Styles of organization in right-wing activism
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In what increasingly seems like a world spinning into further ecological, political, and social crises, alternative styles and forms of organizing from the right and associated bordering spaces continue to manifest in response. Organization through right-wing activism takes many forms and is increasingly entangled with the normalisation of far-right and postfascist movements and discourse (Traverso, 2019; Brown et al. 2021). It is also recently accompanied by several diagonalist and traversal movements (Slobodian and Callison, 2021) that position themselves beyond the traditional left-right spectrum, such as conspiracy theory and survivalist movements (Schreven, 2018; Husted et al., 2023). From the Alt-Right and Alt-lite in America, Identitarianism and right-wing nationalism in Europe, to online and sub-cultural movements and activism found within a new generation of predominately ‘angry white men’ (Negra and Leyda, 2021), movements that span from the centre to the extremes of the right have proliferated and spread across the Global North and beyond.
In response to an increased scholarly interest in new forms of progressive and emancipatory activism, social movements and alternative means of organization often associated with the left, this special issue calls for critical counterpoints on such phenomena found within activism, movements and organization positioned in the spaces associated with the right (Caiani et al., 2012; Castelli Gattinara and Pirro, 2019). In particular, it seeks to understand the modalities and realities of such organization found in-between the centre and the extremes of right-wing politics, ideology, and culture, in order to query whether there is something to learn from them and ultimately to be better at countering them (du Plessis and Husted, 2022).
The extreme aberrations of misogyny and racism found within certain movements of the right are reflected in the darker sides of organization that reveal the deeper motivations of human behaviour, often grounded in both sex and violence (Linstead et al., 2014). By understanding certain right-wing masculine and gender strategies (Sunderland, 2022), as seen in various ‘Mens Rights activism’ (O’ Donnell, 2020), we may further see the inherent violent and patriarchal structure of organization itself and provide further reflections on the whiteness and the inherent racism built into universities and academia (Dar et al. 2021; Liu, 2019; Liu, 2021).
Beyond these rather continuous characteristics of right-wing organization, recent mainstreaming and normalisations of far-right and associated movements are particular in being shaped by their transnational and online organization as well as their countercultural and anti-authoritarian appeal, blurring boundaries between centrist, radical, and even emancipatory movements. These transnational processes can be described as one of the key causes of the manifestation and mobilisation of a seemingly undivided right, whose nebulous ideologies coalesce across borders and conflicting right-wing spaces (Caiani and Kröll, 2015; Froio and Ganesh, 2010). Therefore, it challenges the ‘normality’ of the Western project of modernisation at large and also brings the role of far-right politics and its normalisation in the Global South to attention (Masood and Nisar 2020).
Beneath and beyond the borders of ‘normal’ society, alternative social media ecologies such as Telegram and Gab (Rogers, 2020) serve as the spaces for the disparate and marginal niches of online subculture that are often the breeding grounds for right-wing organization (Fielitz and Thurston, 2018). Like progressive social movements of the left then, the right has also moved towards a post-heroic turn in leadership (Barthold et al., 2020), where a narrated leadership mythos like ‘Trumpism’ embodies the ambition of a nostalgic and imagined past and thus the need for change, rather than advancing or organizing its agenda (Mollan and Geesin, 2020). The online environment of right-wing activism requires no such leadership, change is affected virtually and protest through disruption and chaos, consumerist boycotts, and collective identity and action manifest as organizing forms (Cambefort and Pecot, 2020; Guenther et al., 2020).
Further, right wing and associated movements attempt to build legitimacy by incorporating contemporary political and social movement principles such as identity related beliefs, collective action, prefigurative politics, attitudes of liberation and the use of new media, marketing and political aesthetics into their organizing forms (Richards, 2019; Dannemann, 2023). Many of these movements perceive themselves as countercultural, anti-authoritarian, emancipatory, rebellious, and democratic grassroots avant-gardists that are critical about science, experts, and elites – characteristics otherwise commonly associated with the political left (Blühdorn 2022; Butzlaff 2022; Lütjen 2022). Seeking to shift discourse, ideology, and culture away from the perceived status-quo, certain right-wing movements engage in so-called ‘metapolitics’, fantasy, myth, and spectacle as exercises in organizational disorder (Richards and Mollan, 2022).
Gaps then exist in our collective understanding of the perceived presence of seemingly progressive and emancipatory beliefs and practices of those found on the fringes and spaces in-between the right-wing of the political-ideological spectrum. The present call for papers challenges this blind spot and looks to strike-up a conversation on the alternatives to organizing economies, cultures, and societies from those whose perspectives we may often find ourselves opposed to. We invite researchers of all disciplines and backgrounds to contribute to the otherwise marginal dialogue on styles, forms, and modes of organization found within right-wing activism, its extreme aberrations, beyond and between the left-right spectrum and the spaces in-between. We encourage participation in a variety of formats including articles, research notes, interviews, photo essays, short films, book reviews, artistic performances, and experimental contributions. If interested in submitting a contribution in a format that deviates from the traditional formats (articles, notes, reviews), please reach out to the editors prior to submission. Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:
- Modes and styles of organization in right wing politics, ideology, culture, and activism.
- The use of violence and militarism as organizational activity and its basis in racism and misogyny.
- Right-wing organization outside of the Global North and challenges to its assumed political and social normality.
- Processes of mainstreaming and normalisation of the far and extreme right and the role of both the political left and right mainstream and emancipatory movements in it.
- Differences, similarities, crossovers between left and right forms of organization and the spaces in between: How is what is happening on the Left reflected in/by the Right?
Deadline and further information
The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2024. All submissions should be sent to all of the special issue editors: Benjamin Richards (Benjamin.richards AT stir.ac.uk), Hauke Dannemann (hauke.dannemann AT wu.ac.at), Beverly Geesin (beverly.geesin AT northumbria.ac.uk) and Emil Husted (eh.ioa AT cbs.dk). The submissions will undergo a double-blind review process. All submissions should follow ephemera’s submission guidelines, which are available at http://www.ephemerajournal.org/how-submit (see the ‘Abc of formatting’ in particular). For further information, please contact one of the issue editors.
Barthold, C., M. Checchi, M. Imas and O. Smolović Jones (2020) ‘Dissensual leadership: Rethinking democratic leadership with Jacques Rancière’, Organization, 29(4): 673-691.
Blühdorn, I. (2022) ‘Liberation and limitation: Emancipatory politics, socio-ecological transformation and the grammar of the autocratic-authoritarian turn’. European Journal of Social Theory, 25(1): 26-52.
Brown, K., A. Mondon and A. Winter (2021) ‘The far right, the mainstream and mainstreaming: towards a heuristic framework’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 28(2): 162-179.
Butzlaff, F. (2022) ‘Emancipatory struggles and their political organization: How political parties and social movements respond to changing notions of emancipation’, European Journal of Social Theory, 25(1): 94-117.
Caiani, M., Della Porta, D. and Wagemann, C. (2012) Mobilizing on the Extreme Right: Germany, Italy, and the United States. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Caiani, M. and P. Kröll (2015) ‘The Transnationalization of the extreme Right and the use of the internet’, International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 39(4): 331-351.
Cambefort, M. and Pecot, F (2020) ‘Theorizing rightist anti-consumption’, Marketing Theory, 20(3): 385-407.
Castelli Gattinara, P. and A.L.P. Pirro (2019) ‘The far right as social movement’, European Societies, 21(4): 447-462.
Dannemann, H. (2023) ‘Experiments of authoritarian sustainability: Völkisch settlers and far-right prefiguration of a climate behemoth’, Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 19(1): 1-16.
Dar, S., H. Liu, A. Martinez Dy and D.N. Brewis (2021) ‘The business school is racist: Act up!’, Organization, 28(4): 695-706.
du Plessis, E.M. and E. Husted (2022) ’Five challenges for prefiguration: A sympathetic polemic’, in L. Monticelli (ed), The future is now! Bristol: Bristol University Press.
Fielitz, M. and N. Thurston (2018) Post-digital cultures of the far Right: Online actions and offline consequences in Europe and the US. Bielefeld: Transcript Publishing.
Froio, C. and B. Ganesh (2019) ‘The transnationalisation of far Right discourse on Twitter: Issues and actors that cross borders in Western European democracies’, European Societies, 21(4): 513- 539.
Guenther, L., G. Ruhrmann, J. Bischoff, T. Penzel and A. Weber (2020) 'Strategic framing and social media engagement: Analyzing memes posted by the German Identitarian movement on Facebook', Social Media + Society, 6(1): 1-13.
Husted, E., S.N Just, E.M de Plessis, and S. Dahlman (2023) ‘The communicative constitution of atomization: Online prepper communities and the crisis of collective action’, Journal of Communication. Published online: 11/02/2023.
Linstead, S., G. Maréchal and R.W. Griffin (2014) 'Theorizing and researching the dark side of organization', Organization Studies, 35(2): 165-188.
Liu, H., (2019) ‘To be a hero and traitor: A reflection on truth-telling and fear’, ephemera: theory and politics in organization, 19(4): 865-873
Liu, H., (2021) ‘How we learn whiteness: Disciplining and resisting management knowledge’, Management Learning, 53(5): 776-796.
Lütjen, T. (2022) ‘The anti-authoritarian revolt: Right-wing populism as self-empowerment?’ European Journal of Social Theory, 25(1): 75-93.
Masood, A. and M.A. Nisar (2020) ‘Speaking out: A postcolonial critique of the academic discourse on far-right populism’. Organization, 27(1): 162-173.
Mollan, S. and B. Geesin (2020) ‘Donald Trump and Trumpism: Leadership, ideology and narrative of the business executive turned politician’, Organization, 27(3): 405-418.
Negra, D. and J. Leyda (2021) ‘Querying "Karen": The rise of the angry white woman', European Journal of Cultural Studies, 24(1): 350-357.
O’Donnell, J., (2020) 'Militant meninism: The militaristic discourse of Gamergate and Men’s Rights Activism', Media, Culture & Society, 42(5): 654-674.
Richards, B. and S. Mollan (2022) 'Organizational mythopoeia and the spectacle in postfascist (dis) organization', ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 22(1): 57-78.
Richards, I. (2019) 'A philosophical and historical analysis of “Generation Identity”: Fascism, online media, and the European New Right', Terrorism and Political Violence, 34(1): 1-20.
Rogers, R. (2020) ‘Deplatforming: Following extreme internet celebrities to telegram and alternative social media’, European Journal of Communication, 35(3): 213-229.
Schreven, S. (2018) ‘Conspiracy theorists and organization studies’, Organization Studies, 39(10): 1473-1488.
Slobodian, Q. and W. Callison (2021) ‘Coronapolitics from the Reichstag to the Capitol’. Boston Review. [https://www.bostonreview.net/articles/quinn-slobodian-toxic-politics-coronakspeticism/]
Sunderland, J., (2022) ‘Fighting for masculine hegemony: Contestation between Alt-Right and white nationalist masculinities on Stormfront’, Men and Masculinities, 26(1): 3-23.
Traverso, E. (2019) The new faces of fascism: Populism and the Far Right. London: Verso Books.
Benjamin Richards is a Lecturer in the Management School at the University of Stirling and a contributor to ephemera. His research primarily focuses on the polarizing processes of management and organization. His recent doctoral work focused on the sign systems of postfascist movements, exploring myth and noise to find the hidden relation between the ideational and material to uncover a style of (dis)organisation.
Email: benjamin.richards AT stir.ac.uk
Hauke Dannemann is a research and teaching assistant at the Institute of Social Change and Sustainability at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Interested in the social basis for a socio-ecological transformation, he works on the far right and sustainability and asks how the recent mainstreaming and normalisation of the far right irritates core convictions of emancipatory social and environmental criticism in theory and practice.
Email: hauke.dannemann AT wu.ac.at
Beverly Geesin is Senior Lecturer in Organisation, Work and Employment at Northumbria University. Her research interests are in power, resistance, discourse, precarious labour and management theory. With an interest in the intersection of management thought and politics she is currently working on a number of projects on the anti-managerialism of Trumpism and the influence of management theorist Stafford Beer on other fields including music.
Email: beverly.geesin AT northumbria.ac.uk
Emil Husted is an associate professor at the Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, and a member of ephemera’s editorial collective. His research focuses on different kinds of political organizations such as social movements and political parties, often with a focus on the mediating role of digital technology.
Email: eh.ioa AT cbs.dk