Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

The Motives and Rationalizations of the European Right-Wing Discourse on Immigrants. Shifts in Multiculturalism?

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

The Motives and Rationalizations of the European Right-Wing Discourse on Immigrants. Shifts in Multiculturalism?

Article excerpt


Mainstream parties in Europe (especially the Western part of Europe that is currently dealing with an increased migration flux in comparison with the rest of the European countries) seem to have intensified their concern with immigration in the last two decades (even more so since the 2008 financial crisis). Right-wing parties are the most radical in their anti-immigration discourse, and public displays of such argumentations reflect not only shifts in the public's political sympathies post-crisis, but may also reflect shifts in the (still) dominant paradigm of multiculturalism. This paper analyses some examples from various right-wing discourses (Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, to name a few) and from political discourses on the nature and future of multiculturalism in order to understand the way political actors rationalize such positions. This analysis can help further understand not only how the rhetorics of political justifications and rationalizations work, but also to sketch some plausible future dynamics of migration in European context (the main target of the paper being the discourses towards Eastern-European immigrants) and the possible shifts in multiculturalism as well.


Immigrant, right-wing discourse, rationalization, multiculturalism, transient other, Eastern European immigrants.

The two moments that fueled the anti-immigrant rhetoric (and a little historical context)

An immigration-opposed discourse is traditionally associated with the right-wing parties in the political sphere. Such discourses have become more prominent in Western Europe after two recent turning points, in our opinion: first of all, the post-2000 enlargement waves of the European Union (EU) (namely, the 2004 accession of Central European countries and the 2007 accession of Eastern Balkan countries); and secondly, the 2008 financial crisis. The enlargement of the European Union has made work migration very easy from eastern European countries to western ones, thus creating immigration waves of unprecedented size; while the financial crisis has made even the low-skilled jobs usually targeted by immigrants very sought out, creating thus more discontent towards the immigrants' positioning on the unemployment-ridden job market.

Our paper is aiming to answer - or at least to further deepen - two main questions in regard to these problems: how do political actors with a right-wing background rationalize and argue for their anti-immigrant discourse; and what is currently happening with multiculturalism? Our focus will be identifying the kind of motives given in the anti-immigrant rhetoric and analyzing their construction, on one hand, and sketching possible future changes of perspective towards and within the broader paradigm of multiculturalism.

As shown in Van der Valk (2003) and Faist (1994), the anti-immigrant discourse was already mainstreaming back in the 90s and is not solely a post-2000s political trend based on the two key-moments we suggested above. According to the works referenced above - that come from a critical discourse studies perspective which can be useful to sociology and anthropology if they are to understand the more subtle implications of the thought movements that fuel popular unrest - the rhetoric on immigration was either avoided on purpose in some countries and regions (Germany, namely), almost like a taboo that once uttered would despoil the official image of the so-defined-local or ethnic society, (Faist, 1994), either already very much present in the public discourse of politicians with its negative representations of the other and otherness (Van der Valk, 2003); and all this all throughout the 80s and 90s. Therefore, we can reasonably affirm that the tendency to negatively present the others as immigrants is a classic - possibly as old as human society itself defined as a large group of people that see themselves as a "we" opposed to one or multiple "they"s, with mini-groups within larger groups, the obvious and inevitable multiple overlappings and so on - and within the European context it was definitely already present before the recent turn of millennia. …

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