Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jelena Subotic

Second Advisor

Dr. Carrie Manning

Third Advisor

Dr. Eric Friginal

Abstract

In recent decades, political parties espousing extreme nationalist, xenophobic, and even outright racist platforms have enjoyed variable success in national elections across Europe. While a vibrant research literature has sought to better understand the sources of support for such parties, remarkably little attention has been paid to the interplay between parties and the broader social networks of extremism in which they are embedded. To remedy this deficiency, the present study examines the relations between far-right parliamentary parties and their extra-parliamentary networks. One level of analysis tests whether there is a relationship between a party’s position within a network and its sustainability. Social network analysis is employed to assess the nature and structure of ties between Belgian organizations online. In addition, systematic textual analysis of website content is used to determine how a party’s ideological position within the network impacts its sustainability. The second level of analysis is a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews with members of Flemish nationalist organization in order to better understand how actors experience social networks. Evidence suggests that the most sustainable parties are those that have dense connections with other nationalist organizations. Mapping relations between far-right parties that compete openly within the rules of institutionalized democracy and their wider social networks can provide important policy-relevant insight into contemporary challenges posed by illiberal forces.

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