Welfare chauvinism in radical right-wing populist parties. The reframing of the Sverigedemokraterna as “true” social democrats

Seminararbeit, 2017

17 Seiten, Note: 1,0

Maximilian Hohenstedt (Autor:in)




I) Analysis grid of populism
1) Populism
2) Populistic style and communication
3) Populist entrepreneurship
4) Populist organization as movement
5) Radical right-wing populism
6) Welfare chauvinism as host ideology of right-wing populism

II) The Swedish case: welfare chauvinism as role model for success?
1) The Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden
2) Socioeconomic issues
3) Class voting in Sweden
4) Trust in institutions
5) The financial crisis of 2008 and its impacts on the Swedish economy
6) Sociocultural issues and their salience in public opinion
7) Anti-immigration policy under the banner of folkhem
8) Crisis? What crisis? Framing of a welfare-crisis by the Sverigedemokraterna
9) Self-framing of Sverigedemokraterna as “true” social democrats

Conclusion and outlook



Since 1980, radical right-wing populist parties relapsed to Europe, raising their vote share from 1% 1980 to now about 12% (Heinö 2017). They are ideologically united by a nativistic, ethnonationalistic point of view, “traditional values”, anti-elitism and the opposition to immigration, often especially in the sense of islamophobia (Rydgren/ Meiden 2016: 2).

The success of a right-wing populist party is a quite new phenomenon in Sweden. The history of the Sverigedemokraterna (SD) from its founding in 1988 was at first not very successful. In 2002, Jens Rydgren found, that there are four main reasons, why there was no successful radical right-wing populist party (RRPP) in Sweden (Rydgren 2002: 47). Firstly, because the social class matters more in Sweden than elsewhere, which means, that the bonds between the working class voters and the Social Democratic party are strong, so that they will not tend to vote for a radical right-wing party (ibid.: 47-48). Second, the socioeconomic issues in Swedish politics had a much higher salience than sociocultural issues like immigration (ibid.: 48). Third, the party-landscape offered enough alternatives from political left to the right (ibid.: 48). Finally, the SD was perceived as being too extreme (ibid.: 49).

But in the Riksdag -elections of 2010, the SD got 5,7%, in the following Swedish elections for the European Parliament, SD gained 9,7 % of the votes and in the Riksdag -Elections of 2014 SD got 12,9% .

So, something must have happened in Sweden in the time between 2002 and 2010.

It will be the aim of this written assignment to work out the reasons for this changed political landscape in Sweden, namely the success of the SD and to show, how welfare chauvinism as strategy of the SD helped to establish this radical right-wing party as electable alternative to the established parties.

This will be the question, this work will answer: Does the SD owe their electoral success to the introduction of a social agenda, based on the concept of folkhem (the people’s home or Volksheim) to use welfare chauvinism to reach a broader electorate?

To answer this question, first, there will be an examination of the concepts of populism, radical right-wing populism, welfare chauvinism and a short description of the SD in Sweden. Then, several possible reasons for the electoral success of the SD will be checked, namely the financial crisis of 2008 and its social impacts, the new social narrative of the SD, focusing the concept of welfare chauvinism, anti-establishment discourses in Sweden and the salience of sociocultural elements like immigration, islamophobia and xenophobia. After this, the results will get concluded and added with a short outlook to further research.

In the political science debates dealing with populism, the question of the rise of the right-wing populism is linked with the question whether this is owed the failure of conservative parties or the social democracy in Europe. Due to the thesis of this work, that welfare chauvinism is the main reason for the success of the SD in Sweden, it will focus more the failure of the Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti (SAP) to maintain its traditional core electorate, which led to the raise of the SD.

The social relevance of this work lies on its dealing with the question of why radical right-wing populism is arising even in established and economically stable democratic welfare-states and how established parties has to deal with this.

I) Analysis grid of populism

1) Populism

Since populist parties are becoming more and more successful in Europe, political scientists are examining this phenomenon. But the concept is hard to grasp, Pappas even sets ten obstacles to empirical research on populism (Pappas 2016: 8-15).[1] Since the early 1990s, Mudde has noted a growing "populist Zeitgeist" in the western democracies (Mudde 2004: 542), which also led to an increase in the number of attempts to grasp populism. Thus, populism was sought to be understood within the framework of its actors (people, elite, leaders) or certain actions (mass mobilization, strategic leadership), a style (moral, dichotomous or majoritarian), demarcated areas (old and new populism, left and right populism, democratic and anti-democratic populism, european and non-european populism), its consequences (polarization, social homogenization, charisma) and/or normative implications (Pappas 2016: 7). For this reason, Pappas proposed as a minimal definition of populism illiberal democracy as a concept, which is placed between democracy and autocracy (Pappas 2016: 17). Pappas reverts back to the idea of ​​Krastev, who recognizes a dangerous new development of modern democracies in democratic illiberalism (Krastev 2007: 25).

Mudde instead, speaks of populism as a "thin-centered ideology" because, unlike a "distinct" or "full" ideology, it refers to a very narrow, small set of ideas in relation to the world (Mudde 2004: 544). An ideology, that separates society into two homogeneous, antagonistic groups, the “pure people” and a “corrupt elite”, which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale or the general popular will (ibid.: 543).

This look on populism will suit better for this work, because it is grasping populism a little bit more exact, than Pappas minimal definition.

2) Populistic style and communication

Populistic as an adjective means a political style, a certain communication between political actors, referring to a people (Jagers/ Walgrave 2007: 322), or it means a certain discourse, a manichaeic opposition between a "pure" and "good" or "just" "national will" and a "degenerated", "bad", or "corrupt" "elite conspiracy" (Hawkins 2009: 1042). This kind of style can get used by political entrepreneurs, taking a populist party as vehicle for their interests.

3) Populist entrepreneurship

In the genesis of a populist party, political entrepreneurs often appear, mostly political outsiders or "backbenchers", who take the leadership of the party into their own hands and - in a successful case - form a more focused, more regimented organization, whether these entrepreneurs are charismatic or not; only a certain organizational talent is needed (Elchardus/ Spruyt 2016: 126; Pappas 2016b: 386).

4) Populist organization as movement

As a movement, the populist organization is understood in the sense of a “new social movement”, that is constructed and demarcated by a set of beliefs, values, and symbols (Johnston / Laraña / Gusfield 1994: 7). The peculiar perception of a populist movement as the "good people", does not only allow a clear frontline to “the others”, but also acts strongly homogenizing inward. The collective identity (Melucci 1999: 117) develops through opposition to the opponent (e.g. elites) and support through a particular target group (Hunt / Benford 1994: 489) and creates a social unite entity through language, rituals, symbols and the like (ibid., 511-513). With regard to this particular target group, Taggert speaks of the "heartland" of populism in which the populists locate the place, where the real "virtuous" people are based, united in spirit (Taggert 2000: 95).

5) Radical right-wing populism

Radical right-wing populism is in general radical by rejecting the established socio-cultural and socio-political system (Betz 1994: 4). This includes the reject of individual and social equality, social integration of marginalized groups and a certain appeal to at least xenophobia (ibid.). RRPP “share a core ideology that includes the combination of (at least) nativism, authoritarianism and populism“ (Mudde 2013: 13).

In general, this kind of populism defines an enemy stereotype out of immigrants or foreigners, which are “undermining” the welfare state of the “hard-working native population”, and is therefore as well vertical exclusive (against the elites) as horizontal exclusive against “culturally strangers” (Grabow/ Hartleb 2013: 15-16).

Welfare chauvinism is the economic variant of this horizontal exclusive concept of RRPP.

6) Welfare chauvinism as host ideology of right-wing populism

Following Freeden, populism as thin-centered ideology refers to a “host ideology” for embellishment and as sustainer (Freeden 1998: 748). In the Swedish case the host ideology of welfare chauvinism; this work takes welfare chauvinism as host ideology, because it should seen as combination of nativism and the ideal of a strong welfare state (Norocel 2016: 385; Mudde, 2007: 26).

Welfare chauvinism does mean the idea of a well-developed social welfare state, which is working exclusively for the members of a group, typically the “native” inhabitants of a country, while others, especially immigrants, are named to be “welfare scroungers“, which should get excluded from the benefits of this welfare state (Decker 2004: 202). Therefore, welfare chauvinism is also in opposition to the neoliberal idea of a “lean state” and combines so socialdemocratic ideas with a xenophobic, nativistic component (Rydgren 2005: 419-420).

Interim conclusion

So in this work, “populism” will get treated as thin-centered ideology, using “welfare chauvinism” in the Swedish case as host ideology. “Populistic” is a certain political style used by “populists”, which are political actors, political entrepreneurs, who can be charismatic or not. As “movement”, populist organizations are generating a social unite entity through language, rituals and symbols out of a certain social “heartland”. Mudde depicts the “populist’s propaganda” of burgeoning populism, when the "silent majority" is not sufficiently represented by the "elites" and therefore, he is linking Anderson’s concept of imagined communities with the populist’s propaganda of a “pure people’s heartland” (Mudde 2004: 546, comparing to Anderson 2005).


[1] „unspecified empirical universe, lack of historical and cultural context specificity, essentialism, conceptual stretching, unclear negative pole, degreeism, defective observable-measurable indicators, a neglect of micromechanisms, poor data and inattention to crucial cases, and normative indeterminacy (Pappas 2016: 1).

Ende der Leseprobe aus 17 Seiten


Welfare chauvinism in radical right-wing populist parties. The reframing of the Sverigedemokraterna as “true” social democrats
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München  (GSI)
Populist Parties and Anti-Establishment Politics across Europe
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
597 KB
Welfare Chauvinism, Radical, Right-wing, Populist, Parties, Populism, Anti-Establishment, Politics, Europe, Sverigedemokraterna, Social Democrats, Sweden, Neonazis, Sveden, framing, reframing
Arbeit zitieren
Maximilian Hohenstedt (Autor:in), 2017, Welfare chauvinism in radical right-wing populist parties. The reframing of the Sverigedemokraterna as “true” social democrats, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/385734


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