (1983) put it, “the tendency of European civilization through capitalism was thus not to homogenize but to differentiate – to exaggerate regional, subcultural, and dialectical differences into ‘racial’ ones” (p. 26).
Just as racism was central to colonial practices, so too was anti-racism central to anti-colonial struggles. Those fighting colonialism well understood that collective liberation required eliminating racism (see Fanon, 1963; James, 1938; Williams, 1944). Today’s efforts to narrow the definition of “anti-racism” to something that takes away from anti-colonial struggles is an act of disavowal of the deep connections between racism and colonialism. In particular, I argue that the view of anti-racism as only of importance to those negatively racialized people who are not also classified as Native (or indigenous people) is part of how the definition of “colonialism” has been expanded to include all people, things, and processes seen as “foreign” and, therefore, as Migrant. This is evident in increasingly popular efforts to remake people categorized by the state or popularly represented as Migrants into “settler colonists,” which is still the main framing, (Fujikane & Okamura, 2000; Lawrence & Dua, 2005; Wolfe, 1999), “interlopers” (Nossiter, 2017), “occupiers” (Ward, 2016), or even “invaders” and “vipers” (Fuller, 2012). While some scholars have tried to complicate such formulations and have offered different terminologies by which to understand non-Natives, for example Jodi Byrd’s (2011) much discussed category of “arrivants,” a key distinction remains between Natives and Migrants. [p. 391-392]

Sharma, Nandita. 2021 “Against National Sovereignty: The Postcolonial New World Order and the Containment of Decolonization.” Studies in Social Justice. 14(2): 391-409.

Finally, let me include a few sources by Aurelien Mondon and his colleagues talking about the mainstreaming of the far right (although I have some disagreements with Mondon’s overall perspective on populism, but those aren’t necessarily relevant for that part of his/their research):