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Socio-economic Change, Individual Reactions and the Appeal of the Extreme Right (SIREN), Final Report, EUR 22069

Project ID: HPSE-CT-2001-00058


The aim of the SIREN project was to analyse subjective perceptions of and individual reactions to recent socio-economic change and, in particular, changes in working life, and to establish how experiences in working life influence political orientations. The research covered eight countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Switzerland) and combined qualitative and quantitative research methodology.
The findings indicate that socio-economic change is, in fact, an important factor in explaining the rise of right-wing populism and extremism in various European countries. In this respect, the following main patterns of individual reactions emerged from the interpretation of the in-depth interviews:
The first pattern involves strong feelings of injustice and the view that the "decent and hard working" people are being betrayed. Consequently, political messages that address the double demarcation of "the people" from the elites on the top and from the outcasts at the bottom of society quite easily find a resonance. A second pattern has at its core the fear of déclassement, the insecurities and the feelings of political powerlessness. The experience of being a plaything of economic developments can be clearly linked with right-wing populists' addressing the population as a passive victim of overpowering opponents. A third pattern could be found with people who experienced occupational or social advancement who tend to identify very strongly with the company and its goals and who consequently put high demands on their colleagues and subordinates. Intense competition seems to strengthen views such as authoritarianism, individualism or Social Darwinism.

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