Theorizing Backlash Politics

Forthcoming, British Journal of Politics and International Relations as part of a special issue on Backlash Politics in Comparison

21 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2019 Last revised: 20 Jan 2020

See all articles by Karen J. Alter

Karen J. Alter

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science; University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence

Michael Zürn

WZB Berlin Social Science Center; Freie Universität Berlin

Date Written: November 25, 2019

Abstract

This conclusion to a special issue on backlash politics in comparison develops a proto-theory of backlash politics. The special issue’s introduction (posted separately) defined backlash politics as a particular form of political contestation with a retrograde objective as well as extraordinary goals or tactics that has reached the threshold level of entering public discourse. While a sub-category of contentious politics, we argue that backlash politics is distinct and should not be understood as “regressive contentious politics.” Drawing from the contributions to this special issue, we discuss the causes of backlash politics, yet we argue that the greatest theoretical advances may come from studying backlash dynamics, and how these dynamics contribute to different outcomes. We develop a proto-theory of backlash politics that considers causes for the rise of backlash movements, how frequent companions to backlash politics–emotive politics, nostalgia, taboo breaking and institution reshaping–intensify backlash dynamics and make it more likely that backlash politics generate consequential outcomes.

Keywords: backlash politics, populism, reactionary movements, international politics

Suggested Citation

Alter, Karen J. and Zürn, Michael, Theorizing Backlash Politics (November 25, 2019). Forthcoming, British Journal of Politics and International Relations as part of a special issue on Backlash Politics in Comparison, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3493079 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3493079

Karen J. Alter (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence ( email )

Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen, DK-2300
Denmark

Michael Zürn

WZB Berlin Social Science Center ( email )

Reichpietschufer 50
Berlin, 10785
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.wzb.eu/en/persons/michael-zurn

Freie Universität Berlin ( email )

Ihnestraße 22
Berlin, 14195
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.fu-berlin.de/presse/expertendienst/experten/z/zuern/index.html

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