The use of the past by the Alternative for Germany and the Front National: heritage populism, Ostalgia and Jeanne D’Arc

Publication Date: 20 September 2021


Right-wing populist parties and their supporters in Europe who are exposed to the ambiguities of the present are more likely to assemble their futures with a retrospective understanding, which essentializes the past, myths, and local history, the repertoire of which is often very rich. Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Front National (FN) are two right-wing populist parties that successfully exploit the past in mainstreaming their political projects. The use of the past provides some disenfranchised individuals with a shield protecting them against the perils of globalisation. Today, the past is being used in different ways, ranging from abuses, lies, and vulgarization to political cultures of regret and sorrow, as in the exploitation of the dissonant past by the AfD, or to right-wing populist recreation of nationalisms and parochialisms, as in the revitalization of the myth of Jeanne D’Arc by the FN. Based on extensive desk research as well as a set of semi-structured interviews conducted with the supporters of the AfD and the FN in 2017 in Dresden (Germany) and Toulon (France), this article demonstrates how the AfD and the FN have utilized heritage populism to appeal to their supporters in remote places who experience socioeconomic, spatial and nostalgic deprivation. 

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